“Be Present in Love” Sermon by Eliza Robertson (’17) | 22 March 2015

John 12:20-33

Eliza Robertson ('17)When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a cat when I grew up. I knew a few cats, and they seemed to have a pretty good time of it, so I figured that was the right path for me. I spent time practicing being a cat, which (if you’re curious) mainly consisted of choreographing solo dances to most of the songs from the Broadway musical of the same name as my chosen profession.

Then I got a little older, and I realized that maybe being a cat wasn’t a viable career choice. So I decided that I wanted to be a zookeeper instead. I went to zookeeper camp, where I realized that cleaning up monkey droppings wasn’t quite the glamorous life I was looking for. So I decided to become a fantasy writer. That lasted until I realized that I liked reading books more than trying to write them, so I decided to become an editor. And then I decided I wanted to be a professor, like my dad. And then I wanted to open a bakery. And then I wanted to start my own theater company.

In fact, I can’t remember a time in my life when there wasn’t something I wanted to be when I grew up. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have some vision of the future. And I think that’s a pretty common thing; I’d be willing to bet that, if you were to ask anyone else in this room what they wanted to be when they grew up when they were a little kid, they’d have an answer. My brother wanted to be a frog. One of my cousins wanted to be a retired banker, which I still think is a pretty good answer.

There’s something so human about that insistence on looking towards the future, on figuring out what and who we want to be when we get older. And for those of us who are still students, figuring that out is almost a full time job. It often feels like everything I do is about finding the answer to that ever-present question: What do I want my life to be? It’s as if I’m living life looking firmly at the future, working backwards from the life I want to live through all the steps I’ll need to take to get there. If I can only figure out how the things I do now will impact my future self, I’ll be able to build that perfect life, that life that I will love.
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel reading that “[t]hose who live their life will lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. As we all spend so much of our time struggling to build the lives that we want for ourselves, what are we to do with a statement like that?

Jesus reminds us here that the time we have on this earth are short. Our lives may seem long as we’re living them, but from the perspective of eternal life they’re peanuts to space. And our sight into in the future is even shorter. In reminding us that all the time and energy we use trying to be the architects of our own futures is, ultimately, wasted, Jesus calls us to live lives that aren’t oriented towards the future.

Thankfully, he doesn’t end there. He continues, saying: “Whosoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there my servant will be also.” More than calling us to follow Him, as He so often does, Jesus asks us to be present with him. But what does that mean for us? It must have been pretty straightforward for Andrew and Philip, who could see Jesus in front of them. Be where Jesus is? Done. But it’s not quite so clear-cut for us. We don’t have a physical being to follow, as the disciples did.

I’m reminded of the parable of the sheep and the goats: Jesus tells of a time when the people will be separated as a shepherd separates sheep and goats, those who helped the Lord in His time of need on his right and those who didn’t on his left. Those on His right don’t remember having helped Him, so He tells them: “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). Jesus’ point, for once, seems pretty clear: Jesus is present in those around us who need us. What we do for them, we do for Him, too.

By that logic, to be present with Jesus is to be present with other people. And not just any people: the least of these brothers and sisters. The hungry, the imprisoned, the afraid. These brothers and sisters in need. These brothers and sisters who probably don’t live in the beautiful futures we imagine for ourselves.

Because the funny thing about our imagined future lives is that we are necessarily alone in them. They may include imagined versions of our loved ones, to be sure, but other people can’t really live in our imaginations. Our imagined lives are necessarily about us. Other people live in the present. Other people need help kindness and love in the present.
So when Jesus says that those who love their lives will lose them, I take that as a call to stop putting so much of my energy into imagining my perfect future. A life full of richly imagined futures is of no use to anyone. It’s the things done in the present that are of use to those in need.

The Buddhist monk Tich Nhat Hanh wrote in The Miracle of Mindfulness that “[m]any people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.” I think that miracle is right now. It’s all of us exactly as we are now. It’s each bit of kindness and tenderness and love that exists in this present moment. It’s what we do for each other. For as we do to the least of each other, so we do to God.

Sermon by the Rev. Molly F James, Ph.D. | 22 February 2015

Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15 

May God’s Word be spoken. May God’s Word be heard. May that point us to the Living Word who is Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

MollyJamesA few nights ago my husband, Reade, and I sat on the couch relishing some quiet after our children were in bed. We marveled together at the blessings in our lives – jobs we love, a wonderful house, healthy children and each other. And yet we both know life has not, nor will it always be as easy and joyful as it is right now.

That is a lesson I learned early. I was diagnosed with bone cancer when
I was thirteen. It took almost a year for the full magnitude of what was happening to sink in. Until then I managed to cope pretty well. But just as I was finishing my treatments and things were looking good from a physical standpoint, the emotional and spiritual challenges really began. That was when the fear came. The kind of fear that can be overwhelming and seem to run your life.

It was as though someone had taken the rug out from under me. Up until then I had the blissful ignorance of youth. I had not had to confront my own mortality. Then I did. And I thought if this terrible thing called cancer could happen to me, what was going to protect me from all the other terrible things in the world. What I wanted, what I desperately craved was some sense of control, some sort of guarantee that I was going to be okay. That I was going to have a long and healthy life.

But no one could give me that guarantee, that sense of control, and so it was tempting to give into the fear, to let it run my life.

Now today is the first Sunday in Lent, and our Gospel lesson is about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by Satan. Now you may be wondering what my story of fear has to do with Lent and temptation. Normally our conversations about temptation and Lent focus on the more superficial sorts of temptations like coffee or chocolate. Yet I think Lent is a good time to think about some of the other temptations we face in our lives. And I would be willing to bet I am not the only one who has ever been tempted by fear.

Now you may be thinking, what can be so tempting about fear and anxiety? Who LIKES being afraid? It is not a delicious indulgence like coffee or chocolate. And yet, I do think fear and anxiety can be tempting. They are tempting because they give us the illusion of control. In the face of a life threatening diagnosis, in the face of the loss of a job or a broken relationship, in the face of our news headlines about the shooting deaths of young people or the most recent horrific act of Islamic State, in the face of all those terrible realities of our broken and sinful world, we feel powerless, and so it is tempting to give in to the fear. It is tempting because being anxious and fearful lets us feel busy. Worrying at least feels like we are DOING something.

