Advent 1C 12 step Eucharist End Times St. Mark's Episcopal Church LIttle Rock,Wednesday December 5, 2018

Advent 1C 12 step Eucharist End Times

Luke 21:25-36

The gospel on the first Sunday in Advent traditionally is about the end of times. Everything awful is happening. There is an eclipse of the sun, we cannot see the moon at night, shooting stars are plummeting to the earth, and earthquakes are erupting up into the sky all around us. Then Jesus comes with his angels and saves “the elect.” Pretty scary scene. Many of us may be thinking, I don’t know if I am really one of “the elect” that will survive all this.

The scene is about darkness, and disaster, and knowing what you know of your life has come to an end. Could Mark be writing about more than that second coming of Christ that the New Testament followers of Jesus expected any minute? This passage can also speak to us today, when disaster, and darkness are all around us. My experience is that this is when Jesus comes into our lives most profoundly. Only when we realize that we have no control over our lives, do we surrender and let God enter that door, that gate at which he has been knocking throughout time. Our only hope of leaving the darkness inside and around us is to open that gate. This is what happens in 12-step recovery. The life of the alcoholic or addict has become like a series of continuous erupting volcanoes. The addict and alcoholic live without the sun or moon. My experience is this is a time when a person is the most open to God coming into his life, and the answer out of the disaster is a surrender of will and life to that God.

And who are the elect? I haven’t met anyone yet who didn’t seem like a member of the elect. I think this offer is open to everyone of us but most especially in times of darkness and disaster, whether we are living with an addiction, a financial crisis, or the physical illness or death of someone who means the world to us. Christ comes with his angels from the ends of the earth and the ends of the heaven to gather us up. He is at the gate. He is very near. He is very near.

Joanna Seibert December 2018

Luke 21:25-36

Jesus said, "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

12 Step Eucharist St. Mark's Episcopal Church November 7, 2018 All Faithful Departed

All Faithful Departed 2018 12 step Eucharist St. Mark’s Episcopal Church

Wisdom 3:1–9

Psalm 130 Psalm 116:10-17

The Gospel

John 5:24-27

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.

“Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”

This past week our church calendar was filled with three days of remembering those who have died, those we loved, many we did not know, and those we had read or heard about from our own ancestors. Wednesday was All Hallow’s Eve or the Vigil of All Saints, Thursday was All Saints, and Friday was All Souls or All Faithful Departed. At St. Mark’s we even made it into a four-day event as we celebrated on Sunday the Feast Day of All Saints with a baptism, a very appropriate liturgy of dying to sin and a rebirth. Particularly on All Souls we commemorate those we have known and those we have loved who have died. Some families try to visit graves of loved ones on the Day of All Faithful Departed.

One of my ministries as a deacon is working with people in recovery from addiction. Today I especially think about those in recovery who have died, and those in addiction who died without ever making it to recovery.

I am especially thinking about two men one in recovery, one not, who died on the same day almost ten years ago.

They both died within twenty-four hours of each other. One died alone. No friends were there. There was rarely anyone else there the few times I visited. The other died surrounded by his family and many friends. The death of the first was widely reported in the media and newspapers and on television. The other only had a very small obituary which appeared several days after he died. The first well known man had spent a life of perfection, making certain that procedures were carried out precisely the right way. The second lesser known man had been an alcoholic for much of his life. He had an awakening in a recovery center seven years before he died. He spent the rest of his life helping others find and stay in recovery. His was a life of progress not perfection. He died on his seventh AA birthday. That afternoon his AA friends brought a meeting to his house and gave him his seven-year AA coin. His daughter and his two grandchildren had made a birthday cake. The grandsons wanted to know why there was a number seven on Pops’ birthday cake. “Isn’t he 100 years old?” Pops laughed himself into a coughing fit when he heard that, as did all his other friends and family in his room. After the meeting was over, he collapsed and died surrounded by those who loved him so dearly. His daughter writes, “Not a day goes by that we do not talk about him. The boys have asked if he will ever come back down from heaven.”

I learned so much from these two very great men. From the first, I had a second-hand experience of the price of being right, of the ending to a life lived demanding perfection in yourself and others. From all accounts, his life as well as his ending was in isolation and lonely. From the second man I learned what happens when we live a life of recovery, relationship, of progress, not perfection. There will always be a community to support us if we are only open to that relationship and are aware and accepting of our own humanness, as well as the imperfection in our neighbor who is just like us.

