Sermon: February 26, 2017: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Last Sunday after Epiphany
Sermon: February 19, 2017: The Rev. Holly Ostlund; The Seventh Sunday after Epiphany. The Rev. Ostlund speaking on behalf of Food for the Poor.
Sermon: February 12, 2017: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
Sermon: February 5, 2017: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Sermon: January 29, 2017: The Rt. Rev. Stacy Sauls; The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Sermon: January 22, 2017: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Third Sunday after Epiphany
Sermon: January 15, 2017: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Second Sunday after Epiphany
Sermon: January 8, 2017: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Baptism of Our Lord
Sermon: January 1, 2017: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Holy Name of Jesus
Sermon: December 24, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Christmas Eve
Sermon: December 18, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Fourth Sunday in Advent
Sermon: December 11, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Third Sunday in Advent
December 11, 2016
Location. Location. Location. Many will speak about how important location is in real estate. We are aware also that it is important in retail. That’s especially true this time of year. What part of the store do we put these items? Which products do we put on which shelves? I once heard a piece on the radio and and the speaker was commenting that nothing in any major store is ever placed randomly. There is a reason the lights are where they are, a reason this decoration is here and not there. There is a reason for the location for everything in this season. And, in the retail world, the reason for location is selling.
Location of course affects life beyond retail and real estate. Location concerns us when we think about our next vacation, about where we put the Christmas tree, about where we go to school, about where we place our furniture, where we park the car, where we go for dinner, where we sit at the table, where we read or pray, or walk, or work. It is amazing, how much of life is effected by location.
Location colors stories of scripture as well.
These middle two weeks of Advent, the Gospel of Matthew has been about John the Baptist. Last week, John was at the Jordan River, crowds were swarming to him from Jerusalem and all Judea. From that location, surrounded by crowds who came out to him, John spoke powerfully and fearlessly. To the scribes and Pharisees John cried “You snakes, who warned you to flee the wrath to come”. “What in the “h” are you doing as a sign of your repentance?” In that location, with those crowds, you could hear the power and the certainty in John’s voice. There in the river, surrounded by the crowds, John was sure of himself and sure of the one who was to come after him.
This week, we find John in a different location. Today, John is in one of Herod’s prisons. Gone are the crowds, the sun, the fresh water. Now there is stench, and darkness and loneliness. Gone is the confidence. Doubt descends on John. John knows the fate of prophets. He knows that when prophets challenge the powerful, they likely come to death. He knows that his future is as dark as his prison. From that prison, he sends his messengers with the charge. Find out if I was right. Find out if Jesus is the one we waited for, find out if Jesus is the one worth dying for.
His messengers go to Jesus and ask. Jesus responds. Go and tell John what you see and hear. Tell John that lepers are cleansed, the lame walk, the dead are raised. Go and tell John, that the poor have good news preached to them. Go and tell John that the poor have hear the good news of Emmanuel, the good news that God is with them. When you tell John this good news, then he will know that I am indeed the one he is waiting for.
Matthew does not tell us how John reacted to the message that he received. I am however left with the image that the message they brought to him was enough. The message brought to him convinced him that indeed Jesus was the one that he and all of Israel was waiting for. The message brought to John the gift of joy. In the Advent Calendar, today is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete: rejoicing Sunday. John is able to rejoice, even in prison, even as he faces death at the hand of Herod. He is able to rejoice because even in prison, facing death, he knows Emmanuel. God is with him.
As I read this story throughout the week, I become more and more convinced that the key to the story in today’s Gospel is not John the Baptist, nor is the key really even Jesus. John and Jesus cannot reach each other. Between them the messengers are located. The messengers have seen and heard the ministry of Jesus. The messengers, by their witness, give John reason to hope and rejoice.
Friends, the story of this weekend’s Gospel is true in our world, today. In our world there are many people living in prisons like John the Baptist. Perhaps these are people who were at one time filled with confidence, at one time certain of their faith. Now, however, they find they are not quite so sure, not quite so confident. Perhaps they are imprisoned by addiction, or loneliness. Perhaps they are in prisons of physical or mental illness. Perhaps they are imprisoned in financial struggles. Perhaps they are imprisoned in dying or abusive relationships. Perhaps they are in prisons of fear, doubt or despair. Perhaps they are imprisoned in relationships that seem to be dying. Perhaps they are in prisons of poverty. Friends, we live in a world that seems at times to be imprisoned by war, by racism, by terrorism, by fear.
In our world, John the Baptist still lives and still asks if this Jesus is worth trusting in, does this Jesus offer any hope, is this Jesus worth believing, or should we look for another? The culture tries lead us into believing in something besides Jesus. The way out of your prisons, your sadness, your doubt is in self indulgence. Do this, buy this, do more, buy more. The culture knows people are imprisoned and tries to convince them that the things they sell will set them free.
Jesus uses messengers of today to reach those who are imprisoned. He sends his followers, his messengers located in our world to go and tell John, tell Mary, tell David, Bev, and Chris, tell Sandy, Paul, and Anne, what they have seen and heard. Tell them that you have seen healing—you have seen relationships transformed, you have seen persons freed from addictions, you have seen the lonely embraced, you have seen the sick made well, you have seen the smiles return to the faces of those who grieve, you have seen the poor receive the gift of hope, you have seen the powers of forgiveness, the powers of love to set people free. You are the messengers that God sends to those in prison. God is with them. God is with you. Rejoice.
Jesus sent the messengers back to John. Yes he is the one. John was freed from the prison of despair. John was able to die rejoicing that the one he had waited for had come.
Friends, we live in a world with many who are just like John. They want to find reason to hope, to believe, to truly rejoice. We are the messengers Jesus has placed in their life. We are the messengers who can connect Jesus with those in prison. Location is everything. God has placed us here for a reason. May our witness give people reason to hope, reason to rejoice. May the good news that God is with us set us free. May that good news of Emmanuel give us reason to rejoice.
Sermon: December 4, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Second Sunday in Advent
Sermon: November 27, 2016: The Rev. Charles Homeyer: First Sunday in Advent
Sermon: November 20, 2016: The Rev. Mary Perrin: Last Sunday after Pentecost – Christ the King
Sermon: November 13, 2016: The Rev. Cindy Nawrocki: Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: November 6, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: All Saints Sunday
Sermon: October 30, 2016: The Rev. Dan Scheid: The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: October 23, 2016: The Rev. Christian Baron: The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: October 16, 2016: The Rev. Nurya Love Parish: The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: October 2, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost.
Sermon: September 25, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
Sermon: September 18, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
Sermon: September 11, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost.
Sermon: September 4, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
Sermon: August 28, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
Sermon: August 21, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
Sermon: August 14, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost. Mr. Troy Howley: Volunteer Coordinator of Samaritas https://www.samaritas.org/
Sermon: August 7, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: July 31, 2016: Seminarian Abby Bok: The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: July 24, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
July 24, 2016
Luke 11: 1-13
It is 1953, Pre-airconditioning days. Brooklyn New York. In those days, baseball was the only game in town. The first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers was the beloved Gil Hodges. Hodges was in the middle of a long terrible hitting slump. The slump had lasted for months going back to the 1952 World Series when Hodges had gone 0-21. The slump continued into 1953. Late in May, he was hitting a dismal .183. It is a hot, steamy summer Sunday. At St. Francis Church in Brooklyn New York, Father Herbert Redmond stood in the pulpit and preached this short sermon: “It’s too hot today for a sermon. Go home. Keep the commandments and say a prayer for Gil Hodges”.
It’s not clear how the people of St. Francis reacted on Fr. Redmond’s sermon. Its not clear whether they kept the commandments that week any more than any other week. It’s not clear how many of them actually prayed for Gil Hodges. But, Hodges later said, that during his slump, he received hundreds of letters, telegrams, and postcards. “There wasn’t a single nasty message. Everybody tried to say something nice. It had a tremendous effect on my morale, if not my batting average.” He eventually broke out of his slump and was a star for the Dodgers for many years. Was it because they prayed or was it because of the cards and notes they sent. Maybe, it was both.
Our readings are not about Gil Hodges, but they are about prayer. In Genesis Abraham speaks with God in prayer. Abraham asks God to do what is just and merciful. “Will you spare the city if there are 45 righteous people? If there are 40, 35? If there are 25? Will you spare the city if there are 10 righteous people?” In his prayer, Abraham learns, The Lord, is not a distant God. The Lord is approachable. The Lord talks with his people. The Lord walks this earth and sees the gravity of sin. Abraham learns that the Lord is a God who is angered by the sin of the world. Abraham also learns the Lord is a God of mercy who does not punish the innocent because of the wicked. Indeed, The Lord is more just and more merciful than all other gods. How will Abraham serve and worship this just and merciful God?
When we pray alone of with others. When we hear or read scripture alone or with others, we learn more about God. As we receive new insight or new understanding of God, more about God, we are called to change. If we discover that God is merciful, we too should practice mercy. If God is forgiving, we too should forgive. If we come to realize that God is angered by injustice on earth, we too should be angry. If we discover a God weeps at the suffering of the orphans, and refugees in the world we too should weep. And then as God daughters and sons, we are called to act. Sadly, we are too often like the neighbor in Luke’s Gospel who refuses to respond to the needs of his friend. Too often, we close our ears to the human beings who cry for assistance. We forget that as disciples of Jesus we are the hands and feet of God in the world today. God acts is the world through us. As disciples of Jesus, as bearers of the Spirit of Jesus, we are called to enflesh God in our bodies. Through the Spirit working in us, the kingdom of God comes. Through the Spirit at work in us, God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. We pray, give us our daily bread so that we may have the strength to do your will and to be your presence in the world. Give us our daily bread so that we may have the strength to help you bring your kingdom to earth. Give us the strength to make your dream for the world come true. Give us the bread, give us the strength to live what we pray.
On a Sunday last fall I preached a sermon about the prayers of the people that are part of every Sunday liturgy. I made the comment that there have been times when people seemed bored by the length of these prayers. There were times when these prayers seemed too repetitive. How long will we keep praying for the people of of the world? How long will we pray for those who suffer? How long will we pray for those who govern? What’s the point? Does God hear our prayers? After that sermon, a number of you told me how important these prayers are to you. There is so much pain in the world, there is so much hatred and violence in our world. Praying reminds us to look beyond our own struggles. Prayer reminds us to feel the pain of the world. Praying calls us to act with the spirit and courage of Jesus. Like Abraham, when we pray, we come to deeper knowledge of who God is, who Jesus is. When we pray we learn how to better love God and our neighbor. As disciples of Jesus we are called to persistent praying, persistent knocking, persistent seeking, persistent asking.
The point of our prayers is not that to change God, but to change us. We pray for forgiveness so that we might have grace to forgive. We pray in gratitude, so that we might be better stewards of all that we have. We pray for those in need so that we might provide for them. We pray for the hungry in the world, so that we might feed them. We pray for the homeless so that we might shelter them. We pray for the lonely in the world so that we might embrace them. We pray for the stranger in the world so that we might welcome them.
So, dear friends, we gather on this hot and steamy Sunday. We listen, we pray, we share bread and wine. Soon, we will leave and go our separate ways. As we go, we remember the sermon of Father Redmond. We pray for the grace to keep the commandments. Today, there is no need to pray for Gil Hodges. He has already come to his heavenly reward. As we go, we pray for those who struggle, for those who are lost, for those who are hungry, for all victims of war, violence, poverty and racism. We pray for them, and ask that in God’s grace, God will use us to be the answer to our prayers.
Sermon: July 17, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: July 10, 2016: Seminarian Abby Bok: The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: July 3, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Fireworks. Elections. Isaiah. Life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As a mother comforts her child. Hot dogs, watermelon, and potato salad. Galatians. Grace. Freedom. Circumcision. Baseball. Terrorist attacks. Istanbul. Luke. Two by two. Bangladesh. Independence. Lambs in the midst of wolves. Fishing. Satan falling from the sky. Brexit. Lake Michigan. Wimbledon. Jesus.
On any given Sunday the choices for preaching topics are countless. There are at least four scripture readings to choose from. There are the notable news events of the week that could be preached about. Sermons could be preached on events that arise from the life of the preacher, or the community. And this weekend there is the reality that this is a holiday weekend. Many of us have had too much sun, too much food, too much noise and too little sleep. The challenge is to say enough but not try to say it all, to preach not too long and not too short. The challenge is to preach a sermon that is good, faithful and true; to preach good news that both comforts and challenges. The challenge is to preach of God and to leave room for the working of God’s Spirit. The challenge is to preach a sermon that helps make it worth coming to Church on a holiday weekend.
Lord have mercy on me the preacher. Lord have mercy on you the hearer. Lord have mercy on us all.
Today’s reading from Isaiah begins with the call to Rejoice. Rejoice in the joy of Jerusalem. Rejoice. The psalm calls all lands and all people to be joyful in God. To sing the glory of God’s name, and the Glory of God’s praise. Rejoice. Jesus tells the disciples to rejoice not in what they have accomplished but that their names are written in heaven. Rejoice.
Galatians does not speak of Joy or Rejoicing. Instead, in a short verse toward the end of the letter, Paul gives the reason to rejoice.
On a holiday weekend, we are tempted to boast of things of this world. We are tempted to boast of national riches and power. We are tempted to boast of military or economic might. On a holiday weekend, we are tempted to boast of our moral superiority or our national exceptionalism.
In Galatians we find a truer reason for celebration, the true source of freedom and our true reason to boast. In Galatians, we find the cross. Paul writes, “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is central to Paul’s letter to Galatians. The cross is central to Paul’s passion, his writing and his faith. The cross is central for Paul, because in the cross of Jesus, Paul was reborn. In the cross of Jesus all creation is new. In the cross Paul finds comfort and peace. The cross is his only reason to boast. The cross is his reason to rejoice.