Yet worrying merely serves to occupy our minds. It does not ultimately give us anything other than an increase in our blood pressure and stress hormones. Most of the things we are tempted to worry about are the big things – our health, our future, the safety of our loved ones, and the possibility of our own death. While we can have some influence in these matters, ultimately we do not get to decide how long we have in this world. Time is a precious gift. None of us will live forever. That is the reminder we received as our foreheads were marked with ashes on Wednesday. “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” You, me, and everyone else on this planet. That is the truth of the human experience.

So, what if we took Lent as an opportunity to live in a new way. What if we gave up fear and anxiety for Lent?

Ha, you may be thinking, well that is a lot easier said than done. It is. I agree. I am the mother of young children, one of whom is about to be mobile. And his older sister will be going to kindergarten this fall. We live in CT. For all of us who have seen the faces of the parents of children who died at Sandy Hook, even sending a child to school is not without
its worries. I don’t think my life as a parent will ever be free from fear and anxiety. And there is truth in that for all of us, parents or not, no matter what age we are. Fear and anxiety are what come with loving deeply. When we care about someone, it scares us to imagine life without that person.

So when I suggest that we give up fear and anxiety, I am not suggesting that it is a simple matter of setting our minds and never looking back. As though we could just decide to stop being fearful or anxious. And yet I do think we have some choice about how much control fear and anxiety have in our lives. I think we can “give up” letting them be dominant forces in our lives. In fact, I think as Christians, we are called to focus on joy
and hope, rather than fear and anxiety. We are called to be messengers of peace, called to be light bearers in the world. Just as Christ did in the wilderness, we are called to resist the temptations of Satan. Those include the temptations of fear and anxiety.

Fear and anxiety can be terribly strong forces in our lives, IF, and only
if, we let them. As we are human beings who love deeply, we will never
be free from fear and anxiety. We can, however, be free from their stranglehold grip in our lives. We can refuse to give in to all the fearful “what ifs?” our imaginations can conjure up. We can choose abundance and life over scarcity and loss. We can trust that the love of God is stronger than death, stronger than anything. We can believe that the hope of Easter is always real, that God is at work, here and now, bringing about new life.

That is our choice. Will we be on the lookout for those stories that feed into our fears and anxiety or will be on the lookout for those things that fill us with hope? Will we give thanks for the innumerable blessings in our lives? For the privilege of being gathered in this place for worship, the privilege of being fed and supported by this community? Will we let ourselves be filled by hope – rejoicing in the creativity and ingenuity of others? If any of us
are need a little extra hope this Lent, may I suggest seeking out the small children in our lives or the Brendons [dogs] of our lives? There is nothing quite like the laughter and smiles of children or the love of a dog to restore the soul, to remind us that even when it seems that we are surrounded by tragedy and loss, there are always signs of hope, symbols of new life, if only we will look for them.


“Repent, Return, and Rejoice” Sermon by the Rev. Paul J. Carling | 18 February 2015

Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b – 6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

The Rev. Dr. Paul J. CarlingThere’s something compelling about Ash Wednesday, something that draws us here to Dwight Hall; more than just habit or duty; more than just the beginning of Lent. What we say and do on this particular Wednesday has a special power.

Today we say – and then confirm with a touch – “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” There it is. So much else that we say in this place we may hope is true, or fear is true, or believe, or doubt. But this we know: We are mortal. We were born. We will die.

From dust, to dust. As if hearing the words were not enough, they are literally rubbed into our faces. Ashes mark us – and our fate becomes strangely visible.

Then Jesus goes one step further. He reminds us that dust is the destination, not just of our bodies, but of most of what we consider to be worth living for, as well. Moth and rust and thieves can – and will – reduce to dust virtually every goal, every dream, every value, every treasure we hold dear. And we know that to be true, too. These words of simple, absolute truth give us a perspective the world tries both to hide and to deny – and one we usually do our best to ignore.
Dust and ashes. These are what we see if we look ahead far enough and honestly enough. These are the final return on virtually every investment we make. Today we say this out loud, and we know its truth and its power.

And it sounds like bad news – unmitigated bad news – even though we’ve known it all along.

We all know the personal crisis that comes with that first mature realization of the absolute certainty of our own death. We know how jarring it is, and today reminds us of this grim reality.

From dust… to dust.

To find the Good News here, we need to begin with the past, and with a conviction we Christians hold as firmly as we know the certainty of our own death – that we are created by God – that we did not just happen, that we did not emerge willy-nilly by some cosmic fluke. The dust of our beginnings – that dust from which we came – is not just a matter of chance; it has profound meaning. Our lives are gifts from God. Nothing less. Our dust was molded by the very hands of God, and his Spirit breathed life into it. Our dust is holy, our ashes are blessed and cherished by God.

In this way, what appears as a threat – “you are dust” – becomes, if we pay attention, a promise. The grace and love present at our creation will see us through our physical disintegration and beyond. God is with us from our very beginning, and before, and will be with us to our very end, and beyond.

Notice something else. These ashes on our forehead are not just tossed there, or scattered at random. They are placed in the form of a cross – so today we mortals are connected with both Good Friday and Easter morning. Today we remember the promise that, as we have risen from dust to this mortal life, so, with Christ, we will rise from the dust of death to eternal life. Yes, to dust we shall return, but with Christ.

Dust and ashes are Good News: They point us toward the power and love of God – both at the beginning and at the end. And they remind us that, because of this Good News, we are called – as we live between dust and dust – to repent and to return. To return to our risen Lord. That’s what “repent” means: to turn, to change the direction in which we are looking and moving, to look and to move in a new direction.

Today’s call to repent isn’t based on fear – on what will happen to us if we don’t; and it doesn’t rely on guilt or duty – on what we think we ought to do. Instead, this call centers on divine love – on the love that is the heart of our creation – on the love that is seen most fully on the cross. It centers on the love that transforms ashes into a symbol of hope.

At the same time, such turning – such repentance – is not something we can think ourselves into; it depends on concrete action. That’s why we follow the ancient disciplines of prayer, fasting and giving, because they keep us continually moving in the right direction – towards God.