Daily we are given the choice of which life to try to live…progress or perfection,/ and from these two souls who now rest in the hands of God, I learned the consequences of these two paths.. progress or perfection. I also have learned that progress is a road less traveled.

Joanna joannaseibert.com

23B Mark 10:17-31 Rich Young Ruler and Relationships, Holy Spirit Episcopal Church, Gulf Shores, Alabama, October 14, 2018

23B Mark 10:17-31Rich Young Ruler and Relationships

Holy Spirit, Gulf Shores October 14, 2018

Bishop Steven Charleston recently posted on his Facebook Page a short piece called, “ How we are remembered.”

“Not many of us will be remembered for what we have done, though we may have accomplished a lot. As important as we once were, what remains is not what we have built, but who we have inspired. The lives we touched will go on. The minds we opened, the hearts we cherished, the spirits we set free, It is in relationship that our names are remembered. It is in how well we shared our love that will live on in ways unchanging.”1

This reminds me of the beginning of Paul’s second letter to Timothy. “I am grateful to God.. whom I worship.. as my ancestors did..when I remember you constantly in my prayers… recalling your tears… I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” 2

Do you think about what will be your legacy, how people will remember you? I think of Phillips Brooks, a legendary preacher, writer, social activist, innovator of modern architectural and liturgical tastes at Trinity Copley Square in Boston, briefly bishop of Massachusetts before his early death at age 58. When you see his life size, six feet four-inches statue at Trinity Boston you realize what a formidable, physically imposing man he was. Of all his accomplishments, he is now most remembered for one short poem he wrote one night on a visit to the Holy Land, “O Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie” What is your “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” your life in your words by which you will be remembered? /

What about John Chrysostom, named a golden-mouth preacher of his day in the early church, archbishop of Constantinople, recognized among the Three Holy Fathers, with Basil the Great and Gregory of Naz/i/an/zus? Those who read Morning Prayer say his prayer of St. Chrysostom near the closing of the service each morning, “you have promised that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them.” That is how we remember him./ What is your Prayer of St. Chrysostom, your prayer by which people will remember you when “two or three or gathered?’/

How about St. Francis who was honored with the blessing of your beloved animals here last Sunday? He changed the church’s view on our ministry to the poor and the sacredness of God in Nature, but he is still best remembered for his prayer just attributed to St. Francis. “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.” So, we still do not even know if he ever wrote it. What is your Prayer of St. Francis, your relationship to those in need that brought peace and love by which you will be remembered?

My Grandparents, Joe and Annie Whaley, whom by the way I am named after, mostly raised me. They nurtured me and cared for me and loved me without conditions. My greatest memory of my grandmother, however, is one single event occurring one of the days I went back to college in another state. I always go to say goodbye to my grandparent at their nearby home on my way out of town. I only stay a few minutes. This day my grandmother is playing canasta with her sisters. I kiss her goodbye and leave. Then I remember I have forgotten something. I go back to their house and my grandmother is not at the card table. I ask her sisters, “Where is she?” After a pause my Aunt Julia whispers, “She went upstairs to her bedroom to cry. She misses you so much when you are gone.”

I suddenly realize how little time I spend with my grandparents on these infrequent visits home from college. I am usually absorbed with my friends or schoolwork I bring home. I become acutely aware of how much my grandmother loves me. I run up the stairs, hug her one more time, and witness her love embarrassed by her tears. I can still feel today that love my grandmother showed me with her secretly concealed bedroom tears./ Where are your tears of love by which you will be remembered?

It is possible that you may be most remembered like my grandmother for just one small act of love?/////

We first meet the rich young ruler as children in Sunday school. Matthew is the only gospel that says he is young, and Luke is the only one who calls him a ruler. Since our familiar friend makes an appearance in all three synoptic gospels, this must be a true story, even though most of us wish that the young man had stayed home. Barbara Brown Taylor3 says because of him, we have two of the hardest sayings in the whole Bible: “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me…It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” /

This is not just a story for the Rockefellers or the Trumps. We all know that by the world’s standards, everyone in this room is “rich,” and we are all the man in this story.