In the cross God’s love is revealed for sinners. In the cross the power of God’s love is victorious over hate. In the cross life is victorious over death. In the cross we see God’s free gift of mercy, forgiveness and grace. In the cross we see the walls of division overcome. In the cross we see the birthing of the new creation.
Friends we see in our community and our world so much suffering and pain. We see the wolves attack and devour. Friends and loved ones face illness and pain. There is so much pain and suffering. Children are victims of violence and neglect. Families are torn apart. The innocent suffer. Terrorists and murderers strike in cities in our nation and around the globe. Refugees drown. Old worlds collapse. The earth burns. And, in the face of such suffering, we are called to rejoice.
Sister Sue Tracey died this past week. Sister Sue was a follower of Jesus who knew the cross. Sister Sue was a person who taught others to rejoice. Sister Sue carried the cross of cancer at many times in her life. Yet even as she carried this cross she was always filled with joy. Her humor was rooted in the power of the cross of Jesus.
When we trust in the power of the cross, we too are able to rejoice.
We rejoice, even as we see the evil in our world. We rejoice because we have received the Good News. We rejoice because we see that Satan has fallen and we believe he will be defeated. We rejoice because we have been called by Jesus to proclaim good news of love in our community and in our world. We rejoice and because we have been invited to share the ministry of Jesus and bring comfort to those who mourn, healing to to those who are broken, justice to those who are oppressed and hope to those in despair.
Friends: on this weekend though there is reason to mourn, let us rejoice. Though there is reason to despair, let us hope. Though there is reason to cry, let us laugh. On this weekend filled with fireworks, good food and good friends, let us proclaim the good news of the cross of Jesus. May his cross be our reason to boast. May his cross be our reason to celebrate. May his cross be our reason to rejoice.
Sermon: June 26, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: June 19, 2016: The Rev. BJ Heyboer; The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: June 12, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: June 5, 2016: The Rev. Jodi Baron; The Third Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: May 29, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Second Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: May 22, 2016: The Rev. Nurya Love Parish; The First Sunday after Pentecost: Trinity Sunday
Trinity Sunday | May 22, 2016
It’s the first Sunday after Pentecost – otherwise known as Trinity Sunday. It is a classic move among rectors to give the associate Trinity Sunday as a preaching date. And since this is my last preaching date as your associate rector, it was Father Mike’s last chance to give this associate Trinity Sunday. But even though I am leaving my current role, I’m not going too far. I already have a preaching date for October. My last day as your associate rector is June 15; my first day as your affiliate priest will be in the middle of August. In between will be the first growing season at Plainsong Farm, the farm and ministry I’m starting up with the Edwardson family.
When I come back in August, I don’t know how often I’ll be here or exactly what I’ll be doing. But I do know I won’t be consistently assisting at worship. I won’t be working for St. Andrew’s for twenty to thirty hours during the week. I won’t be on the payroll. When you see me, most likely I’ll be sitting in a pew.
After five years at the altar, that will take some getting used to – for all of us.
Every week the lectionary, the common Bible lessons we share with Christians across traditions, somehow fits our lives. This week is no exception. The lessons provided cohered with my call. As a result I have for you some strange mix between a sermon and a testimony.
The collect of the day begins, “Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith,” And I am going to start Plainsong Farm because I am one of God’s servants who has received from God grace by the confession of a true faith.
Those of you who were raised in the church cannot comprehend the distance between a childhood with no religion and an adulthood with this faith we share. When I was a child, I was blessed to be confident of the love of my parents. But beyond that I had no rituals, traditions or language that would link me with the mystery that is life itself. By the grace of God I have traveled the distance to the confession of a true faith. My faith is a rock which grounds my life, keeping me steady in turbulent times, giving me models of grace who have served God in every generation.
As I traveled this distance, I could not help but notice the many people headed in the opposite direction. The generation after mine is dropping out of religious participation. Too many have experienced a Christian faith which has no room for their questions, a type of faith where judgment is valued more highly than mystery. Some have experienced a Christian faith which just doesn’t make sense. It seems irrelevant and outdated. And so they are raising their children just as I was raised. They probably won’t bring those kids to church. But they just might bring them to a farm. After all, everybody eats. And these days, farms are cool. It is my hope that we can create a farm ministry that helps young people receive the grace of God and be led to the confession of a true faith. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but that is my desire.
In our lesson from Proverbs we read that wisdom is the beginning of God’s creation – before springs abounding with water, before earth and fields, or the world’s first bits of soil. Wisdom is the foundation of the world, but too often we humans are unwise in our relationship to Creation. As the Psalmist says, God has given us mastery over the works of His hands, putting all things under our feet. But a lot of the time we humans don’t see the long-term consequences of our choices. Nobody thought the development of the internal combustion engine would lead to dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. But with 2015 the hottest year on record and a scientific consensus that global warming is caused by humanity’s choices, our need for greater wisdom is urgent. As Pope Francis writes, “We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements…” It is my hope that our farm ministry will help Christians of every tradition uncover the wisdom of Scripture as it relates to the way we live on earth. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but that is my desire.
The apostle Paul writes to the Romans that our salvation comes by grace. It is a gift. God does not value us according to our works. Because in the sight of God, all of us have sinned and fallen short. We depend on the work of God in us and through us for our health and salvation. It is my hope that our farm ministry will wake people up to the divine mystery of God and help them find healing and health – especially, that God will use our farm to provide healthy food to those who cannot afford it otherwise. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but that is my desire.
And finally, I trust in the words of Jesus that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. It is my desire to create a farm which teaches the Christian faith, catalyzes the care of creation, and offers health and healing. But as I think I have made clear, I don’t exactly know what I am doing. I tried and failed to start this farm ministry for years. Finally two years ago, I got on my knees and said, “Lord, I believe you are calling me to start this farm, but I don’t know how to do it. So if you want it done, you will need to do it. I’ll do my best to help you.” That was the prayer that started Plainsong Farm.
When I offered that prayer I had been part of this church for five years. And you need to know, I believe I received the grace to offer that prayer because of the work of God in you, the people of St. Andrew’s.
It was God’s work in you, who welcomed me when I came as a stranger, still the Associate Minister at Fountain Street Church,
It was God’s work in you, who willingly welcome unknown families to live here three times a year through Family Promise – never knowing how the week will go, but facing it with faith,
It was God’s work in you, who set off for the Dominican Republic to provide water filters – never knowing how the week will go, but facing it with faith. It was God’s work in you, planting trees to feed neighbors – God’s work in you, celebrating the salvation of the world every week in the Holy Eucharist – God’s work in you, Father Mike, tending this congregation with faithful care for decades and serving our community as a leader…
I see God at work in you doing more than one sermon can name. But today I have to tell you, the work of God in you led me to do the work of God I now begin. Christian educators say that faith is caught, not taught. I caught faith from you – the faith not only to offer that prayer, but to follow wherever the answer leads me.
God has called us into life, redeemed us from sin, and empowered us for ministry in His name. As baptized Christians we live within the eternal mystery of the Holy Trinity. Desire nothing more than to give your life to God for the work of God. There is no greater adventure – even when you don’t know exactly what it looks like yet.
“Faith is stepping out on nothing and landing on something,” Cornel West said. In the coming years, we will not share ministry in the same way we once did. But we will still be sharing ministry together, as long as we keep stepping out on nothing – and trusting in God.
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Sermon: May 15, 2016: The Rev. Andy DeBraber: Executive Director of Heartside Ministry;The Day of Pentecost
Sermon: May 8, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Seventh Sunday of Easter
Sermon: April 24, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Fifth Sunday of Easter
Sermon: April 17, 2016: The Rev. Nurya Love Parish: The Fourth Sunday of Easter
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Grand Rapids
Fourth Sunday of Easter – April 17, 2016
The Rev. Nurya Love Parish
Some of you know that I was in Boston over spring break with my family, the first week of April. There was a conference on the Spirit of Sustainable Agriculture at Harvard Divinity School, which is where I went to seminary 20 years ago. My family was nice enough to indulge me in thinking that Boston would be a good place for Spring Break.
Just so you know, it snowed there too.
Dave and Claire and Nathan joined me after the conference and we did touristy things. We went to the Old Massachusetts State House and learned about American History. We went to the Natural History museum and looked at old rocks and glass flowers. We went to Old North Church, where the lantern was hung to warn that the British were coming. Did you know that Old North is still a living church and an Episcopal one at that? Neither did I. I thought it was just a line in a history book. It was so cool.
The most important place we went wasn’t in anybody’s tourism guide but our own. It was completely irrelevant to American history. But it couldn’t have been more relevant to ours. It was a very little stretch of sidewalk where I happened to be walking when I realized – 20 years ago this year – that I needed to become a Christian. That little stretch of sidewalk is where Jesus reached out his shepherd’s crook and got me. I took a picture of it.
Today in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.” Just a few verses earlier he has said, “I am the good shepherd… And I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus echoes the psalm which was surely among his prayers, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
The people of Israel were a shepherd people. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel, Moses, Joseph, and King David all herded goats and sheep. Their descendants the Israelites who heard Jesus’ words knew what it was to tend sheep. Any full-time nomad shepherds here today? I didn’t think so. That knowledge is no longer with us.
Sheep are prey animals in a world full of predators. They might survive on their own, but they need shepherds to thrive. Shepherds make sure that the sheep have enough water to drink and food to eat – leading them by still water and to green pasture. Shepherds make sure sheep are safe from predators like wolves. Shepherds have a relationship with their herds. Their sheep belong to them and followed their voice. And in their own way, they give their life for the sheep. The profession of sheepherding is a quiet one. Life is largely spent stewarding the animals in your care and reading the landscape to see if anything is about to threaten the herd. Shepherds devote their lives to this work. Their days are spent outdoors among the animals.
We don’t have a shepherding economy today. But it’s still worth dwelling on this metaphor from nature, because it offers wisdom that contemporary concepts just don’t provide. “I am the good accountant; I lay down my life for my clients,” “I am the good computer programmer; I know my code and my code knows me,” or “The Lord is my Boss” don’t have the same ring to them.
The organic metaphor of sheep and shepherd works because you and I are more like sheep than we like to admit. On the one hand, as post-industrial humans, we are at the top of the food chain. But speaking spiritually, like sheep we are easy prey. There really are forces at work in the world and in ourselves that would destroy us. The seven deadly sins that tradition names – greed, lust, pride, gluttony, sloth, wrath, envy – are temptations that arise in every single human soul, including mine. Writ large across society we see the consequence of human sin: violence and war, poverty and injustice. Closer to home heartache in our own families crosses generations – each of us doing our best, some of us struggling simply to survive. Humanity may be near the top of the food chain, but we certainly do know how to prey on each other and ourselves. When I look in my own heart I know that the seeds of violence and destruction are there also.
Which is why, twenty years ago, I gave up the idea that I could make it through life on my own. I needed a shepherd. In Jesus Christ I discovered a teacher who knew me better than I knew myself. I discovered God with human flesh. I discovered someone whose life and ministry provided a path from violence to peace, from hatred to love, from despair to hope. And then I discovered two thousand years of his disciples doing things like what Peter does in the reading from Acts. He confronts a terrible situation. He kneels to pray, seeking to discern God’s will. He rises to act, and through him God does the impossible.
You can’t predict when God will accomplish a miracle. It’s a mistake to try. The lesson to draw from the reading in Acts is not that you and I can raise the dead. The lesson to draw is that when we pray, when we give our lives to Christ to do the work of God, when we listen for what God would have us do and attempt it, the unbelievable does sometimes actually happen. I’ve seen that lesson in my own life; I know it’s true.
In the reading from Revelation we see Christ imaged not as a shepherd, but as a lamb. Because he is both. He tends our souls like a shepherd, he has been sacrificed for us like the Passover lamb in the Exodus story, and by rising from the dead he has proclaimed God’s ultimate victory. Though on earth we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need fear no evil, because the Lamb is on the Throne. Christ has conquered. The book of Revelation teaches that one day – not yet, but one day – people from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages – will be at peace praising God. I wait and pray and work for that day, when humans do not hate and hurt, but sing praise as one.
I couldn’t make it through this life on my own, and neither can you. But the good news is that we don’t have to. The good news is that the Creator of the
Universe loved us so much that He put on human flesh and joined us in this life. The good news is that you can still know and love and serve God. Every day is a new beginning on that journey. Every moment is a chance to try again. The Lord is our Shepherd. We have no need to fear.
Sermon: April 10, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Third Sunday of Easter
Sermon: April 3, 2016: The Rev. Christian J. Baron: The Second Sunday of Easter
Sermon: March 27, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Easter Day; The Feast of the Resurrection
Sermon: March 20, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Sunday of the Passion – Palm Sunday
Sermon: March 13, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Fifth Sunday in Lent
Sermon: March 6, 2016: The Rev. Nurya Love Parish: Fourth Sunday in Lent
February 6, 2016
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32
Our gospel lesson is the story of the Prodigal Son. And unlike many stories in Scripture, it’s a story where we have a tendency to identify with the characters.
One tends to hear things like this in Bible study:
“I would be just as mad as the oldest son if my father was that nice.”
“I used to identify with the sons in the story, but once I became a parent, I could finally understand the father’s perspective,”
“I have a child like the prodigal son, and I wish he would come home.”
“I was like the prodigal son, and I was scared to return to my family.”