So, remember that you are dust – and rejoice. For God is with us – in the beginning, at the end, and even now as we live in between. And repent, and return to the Lord, and rejoice. For the one who created us, who loves us, and who travels every step of our journey with us, is calling us home.

“All Things to All People” Sermon by Rev. Paul J. Carling, Ph.D. | February 8, 2015

1 Corinthians: 9: 16-23; Mark 1: 29-39

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
– 1 Corinthians 9: 20-23

The Rev. Dr. Paul J. Carling

In this land of rugged individuality, one of the worst insults you can make about someone is to say that he is a “phony,” “two faced,” that she is “all things to all people,” someone who, like the proverbial politician, “tells people just what they want to hear.”  People like this remind us of the snake oil salesman, sizing up their mark, and convincing them that whatever they’re selling will cure exactly what ails them.

So what are we to make of Paul’s famous assertion to the Christian community of Corinth: “I have become all things to all people?”  Does he mean to say that he just tells people what they want to hear?  That to an orthodox Jew, he too piously observes the 612 purity laws from Leviticus?  That to the reform Jew, unhappy with the rigid and doctrinaire temple religion, he’s a revolutionary reformer?  While to a Gentile, he thinks most Jewish practice is irrelevant?  Doesn’t he stand for anything?

Well, to understand this, first let’s look at the context – Corinth was a wildly diverse cosmopolitan place, a cultural melting pot for the Ancient Near East.  Here lived observant Jews, reform Jews, Gentiles, slaves and free, male and female, a rainbow people from literally “…every tribe, language, people and nation.”

Most, of course, lived in teeming poverty, while the tiny elite hoarded all the wealth.  So if Paul wanted to win people to Christ, he needed to understand all of these cultures, and to speak each of their languages.  He needed to find a way into each and every very different heart.

Because what he had to share was absolutely foreign and revolutionary and scary for all of them, regardless of their culture – the Good News that none of these divisions matter in the eyes of God; that God loved every single person in this melting pot equally, and that God called them to love each other, not compete for cultural or religious or racial superiority, or for the scraps from rich people’s tables.

That’s why Paul saw a great freedom in becoming “all things to all people.”  As a Christian, he saw every person in a new and different way. “I am free with respect to all,” he said, “I have made myself a slave to all.”    Confronted with the tremendous diversity of the Body of Christ, Paul saw that God had no favorites.  Yes, the Jews were God’s “chosen people,” but so were the Gentiles, so were men and women, so was every one.

Because the fact is that what joins all of us is our common identity as “beloved children of God,” and what joins us as Christians, is that we’re committed to “loving our neighbors as ourselves.”  The more different we perceived someone, the more we were called to love them.  “What is it worth,” Jesus asked, “if you love only those who love you?”

Which is why in today’s gospel, Jesus makes a bee line directly from the synagogue gates to the gates of the city, where the most untouchables lived – the sick, the disabled, those possessed by demons – and doing so was a scandal to the priests whose company he had just left.

And speaking of priests, just after I was ordained over a dozen years ago, I arrived in a parish that had just chosen a wonderful, energetic, wise and very smart Rector, Thomas, 29 years old… and gay.  On my first day, barely hours into my priesthood, Thomas called me into his office and said,” Paul, when I arrived, a dozen families left in protest over my sexual orientation.  Your first assignment is to bring them all back.”  I found myself tearing up, confronted by this extraordinary priest – someone who, knowing he is hated simply for who he is, responds with phenomenal generosity of spirit.  “Paul,” he went on, “we all have need of one another – no matter what we believe about each other.  Go gather my lost sheep.  They’ll listen to you in a way they can’t right now to me.”

It was a slow and painful process, listening to so much I found so painful to hear, so impossible to respond to.  But I sat in each of their homes visit after visit, prayed with them, and tried to find the words that would penetrate each of their hearts.  After a year, eight families had returned, each in their own way, some only when I celebrated the Eucharist, but in the end, fully embracing Thomas when they finally let themselves get to know him.  The next year one other family came back – nine out of town lost sheep.  The tenth moved away… probably because I just kept on visiting them.  This was an experience that shaped my priesthood forever.

I’m thrilled to announce that at Easter Vigil this year, Bishop Laura will be joining us, and we will confirm at least one of our ECY members, and we hope more, and maybe even some folks from nearby parishes.  And at every confirmation, we all join in and repeat our own baptismal promises.  Together we’ll affirm this revolutionary faith, and together we’ll assert that God’s impartiality trumps all of our prejudices.  We’ll promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves; to strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being; knowing that none of this is even remotely possible without “God’s help.”

St. Francis once famously said, “Preach the gospel at all times, and only when necessary, use words.”  We don’t bring people to Jesus by giving them some slick sell job, nor by telling people just what they want to hear.  No, we win them to Christ by looking so deeply into their hearts, we see their common humanity, their common share of God’s abundant love.  And we love that bit of the divine within them in a way that afflicts them with the contagious joy Christ plants in our own hearts.

That’s precisely why God calls us to be “all things to all people,” to see beyond the differences of language and culture and race and economic status – and yes, even prejudice – and to love every person we encounter – every person – as equally beloved of God.  This is how we discover the wideness in God’s mercy, by trying our best to first see God’s love in ourselves, so that we may then see, in every person, near and far, the beloved child of God that lives within them.


“My Sole Occupation is Love” Sermon by Armando Ghinaglia | January 18, 2015

Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Armando GhinagliaYou can imagine Nathanael as a pretty snarky guy given how he jokes about Nazareth. You can imagine him following Phillip, not really sure what to expect, and going up to Jesus and thinking, as Jesus welcomes him, “who the heck does this guy think he is?” You can imagine the sarcasm, perhaps, in his voice, “How do you know me?”

Jesus’ response would have been spectacular enough had this omniscient fellow said, “I saw you under the fig tree earlier,” or “I saw you under the fig tree before you came here.” Instead what we get is, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” “I saw you” before you were even called. Or as the Psalmist today says, “Lord, you have searched me out and known me; you know my sitting down and my rising up; you discern my thoughts from afar.”