Our young man is posed, respectful with impeccable manners. He kneels at Jesus’ feet. He addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher.” Then he lets it slip about his wealth, “What must I do TO INHERIT eternal life?” This is a rich person’s question, someone thinking about a trust so his children can avoid probate at his death, considering whether to develop a charitable lead or a charitable remainder trust for his estate, not preoccupied by lesser questions such as, “Where can I find work?” or “Where can I find food for my family today?” 3

Jesus looks down at the man kneeling before him and sees an exceptional, successful hard-working leader, who innocently asks about achieving a good portfolio in heaven as he has been developing on earth. He sees eternal life as a good investment.

Jesus, as he so often does, reframes the question in terms of living in “God’s kingdom” today, in the present, not just in the future.5 Jesus tries to get him back on track by saying, “You know the commandments,” and without hesitation, the young man recites half of them and adds a little extra one, “You shall not defraud.”

“Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth,” he says, and Jesus looks directly into his eyes with unconditional love. Jesus looks at him with those X-ray eyes that parents have. He loves what he sees, a real seeker. Some translations use the Greek word agapao indicating that Jesus actually reaches out and gently “caresses” him. This is the answer that we often miss in this story. Jesus loves the young man. Jesus comes into relationship with the young man and sees what is lacking. He is missing a real relationship with God and especially others.

Jesus’ examination then goes deeper into his soul, and like a physician making an astute diagnosis, he says, “You lack one thing.” Jesus sees a man whose relationship is to his wealth, not to the people around him.

How the young man’ heart must be pounding. At last! Jesus will write a prescription to satisfy that deep hunger, the answer to the emptiness, the longing that money and work cannot buy.

Then like the blade of a skilled surgeon’s knife, Jesus cuts to the heart of the achievement issue, “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Wow! Do you feel the impact of that?.

“At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.”///

Do you wonder what happens next? What is the ending? My midrash is that the man follows Jesus from afar but at some point, as we all do on our journey, is moved even more by Jesus’ teachings, or maybe by the events of Good Friday. He decides to give all to the poor. He meets up with some of the disciples he has gotten to know and after the resurrection is present at Pentecost. I believe this ending because this true story is so well told in all the gospels. I think the rich young ruler also told his own story to so many people that most Christians knew it when the gospels were written. Telling our story is a part of following Jesus.///

One last message in this story is is often missed. When Jesus tells the man to give everything away, Jesus is simply speeding up the process that he and each of us will go through. We have no choice but to give it all away, for it most certainly is not going with us into eternal life. Even if we plan on leaving everything to our children, we are still giving it all away.4 //

Today Jesus offers a prescription for the kingdom of God, right now, right here, not at a later date. Jesus looks with love into the eyes of each of us as he did for the young man and asks us to come and follow him, turn our lives and our will over to him, tell our story, be in relationship with him and in relationship with each other, especially with those around us who are in need.// ////

This is how we will be remembered.

Joanna joannaseibert.com

1 Steven Charleston Daily Facebook Meditation

2 2 Timothy 1:3-6.

3 Stephen Crotts, “The One That Got Away,” Lectionary Homiletics, October 2000.

4 Barbara Brown Taylor, “The Opposite of Rich,” The Preaching Life, 121-126.

5 David Howell, Feasting on the Word, year B vol. 4, pp. 164-169.

22B Children and the Kingdom, Mark 10: 2-16, Cape Giradeau, October 7, 2018

22B Children and the Kingdom

Mark 10:2-16, Cape Girardeau, October 7, 2018

Jesus precedes Marion Wright Edelman as president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. While most people in authority in the first century ignore anyone shorter than their own kneecaps, Jesus intently looks to see what is going on down there. He observes toddlers hanging on to their mother’s skirts shrinking away from stray dogs, wagon wheels, and donkey dung. He sees them trying to keep up with the grown-ups, walking gamely at first but then quickly defeated,/ finally limping along with one arm pulled high almost out of joint by tall people with giant strides, developing what is described medically as nurse maid’s elbow.

In Jesus’ day, children are side items, not main events. They are gifts from God who will be useful later on to care for their parents, work the family business, bring money to the family from a marriage dowry. Meanwhile they are non–entities-fuzzy caterpillars to be fed and sheltered until they turn into butterflies. Children were more often treated as slaves than as honored members of the family.