The father, the younger son, and the older son remind us of ourselves in our own family situations. And there are lessons to be gained from reflecting on the story with that in mind. But this morning I want to push us a little further. I want to push us to think about this story in the way Jesus first told it. Because he didn’t tell it as a story about an individual family. He told it as a parable about a religious community. And we’re a religious community.
Notice what happens at the very beginning of this story: “Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:”
Jesus tells this story for a reason. He tells it because the authorities of his day think he’s compromising the religion they share. The Pharisees and the scribes thought they knew who God was. They sincerely believed that following the laws handed down since the time of Moses was the only right thing to do. And they were worried, because Jesus was a bad example with a big following. He was more inclusive and merciful than they thought was right. He ate with people who had broken the rules: tax collectors and sinners.
Tax collectors don’t have a good reputation today. Their reputation was even worse in ancient Israel, because their government was completely different. Michigan’s primary election this week is an example of our government in action. Each adult citizen of our country has a right to decide whom we believe should receive authority over our shared tax dollars. But this idea of government is only about three hundred years old. Democracy hadn’t been invented yet in ancient Israel. The people who ate with Jesus collected taxes to pay the costs of the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was the occupying enemy which had conquered Israel. It would be as if another country entered the U.S., occupied the White House, told the Congress and the Supreme Court that their right to govern would be limited, and started collecting money from us to keep the system going. Tax collectors broke group boundaries by working for the enemy.
Sinners broke group boundaries too. They had done something wrong, according to the norms of the day. They might have stolen something or hurt someone or broken a promise. Sinners and tax collectors weren’t welcome at dinner. They were the outcast. Nobody liked them.
Except Jesus. And here’s the thing: encountering Jesus causes transformation in sinners and tax collectors. He tells the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more.” His very presence causes Zacchaeus, a tax collector, to promise to give half of everything he owns to people in need, and to pay back four times of anything he stole. When you meet up with Jesus, you go away changed. This is what the Pharisees and scribes don’t get: they want to stay safe in the expected boundaries, condemning and ignoring those who have gone wrong. Jesus, on the other hand, wants to change lives.
So he tells the parable of the prodigal son. Jesus wants the Pharisees and the scribes to see themselves in the older brother — so focused on fairness and rules that he misses out on relationship. That he doesn’t realize he could have had a young goat anytime, because they were all already his. And Jesus wants the sinners and the outcast to know that God welcomes them home, when they humble themselves and begin again. When they repent – as we do in Lent – and seek reconciliation with God.
The story of the prodigal son is not a story about one family. It’s a story about the grace of God and how it is mirrored – or not – in those who claim to follow God. So my question to you this morning is this: which brother is the church in this story? I don’t mean St. Andrew’s; I don’t mean The Episcopal Church – I mean the Church with a big C, all the Christians in America.
According to the book unChristian, by Gabe Lyons and David Kinnaman, the biggest concerns non-Christians have Christian faith aren’t about theological concepts like whether Jesus actually lived, the Holy Trinity or the forgiveness of sins. It’s the perception that Christian attitudes are judgmental, hypocritical, too political, and bigoted. And yet we claim to follow Jesus, the teller of the Prodigal Son story. How are we doing at representing the one who gave human life to God’s abundant grace?
Every Lent when we confess our sins on Ash Wednesday, one phrase stands out to me: we confess “our failure to commend the faith that is in us.” When we confess our sins, we recognize that we sin against God “in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” I try not to be judgmental, hypocritical, bigoted and too political. I know you do too. But this Lent I am examining this question: what have I done and left undone as a disciple of Jesus to enable this false perception of our faith to take hold?
The wider world perceives Christians today as being just like the scribes and the Pharisees were yesterday. Non-Christians identify us with the older brother in the story Jesus told. If that isn’t a younger-brother in a pigsty wake-up call to the church, I don’t know what is.
Our call is to reflect the transforming grace of God in Jesus Christ. Our call is to be changed by Christ that our lives might bring others to know and serve God. if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation… We are ambassadors for Christ, says Paul. We are meant to be the city on the hill, the light of the nations, the salt of the earth, the leaven in the loaf: we are meant to be an example of God’s grace, together.
The younger brother came to himself far from home, humbled himself and journeyed back to his father’s love. So may the church humble ourselves to commend the faith in Christ that is in us, and help the world to know and see the incomparable love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord
Sermon: February 28, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Third Sunday in Lent
February 28, 2016
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
When you are invited into someone’s home, there might be some excellent reasons to take off your shoes 1. Perhaps you don’t want to track winter sludge throughout the house. 2. It is just more comfortable. 3. You have some cool socks to show off. 4. Most importantly you take your shoes off when you are invited in to someone’s home because the home you are entering is holy ground. The home you are entering is holy because in that home people eat, and live and work and play and cry and laugh and love and pray.
For some of those very same reasons, I am going to take my shoes off this morning here at church. It is certainly more comfortable. How do you like my socks? And this is holy ground. Now I know better than to tell you all to take off your shoes for the rest of the liturgy this morning. I know that most of you won’t do it. But if you would like to do so. Go ahead. Take off your shoes. Show of your socks. Get comfortable. This is holy ground.
This is holy ground because it is a house of God. It is holy ground because the Holy Eucharist is reserved in the tabernacle. This is holy ground because you are here. You are created in the image and likeness of God, and so your presence makes this ground holy. This is holy ground because for over sixty years people have come into this place to celebrate marriages, to celebrate new birth and to grieve for those who have died. This is holy ground because for sixty years people have come into this holy ground to pray for themselves, for loved ones and for this community, the nation and the world. This is holy ground because for over 60 years, people have come here to seek answers, to find direction, to ask forgiveness, to ask for strength, to sing, and to listen. This is holy ground because for sixty years people have come encountered God in this place. I take my shoes off in this place, because together with you, we are standing on holy ground.
Our reading from Exodus this morning recalls the story of the first encounter between Moses and God. God has observed the misery and heard the cries of God’s beloved and enslaved people. God has come down to deliver them and set them free. God has chosen Moses to be God’s instrument of deliverance. Moses of course has some questions. “Why me of all people? Don’t you remember that I am here in Midian because I betrayed Pharaoh and I killed an Egyptian. I am not on Pharaoh’s good list. Surely there must be a better choice. And, while we are at it, just exactly who are you? What is your name? The Hebrew people are going to want to know who sent me.” God’s answer is in hidden in mystery and holiness. I AM. I AM WHO I AM. I AM WHO I WILL BE. The name is so holy, that the Hebrew people would not speak or write this name. Throughout the book of Exodus, the name is written as ”THE LORD”. THE LORD, I AM will be gracious, merciful slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. THE LORD, I AM forgives iniquity and transgression and sin. The I AM of God will change as the LORD leads the people through the wilderness and into the promise land. The I AM of God will change as THE LORD establishes Israel as a great nation, as THE LORD warns and punishes Israel for sin, as THE LORD brings them home from exile. The name of God is never settled once and for all. God, the I AM, is beyond our understanding and comprehension. THE I AM WHO I AM is always more than we can imagine.
We believe that the I AM took flesh and lived among us in the person of Jesus. The Gospel writers, especially John identify Jesus with “I AM: I am the Good Shepherd; I am the Light of the World; I am the Vine; I am the Bread of life; I am the way the truth and the life; I am the resurrection and the life. As with the LORD who spoke to Moses, Jesus is always more that we can imagine or comprehend.
This God who spoke to Moses in Exodus still hears our cries and our prayers. We are not enslaved as the Hebrew people were. But we do bear the misery of illness disappointment and failure. We are enslaved by our addictions, our compulsions and our sins. We live in a country and a state that is imprisoned and plagued by random acts of violence. We live in a country and a world where the water, the land and the air are poisoned. We live in a world enslaved by religious and racial hatred, and crippled by poverty and despair. God hears the cry of this world. We believe that God came down in the person of Jesus to free God’s children from the Pharaohs who still rule our world. In Jesus the world has been freed from enslavement to the evil powers alive in our world. In Jesus the march to liberation continues.
Moses was reluctant to accept the call of THE LORD. The reluctant Moses has a long list of reasons not to accept the call of THE LORD. Jesus was never reluctant. Jesus fully embraced the call to deliver God’s people from slavery and lead them on the path to freedom. Sadly, we are often the reluctant one’s. Jesus has come to show us the way, but we hold back. Despite the misery of the world we too often prefer the world we know to the world we do not know. We too often prefer the certainty of the old slavery and death to the promise of new freedom and life.
Lent is our season to join the march to freedom. We pray for the courage to trust the promise of Jesus when he proclaims, I AM THE WAY. We pray for the courage put our shoes back on and to follow Jesus. We prayer for the courage to put our shoes back on and walk with Jesus, THE LORD on the way to freedom and life.
Sermon: February 21, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Second Sunday in Lent
Sermon: February 14, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: First Sunday in Lent
Sermon Lent 1
February 13/14 2016
Luke 4: 1-13
I don’t tend to be a particularly paranoid person. It’s not that I am not concerned about the injustice in the world, the burdens that so many carry, or about the dangers that threaten our planet. But for the most part at my deepest level, I carry a sense of peace, safety, security and confidence. I know that my sense of safety and security in life can be traced to the family I grew up in. I also know that it is related to the fact that I am white, middle class and male. I know that my sense of safety and security is a privilege that many do not share. I also believe that my faith in Jesus Christ also gives some sense of security to my life.
My sense of security and safety was challenged this week when I read that there are now three certainties in life: Certainty # 1 Death. Certainty #2 Taxes. Certainty # 3 Identity theft. One day each of us will have our identity stolen. An article I read stated: As far as identity theft goes, “it’s just a matter of time. Sooner or later every one of us will get got.”
In the Gospel this weekend we see that identity theft goes back to biblical times. In our Gospel today, the devil is trying to steal the identity of Jesus. It’s not that the devil wants it for himself. But he certainly does not want Jesus to have it. He wants Jesus to forget who he is.
Jesus has just been baptized. After his baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon him and a voice declared him to be the beloved son of God. Now, filled with that Holy Spirit, Jesus is led to the wilderness where he is tempted by the devil. Jesus is famished, and in that state of hunger, the devil puts a challenge to Jesus: “If you are the son of God”. The devil is tempting Jesus to question his own identity. He is tempting Jesus to forget his identity as God’s beloved child. He is tempting Jesus to trust not in God, but in him. “If you are the Son of God”. The devil wants to steal the identity of Jesus. If Jesus forgets who he is, if Jesus bows down and worships the devil then the devil wins. Jesus’ strength and power is rooted in his identity as God’s beloved, if he loses this identity, he loses his power. Filled with the Holy Spirit, and trusting in the Word of God, Jesus overcomes this temptation. Jesus never forfeits his identity. He remembers who he is. Jesus remembers whose he is. Jesus holds on to his identity as the beloved of God.
The devil leaves until an opportune time. The devil will seek to steal Jesus’s identity throughout his ministry. He will not cease until Jesus dies on the cross. There, at the hour of his death Jesus will continue to hold his identity as God’s beloved as he commends his Spirit to his Father. The devil, the identity thief was not able to steal the identity of Jesus. Jesus knew to his death that he was God’s beloved.
We are God’s beloved daughters and sons. That is the very core of our identity. This was proclaimed at our baptism. Through our life evil seeks to steal our identity. In the pain, and disappointments of our life we are tempted to forget that we are loved. We are tempted to believe that our identity comes in our success. We are tempted to believe we are identified with what we have, how we look, what we do. We are tempted to give up our deepest identity, to forget that no matter how we look, what we have, or even what we do, we are beloved children of God.
This past Wednesday as I marked the foreheads of many of you with a cross of ash, I remembered the many people I have anointed with oil at their baptism. After the newly baptized are reborn through the waters, they are anointed with a cross of chrism with the proclamation: “you are sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever.” This is the same cross that marked us on Ash Wednesday. That cross of ash proclaims that even in sin, even in brokenness, even in failure, even in addiction, even in death, our identity remains. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ, and nothing can take away our identity as beloved children of God. No thief can steal that identity.
We can however be tempted to forget it. Lent is a time to claim our identity. I give up caffeine, or TV, or beer or chocolate to remember that my identity is not rooted in what I eat or drink or have. My identity is rooted in God’s love for me. We read the scripture because in the Word of Scripture we hear the story of God’s love for the world. We pray and come to liturgy, so that like the Hebrew people in Deuteronomy we remember the story of who we are and where we come from. We give alms and we engage in acts of service to remember that in service for those in need, we live out our identity.
In Lent we pray for the grace to live into the identity that we have been given by God.
February 14 is not only Valentine’s Day. It is also the Feast of Absalom Jones. Absalom Jones was born into slavery in Sussex, Delaware in 1746. In the face of slavery and oppression, Jones never forgot his identity as a beloved child of God. In 1770, Jones married a fellow slave, and through hard work he was able to buy his wife’s freedom. Jones saved enough to purchase his own freedom in 1784. He was an active member of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia and served as lay preacher for the black members of the congregation. Because of the hard work of Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, the black membership at St. George’s increased tenfold. But this increase was not welcomed by the white members of the congregation. Instead of praising their efforts, church officials responded by attempting to segregate the black congregants. During a Sunday service in November 1786, ushers attempted to remove all blacks, including Jones, from the main floor of the church to the balcony. Jones, Allen, and the black members of the congregation promptly left the church as a group. Jones and Allen subsequently founded the Free African Society on April 12, 1787. Jones remained as the leader of The African Church which was formally received into the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania on October 17, 1794 and renamed St. Thomas African Episcopal Church. St. Thomas was the first black Episcopal parish in the United States. Bishop William White (bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania) ordained Jones a deacon in the Episcopal Church in 1795 and as priest in 1804. Jones became the first ordained priest of African descent in the United States.