Jesus takes Nathanael’s words and refashions them. Nathanael’s knowledge is an acquaintance’s knowledge of a stranger. But for Jesus, knowing Nathanael has less to do with being omniscient and far more to do with the fact that God knows us—and calls us—before we know God.

What we see then in today’s moments of calling is deeply distressing. Calls interrupt our daily lives dramatically and happen in incredibly unexpected ways. For Samuel, this takes place late at night as he verges on sleep, on the borderline of a world beyond our consciousness, before he is brought back into reality by God’s call. For Nathanael, this takes place as he flippantly jokes about Jesus knowing him, and as he receives a sublime response in return. Nathanael hears a voice—and witnesses a presence—that draws him near, and that captivates him.

The call from God is a call to enter more deeply into God’s presence—and as some have put it, to know God is to realize, more and more, that you are known by God. For both the Psalmist and for Paul in Corinthians, we are known by God, not in abstract, otherworldly ideals or terms, but in the context of our fleshly lives, frail that they are, on this earth. The Psalmist affirms God’s good work shown forth in Creation, even in a fallen world: not only does God “discern [our] thoughts from afar,” but God also “created [our] inmost parts” and “knit [us] together in [our] mother[s’] womb[s]”—and we are “marvelously made.” Even in our frailty ad vulnerability, God knows us.

Paul’s words—sharp rebuke that they are—also make this clear. “The body is meant for the Lord, and the Lord for the body,” and “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God.” And at the altar in the Eucharist, as a Rite I prayer states, we ask God to “accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, whereby we offer and present unto thee, O Lord, our selves, our souls and bodies.”

When God calls Samuel, Samuel perceives something to which he longs to respond with his entire body. He comes to Eli and talks to him, and later speaks with God. When Jesus sees Nathanael under the fig tree, he doesn’t just imagine Nathanael’s thoughts about Nazareth; he sees Nathanael himself, all of him, throughout eternity. And Nathanael in turn responds by dedicating himself to Christ entirely, even, as Tradition has it, to the point of death after being flayed alive and crucified upside down.

In other words, these calls, however perceived, draw us out of ourselves, out of the normalcy and regularity of our daily lives, and create in us a yearning for God that we strive to satisfy through the very means that God has given us in this world around us, throughout our entire lives. These moments we find written before us may not happen frequently or even at all—and yet we need not identify those moments explicitly with God for them to be divine. The moment may take place as it did with Samuel or with Nathanael. On the other hand, it may take place when injustice around us arouses righteous anger. Or it may take place when we witness beauty in the world around us. All of these experiences beg for us to respond—to be changed in such a way that we are transformed by God’s grace in order to show forth Love, whether in the midst of its abundance, or… in the midst of its absence.

Throughout millennia, Christian mysticism has tried to express these moments in poetry and prose. St. John of the Cross, a 16th-century Spanish mystic, echoes this back-and-forth, between God and humanity, in the Spiritual Canticles, where he describes the bride’s quest for the bridegroom as an allegory of humanity’s quest for God. In her agonizing opening lines, the bride cries out:

Where have You hidden Yourself,
And abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved?
You have fled like the hart,
Having wounded me.
I ran after You, crying; but You… were gone.

The bridegroom has wounded the bride with a perpetual, incessant, terrifying and terrible longing. A longing for something outside herself that nothing else can satisfy. And the bridegroom responds a bit later…hauntingly:

Return, My Dove!
The wounded hart
Looms on the hill
In the air of your flight… and is refreshed.

The hart who wounded us is God in Christ, whom humanity itself wounded on the cross. And both wounds, for John of the Cross and for Paul as well—the wound that we bear and the wounds that Christ bears for eternity, the very wounds into which he invites Thomas to thrust his hand to prove his resurrection later on in John’s gospel—both are wounds of love, wounds that invite us nonetheless into union with God, a union characterized by God’s call and our response.

And we enter into that union, as this week’s Collect suggests, by worshiping and obeying God, and making him known—in other words, by modeling our own lives after Christ, who while himself being God humbled himself to share our humanity, who out of love entered into the depths of alienation, sin, and despair, even unto death. It means putting our entire selves in the service of God and the Incarnate Word in other human beings and throughout Creation, even in the face of hatred. It is to bear the wounds of love—to realize that God has wounded us for a longing outside ourselves and to allow ourselves to love others though the call may be difficult.

This is not to say that we should be masochists about this. But it is to say that God asks us as a Church, as Michael Ramsey puts it, to seek to alleviate the sufferings of humanity, to heal them and to remove them, since they are hateful to God. Yet, when they are overwhelming and there is no escape from them, to transfigure them and use them as the raw material of love, and the place where the power of God is known.

In this journey, then, let us, in John of the Cross’ words, “go seeking [our] beloved / Over mountains, along rivers— / [we] will gather no flowers / Nor fear any beasts; / [and we] shall pass fortresses and frontiers alike.” To respond to God’s call—to reply, “Speak, for your servant is listening”—is to invite the Love that moves the Sun and other stars to move in our own lives, not that we may escape the world, but that thereby we may, by God’s grace, transform it.

The call to worship, to prayer, and to Eucharist is a call to offer up ourselves, our souls and bodies, to God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation in the world. It is a call shaped by the wounds of love that we forever share with God, who calls us throughout our lives and has known us before time itself. It is a call, as Rowan Williams paraphrases of Gregory of Nyssa, that draws us to an end without end. It is a call, as Jesus tells Nathanael, to “see greater things than these.”

“My soul is occupied,
And all my substance in His service;
Now I guard no flock,
Nor have I… any other employment:
My sole occupation… is love.”

Open Minds, Open Hearts | Sermon by the Rev. Paul J. Carling, Ph.D. | November 9, 2014

Wisdom of Solomon 6: 12 – 16; Matthew 25: 1 – 13

I have a confession to make. Some of Jesus’ parables give me a headache.

The Rev. Dr. Paul J. CarlingTake today’s story about the ten bridesmaids – Jesus makes a distinction between five who are foolish and five who are wise. Well, that sounds like us, right? Except that most of us are both wise and foolish at the same time, and Jesus isn’t usually given to either – or thinking. When the foolish ones realize they don’t have enough oil, the wise ones refuse to help, saying they won’t have enough if they share. Surely Jesus isn’t saying this is the way we should behave – he’s all about abundance. Then the Lord of the manor, even though he selected the bridesmaids, when some arrive late, says he doesn’t know them, and casts them into the darkness. Is this an image of God? It’s certainly not one I recognize.