But Jesus seems to like them just as they are, which is unusual for a man, especially a bachelor. He is not afraid of babies. He takes them in his arms and blesses them. He knows how to put his hand behind their wobbly heads, how to pass them back to their mothers without dropping them. Even the two-year old toddlers do not bother him. He never asks their parents to please take them to the nursery. When his disciples scold people for bringing their children to church, Jesus is indignant. This is how to enter the kingdom, he says. Children are showing us how to become full-fledged citizens of God’s realm, not later but right now./

This story is not as radical today as it was back then, for we are much more tuned into our children than first-century Palestinians were. Far from ignoring children, we sometimes tend to idealize them, dressing them in Strasburg fashions, putting them in first grade French classes, setting a place for them at adult dinner parties, spending our every waking hours taking them and cheering them on at sports events, and goodness knows we won’t go into what grandparents do for them. Maybe we lavish the attention on children we wish someone had lavished on us,/ or we see another chance to be a child again, but in any case, children are visible and audible in our adult world today, and we are better people because of their presence.

We know children are innocent, playful, probably our best role models of living in the present moment. But like adults they can be noisy, destructive, self-centered and sometimes surprisingly cruel. Jesus is not holding children up as moral examples for us to imitate. He tells us in order to come into God’s kingdom we must come as a little child. Barbara Brown Taylor describes this as a pretty amazing admission fee.

Do you want to spend some time with God? Then get down on the floor with little Zoe. Get finger paint all over your clothes and laugh at her words and funny faces and never mind that you have more important things to do, like finishing the laundry or earning a living. She is not a side item. She is the main event. Opening yourself up to her is better for your soul than finishing a project or getting a raise or even reading a whole book of the Bible.

There will be no paybacks. Oh, she may shout your name the next time she sees you and run to hug your knees, but you can not list her as a job reference or ask her to lend you money to get your car fixed. She is not in charge of anything. She cannot buy you anything. She will not even remember your birthday or invite you over for supper with friends. She has no status, no influence, no income, which makes her great in God’s eyes. She is just what you need. And you learn from her that it is what you do when you think no one is looking,/ with someone who does not count,/ for no reward,/ that ushers you into the presence of God.

Do you see what Jesus is up to? It is one more of his lessons in the topsy-turvy kingdom of God where the first shall be last and the last shall be first and everyone who thinks he or she is on the top of the heap is in for a big surprise…. And Jesus is not talking just about children either. He is talking about all the ones in this world with no status, no influence, no income… the working poor, the homeless, the disabled, the mentally ill, the sick, LGBT persons thrown out of families because they want to become the person God created them to be, immigrants, abused children, abused men and women, Third World persons. God is daring us to welcome all as bearers of God, to believe that God’s hierarchy is the reverse of our culture’s.//

This is Jesus’ second children’s sermon in two weeks. He must think children are very important. (the first was two weeks ago in Mark 9:30-37). Maybe it is because he recently found the disciples playing the “Who’s the Greatest” game on the road to Capernaum. These are like Jesus’ graduate students comparing GRE scores. They are his top-level managers who have just finished Harvard’s continuing education management course. They are wondering who will be picked to be at that top tier./ But they are really arguing about who is greatest because they cannot understand what Jesus has just been saying about being killed. They are afraid to ask, and so they go as far away from the subject as they can by playing status games instead.

We know what that is like. When we are scared of something. act as if there is nothing wrong. Change the subject, talk about something else instead, something that makes us feel big and strong. That is what the disciples were doing, and that is why Jesus sits them down, honors the children their mothers are bringing to him and gives his followers an advanced leadership seminar right then and there. When the disciples try to keep children away from Jesus, he says, “ Let the little children come to me. If you do not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, you will not enter it.” Instead of a power point presentation, he illustrates what he means using that old show and tell method. He takes a little child in his arms. They want to know who is greatest,/ so he shows them: twenty-six inches tall, limited vocabulary, unemployed, zero net worth, nobody. God’s agent. The last, the least of all.