We honor Absalom as a child of God who in the face of slavery and bigotry remembered his identity as a beloved child of God.
May we live our lives in a way that claims our identity, and honors that identity in all God’s daughters and sons.
Sermon: February 10, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Ash Wednesday
Sermon: February 7, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon February 7, 2016
Exodus 34: 29-35
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
In my years as a preacher, I suspect that I have preached on Super Bowl Sunday at least 20, maybe 25 times . Most of those sermons have mentioned the Super Bowl at least in a passing reference. Only a few did not. On one Super Bowl Sunday I preached about how I intended to not watch the game. On another I began my sermon by saying, “It’s only a game”. I was stunned by the reaction. You would have thought that I had criticized grandmothers, Mother Teresa and Santa Claus. I was accused by one person of being self-righteous, and maybe I was. I was told by another person that I should “lighten up” a bit. But, the best response was from someone who said: “Sure, you say that now, but I bet if the Lions were in the Super Bowl, then it would be more than a game, I am sure you would watch it then.” You know, that person is probably right; if the Lions do get to the Super Bowl in the years of life I have remaining, I will watch it. In fact, maybe I will even try to get a ticket.
I have come to appreciate the fact that the super bowl is more than a game. You could probably make the case that the game is the least important part of the day. The Super Bowl has a monopoly on the American attention. Even those who make it a point to go to movies or to the mall, or to turn their TV off do so because of the super bowl. Love it or hate it, the super bowl is the biggest American cultural event of the year. People of all ages party at the same time. Folks of all ages, all across the country hear the National Anthem, and the half time show, and the commercials and the game together, all at the same time. Americans experience the super bowl together.
We see the events of Super Bowl Sunday unfold together. Then after we see the events, we talk about them. People watch the super bowl on Sunday because they want to be able to talk about in on Monday. Community, however shallow, and however fleeting is formed for those who watch. Even if we don’t watch it together, talking about it together builds relationships. Did you see the pizza commercial? Did you see the Clydesdale horses, or the dogs? Did you see the wardrobe malfunction at the halftime show? Did you see any of the game? Did you see this or that or the other thing? The Super Bowl is more than a game.
And then, soon, maybe not quite soon enough, it will all be over and forgotten. Who remembers the great commercials from ten, five or three years ago? Who remembers the national anthems or the half time shows? Who remembers the greatest plays? Of course there are some who remember all the great moments . But, most of us have little or no recollection of super bowl past. Whatever the most glorious stories of Super Bowl 50 will be, we will talk about them for a couple of days, maybe for a week at most. Jerseys and posters and other memorabilia will be purchased by the biggest fans. But, really only a very few will remember the glorious events of Super Bowl 50. However glorious they might be, soon they will be forgotten.
Today is not only Super Bowl Sunday. Today is also the last Sunday of the Epiphany season: Transfiguration Sunday. The Epiphany season began on January 6 with the manifestation of Jesus as the light to the Gentiles. Then, at his Baptism, Jesus was revealed to be God’s beloved. At the wedding of Cana Jesus was revealed as the one who changes water into the choicest of wines. In the weeks of Epiphany, Jesus has been revealed to be a teacher, a healer, a messiah. Today, the season of manifestations is complete. On the mountain of the transfiguration as he meets with Elijah and Moses, Jesus is revealed to be the one who fulfills all the law and the prophets. In the face Jesus, the full Glory of God is revealed. The voice of God proclaims that Jesus is the one who should be listened to.
Glories of Super Bowl 50 will shine today. Stories of super bowl 50 will be listened to today. Soon then they will be forgotten. The communities formed around the game will disappear until next year. But, here in this community we celebrate the one whose glory never fades. In this community we celebrate the one who is still worth listening to. Today we tell the story of the most glorious event in the history of the world, the redemption of the world through Jesus. This is the story we listen to. This is the story that we share. This is the story that unites us. This is the Super Story we proclaim.
The stay on the mountain of Super Bowl glory is very short. On Monday the descent from the super bowl glory will begin. The stars of the game, the greatest commercials, and the greatest moments will soon fade away and pass into history.
Jesus descends the mountain of his Transfiguration and begins a journey to an even greater mountain, the mountain of Calvary. Enroute to that mountain Jesus immediately confronts a demon, heals a sick child, and shows compassion to a desperate parent. Jesus invites us to join him on this journey. We are not fans who applaud him, but community of disciples who walk with him. Jesus journeys from the Transfiguration to Calvary where he will be raised to eternal Glory. Jesus invites us to join the community which shares his glory.
We give thanks for the unfading Glory of God revealed in the face of Jesus on the mountain of Transfiguration. We pray for the grace to accept his invitation and join Jesus on his journey to the mountain of Resurrection. We rejoice in the glory of Jesus that we share.
Sermon: January 31, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon: January 24, 2016: The Rev. Nurya Love Parish: The Third Sunday after the Epiphany
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Sunday, January 24, 2016 – Epiphany 3C
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Grand Rapids
The Rev. Nurya Love Parish
My kids are 14 and 11 now. As they move into the teenage years it’s harder to find things that all of us want to do together. The things that were easy hits when they were preschool and elementary age – things like crafts or cooking – are mostly off the table. It’s completely normal, but it as a mom I keep thinking I’d still like to find a shared activity we all enjoy.
Which is how I found myself watching the fifth movie in the Harry Potter series. I’m not much of a movie person, but movies are still a hit for my kids, and I’m willing to go along. I couldn’t help noticing that the series was a return to the classic theme of good vs. evil. The good guy was clear – Harry Potter. The bad guy was clear – Voldemort. Because J.K. Rowling understands the human experience, the two are connected. There were moments when it appeared the villain would win and Potter would lose. But by the end, good had triumphed over evil. Just like it does whenever we go to the movies.
Look at the biggest box-office hits of 2015. What were they? Star Wars: the Force Awakens. Good vs evil in outer space. Jurassic World: Good vs evil with genetically engineered dinosaurs. And Avengers: Age of Ultron. Good vs evil with superheroes.
We watch these stories of good vs evil because this drama is the one at the center of our own lives. In most movies, you know exactly whom to root for. The good guys and bad guys are clear. Once we get out of the movie theatre, that clarity is gone. People do what appears to be good only to cause irreparable harm. Nobody intended that children would be poisoned with lead when Flint was originally moved to a new water source. And yet we now know with awful clarity that this was exactly the long-term consequence.
None of us is making choices about the water system of an entire city. But each of us makes countless choices every single day. Finding the wisdom to know the good and the discipline to chose the good are central to the life of faith.
What does Holy Scripture teach us about the epic struggle of good vs. evil? Today’s lesson from the gospel contains some truth we need. But we cannot read this gospel lesson on its own. This lesson is the pinnacle of two different movements in Scripture: one that reaches all the way back to Deuteronomy. We can’t find the wisdom in it unless we see it in context. First let’s see what is going on in Luke’s gospel.
This is Luke 4, right? So it’s pretty early in the story. Pretty much only three things have happened before we get to this chapter: Jesus was born. Jesus was baptized. Jesus was tempted in the desert by the devil. And to understand this passage, you need to see it as part of that bigger story.
This story begins at Jesus’ baptism when he is named beloved and Child of God. And then Jesus goes out to the desert to be tempted by the devil. What does the personification of evil tempt Jesus with? He tempts Jesus to seek only his own self-interest.
The devil offers him the ability to turn stones into bread, never be hungry again. Jesus says no.
The devil offers him ownership of every earthly kingdom – the chance to be emperor, to have all earthly power. Jesus says no.
The devil offers him invulnerability, the ability to risk any injury and never be harmed. Jesus says no.
Now think about it. Wouldn’t you love to always have enough to eat because you could pick up a rock and turn it into a meal? To always have enough money because you could tap the treasury of every government on earth? To always be safe because if you fell, angels would grab you before you got hurt? Those are tempting offers.
But hopefully a little voice inside your head is saying, “No, that’s dangerous. No human being should have that much power. That belongs only to God.” That’s exactly what Jesus said – he told the devil that as a mortal human being, he would claim none of it. He said no to it all.
And then the very next piece of the story is the lesson we come to today. Here’s what Jesus says yes to. Here’s what he says his ministry is about. It’s about making the wrongs of the world right. It’s about good news for poor people. It’s about sight for blind people. It’s about release for captive people and freedom for oppressed people. Jesus says no to the devil. He says yes to the word of God that Isaiah taught before him and the prophets have preached since antiquity.
We have been baptized into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In that baptism we were named Beloved. Child of God. Just like Jesus, we are tempted by the devil, who lures us to put ourselves in God’s place. The drama of our lives is learning to say no to that temptation and yes to the work of God. We are called to grow in wisdom, to know the good. To grow in discipline, to choose the good. We are called to line up our lives with the no and yes of Jesus.
I need to tell you one more thing about the yes of Jesus. It’s that last sentence in Isaiah that he quotes, when he says, “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” and then he goes on to say, “This Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The year of the Lord’s favor is a very specific thing in the prophecy of Isaiah. It’s a reference to an old teaching from God. It goes all the way back to the days when the people of Israel are first settling in the land of promise. At that time God says to the people – ok, I get it that you are going to have an unequal society because that’s how people are. (This is a loose translation.) But every seven years you have to restore equity. You have to set your slaves free, every seven years. You have to forgive debts, every seven years. You have to let the land rest, every seven years. Every seven times seven years is a year of Jubilee, a year of the Lord’s favor. And in those Jubilee years, once a generation, I am going to provide for you even more than I did the Garden of Eden. You will eat from the wildness of the land. And everybody will be at rest and can rejoice.
This is the prophecy Jesus says has been fulfilled. And he goes on to prove it. He restores sight to the blind. He brings good news to the poor. He provides food for the hungry and heals the sick and eats with the outcast. It freaks out the people in charge so much that they kill him for it. But the story does not end there. God triumphs. Christ is risen, he is risen indeed. And he has empowered us with the Holy Spirit to continue his ministry. That story has not ended yet, and you and I belong to it. We belong to the story of God’s people, the greatest story ever told.
We don’t live in a movie. We live in Michigan, one of the best places on earth and one of the best examples of a place where justice needs to roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. Where it’s long past time for the barriers of poverty and racial inequity to be lifted, those like myself who have been blinded by privilege to recover our sight, and the year of the Lord’s favor to be proclaimed. Each of us is needed for the task. May Christ provide us the wisdom to know what is good and the discipline to choose it, come what may. May we join in the no and the yes of Jesus.
Sermon: January 17, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
download pdf of this sermon: 011716
The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa
January 17, 2016
2 Sunday of Epiphany
Isaiah 62: 1-5
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
In May of last year, I received a request from our Bishop that St. Andrews consider extending a welcome to a Bishop who was visiting Grand Rapids from Kenya. Bishop Joseph Wassengo and his wife Jennepha of the Kenyan Diocese of Masseno West were planning to be here in Grand Rapids visiting their daughter and her family. They were hoping to find a congregation where the Bishop could preach and celebrate. I was inclined to extend the invitation to Bishop Joseph, but because of the strained relationship between the Anglican Church in Kenya and our Episcopal Church, I wanted to know where the visiting Bishop stood on issues of sexuality and the ordination of women. Bishop Joseph, his wife and I met over lunch and had a lengthy conversation. They were absolutely delightful. Bishop Joseph told me that he was part of a group of African Anglican Bishops who were in conversation with Bishops in Canada and the United States who were committed to ongoing conversation regarding our churches and our ministries. We discussed how each province in the Anglican communion proclaims the Gospel in different contexts. Each province faces different challenges. Even with our differences, we can support each other in prayer and common ministry.
You may remember the Sunday in June when they joined us for liturgy. Bishop Joseph preached at both of our Sunday liturgies. His sermon at 8:00 a.m. was about 30 minutes long. After the 8:00 a.m. liturgy I mentioned to him that the sermon was a bit longer than our folks were accustomed to. So, with that bit of information, his sermon at 10:00 was even longer. (I should have known better than to ever give instructions about preaching to a bishop.) He preached and sang with great passion and humor. He spoke about the ministries of his diocese that seek to mentor young people. He spoke about ministry efforts to provide adolescent girls with sanitary napkins so they would not have to interrupt their times at school. He spoke of the ongoing efforts to minister to those affected by HIV/AIDS.
Most of all he spoke about Jesus. With the differences in context and challenges Anglicans face around the world, with the differences Christians face around the world, what we have in common is Jesus. Jesus is the one who unites. Jesus is the good news we proclaim. Jesus is at the heart of our message.
I have thought about Bishop Joseph much this past week. As you may know, the leaders of each Anglican province, the primates of the world wide Anglican communion, met this past week in England. They discussed many issues facing the Anglican communion. They issued a statement affirming their desire to walk into the future together. They also issued a statement which sanctioned the Episcopal Church for our decisions to celebrate the marriages of gay and lesbian persons. It’s not clear what the sanction means. It is certainly at least a public slap on the wrist. It is certainly a decision meant to bring about a change our Church. It is a decision that has caused pain to members of our congregation who are gay and lesbian, as well as those of us who love them. But, as embarrassing and painful as it has been, it will not prevent our Church from our commitment to offer radical welcome to all of God’s children. Bishop Hougland and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry have committed to church to continue to move forward on the path to fully embrace persons who are gay and lesbian.
In his response to the decision of the Anglican Primates, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry reminded Episcopalians that as members of the Episcopal Church, we are part of the Jesus Movement. As partners in this Jesus movement we are confident that the cause of God’s love in this world can never stop and will never be defeated.