I officiated at a wonderful wedding yesterday. Not only ALL the bridesmaids, but ALL the groomsmen, were late. I missed a cue and was late starting the procession. We all had a great time anyway. And I think God thoroughly approved. Well, as a priest friend of mine once remarked about this parable, “You know Paul, maybe understanding every single one of Jesus’ parables is simply above our pay grade.”

But the takeaway for me lies in the last sentence. “Keep awake, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

The truth is we’re all capable of behaving like the forgetful foolish bridesmaids, and like the cheapskate wise ones, to say nothing of the insensitive Lord. And we all know that the world can be a pretty unforgiving and dangerous place when we’re not prepared. But we also know that when we are prepared, by living our lives with open hearts and open minds, miracles can happen.

Our dearest friend from London, Mike, was visiting last week, and on Monday, he asked me to show him around Manhattan. Remember what a beautiful sunny day it was? Well, I was delighted. What I forgot is that Mike, who lived for many years in Scotland, is what they call a Munro Bagger.

There are 282 mountains in Scotland over 3000 feet, called Munro’s. And the crazy people who vow to climb every one of them are called Munro Baggers. So Mike’s plan, revealed to me only very gradually, was that we would spend a solid 12 hours walking the length and breadth of Manhattan, including two trips across bridges to Brooklyn and back.

At about the midpoint, Mike commented that I seemed, well… a little peaked. “No kidding,” I thought. A few minutes later, I failed to notice a particularly high curb, tripped over it with both my feet, and made a solid face plant on the pavement.

Fortunately, I didn’t pass out, but before I knew it, there was a large pool of blood forming under my face. And that’s when the first miracle occurred.
Out of the crowd of passing New Yorkers, five individuals, none of whom knew each other, immediately stopped to help.

One well-dressed fellow who I imagined to be a hedge fund manager by the size of his wristwatch, pulled out a cell phone, ready to call 911. A harried looking woman took one look, rushed off, and reappeared with a bag of ice (“Where do you get a bag of ice in a minute,” I wondered, “much less a New York minute?”). A third woman produced a roll of paper towels, and a fourth a fresh bottle of seltzer she’d bought. The fifth man, apparently homeless, gently repeated, over and over, “Don’t worry, it’ll be all right.”

And the second miracle? Every one of the five stayed for about 15 minutes while we held the ice to my face, got my nosebleed under control, got me all washed and toweled off, helped me sit up, and finally stand. They only left when Mike declared me absolutely fit to resume our hike.

What was it about these five New Yorkers that made them immediately suspend everything they were doing, silence all the “shoulds” and the “to dos” in their heads, break apart from the pack, and interrupt their lives to help a stranger? Most others just walked past, but somehow these five were awake, they were prepared.

They had a clarity of purpose, a priority for being people of compassion, that stopped them in their tracks when they saw a fellow human being in trouble. They were living with open minds and open hearts.

And isn’t this exactly what Jesus is calling each of us to – to stay awake, be prepared, keep our minds and hearts open, so that we can act without hesitation, when one of God’s people need us?

We usually associate being prepared with being cautious, avoiding risk, keeping ourselves safe, making sure we have enough, right? Just like the five so called “wise” bridesmaids in today’s gospel. But for Christians, maybe that’s the opposite of being prepared. The reason we’re asked to be prepared is so, when the call comes, we’ll have the courage and the faith to actually risk living Jesus’ good news. And the way we stay prepared is to do the hard work of staying connected to God and to the shared wisdom around us that keeps our minds and our hearts open.

Christians understand that God is always creating opportunities for us to be God’s eyes and ears and hands in this world. But as Martin Luther King reminded us, we’re only aware of these opportunities when we stay open to the “fierce urgency of the now.” And it’s only when we act on that awareness that God’s kingdom breaks through into the world.

So let’s be prepared – let’s keep our minds and our hearts open – and we may just get to play a part in God’s next miracle!

“The Saints of God are Folk Just Like Me…” Sermon by Kathryn Greene-McCreight | November 2, 2014

All Saints Day. Sometimes the very idea of saints can be hard to wrap our minds around. We may think of saints as examples of spiritual perfection which we will never reach. Or we may think of saints as people who are very godly, who give without ceasing, who are, through their great acts of charity, holy. Some of them were indeed exemplary figures of the Christian life in holiness. Think of them: St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Hildegaard of Bingen. But because of this, they just seem above us, beyond us somehow, both in body and soul, detached from earthly existence. Ethereal. Not like us.

But they are not detached from us. We with them are members of the Body of Christ. Like them, we too are saints. St Paul addresses his very ordinary congregants as saints. Look at the way he begins his letters: to the saints in Rome, in Corinth, in Philippi, etc. etc. All of us who are in Christ Jesus are saints, simply by dint of being related to Jesus, dwelling in him, having been baptized into his death, are sanctified in Jesus, by Jesus, through Jesus. We are made holy in Jesus. The words “sanctify” and “saint” come from the Latin root, “sanctus”. From the Anglo Saxon root of the equivalent of these comes our word “holy”. So the saints of old and the saints of today are alike: holy.

But our being made holy is not dependent on our being exceedingly pious, or even terribly devout. We need to remember that our being claimed by God’s grace is not dependent on what we buy (as the faithful were lead to believe in the medieval cult of the saints). Or what grades we earn. Or how many credits we are taking. Or how many extra-curriculars we can collect, like so many trophies. Or how many credentials we can pile up. God counts us as saints and loves us whether or not we are smart or clever or creative or talented. I do believe that living up to our God-given potential does make God smile, but none of these things actually determines our sanctity. We are claimed as holy no less than were the saints of old. Our hymn tells us that we can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea. Just folk like me, and you. Not that I particularly relish the idea of imitating the one who was slain by a fierce wild beast, but I hope you get my drift.