Jesus is telling us that when we are organizing our lives, we are to look for the little child around us to be reminded that God organizes things differently. If we want to enter the kingdom and welcome God into our lives, there is no one whom we may ignore. In the topsy–turvy kingdom of God, the most unlikely people are most likely to be agents of God, the ones who live in the world below our kneecaps, the ones who are stuck at the end of the unemployment line, the invisible people we work with for years whom we know only by their first name/ if at all, those living at our state and federal prisons, the harried woman at the checkout counter at our grocery store, the server at our fast food restaurant, the orderly in the hospital, our friend in the nursing home we have forgotten…invisible people. Jesus calls us to start seeing the unseen, not because it is virtuous, not so we can congratulate ourselves on being the greatest. Start seeing the invisible because to receive them is to receive Jesus. This is where Christ likes to live. When we reach out to invisible people, that is where we will find Jesus . ///

Sam Lloyd also believes that there is one more reason Jesus keeps talking about first century children. They represent our honoring and welcoming the child within each one of us, that piece of us made for wonder, delight, and vulnerability. They represent our reclaiming our capacity for wonder—slowing down and taking the foot off of the gas pedal. They are our connections to the present moment, the Christ within us.

There are some brief moments in our service today where the children in our midst and this child within us makes an appearance. When we come to communion, as we walk down the aisle, kneel and hold out our open hands to receive the bread and drink from the cup, for that moment we surrender to become needy, dependent, childlike, ready to receive the Love we most need. That child within is hungry and so longing to be fed and to connect us to the God of Love.

As we leave that rail, if we want to continue to enter God’s kingdom, there are so many more ways, and we do not have to go far. Jesus calls us to go out into this needy world and find someone we, our society considers a nobody. Look into their eyes, really look at them, offer that same hand that once held that bread and …. say hello again to God within them.

Joanna. Joannaseibert.com

Barbara Brown Taylor, “Last of All,” Bread of Angels, pp. 131-135.

Mary Hinkle, “Seeing Things,” Living by the Word, pp. 131-133.

Richard Donovan, “The First Children’s Sermon,” Sermonwriter Proper 20B, 2006.

The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, “Jesus and Children 20B, A Child at the Center, Washington National Cathedral Sermon.

12 step Eucharist 17B Graft in our hearts St. Mark's Episcopal Church Little Rock September 5, 2018

17B Graft in our hearts the love of your Name

 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

12 step Eucharist September 5, 2018

In our gospel tonight Jesus reminds us that it is not what we put into our bodies  that causes us to sin. Now we alcoholics and addicts know well that Jesus is not talking about physical food or drink because that is certainly what finally got us into trouble. Jesus is referring to  spiritual and intellectual food that we take in. It is what happens to the words, thoughts, actions that we hear and see and allow to penetrate our body and reach our heart, and then how our heart reacts to them  can cause us to sin, to develop character defects. Someone harms us. We want to hurt them right back. Someone does not treat us with the respect due. We make sure they are put in their place. Our children act out. We throw up our hands and scream at them.

Ours is a God of love and I love all the ways scripture and sacred writings  give us images to pray and  meditate on about changing our heart. Our collect tonight talks about “Graft in our hearts the love of your Name.” Some of you master gardeners know more about grafting than I do, but I hope you can identify with the personification of the word heart. Graft in our hearts the love of your Name.  Graft meaning to insert, implant, transplant into our hearts God’s heart of love.

 There are many other personifications of our hearts.

In Lent in Morning Prayer we often read the Prayer of Manasseh (BCP pp. 90-91) where we appeal to God for forgiveness as we “Bend the knee of my heart.”  Our image is bowing our body and especially our heart as we ask on the bended knee of our heart for forgiveness for the harmful things we have done to others. Another great prayer image.

In the marriage ceremony if the Song of Solomon (8:6) is read, we will hear, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, .. for love is stronger than death.” A seal upon our heart..a seal is a substance joining two together. It can be a substance with something stamped on it or a badge saying that this document comes from the sender. If we view this in our relationship to God we are asking to be stuck to God like glue and marked as at baptism, “marked as Christ’s own forever.”  

Again in a Morning Prayer Canticle,  the Song of Ezekiel (36:26), God says, “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” What a great image for our  prayers:  asking God to take away our heart of stone.

My favorite image of our heart is in the Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict. The founder of the Benedictine monastic tradition’s very first words to us are, “Listen with the ear of your heart.”  What an image for our relationship to God and our neighbors. Listening to God, listening to those we meet with not just the outer part or pinna or lobe of our ear, but with the middle and especially the inner part of our ear and connect what we hear to our heart that no longer is a heart of stone but has been tightly grafted to the love of God.

Hold on to these images of our hearts in the coming weeks.

Listen with the ear of your heart.

Graft in our hearts the love of your Name

Set me as a seal upon your heart

Remove from me my heart of stone

We will have a test about the hearts on February 14th.

Joanna. Joannaseibert.com