We are part of the Jesus movement. That is central to our life and identity. We are part of the Jesus movement. And Jesus is the gift we offer the world. “Give me Jesus” the anthem of the day announces. “Give me Jesus”.
Our Gospel this morning gives us Jesus. The wonderful story of the changing of water into wine at the wedding is a revelation, an epiphany of Jesus. This was the first manifestation of his glory. In the Gospel story of Cana, no other names are mentioned except Jesus. The steward is not named, the disciples are not named, the mother of Jesus is not named. Even the bride and groom are not named. Only Jesus is named. This is not about wine, not about a wedding, not about his mother. This story is about Jesus.
Jesus is the one who matters. Jesus is the one who transforms ordinary water into the best of wines. Jesus is the one who sanctifies relationships. Jesus is the one who reveals the Glory of God in the most human of moments. Jesus.
We do believe that the Church is the Body of Jesus Christ alive in the world. We believe that by the power of the Spirit the Church reveals Jesus to the world. But no church, not St. Andrews, not the Episcopal Church, not the Anglican Communion, not the Baptist, Roman, or Reformed or Lutheran or any other church fully embodies Jesus. The Holy Spirit gives to individuals and denominations different gifts and manifestations of the Spirit for the common good. We need each other, and none of us is complete without the other. We give thanks for the gifts we have been given, but we humbly confess that our gifts are not enough. The world needs the gifts the Spirit has poured forth on other people, denominations and faiths. Thank God there are varieties of gifts, services and activities, all given by the Spirit. All given by the Spirit to empower the Jesus movement. All given so that we might give Jesus to the world.
This morning I pray for Bishop Joseph, his wife Jennepha and the diocese of Masseno West in Kenya. I give thanks for the Church of the Province of Kenya and the Anglican Churches around the world. I pray for their ministries and difficult challenges each of these provinces face. I give thanks for the Episcopal Church the gifts we have, the challenges we face, and the witness we continue to give. I give thanks for the gifts of the Spirit that we have been given. Each of you has been blessed by the Spirit with gifts for the common good.
We believe in Jesus, and we must not keep silence. We believe that Jesus is the vindication that all nations and people are searching for. We believe that his life, his power, his presence and his love continue to bring hope and transformation to the world. . We pray that with the gifts the Spirit has poured upon each one of us, we may have the courage give Jesus to the world and to take our part in in the Jesus movement.
Sermon: January 10, 2016: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The First Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon: December 24, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Christmas Eve
Sermon: December 20, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Fourth Sunday of Advent
Sermon: December 13, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The Third Sunday of Advent
Sermon: November 29, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: The First Sunday of Advent.
download pdf: 112915
The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa
November 29, 2015
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Linda and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday in Tuscaloosa with our youngest son Jake, and our oldest son Michael and his wife, Megan. Michael and Megan moved to Tuscaloosa over the summer, when Michael took a job as a professor at the University of Alabama. We spent Tuesday on campus. We actually took a tour of the football stadium just to say we did it. (We did not drink any crimson kool aid.) More importantly, we saw the steps where the governor of Alabama stood on June 11, 1963 in an unsuccessful attempt to block the enrollment at the university of two African American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood. This was one of the iconic moments of the civil rights struggle in America. It was strange to remember actually watching that event on television as it took place over 50 years ago.
We had a great time with Michael and Megan at their home. We did some gardening, built a fire pit, played some cards and enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner. It was especially wonderful to be there to celebrate their official announcement that they are expecting a baby. Linda and I have known for a few weeks now, but they only let their grandparents know last weekend. With the pregnancy officially announced, we had a great opportunity to share a few joy filled expectant days. Linda even toured the hospital where the baby will be born.
Another highlight for me was having the time to finish a book I was reading: “Being Mortal” by Atula Gawande. The book is subtitled, Medicine and What Matters in the End. Gawande writes about the challenges of facing our mortality at this time in history. He writes about people who show us how to have the hard conversations and how to ensure we never sacrifice what people really care about.
The news that we are going to be grandparents, and the book “Being Mortal” both confront me with the unmistakable truth that I am getting older. Even in our age when “60 may be the new 40” and even if I intend to live to be 100, becoming a grandparent is not a sign of one’s approaching youth. And while “Being Mortal” does describe some people who face death at an older age than mine, many of the people written about were not all that much older than I. Approaching grandparenthood, and reading books about the end of life were reminders to me that I probably have more days and years behind me than in front of me. It’s the truth. Amen.
That all being said, it is good to be here with you to celebrate the beginning of Advent. The focus of the first Sunday of Advent is not on the days or years that are behind us, but on those that are before us. The readings do not look backward but forward, not at what has been but what will be. Jeremiah writes about the days that are surely to come: Days when a righteous king will rule over a righteous land and a righteous city. In what is his earliest letter, Paul writes about the joy he feels for the saints of Thessalonika, as he waits for the coming of the Lord Jesus with all the saints. We begin our year of reading from Luke’s Gospel, not with a story about the birth of Jesus, but a teaching of Jesus when he speaks of days to come, when redemption is drawing near.
The images of from Scripture are not meant to frighten us, they are not meant to scare the hell out of us, but to inspire us to hope. As disciples of Jesus, Advent gives us a peak at what is to come, and what is to come is the kingdom of God. What is to come is righteousness, what is to come is the great and glorious coming of Jesus.
Day after day after day. Week after week after week. The news is always bad, and seems to be getting worse. More refugees, more terrorism, more images of senseless murder, more pictures of children shot in our streets, more war, more disease, more aches, more pains, more crisis in our families and communities, more environmental warnings. We wonder at times, I wonder at times, how can next week possibly be more frightening than this week? We are tempted, I am tempted, to hang my head in hopeless despair. Advent comes and invites us to lift our heads in hope. To lift our heads in joy before Jesus as he comes.
Our collect this morning invites us in the time of this mortal life to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Perhaps some of us have already put some lights on our tree or windows or on our porches. What lights can you put on your life? Can you put on lights of kindness, or patience, or mercy? Can you buy a gift for someone who does not deserve it or leave a gift for someone who cannot pay you back? Can you send a card to someone who is lonely? Can you reach out in some ways to the poor, to the hungry, to prisoners or to refugees? What can you do this week that seeks to lift the burden of despair; that relieves suffering; that overcomes racism, or stewards the environment? What can you do this week that helps bring to birth the kingdom of God on earth?
Linda and I had quite week celebrating Thanksgiving in in Tuscaloosa with family. I read a book on mortality. We pondered the mystery of new life being born, we planted a garden, and we walked on a campus where over 50 years ago righteousness won a victory. It was a wonderful week to look back and say thanks. It was a wonderful week to look forward to what is to come and rejoice. I hope you had a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. I hope you will have a blessed and hopeful Advent.
Sermon: November 22, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Last Sunday after Pentecost; Christ the King; Feast of St. Andrew
Sermon: November 22, 2015
The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa
The Last Sunday after Pentecost
Christ the King
Feast of St. Andrew
The Call of Andrew
We began our liturgy today with a collect that was perfect for our day and our time. “Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule.”
Gracious God help me to preach in a way that is good news to the poor, the weak, the widows and the orphans and those who are most vulnerable. Help me to preach in a way that honors and respects those who will suffer and die today for your Gospel. Help me to preach in a way that seeks not my glory but yours, not the growth of this church but the spread of your kingdom.
Last month, Linda and I submitted our financial pledge for 2016. The pledge we submitted included an increase of $10 per week over 2015. In addition to our pledge to St. Andrew’s, Linda and I also support many other ministries including Heartside, Family Promise, North End Community Ministries, Catherine’s Health Center, Episcopal Relief and Development, and Food for the Poor.
For many years now, after many years of striving, Linda and I have tithed. We follow the Episcopal Church call to give at least 10% of our income to support the ministries of the Church. We tithe because we can. We tithe as an act of sacrifice, love and gratitude. We tithe because we are blessed by grace beyond our deserving. We tithe because we believe that tithing is a gift given to us by God which protects us from being addicted to money or possessions.
We give to St. Andrew’s because we believe in the ministries of this parish. We believe in the ministry of shelter and hospitality we practice with family promise, the ministry of feeding through NECOM and ACCESS , the ministry giving clean water through thirsting to serve. We give to St. Andrew’s because we believe that in this place lives are changed. Lives are changed as through our worship, our teaching, our outreach, and our fellowship. Lives are transformed through the recovery groups that gather here almost every night of the week. We give to St. Andrews, because through your ministry, miracles of healing occur. I believe that healing does occur when we pray for and anoint the sick. Healing occurs when you send cards and flowers and prayer shawls to the homebound. Healing occurs when you visit and touch and embrace those who are alone. Healings occur even when we gather to celebrate the funerals of those we love.
We give to St. Andrew’s because we believe that the Church teaches us how to be better stewards of the earth.
We give to St. Andrews because of you. I am in awe of you and the people you are. You are a people who love their families; the husbands, wives, children and your parents. I am in awe of you because you work hard. You work hard at your jobs, you work hard in the community, and then after you have given so much in so many ways you work hard for this parish. We give to St. Andrews because you have changed and enriched our lives in so many ways.
A few years ago we began combining our thanksgiving dinner, the feast of Andrew and the feast of Christ the king. On this Sunday, we celebrate and give thanks for the pledges you make to support our parish ministries in the coming year. On this Sunday we celebrate our patron Andrew, and seek to imitate him as he follows Jesus, to imitate him as he brings others to Jesus, to imitate Andrew as he participated in the miracle that fed thousands with bread.
On this Sunday we celebrate the Kingship of Jesus. I have to confess that in years past, celebrating the kingship of Jesus has been somewhat of an embarrassment. After all, the kingship of Jesus can seem a bit patriarchal and sexist. Kingship invokes images of colonialism. It can seem to be so undemocratic. Some of those criticisms are legitimate. We need to guard against patriarchy, sexism and colonialism. As we see how money and greed and corruption threaten our democracy and our elections, we humbly admit that democracy has its flaws and imperfections.
This year, for me, the Feast Christ the King is not an embarrassment at all. This year, Christ the King is a feast which both challenges and gives hope. Christ the King challenges us not be deceived by the kingdoms of this world. With Christ as king we are challenged to reject the fear of those who are different. We are challenged to reject hatred and terrorism and violence. Because Christ is king of all the earth, we seek to overcome the boundaries, to tear down the walls and barriers which divide the nations and races and religions of the world. Because Christ is King of all the world, we are called to feed the hungry of all nations, to give drink to the thirsty of all races, and to welcome refugees no matter their religion. The Feast of Christ the King challenges us with the imperative, that when we care for the least of Christ’s subject, we care for the King.
The Feast of Christ the King is also a feast which gives us hope. Our readings today from Revelation and Daniel gives us visions of the Kingship of God. In Daniel, the King who is to come, the ancient one is given dominion and glory and kingship over all people and nations. His dominion will never be destroyed. Revelation looks forward to the day when every eye will see him. His dominion will last forever. Jesus the king who was, and is, and will be will rule over all. Jesus will conquer all who bring evil, destruction and death. Jesus, the king, will gift his people with grace peace.
We celebrate our Feast of Thanks today, by offering to God a portion of what God has first given us.
We celebrate the Feast of Andrew today, by responding to the invitation of Jesus to follow Jesus on the path of discipleship. As we follow Jesus, may we like Andrew, bring others to him as well.
We celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, and we pledge our allegiance to the kingdom of God. As we celebrate the Kingship of Christ, commit our time, our treasure and our life to bring his kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.
Sermon: November 15, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: November 8, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: November 1, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: All Saints’ Day
Sermon: October 25, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: October 18, 2015: The Rev. Nurya Love Parish: Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: October 11, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: October 4, 2015: The Rt. Rev. Whayne M. Hougland, Bishop of the Diocese of Western Michigan: Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: September 27, 2015: The Rev. Nurya Love Parish: Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: September 20, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: September 13, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: September 6, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: August 30, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: August 23, 2015: The Rev. Nurya Love Parish: Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: August 9, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: August 2, 2015: Seminarian B. J. Heyboer: Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: July 26, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa: Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: July 19, 2015: Seminarian Abby Bok; Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: July 12, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Download sermon as pdf 071215
The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa
July 12, 2015
Proper 10 B
Breathtaking: tending to cause suspension of regular breathing, a breathless flight, a breathtaking adventure. Inspiring, exciting, astonishing, astounding. Thrillingly or astonishingly beautiful remarkable.
Usually, we use the term “breathtaking” for moments of excitement and beauty. The fireworks on the fourth of July, a sunset over Lake Michigan, a garden in bloom. For many of us, watching the confederate flag being taken down from the capital in South Carolina was a breathtaking moment.
There are also moments of tragedy that take our breath away. The murders in Charleston punched us in our stomach and took our breath away. When many of us heard of the death of Chuck Howell this week, the shock and the sadness took our breath away.
The painting that is reproduced on your liturgy booklet today is breathtakingly gruesome. One description is that it is “breathtakingly matter of fact”. The girl is unmoved, her expression blank. The executioner appears detached. The woman seems to be an almost disengaged onlooker. Their attitudes seem almost breathtakingly casual. Their responses: breathtakingly inconsequential.
And yet the work is considered by many to be breathtakingly magnificent. The colors of the painting are exquisite, as is Caravaggio’s use of light and darkness. (Part of me is grateful the booklet cover is in black and white). One critic says “Caravaggio has created here a sad commentary on human heedlessness. He has taken a narrative description of martyrdom and captured its disquieting actuality.” Painted toward the end of his life, after an attempt has been made on his life, Caravaggio’s is perhaps painting a portrait of his own breathtakingly sacred and profane life. Many believe that the face of John the Baptist is Caravaggio’s own self portrait.