One thing you may not hear in many Episcopal services today, but you will hear now, is that many Lutheran and Reformed churches celebrate today as Reformation Sunday. That is because the Protestant Reformation is sometimes counted as having begun on Oct 31 1517, with Martin Luther’s famed “posting” of his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. (My favorite recent Facebook post is a cartoon of Luther nailing a paper to the door of a church, with this caption: “Luther updates his blog.”) His theses were objections against the abuses of the Roman Church, in particular their selling of indulgences, which were certificates ensuring the owner or her relative their freedom from time in purgatory. Luther objected to the practice of the sale as well as the theology behind the practice.

Why did he choose to post his theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg? That church apparently held one of Europe’s largest collection of relics. These were often leftover bits of the bodies of the saints. Relics are considered to be holy and therefore transformative to all who venerate them.

Why did Luther choose October 31? Because he was actually knocking at the door for snicker’s bars? No, Luther knew that there would be a huge crowd gathering for the following day’s celebration of the feast of All Saints. All the better for publicizing his objections to church teaching.

Now you may think venerating leftover bits of saints’ bodies is odd. I am not going to tell you yeah or nay on that one. But I think that for us today, relics do still have something important to tell us about how much we are beloved by God, and what it means to be saints, to be in Christ Jesus. It is true that the importance of relics at the time of the Reformation was their selling power, how much profit they could earn the Church. And I agree here with Luther, that this was a distortion of their meaning.

But, as I see it, relics still have an important word for us today about our faith. A word that we have largely forgotten: that the body matters. This may be hard to follow, but think of it like this. There was a reason that the earliest Christians venerated physical objects. The hair, bones, toenails, digits, etc: the left-over bits and pieces of saints were considered just as holy and spiritual even (and especially) in their physicality. Relics proclaim what the Gospel tells us: that God’s intimate love for us doesn’t stop with our souls but extends to our physical existence, indeed to the material world, to all creation.

Think of the sacraments, the bread and wine of eucharist, the water of baptism. Think of the incarnation. This is part of the scandal of Christian confession: God’s presence dwells in materiality. God’s being came in a body, in Jesus’s body. And so the relics of the physical lives of the saints of old still bear the sacred. In Christ, God claims us as saints and loves us specifically in our ensouled physicality.

And it is this love that propels us as saints into the material world, to love that world in all its physicality. In all its vulnerability and fragility. This love calls us to speak truth into that world. To bear light into even the dark corners where the darkness seems to reign. This love demands that we bear witness to God’s love for all creation. For our imperiled environment. For our relations with other peoples, religions, and nations. For our friends and families. But also, surprisingly, for ourselves. Loving neighbor, after all, means also loving ourselves. As saints we carry God’s love in our very bodies into our world.

We find that love nestled in the manger, where God became like us so that we might become like God. We come face to face with that self-giving love on the hard wood of the cross. We peer even into the void of the empty tomb and find the mystery of Christ’s abiding love. All of this is sanctifying, making holy. All our life is sanctified, if we allow ourselves to behold it this way. The whole world is saturated with sanctification, with God’s glory. You in your body, in your mind, in your strength, in your study and reading and writing. You are sanctified, a saint. And that means that nowhere you are is a place where God is not. Nowhere we are is a place where God is not. Amen.

Loving God means calling ourselves and our neighbors to do greater good: Sermon by Chamonix Adams Porter | October 26, 2014

Chamonix Adams PorterThere is a lot of commanding going on in today’s readings. In the Torah, the law of Moses, there are 613 commandments. We have probably all heard of the 10 Commandments. In the reading from Leviticus, the Ten Commandments are summarized in 8 statements. And then, in the readings from Matthew, Jesus says that just 2 commandments are greater than all of the others. It really seems like Jesus lets us off the hook here: just two rules to follow rather than 613 or even ten!

But, of course, when we try to condense all of the teaching and wisdom of the Ten Commandments into just two sentences, we end up with two pretty weighty commandments. First, we are told, we shall love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind. And, secondly, we shall love our neighbor as ourselves. We need to love God, and we need to love our neighbor.

We hear a lot about loving our neighbor as ourselves, but what does it really mean? In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis explained, “This is what is meant in the Bible by loving [our neighbor]: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.” So it’s not going to cut it to like our neighbors as ourselves: we have to love them.

But let’s look to the Leviticus for a moment. In verse 18, we have some of the very same language that Jesus uses in Matthew: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if we look before this, in verse 17, we see that even though “You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin” you also “shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.” In other words, we need to correct the sins of our neighbors, or we are guilty of those sins ourselves. Remembering that all children of God are our neighbors, I can say pretty safely that we’ve all seen neighbors commit atrocious, horrifying sins. Are we suddenly guilty of these as well, simply for not reproving our neighbor?

This all sounds like a terrible burden. Not only do we have to love your neighbors, but we have to make sure that they aren’t sinning as well! That’s an awful lot of responsibility. But we are blessed that in this place and this tradition, there is a leader who we can look to who can help us understand how to love our neighbor by reproving their sins.

Raise your hand if you know who “Pauli Murray” is—it’s fine if you don’t know.

Most people haven’t heard of her. I certainly hadn’t before I came to Yale. Even though Pauli Muarry was one of the boldest pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement, she is virtually forgotten, as she was a woman and a lesbian. Pauli Murray was born in 1910. In 1940, fifteen years before Rosa Parks would make national headlines, Pauli Murray was placed in prison for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus. Murray was the first African American to receive a doctorate from the Yale Law School. She spent decades of her life fighting segregation in higher education, founding justice organizations including the highly influential National Organization for Women, and writing poetry and memoirs. In 1977, she was the first black woman to become an Episcopal priest.

So what does this have to do with loving our neighbor? What Pauli Murray can show us is the value of living in God’s active love. Pauli Murray spent her whole life excluded: from Columbia University because they did not accept women, from the University of North Carolina and Harvard Law School because they did not accept African Americans. She was incarcerated, in prison for challenging segregation and in a psychiatric ward for her sexuality. And, daily, she was belittled and shamed for her race, her gender, and her sexuality. Pauli Murray never left these practices of harm and exclusion unchallenged. Every step of the way, she acted, as the New York Herald Tribune would put it, “in anger, but without hatred.”