Our reading from Ephesians today can literally take our breath away. Originally verses 3-14 were just one long sentence. Thank God for periods and commas. The author of the letter to the Ephesians gets started and just cannot stop. “Blessed be God who has blessed us in Christ just as he chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless before him in love he destined us for adoption according to the good pleasure of his will in him we have redemption and forgiveness according to the riches he has lavished on us according to his good pleasure as a plan for the fullness of time to gather up all things in him on heaven and on earth we have obtained an inheritance having been destined so that we might live for the praise of his glory in him we were marked with the seal of the holy spirit as a pledge of our inheritance to the praise of his glory.”
Our author breathlessly proclaims the good news that in Christ we are blessed, chosen, destined, forgiven, lavished, gathered, marked and sealed . In Christ, all has been accomplished and all has been made known. In Christ all will be gathered, all will be forgiven, all will be redeemed. In Christ. All.
The reading from Ephesians is meant to take our breath away. It is meant to overwhelm us with excitement, confidence and peace. It is also meant to change the way we live. Because we are so breathtakingly blessed, we are grateful, we are generous, and we are joyful. In Christ we know who we belong to. We have belonged to God from the foundation of the world. In Christ God’s plan has been revealed. All will be gathered up in Christ. In Christ we know where we are going. We are destined to share the inheritance of God.
So dear friends, let us be grateful. There is part of each and every one of us that always wishes for more: more wealth, a bigger house, better clothes, a better car, a more luxurious vacation. Not only will all these things pass away in the future, but even when we have them in our hand, we know that they fail to satisfy us. Let us be grateful that we have been pledged a share in the fullness of God. There is nothing on earth that can compare with the inheritance that awaits us. Let us be grateful. In Christ, All. Let us be generous. May we who are daughters and sons of God imitate our creator’s generosity. God has generously shared with us, and lavishly enriched us. May we imitate God’s generosity and seek to enrich the lives of others.
And dear friends, let us be joyful. Our joy is centered in the resurrection of Jesus. We feel joy when we are in each others’ company not because we like each other, not because we agree with each but because we share the inheritance of redemption. We feel joy when we praise God’s glory. We feel joy when we share the gift of peace with each other. We feel joy when we bring our gifts to the altar. We feel joy when we sing and pray and break bread together. We feel joy when things go right, and we feel joy when things don’t go quite as planned. We feel joy when we are sent to do the work of God in serving the world.
Our is not a childish joy. We know that there is breathtaking violence in the world. We have seen life casually taken, we have seen gruesome executions, we have seen the tragedies of illness, poverty and despair. We know the breathtaking sadness in the world. We know what it is like to feel lost, and broken. We know the death of loved ones and friends. Christians do not deny this pain. Rather, In Christ we know that the violence, suffering, loss and brokenness we see has already been defeated by love. Those of us who knew Chuck Howell are stunned and saddened by his death. His death, like the death of all loved ones hurts. But even in our pain we can rejoice, even in our sadness we can even laugh because we know that in Christ, all will be well. In Christ. All.
In Christ, All. May this good news inspire and astonish us. In Christ, All. May these three words thrill us and astound us. May this good news flow deep into our heart, deep into our lungs. May these three words truly take our breath away.
Sermon: July 5, 2015: The Rev. Nurya Love Parish; Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: June 28, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Download pdf of sermon here: 062815
Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5 21-43
Proper 8 B
June 28, 2015
That dear friends was the week that was.
Actually, it was a bit more than a week—11 days to be specific. It has been a breath taking to see the changes in our country that have occurred in the past 11 days.
The news out of Charleston on June 17 and 18 was so devastating. The image of 9 people murdered because of their race by a man they had been praying with for nearly an hour horrified us that day. In the days that followed we were deeply offended by the alleged killers hatred and racism. We were moved deeply by the words of forgiveness spoken by those who loved the Mother Emanuel Martyrs. We were stunned by images and the news of officials calling on their states to take down the flags and symbols of the confederacy.
Almost lost in the news out of Charleston was the release of the Papal Encyclical Laudate Si by Pope Frances. In this encyclical, released on June 18, Frances speaks to the hearts of all people. He urgently makes his appeal for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. He reminds us that everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation. All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.
This week long awaited rulings from the Supreme Court regarding discrimination in housing, the affordable care act, and the rights of gays and lesbians to marry legally in our country were announced. These rulings will shape our country in ways that we can only now imagine.
The headlines from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church as the week began were not so dramatic. As I prepare for my sermon, no decision has been made about possible changes in our understanding of marriage, but I am excited by the news that Bishop Michael Curry has been elected our next presiding Bishop. What a powerful statement!!!An African American will be the voice of the Episcopal Church for the coming years.
And, on a more personal side, this past Monday, Portland Michigan, the town I grew up in, the town where my mother still lives, was struck by a tornado. While we give thanks that no one was killed or seriously injured, I am so stunned by the extent of the damage to the town I call home. The damage to so many home and businesses, and especially to three churches that have been there for over 100 hundred years is heartbreaking.
This has been an incredible 11 days. Our country, and indeed our Church will never be the same.
What I ask of you now, is that we put all these incredible events aside for just a few minutes to seek what our scriptures have to say to us. Especially in light of these incredible events.
Wisdom tell us boldly simply that God did not make death. Rather, death has entered the world through the envy of the devil. This is an important truth to hold firmly as we face the terror of hatred, violence and murder. God is not the author of death. The enemy, the devil is responsible.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is writing about a collection that he taking for the very poor and struggling Church in Jerusalem. This collection is a priority for Paul, not only as he writes to the Corinthians, but in much of his missionary preaching. He sees this offering as a way to follow Jesus, and also as a way to unite the Jewish and Gentile Christians. There were deep cultural and theological disputes between the Christians of Jerusalem and the Gentile Church established by Paul. It is Paul’s hope that the Church can see that its unity in the imitation of Jesus is deeper than these differences.
In the Gospel, Mark records two remarkable stories of healing. This is another example of Mark wrapping one story, (the healing of the daughter of Jairus), around the healing of the unnamed woman with a flow of blood. Mark tells the story in a way that shows the unity of these stories. These two healings that are very much related. Both healings are of women. One who is twelve years old, and one who has been bleeding for twelve years. One is wealthy, the daughter of Jairus, a leader of the synagogue. One is poor, she has run out of money and has no one to advocate for her. Jairus comes before Jesus and bows before him as he make his request. The woman sneaks up behind Jesus and seeks to touch the hem of his garment. The young girl is the daughter of Jairus. Jesus calls the unnamed woman with the flow of blood, daughter. Clearly Mark wants us to connect these stories. Marks wants us to see that this is not only a story of the healing of two women. This is a story of the healing of Israel. It occurs on the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee. The 12 represents the 12 tribes of Israel. The point of these stories is not only that Jesus healed two women in Jerusalem, but in so doing he is symbolizing the healing of Israel. Jesus stops on his way to the house of Jairus to heal an unnamed impure, poor woman. Jesus stops on the way to the home of an important man to heal a woman who is not important.
In this story, Mark is revealing that before the rich, and important daughter of Jairus can be healed, the poor, unnamed daughter of Jesus must be cared for. The people of Israel, the twelve tribes will only be whole, when the poor unimportant ones are cared for.
Dear friends, I believe that the lessons of our readings speak to the headlines of the past 11 days. The death of the martyrs in Charleston was the work of evil. Human suffering of all kinds, is rooted not in the will of God but in the envy of the evil one. As followers of Jesus, we need to claim and proclaim this message. God did not make death. God created all for incorruption and in the image of his won eternity.
Corinthians calls us to deep unity in Christ with those with whom we disagree. We may not all agree with all the pope said about climate change. We may not all agree with the rulings of the Supreme Court this week. Paul reminds us however that even with differences, we are one in Christ. In Christ, we are all in mission together, Jew, Gentile, conservative, liberal, black, white, woman, man, gay, straight, young and old. This unity in Christ is deeper and stronger than any of our differences.
Mark’s Gospel reminds us, that healing in our community and in our world will only come when all are cared for. Those who are among the privileged will only find healing and wholeness when those who are less privileged are cared for. Human kind will only find wholeness when all creation is cared for. The wealthy will only find wholeness when the poor are cared for. Privileged nations, privileged races, privileged classes will only find wholeness, when the less privileged are cared for.
Yes dear friends. We have seen tremendous events in our nation and in our Church these past 11 days. Some of these events fill us with pain. Some give us hope. Some make us cry, some make us rejoice. Some show how far we have to go. Some show how far we have come.
Our hope and prayer is that all of these events may call us to deeper unity in Christ. May our unity in Christ call us to proclaim the Good News of Jesus. By his grace, may the good news of Jesus, shape the news of the weeks and months and years to come.
Sermon: June 21, 2015: The Rt. Rev. Joseph Otieno Wasonga, Bishop of the Diocese of Maseono West (Kenya) ; The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
This is the sermon Father Mike wrote for the 5:30 Liturgy, Saturday June 20, 2015
Download pdf of this sermon here: 062115
Proper 7 Year B
Job 38: 1-11
2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Gracious God help us to live in a way that is good news to the poor, the weak, the widowed, the orphaned and those who are most vulnerable.
Help us to live in a way that seeks not our glory but yours. Not the growth of this church, but the spread of your kingdom.
Help us to live in a way that honors and respects those who will suffer and die today for your gospel
Help me to preach in a way that honors and respects the lives of: The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, The Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, The Rev. Daniel Simmons, and Myra Thompson.
This past Wednesday our parish governing board, the vestry, met for our monthly meeting. As always, we began our meeting with a reading of the Gospel for the Sunday coming, the Gospel from Mark that we just heard. We then read the Gospel aloud and shared with each other a word or phrase from the Gospel that stood out to each of us. Different phrases stood to out to each of us: “cross to the other side”, “dead calm”, “asleep on the cushion”, “perishing”, “peace be still”, “afraid” “even the wind and sea obey him”.
After this we began to discuss the items on the agenda. We discussed the monthly financial picture, which you should know is in pretty good shape as we begin the summer. We toured church to look over the status of our renovation. We met our seminary summer intern, Abby. We approved changes to Mother Nurya’s job description. There were other various parish matters as well. Another item on our agenda was a verbal report from Helen Scott about the anti-racism program she participated in last weekend through the Church of the Servant and Madison Square Church. Helen reported how the weekend had exhausted her, informed her, challenged her, and inspired her. After she gave her report, I shared with the vestry that today’s Gospel from Mark, the one we had read at the beginning of the meeting, was a story about one of numerous journeys of Jesus from one side of the Sea of Galilee to the other. The Jews lived on one side of Galilee, the Gentiles lived on the other. By these numerous sea crossings, Jesus is trying to knit Jew and Gentile together in one community. This dangerous crossing over, this dangerous knitting together was central in the ministry of Jesus. The apostles are invited into the boat also, because they are meant to carry on this ministry when Jesus is no longer with them.
Mark is writing some decades after Jesus has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. The early Christian community is trying to continue the knitting together of Jew and Gentile. This is still dangerous work. The winds are raging against them. They are being swamped. They wonder if Jesus is with them. They fear that they are perishing.
Mark is writing to the early community to assure them that Jesus is in the boat with them. That even if he is not physically present, he has power over the storm. Mark promises the early Christian community that Jesus will bring them to the other side safely.
In our world today, the Christian community is still being called to cross to the other side. The Christian community is still being called to knit together people who might have profound differences. The other side might represent people of different nations, different religions, different economic levels, different sexual orientations. Trying to knit together people with these differences is hard, hard work, and crossing any of these waters is treacherous.
In our day, and in our place the waters of race may be the widest and the most dangerous sea we try to cross. Thursday morning, we awoke to hear of the murders of Christians in South Carolina. At the very hour that our vestry was listening to Helen speak of her anti-racism training, the 9 men and women were gathered in prayer with their murderer. This murderous event shows how far we have to go, and how dangerous is the journey to racial reconciliation. As I learned more and more about the shooting that took place at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, I was haunted by the line of the Gospel from today: “Don’t you care that we are perishing.” In the gospel the disciples are asking the question of Jesus. In our day, perhaps our African American sisters and brothers are asking the question of us. “Don’t you care that we are perishing”.
Of course we care, as fellow Christians, and fellow Americans we care about what is happening in Charleston and around our country. But if we care, what are we willing to do? Jesus calls his disciples to get in the boat with him, and make that journey to the other side. Are we willing to get in that boat and cross the stormy seas of racial division? We say we believe that we must work to overcome racism in our land, but what are we willing to do? Eboo Patel, a Muslim man who is working to build a global interfaith youth movement. Patel states: “It is action which separates belief from opinion.”
If we are only “of the opinion” that we need to do something to combat racism in our country, we do not need to do anything. But if we “truly believe” that as Christians we must seek to overcome the sin of racism, we must act. What action will we take?
Dear friends, we are co-workers with Jesus. “Now is the acceptable time” for believers to act. What will you do to respect and honor those who died this week in Charleston? What will you do to overcome the evils of racism?
First of all: we must pray. That is an act that is open to all of us. We pray for those who have died. We pray for those who grieve and mourn. After I pray, I will seek to learn more about the history of racism in America, in the church, and here in Michigan. This week I have been reading a book entitled “The Arc of Justice”, a book about racism and violence in the city of Detroit in the 1920’s. I will open my ears and my heart to the pain of men and women who continue today to suffer because of racism. I will examine my life and acknowledge the privileges that I take for granted as a white male in this society. I will continue to invite and encourage the leaders and members of this congregation to take part in institutes and workshops which seek to address the sin of racism. I will seek to change laws which perpetuate the evils of racism in this country. I will seek to speak and act in way that shows those who are perishing because of racism that we are not asleep on our comfortable cushions, and we do care.