Loving our neighbors as ourselves means viewing individuals who perpetrate harm as our brothers and sisters in Christ—and helping to end the wrong that they do. Pauli Murray loved the people who harmed her—university administrators, police officers, and lawmakers as well as her friends, her family, and her colleagues—enough to call them to change their behavior.

A few weeks ago, when someone drew Swastikas on this campus, students responded by covering the hateful and harmful images with messages of love, hope, and reconciliation. This is the tradition of Pauli Murray, and, indeed, the tradition of Christ. We must all take steps to overwhelm hate with kindness, harm with healing, and sin with the love that God offers us.

Just as we all sin every day, in our thoughts and actions, we all see sins every day as well. God calls us to love our neighbors enough to do something about these sins. Every loving step that we take—from the largest legal battle like the ones Pauli Murray fought, to the smallest prayer said for the hearts and minds of people that do harm—is a step towards God.

We must love God, and we must love our neighbor. That’s all we need to do. If we accept these simple challenges that God gives us, we have the potential to change the world, because God’s love is stronger than humanity’s sinfulness. What will you do the next time you see a sin? Will you stand by, or will you step in with a love for your neighbor and a love for what is right?

We won’t always succeed in stepping in when we see harm. But even though we stumble, God is always with us as we intervene. God always loves us and loves our neighbors as well. And God’s invitation to the table of reconciliation, growth, and forgiveness is always open.

Holy Habits: Sermon by the Rev. Paul J. Carling, Ph.D | October 19, 2014

Exodus 32: 12-23; 1 Thessalonians 1: 1-10; Matthew 22: 15-22

The Rev. Dr. Paul J. CarlingA professor of mine once remarked that the central dilemma in being a Christian in America, is that it’s just too easy. In spite of our chronic social problems, like income inequality, an endless series of wars, and the virulent hatred that chalks swastikas on the walkway in front of Durfee Hall, as Christians, we’re often too distracted or overwhelmed to figure out how to respond. And frankly, part of the problem is today’s text from Matthew’s gospel.

The conventional wisdom about this text is that it creates a sharp divide between social concerns, labelled as “politics,” and our faith, which is seen as private and personal. And we all know there are two places where politics are never discussed – at the dinner table and in the pulpit. After all, didn’t Jesus say, “… give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s”? This text has been used over the years to justify anything the government deems legal – slavery, women as property, and homophobia to name a few.

What a contrast with Paul’s letter to the community in Thessalonica. He’s writing to his fellow believers in prison, jailed because they broke the Roman law that allowed you to worship any weird God you’d like, so long as you continued to accept the official Roman gods. In fact, Paul himself is writing from prison, jailed for the same reason.
Apparently these early Christians found it natural to spend time in jail – sort of like the cost of doing business of speaking truth to power. They would have resonated with William Sloan Coffin’s famous challenge to his congregation at Yale, “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

I wonder if the Pharisees get the delicious irony in how Jesus responds to their trap. By saying “Give to God what is God’s” he echoes one of the major themes of Hebrew Scripture, put most succinctly in Psalm 24, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything that is in it.” In other words, everything belongs to God. What we do have has been temporarily given us to steward according to God’s values, not our own. And if everything is God’s – our intelligence, our networks, our relationships, this fragile earth, everything – how should we treat what we’re given?

This can be a pretty tough lens to view reality through when we’re busy pursuing social, academic and financial success, or simply our own happiness. Understanding that all the resources at our disposal really don’t belong to us, and really can’t be used any way we‘d like, can make things not only inconvenient, but scary – upsetting whatever stability we have, the reputation we enjoy, the future we hope for.

But what’s the alternative? We could stay numb, and grow into adults who acknowledge a smaller and smaller God, one who occasionally inspires us to be kind to family and friends, to pursue a modest level of community involvement and charitable giving.
I have a dear friend, a monk, who grew up that way. “It was in the Midwest,” he quips, “where our version of Christianity could be summed up as, ‘Be nice to others, and they’ll be nice to you.’”

Unfortunately, this is the same God who seems to develop laryngitis when it comes to integrating our faith into a competitive corporate culture focused on personal gain; a God who falls into a deathly silence when we scan the news about the horrors we humans are inflicting upon one another.

That’s why we have to be careful about listening to scripture with our eyes and our hearts wide open – we might be changed by it. We might come to believe that such a private faith, and such an autonomous life, make no sense in light of the essential interdependence of all creation. We might even start to feel like we’re actually part of the larger Body of Christ around the globe – each person beloved of God – and so integrally connected that when one hurts, we all hurt, and when one is victorious, we all have reason to rejoice.

We might come to believe that the Christian invitation to live in a spiritually healthy relationship with ourselves, with each other, with creation, and especially with God, is only possible through opening ourselves to how much God loves each and every one of us – and that this love is the only constant, the only foundation that makes sense out of the day to day complexity and confusion of our lives.

Depending on the day, your time at Yale may feel like a burden, a mass of confusion, or just a yawn, but in truth, it’s an extraordinary gift; an opportunity to move through each day with intention, staying aware of the sacred within the ordinary, remaining attentive to God’s claim on you. It’s what we Anglicans call “incarnational living”, and it offers a depth of appreciation and purpose that can make you feel utterly alive.

The laboratory for living with this kind of consciousness lies in developing what we might call “holy habits,” ways of nudging ourselves to be aware of the sacred all around us; of the spiritual significance of what occurs in our everyday lives; of the implications of our faith for each of the choices we make every day, large and small. Holy habits – like spending time each day deepening your relationship with God – through meditation, a long walk, time for yoga, whatever works for you. Holy habits – like surrounding yourself with people who will affirm your counter-cultural values; maybe deepening your connection to a faith community like this one – where you’re welcomed just as you are, wherever you are. Holy habits – like finding opportunities – near and far – to be of service in this hurting world.

Last week, Mike Angell preached a wonderful sermon about how much Yale, this ECY community, and the world beyond this campus, all need your gentleness and joy. But to offer these gifts to others, you need to find ways to stay connected to the sacred in your own life, a set of holy habits in which you are restored, and nurtured, and loved. It’s never too late to start building those, and then to wait and watch… and see how they transform your life.

On Joy and Gentleness: Sermon by the Rev. Mike Angell, Missioner for Young Adult and Campus Ministries, National Church Center | October 12, 2014

Let these words be more than words, and give us the Spirit of Jesus.

MikeAngellIt’s a joy to be with you today, here at The Episcopal Church at Yale. I work in The Episcopal Church’s church-wide office of Young Adult and Campus Ministries, and easily the best moments of my job come when I get to visit churches and campus ministries. Know also that I come with the prayers and well wishes of Episcopal campus ministries across the country. Over the past months you have been thought of and prayed for by your fellow college students, by chaplaincies around the church, by Episcopalians all over the country. Know that I come representing your church family and I come with prayers.
I’m grateful to be here, but I wish I had checked the readings before I accepted Paul’s invitation to preach. Wow. Tonight we have Moses and the Golden Calf and Jesus and the king’s spurned wedding invitations. Lack of gratitude, idolatry. These are difficult lessons. They seem like difficult teachings, because they are readings full of divine frustration.
Beneath the layers of frustration, there is an invitation, a glimmer of God’s hope for us. Frustration is real, frustration is important. I live in the city of St. Louis and at the moment I can tell you there is a great deal of righteous frustration in that city. I was marching yesterday morning through the streets with young women and men from Ferguson and with clergy from across the country. Frustration can be righteous, but it is, in the end, frustrating, difficult. These readings are frustrating. They’re not easy. At the heart of the divine frustration in these readings is an invitation.

I worked in Washington DC as a priest, but also as a community organizer. My training in organizing was at least as important as seminary. In that training, they spoke about frustration, they spoke about a tension that people of faith know well. The frustrating tension is this. We live knowing that the “world as it is” is not “the world as it should be.” We know that well in St. Louis. You know that at Yale. The “world as it is” is not “the world as it should be.” We live in the tension, and tonight, we’re invited by readings full of divine frustration to see the kernel under all that caked on frustration, to see the invitation of God to God’s people at the heart of these difficult readings.

The invitation is most plain in Paul’s letter. In the midst of all this frustration we find St. Paul talking about gentleness and joy. And we can catch that God’s frustration is really, deeply, an invitation to be gentle with ourselves with others and with our world. Gods invitation is to find joy in our lives, and to inspire joy in others.

David Foster Wallace, the late author and post-modern literary critic, gave a famous commencement address at Kenyon College a few years ago. Commencement addresses are full of advice for graduates, and Foster Wallace gave advice reluctantly. He was a postmodern, and postmoderns do everything reluctantly.  Here’s part of his address, try to hear it with that Golden Calf in mind:

“…here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshiping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you.
Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.”

MikeAngell-DinnerJesus, Exodus, and David Foster Wallace all tell us that, unconsciously, we don’t allow God to be God. Our society shapes us to grasp after wealth, or power, or beauty. We spend a lot of energy, a lot of mental processing, a lot of anxiety, seeking status. We end up in the wrong clothes at the banquet. Have you ever had that anxiety dream of showing up with the wrong clothes, or no clothes?  We strive to achieve some image of success, and we end up balls of anxiety. But I imagine you don’t need me to tell you that, you are surrounded by anxious people all of the time. You are surrounded by Yale.

And Yale needs you. Let me say that again. Yale needs you. Yale needs your gentleness. Yale needs your joy.  Yale needs you to worship, to fill this space with beautiful music and liturgy. Facing the mesmerizing quests for status, power, image, wealth, Yale needs community that knows how lay all of those destructive pursuits aside. Your classmates need you. Your professors need you. The cleaning staff and the lunch room workers need you. They need your graciousness. They need your prayers and thanksgiving. They need your gentleness. And sometimes, sometimes, the Yale community needs you to put on your wedding garments and have a good time, and to convince your roommate to put down the economics textbook and to rejoice as well.

This chaplaincy has been through a great deal in the past few months, a lot of painful and public transition. Keep transitioning. Do the work of grief. Paul is here to help with that grief work. And get to the joy. Paul is here to help with the joy work as well. If we learn anything from these difficult readings, it is the character of a healthy community of faith is a community where joy can be found, where laughter and celebration can be found, where gentleness can be found. Get there. Bring others. Get to the joy. Get to the gentleness.
Because this is the invitation at the heart of the Gospel, the Good news of God in Christ. The invitation is to set down the exhausting pursuits that our world gives us. The invitation is to delight in the wedding banquet surrounding us each day. The invitation is an invitation to see the world around us as it really is, to allow the world to shape us, to be gentle with the world.

One of the best expressions of that invitation I’ve heard, came from a friend participating in one of the Episcopal Church’s programs for young adults. See, cards on the table, I’m here with a bit of an agenda. I would love to tell you about a program. At dinner we are going to talk about some of the concrete programs that The Episcopal Church offers for you. One of the programs, YASC, the Young Adult Service Corps invites young adults to spend a year abroad, to give a year of their life away, in service to others with our partners throughout the Anglican Communion. A good friend of mine, Lyra Harris wrote letters home about her experiences working in Honduras with YASC. One of her first letters caught the invitation we hear in today’s readings:

“As much as I am tempted to narrate the experiences I know I will fall short. It is impossible to describe the amount of beauty and sorrow, the feelings of being alive in the world, letting the world touch you and mold you. Being open to it all. So, I will continue to write hopefully interesting letters, but you too can do this! Just stand in the rain in the middle of a thunderstorm, or learn another language, or watch a sunset from the top of a mountain, or read psalm 16, or talk to someone you normally wouldn’t, or swim in the ocean, or get swept up by a crowd and dance in the street.”

MikeAngell-GroupI think Lyra caught the sense, the invitation. Whether you find your joy and gentleness in the slums of San Pedro Sula Honduras, or in the Sterling library, find it. Find your gentleness. Find your joy. In your relationships, even the unlikely relationships, the people you’re not likely to engage in conversation, work to find the nerve to say hello. Work to understand what brings your neighbors joy. Work to treat others with gentleness. That is the invitation at the heart of the Gospel. Sometimes the invitation comes caked with these difficult and frustrating lessons. Sometimes the good news can be hard to discern, but it is there. God is there, in the midst of it all, inviting us all to the banquet. And God relies on us, to bring joy and gentleness to our church, to our neighbors, to Yale, and to our world.