By themselves, these actions are not enough. Ultimately it is the power of Jesus which even today is defeating the sin of racism. We trust that he is in the boat with us and he will calm the sea and lead us safely to the other side. Our duty is to get in the boat with him and make that journey with him.
And so we pray:
Gracious God help us to live in a way that is good news to the poor, the weak, the widowed, the orphaned and those who are most vulnerable.
Help us to live in a way that seeks not our glory but yours. Not the growth of this church, but the spread of your kingdom.
Help us to live in a way that honors and respects those who will suffer and die today for your gospel.
Help us to live in a way that honors and respects the lives of :
The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, The Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, The Rev. Daniel Simmons, and Myra Thompson.
Sermon: June 14, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Third Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: June 7, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Second Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon: May 31, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The First Sunday after Pentecost; Trinity Sunday
Sermon: May 24, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; The Day of Pentecost
Sermon: May 17, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; Seventh Sunday of Easter
Sermon: May 10, 2015: The Rev. Nurya Love Parish; Sixth Sunday of Easter
Sermon: April 26, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa; Fourth Sunday of Easter
Sermon: April 19, 2015: The Rev. Nurya Love Parish; Third Sunday of Easter
Sermon: April 12, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa. Second Sunday of Easter
Sermon: April 5, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa. Easter Day
Sermon: March 29, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa. The Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday.
Sermon: March 22, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa. The Fifth Sunday in Lent.
Sermon: March 15, 2015: The Rev. Nurya Love Parish. The Fourth Sunday in Lent.
Sermon: March 8, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa. The Third Sunday in Lent.
Download pdf of this sermon:030815
The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa
Lent 3 B
March 7/8 2015
I Corinthians 1:18-25
Two weeks ago, in my sermon I preached about my decision to give up alcohol for Lent. I said that I was giving up alcohol for the season of Lent for a number of reasons that included the fact that Bishop Whayne had invited us to do so. I was giving up alcohol for Lent also as an act of repentance for what might be the sometimes too casual relationship with alcohol that the Episcopal Church has. I was also fasting from alcohol during Lent as a sign of my personal repentance for my own sins related to alcohol. Well, today I confess that during the past week I took Monday afternoon off from my Lenten fasting and had a beer with my son Ben before he flew back to Seattle. Of course, at the time I perfectly rationalized it and I probably could even do so today. But, the result is that for my 53rd consecutive year, every year since I turned 7 years old and began to keep Lent, I have failed to keep my Lenten discipline. My 53 year record of failing to keep my fast perfectly through Lent is still in place. As a result of my imperfection, my celebration of Lent will not be as complete and full as in could have been, and as a result of my imperfect Lent I will not have earned a perfect Easter.
Truthfully however, I would like to suggest that keeping a perfect fast in order to celebrate a perfect Easter is perfectly missing the point. In fact, one friend told me last week that Lent does not truly begin until after we have failed in our Lenten fasts. Only after we have failed do we truly appreciate how we need the grace of God, and only after we have failed in our fasts do we truly appreciate the wideness of God’s mercy.
As many of you know, I attended a catholic school, Portland St. Patrick’s. I remember being in second grade, with Sister Ann Carolyn teaching us the 10 commandments. She taught them to us to prepare us for our first confession, and our first communion. She taught us well, and I still remember the commandments as she taught them. “I am the Lord thy God, thought shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Remember to keep holy the Sabbath. Honor your father and your mother. Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.” Thank you Sister Ann Carolyn for helping us memorize those commandments. We memorized them, though we did not really understand them. Because we did not understand them, many second graders shocked the priest by confessing the sins of coveting and adultery. Oh those catholic school kids!!!!
More important than not understanding what some of the sins were, we also did not understand the context of the commandments. We did not understand that God gave Moses and the Hebrew people the commandments after they had been set free from Egypt. We did not understand that the commandments were gifts to keep people free and holy. We did not understand that the purpose of keeping the commandments was not to earn the pardon of a wrathful God, but as a response to God’s free gift of mercy and love. We did not understand that we are called to keep the commandments in order to live full and peace filled lives. We memorized the ten commandments, but we failed to memorize the promise of God to show extravagant mercy and steadfast love.
Too many of us carry an image of a stingy God who makes us earn mercy, forgiveness, and love. Because we have an image of a stingy God, we turn Lent into a season when we fast so completely, we pray so intently, we sacrifice so deeply in order to earn God’s mercy, to earn God’s forgiveness, to earn the perfect Easter. Lent becomes a season of quid pro quo. The more we suffer, the more we sacrifice, the more mercy we earn. We do so much for God, in the hope and expectation that God will do so much for us in return. We act as if we can earn God’s love.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus drives the money changers and the sellers out of the temple. This is a story that each of the Gospels recalls. John’s Gospel is unique in that Jesus does not accuse the money changers and sellers of being thieves and robbers. He does not drive them out because they are doing anything that is corrupt. He drives them out because they have made the House of God, the House of Mercy into a marketplace. Jesus drives them out because they have turned the mercy of God into something that can be bought, something that must be earned. The mercy of God is not on the market. The mercy of God is not for the few who can afford it. Jesus reveals his body to be the temple of God where mercy is free and for all. The sacrifices of the temple do not earn mercy any more than giving up candy or TV or alcohol can earn mercy. The temple was meant to celebrate God’s mercy, freely given. We fast, we pray, we sacrifice, not to earn God’s mercy, but to open our eyes and heart to see in Jesus the mercy that constantly surrounds us.
So dear pilgrims. How is your Lent going? Are you keeping your fasts and your disciplines? I hope so. The fasts and disciplines of Lent can open us to receive the free gift of God’s love and mercy. Are your Lenten disciplines are helping you to be kind and gentle with others and with yourself? Are your Lenten disciplines bringing to you the gifts of gratitude and joy? Are your Lenten disciplines calling you to compassion and service for those who suffer? Are your Lenten disciplines helping you to be a more forgiving, and more merciful person? I hope so. On the other hand, if you are like me, if you have already slipped a time or two or three, do not lose heart. If you have slipped a time or two, or even if you have not even thought of what you might do, it’s never too late. The joyful season of Lent is not even half over. There is always time to begin, there is always time to start over again and again and again. There is always time to prepare ourselves to celebrate the perfect Easter. After all, the perfect Easter, can never be earned. In God’s grace the perfect Easter has already been given.
Sermon: March 1, 2015: The Rev. Robert Deshaies – Food for the Poor. The Second Sunday in Lent.
Sermon: February 22, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa. The First Sunday in Lent.
Download pdf of this sermon: 022215
The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa
February 21/22 2015
1 Peter 3:18-22
My name is Mike and I am not an alcoholic.
I have however given up alcohol for Lent.
I did this for a number of reasons.
Our Bishop invited us all to join him in this discipline. His invitation grew out of the tragic events that happened just after Christmas in the Diocese of Maryland. On December 27, 2014 Bishop Heather Cook, an assistant bishop of the diocese of Maryland struck and killed a bicyclist, Thomas Palermo, a 41 year old husband and father of two. Heather Cook has since been arraigned on numerous charges related to her driving drunk and fleeing the scene of the crime. Our Bishop has invited us to join in abstaining from alcohol during Lent as a sign of our prayer for Mr. Palermo and his family. Fasting from alcohol during Lent is also a sign of our repentance for the unhealthy relationship the Episcopal Church sometimes has with alcohol. As a denomination we celebrate our holiest sacramental meal, the Eucharist, with wine. This will of course continue. But we are also at times a bit cavalier in our attitudes toward alcohol. Sometimes we turn a blind eye to the way our attitudes and our abuse of alcohol damages the lives of so many in and outside our congregations. Too often we laugh when we are stereotyped as drinkers, and we love to tell the jokes about our church and alcohol. We are after all whiskeypalians….and of course, whenever 4 Episcopalians gather together, there is always a fifth. Maybe, this is not all that funny.
I will try to abstain from using alcohol during Lent as a sign of support to many in our congregation who struggle with addictions.
I will try to abstain from alcohol during Lent, because I confess there have been times in my life when I have placed myself and others at risk because of drinking. When I have been drinking I have sometimes said and done things that I regret. When I drink, I have at times not treated my body as a temple of God. When I drink, I have at times wasted too much time and too much money.
My name is Mike and I am a sinner.
My sins are many and are really quite boring. Most likely my sins are not going to make the front page of any gossip website or magazine. Nonetheless, even boring sins cause pain. My sins do hurt those I love. My sins do damage my relationship with God. My sins make me less the person, the husband, the father, the priest, the Christian that God created me to be. My sins are part of the sin of the world, they add to the evil, violence and hatred that are destroying our families, our community, our nation, and indeed our entire world. The truth is that my boring sins are as deadly as any addiction.
On this first Sunday of Lent, I confess I am a sinner, and that my sin has made my life unmanageable. I confess that by myself, I cannot overcome my sin. I confess that I need a power greater than myself to save me from my sin. I confess, dear friends, that I need a savior.
On this first Sunday of Lent, we celebrate that instead of punishing us for our sins, God sends Jesus to save us from our sin.
In Genesis, God makes a promise, a covenant with Noah that God will never again destroy the earth and earth’s creatures because of sin. As a sign of this covenant, as a sign of this promise, God places the bow in the sky. This bow is both a rainbow, and it is also God’s bow, God’s weapon. God sets down his bow and unilaterally disarms. God will never again destroy the earth because of the sins of humankind. God will not destroy me because of my sin. God is not about punishing us for our sins; God is about saving us, healing us, freeing us from our sin. God hates sin because sin destroys the world, and the creatures that God loves. God sets his bow in the sky as a sign of the covenant. God asks Noah, God asks us to do the same. God has promised not to destroy the earth. Will we make the same promise? Our sins are the bows with which we destroy God’s world. Will we pray for the desire, for the grace, for the courage to set them down?
In the Gospel Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, goes into the desert. There, in the desert, Jesus is tempted. Mark does not describe these temptations. For Mark, Jesus is tempted in the same ways, by the same things which tempt all of us. But in the face of those temptations, Jesus finds the support of the spirit and the messengers of God to overcome these temptations. This is the good news of Lent. As we face our sin, as we face our temptations—not only does God not seek to punish us—indeed God give us the strength to overcome them. God gives us the strength to overcome our temptations and sin. God gives us the strength to be God’s instruments in overcoming evil in the world. As sons and daughters of God, and as disciples of Jesus, we are called to dedicate ourselves to saving and healing and freeing the world from evil.
My name is Mike. I am a sinner.
But as we begin our 40 day Lenten journey, I celebrate that my sin does not define me, our sin does not define us. God’s forgiving love defines us. We are God’s children. We are saved. We are empowered with God’s Holy Spirit. We are disciples. We are loved. May this be the good news we believe. May this be the good news that saves the world from sin. May this be the good news we celebrate in the season of Lent and all the seasons of our life.
Sermon: February 15, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa. The Last Sunday after the Epiphany.
Download pdf of this sermon: 021515
The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa
February 15, 2015
The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
2nd Kings 2:1-12
2nd Corinthians 4:3-6
It truly is amazing how much information and news we take in each week. There is family news about illness, or crisis, or travel, or celebrations or promotion or some other change in the family. Then of course we have the usual dose of local news, weather and sports. Internationally we have had a steady diet of news about the economies of the world, and continuing wars and massacres in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria. Nationally, this week most of the news was about the news as we heard about the suspension of Brian Williams, the death of reporter Bob Simon, and the announcement of the coming end of Jon Stewart’s time on the Daily Show.
Two events however stand out above all the others this week. The murder of 3 Muslim students in North Carolina: Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razon Abu-Salha has touched the hearts of people of all faiths throughout our country and the world. On Friday I heard a recent interview taped for an NPR segment in which Yusor Abu Salha, the youngest of the three spoke. She said:”Growing up in America has been such a blessing, and you know, although in some ways I do stand out, such as the hijab I wear on my head, the head covering there’s still so many ways that I feel so embedded in the fabric that is, you know, our culture. And that’s the beautiful thing here, is that it doesn’t matter where you come from. There are so many different people from so many different places of different backgrounds and religions, but here we’re all one, one culture.”
The other event that stands out was the death of the young aide worker, Kayla Mueller in Syria. As we heard of her death, we also heard the words she wrote before she was taken hostage and from the letter she wrote to her family from prison. Such powerful faith, and beauty in her words. She wrote of the spiritual motivation that led her to her ministry of caring for refugees: “I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you… I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.” After she was taken hostage, from her prison Kayla wrote: “ I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator because literally there was no else … and by God and by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light and have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful.”
Nothing I can say can add anything to the powerful witness of these two women. Indeed, their words are probably all the sermon we need to hear today. Still, I want to use Kayla’s words this weekend to take us to a reflection on the scripture, especially the words of Paul, and the Gospel story of the Transfiguration. It is also my hope that these readings, and the letters of Kayla Mueller might lead us into a deeper reflection on the season of Lent that begins Wednesday.
Let light shine out of darkness. On January 6, the church celebrated the 12th day of Christmas, the feast of the Epiphany. That feast began a season of celebrating light shining out of darkness. As the days of the January and February grew lighter, the Gospel proclaimed how the light of God grew brighter in the life of Jesus. This Epiphany light came to full radiance in the transfiguration of Jesus. In the transfiguration, Jesus shines with the radiance of God. The light of God shines in the face of Jesus.
Jesus is aware that the disciples are not able to fully understand what is being revealed to them. On the way down the mountain he instructs them to say nothing until after the son of man is raised from the dead. Do not tell anyone what you have seen, because, what you saw on the mountain of transfiguration, does not compare with what you will see on the mountain of Calvary. The light you have seen is nothing compared to the light you will see.
Jesus descends the mountain of transfiguration and leads the disciples on a journey to the mountain of resurrection.
We join the disciples in this journey from transfiguration to resurrection in the 40 days of lent. Lent is a season of repentance in which we turn away from our sins and renew our commitment to follow Jesus. Lent is the season for us to bear our cross, and carry the cross of others and in order that we might share the glory of Jesus. The disciplines of lent are the crosses we carry to Calvary and the light of resurrection.
Kayla Mueller found light in her service to those in need and in the darkness of her captivity. She carried the cross and now she shares the glory of the resurrection light of journey. Our journey is not as dramatic, but can be just as powerful. Lent invites us to find Jesus in service to those in our world who suffer. Lent invites us through prayer, sacrifice and fasting to turn away from sin toward the light of Jesus. We know, dear friends, that an honest look at our sin is difficult. To honestly look at the grip sin has on my life is terrifying. To admit the ways my sin contribute to the suffering of the world is painful. And yet, it is in the midst of the pain and terror of my sin, that I can also see the light of resurrection. In the midst of my sin, I feel the grace of forgiveness. In the midst of the darkness in our world, the light of Jesus shines.
On the way down the mountain Jesus tells the disciples: Don’t tell a single person what you have seen because truly you ain’t seen nothing yet. The glory you have seen is nothing compared to what you will see.
At the transfiguration the face of Jesus shines with the radiance of God. He promises his people something even greater. Jesus promises that those who follow him through his suffering death will share in the radiance of his resurrection. Those who follow him to Calvary will share the radiance of God’s glory. We believe that Deah, Yasur, Razon and Kayla have passed through the darkness of death and now fully share the radiance of God’s glorious light. We hope, we work for the day when God’s radiant light shines for us. We hope, we work for the day when God’s radiant light shines for all creation.
Sermon: February 8, 2015: The Rev. Jim Lucas. The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
Sermon: January 25, 2015: The Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson. The Third Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Reverend Wesley Granberg-Michaelson was installed as general secretary of the Reformed Church in America at the 1994 General Synod and served in
that position for 17 years, initiating a widespread process of missional change in the denomination. He had previously served for six years on the staff of the
World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva, Switzerland where his responsibilities included working as director of Church and Society and serving as moderator of the task force on relations with evangelicals. A graduate of Hope College he served for eight years on the staff of U.S. Senator Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon and from 1976 to 1980 served as managing editor of Sojourners Magazine. Granberg-Michaelson’s most recent book is From Times Square to Timbuktu, The Post Christian West Meet the Non Western Church. He is also the author of many books and numerous magazine articles, which have appeared in publications including Perspectives, Christianity Today, The Christian Century, and Ecumenical Review. He serves on the boards of Sojourners, Christian Churches Together, the Global Christian Forum, and Church Innovations.
Sermon: January 18, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa. The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon: January 11, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa. The First Sunday after the Epiphany. The Baptism of our Lord.
Download pdf version of this sermon: 011115
The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
January 11, 2015
Acts 19: 1-7
Once again this week, our eyes have been drawn to scenes of violence and terrorism. The events that took place in France and around the world this week remind us that we live in a violent and dangerous world. Not only in France, but also in Yemen, where dozens were killed, and in Nigeria, where perhaps two thousand we killed, we witness again evidence that the world can be brutal and dangerous. Maybe its because it was Paris, a city where many of us have been. Maybe its because the brutality of the attack was filmed for all to see, maybe because this was an attack on a symbol of freedom of the press. For some reason this attack seemed to capture our attention more than many others. What also caught our attention was the response of the French people. Rallies throughout France, voices throughout the world have taken up the defiant cry of solidarity: I am Charlie. Whether or not we agree with the offensive nature of the magazine, we do stand with the victims of this massacre, and decry the violence that struck at the heart of a freedom that we all hold dear. I am Charlie. I am Charlie. I am Charlie.
In the Gospel today, Jesus comes from Nazareth to the Jordan and is baptized by John. People from the whole countryside, and all the people of Jerusalem were coming to be immersed in John’s baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. Many wonder, why did Jesus the sinless one, participate in this baptism of forgiveness? I would suggest friends, that this Jesus shares this baptism as an act of solidarity with the people of Israel, and indeed with all humanity. As he steps into the dirty waters of the Jordan, Jesus is making the statement. I am Israel. I am part of her. I share her history of holiness, and faithfulness. I share her history of slavery and liberation. I share her history of exile, and restoration. I am one with all the people of Israel’s past present and future. Indeed, as Israel is called to be the servant of all, as Jesus steps into the dirty waters of the Jordan, he is proclaiming: I am humankind. I am one with all the hopes and dreams of God’s people throughout the world and throughout all time.
When Jesus steps out of the Jordan, the heavens are torn open, the Spirit comes upon him. This is the same Spirit, the same wind that swept over the waters of the world at creation. The Spirit, the wind, the voice proclaims that Jesus is God’s beloved.
In his baptism, the identity of Jesus is revealed. He is Israel. He is humanity. He is God’s beloved. Through Jesus, God is doing something new. Through Jesus, God will bring about a new creation.
The baptism of Jesus is the beginning of his public ministry. In his ministry Jesus will live out his identity in solidarity with all creation, and with all the people of the world. He will take his place with the poor, the lowly and the outcast. He will dine with the sinners and the impure. He will be one with the foreigners, the prisoners and the refugees. He will die with criminals and thieves. Jesus will share fully in all that it is to be human.
Jesus does not need to wear a sign. All of his life will reveal his identity: I am Israel. I am humankind. I am God’s beloved.
In our baptism, the same Spirit that came upon Jesus is poured upon us. When we are baptized, we are born into the church, the body of Christ. When we are sealed with the oil we are given a share in identity of Jesus. To be anointed, is to be Christ. Christ, is not a name, it is an identity. Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one. So, through the Spirit given at our baptism, we are able to proclaim: I am the Christ. I am the anointed of God.
The identity we were given at our Baptism gives us share in the ministry of Jesus and shapes our life in the world. Sharing the identity and ministry of Jesus, we are called to embrace our humanity, and take our place with the poor, the lowly and the outcast. We are called to be one with foreigners, prisoners and refugees. We are called to dine with sinners and the impure. We are called to die with criminals and thieves. We do not do this as individuals.. We cannot be everywhere and be all these things, to all these people. That is why we are baptized in to the body of Christ, the community of the Church We are the Church so that together we can be the body of Christ and embrace the whole world. We are the anointed body of Christ, so that we can carry out the ministry of Jesus in all time and in all places. We are the anointed body of Christ so that we can share his work and help to bring about the new creation.
As Jesus began his ministry, the voice from heaven declared that him to be the beloved of God. This identity as God’s beloved gave Jesus the strength to face opposition, abandonment, disappointment, betrayal, suffering and death. Being God’s beloved gave Jesus the strength and courage to embrace his humanity and live his ministry completely. Dear friends, this is an essential aspect of our identity as well. We are the beloved sons and daughters of God. You are a beloved daughter or son of God. As church, as we welcome, as we baptize, as we live our life in ministry, we are a people who know that we are beloved.
When we baptize Alison this morning, we promise to do all that we can to support her in her life in Christ, the most important thing we can do is to constantly reminder her of this fact. Alison, you are the beloved of God.
As those who know that we are beloved, we are called to proclaim this message to the world. To a world that witnesses so much violence and terrorism we proclaim, “You are God’s beloved”. To a frightened world that is tempted to despair we proclaim, “You are God’s beloved.”
But, before we can proclaim it to the world, we have to believe it about ourselves.
As I finish my sermon I want to ask all of you to join me to make three statements about your identity.
I want you to repeat these sentences. Using your name say. I am_______. I am God’s anointed. I am God’s beloved.
I am (your name)I am God’s anointed. I am God’s beloved.
I am(your name)I am God’s anointed. I am God’s beloved.
I am (your name) I am God’s anointed, I am God’s beloved.
Sermon: January 4, 2015: The Rev. Michael C. Fedewa. The Second Sunday after Christmas
a world plagued not only by the darkness of individual pain and sin, but also by the darkness of systemic oppression. Jesus’ people, the Hebrews, were a subjugated people living as exiles in their own land; among other things, they were silenced, targets of police brutality, and exploitatively taxed. They were a people so beaten down by society that only a remnant – most notably Anna and Simeon – continued to believe that the Messianic prophecies would one day come to pass. For many, the darkness of long-standing oppression had extinguished any hope for liberation.
“It was into this “worst world” that [Christ,] the Light-in-which-We-See-Light was born, liberating the people from the terror of darkness. So it is in the midst of our worst world that we, too, can most clearly see the Light, for light shines more brightly against a backdrop of true darkness.”
The readings for the first Sunday of Advent celebrate that Christ will come again. Isaiah begs, “Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” Paul writes to the Corinthians as they are “waiting for the revealing of the Lord” Jesus says, “Beware, keep awake, for you do not know when the time will come!” Someday, God will fully and finally arrive and set to rights the broken world in which we live. This is the awful, wonderful hope of Advent. It is hope because we know and trust that the Creator of all life is our best and truest judge. It is an awful hope because God’s light reveals the sin in ourselves we would rather not see or acknowledge. But it is a wonderful hope because in Christ we have already received all the light we need to find our way in the darkness.
So keep awake this Advent. Look at the depths of sin in your own heart and in the world you live in. Rejoice that God has overcome the sin of the world in the birth, death, and resurrection of his Son. Pray that through the work of the Holy Spirit, the world we live in might come to resemble more fully the world of God’s creating. Remember that you live in the context of eternity.
ften meals are teaching occasions for Jesus. So, at Sabbath table, with everyone watching him, Jesus begins to teach. Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not Jesus asks. In the face of their silence Jesus healed the man. Then Jesus, the teacher turns the table and begins to watch the Pharisees. As he watches them jockey for the best seats, Jesus invites the Pharisees to look at themselves and see the silly game they are playing. “Guys, if you really want the best seat, sit in the back. And then maybe the host will see you and invite you up to the front. Think how proud you will be to be invited forward. Think how humiliated the person will be after you are given their better seat.” Can you picture all these big shots sitting in the back row…..jockeying for the lowest seat, in order to be invited to a better one. It’s almost comical when you think about it. Then, things really get interesting. Jesus turns to the host and continues teaching: “When you give a dinner or banquet, don’t invite your friends, relatives or rich neighbors. (In other words, don’t invite these guys) They are just going to invite you back to another boring banquet. No, invite the crippled, the lame, the blind. Invite folks like the man I just healed. Then, you will have a taste of the eternal resurrection banquet . “ Jesus was invited to many banquets. Jesus hosted many banquets. And, it could almost be guaranteed, when Jesus came to a banquet, they were never boring. Jesus could even liven up a banquet of stuff shirted Pharisees! The letter to the Hebrews states: Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. Does this mean that Jesus looks the same, or that he speaks the same language at all times and in all places? I think not. Jesus is the same, yesterday today and forever in that he still comes to banquets. He still hosts banquets. He still uses banquets to teach. Week after week after week, Jesus invites his people to a banquet that is the Eucharist. Jesus is the host of our Sunday celebration. His word and his life are the food and drink that are set before us. As we gather, he invites us all to look around and see who is here with us. Some of us are young, some old. Some rich perhaps; most with some financial struggles. Some are sure, some have doubts. Some seem healthier perhaps than others. But what is true of all of us is that each of us has a lot to learn, not one of us knows it all. It is also true that not one of us has earned the right to be here. We do not invite ourselves to this banquet. Each of us is here only because Jesus has invited us. And, he invites us here to learn from him, and to learn from each other. Those who gather with us at this banquet can teach us about God, about Jesus. They can teach us about ourselves. If we open ourselves to receive them. That is the beauty of the banquet of the Eucharist. As we open ourselves to receive Jesus, we open ourselves to receive others who are with us at this banquet. The miracle of this banquet is that it extends beyond these walls. Today, sharing this meal are men and women, brothers and sisters around the world. At this meal, sharing this eucharist are men and women in prisons, on death row. Sharing this meal are those in hospitals and psychiatric wards. At this table are brothers and sisters in Churches all over this city, this country and the world. Christians are sharing this banquet in Kenya, and Turkey, and Brazil, and Egypt and Palestine and Iraq and Palestine. Think of that. All are here, and when we share this banquet, we are united not only with Jesus, but with each and every one of them. Each and every one of them has something to teach us. Jesus Christ is the same teacher today that he was when he lived in Galilee. He is still teaching about forgiveness, mercy, courage, compassion and love. He is still teaching what it means to be his disciple, what it means to live as he lives, to love as he loves. He still teaches best at banquets. He still teaches best, sitting at table. So dear friends, look at the people gathered at this banquet? What is Jesus teaching you through them? What is Jesus teaching you through persons who are poor, the weak, the sick, and the vulnerable? What does Jesus want to teach you through the immigrants, or outcasts or refugees who break bread with you? What is Jesus teaching them through you? In the week ahead, as you gather at meals with others, a Labor Day picnic perhaps, or any of the breakfasts, lunches and dinners you will share this week, invite Jesus, the teacher to join you. Give thanks for the food you will share. Give thanks for the people with whom you gather. Give thanks for the wisdom that will nourish you. May we be blessed by all at the table. May we be blessed by the food that is shared. May we be blessed by all that Jesus will teach us.