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The week of Feb. 7-13

*BOOK STUDY on Tues., Feb. 8, Noon. Prof. Jewel Brooker reviews "Four Quartets," by T.S. Eliot.
*ST. AELRED meets with Bishop Smith Wed., Feb. 9, 7 p.m. All are welcome.
*CATHEDRAL THURSDAY on Feb. 10, 5-7 p.m.
*CATHEDRAL ARTS BENEFIT GALA on Sunday, Feb. 13, 6 p.m. Silent and live auctions, entertainment and chocolate!

Feb. 6 Sermon

February 7, 2011

To hear Dean Morris’ Feb. 6 sermon, click the button below:

Foreign Foremothers of Jesus, pt 2: Rahab

December 9, 2010

Last Sunday, we continued our four part series on the “Foreign Foremothers of Jesus” in which we’re discussing the four women mentioned in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew as part of the genealogy of Jesus. We discussed Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho who, as described in the Book Joshua helps the Israelite spies who came to Jericho to get the lay of the land prior to Joshua leading the Israelite army to destroy that ancient Canaanite city.

Rahab’s willingness to sacrifice her city for the sake of her family and her expressed faith in the God of Israel are two of the striking features of her tragic, yet still triumphant story. Click below for the complete text of her story from the Book of Joshua, as well as the references to her from Letter of James and Letter to the Hebrews.

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Sermon (12/5): A Little Child Shall Lead Them

December 9, 2010

I know that last week I preached that Advent is not a penitential season. That unlike Lent, Advent is meant to be a joyful time, pregnant with marvelous expectation.

Well, all that said, today I have a confession to make. I have something for which I may always need to make amends:

I love Will Ferrell. You all know Will Ferrell—the comic genius who got his start on Saturday Night Live and now stars in movies?

Well, I love him. I think he’s great. And as I thought about today’s readings, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. It was the passage from Isaiah that did it, with its famous line, “and a little child shall lead them…”

In our Christian tradition, this passage has long been viewed as a prophecy of the coming of Jesus into the world, as a baby “born of a woman.”

“and a little child shall lead them..”

This got me thinking about a scene from the Will Ferrell movie, “Talledega Nights.” Have any of you seen that one? It’s a send-up of Nascar stock-car racing culture and Ferrell plays a champion racer named Ricky Bobby. There’s a scene in which Ricky, Ferrell’s character, tries to say grace with his family before a meal.

He closes his eyes, clasps his hands and says, “Dear Lord Baby Jesus,” but then his wife interrupts him.

“Um, sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him baby. It’s a bit odd and off-puttin’ to pray to a baby.”

Ricky says: “Look, I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I’m sayin’ grace. When you say grace, you can say it to Grownup Jesus or Teenage Jesus or Bearded Jesus or whoever you want.”

That prompts someone at the table to say, “I like to think of Jesus as wearin’ a Tuxedo T-shirt, ‘cause it says, like, ‘I want to be formal, but I’m here to party too.’ I like to party, so I like my Jesus to party.”

That gets Ricky mad. “Look. I like the baby version best, do you hear me?! I win the races and I get the money.”

Ricky begins his prayer again. But now he’s annoyed. He’s going to grind his axe, as only a Will Ferrell character can.

“Dear eight-pound, six-ounce, newborn baby Jesus, don’t even know a word yet, just a little infant, so cuddly, but still omnipotent, in your golden fleece diapers, with your curled-up, balled-up little fists pawin’ at the air, lying there in your manger, lookin’ at your Baby Einstein developmental videos, learnin’ ‘bout shapes and colors…  Thank you for all your power and your grace, Dear Baby God. Amen.”

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Sermon (11/28): Getting Into The Advent Mood

December 1, 2010

This time, Advent, right now, is a season of joyful expectation. And for us, as Christians, we are, in a sense, always in the season Advent. For we are called by God to live perpetually in a marvelously hopeful “not yet,” a transcendently joyful “almost there.”

Every morning, we are to wake up, as Paul calls us to do, and we put on the armor of light and step out into the world and embrace the day, proclaiming that today is the day that Jesus will come again and establish his benevolent reign over all God’s creation. And the whole world will rejoice!

Every morning we are called to wake up and anticipate, as Isaiah puts it, that the Word of God “shall go forth” as “instruction” and God will “judge between nations” and “arbitrate for many peoples” and “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

On most days, of course, none of that will happen, but we are still called to wake up the next day looking forward to it happening on that day. And the next day and the next day and the day after that.

Perhaps today is the day! Perhaps today is the day, when, as our choir sung from the 122nd Psalm: “Now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem… a city that is at unity with itself; to which the tribes go up… to praise the Name of the Lord… peace be within your walls and quietness within your towers!”

So often, Advent is viewed as a time of dreary “waiting.” Some even see it as similar to Lent—that Advent is, in a sense, a penitential season when we must repent in dust and ashes before we’re allowed to finally rejoice on Christmas Day.

Sometimes, I think our Episcopal Church, in particular, struggles to recognize the joy that the anticipation of Advent is all about.

[Click below for the complete sermon from the beginning.]

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The Foreign Fore-Mothers of Jesus

November 24, 2010

Beginning this Sunday and continuing through the Sunday mornings and Thursday evenings in Advent, our Adult Ed hour will delve into what I like to call The Foreign Fore-Mothers of Jesus. Who are these Foreign Fore-Mothers of Jesus? you ask.

Well, at the very beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, there is a litany of “begats” showing Jesus’ lineage going all the way back, back, back to super-ancient times. Included in that lineage are four women (besides Mary), all of whom were foreigners who became Israelites through side entrances, so to speak: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Over the four weeks of Advent, as we wait for the coming of Christ into the world, we will revisit in chronological order the stories of these four smart, resourceful and very unusual women, as they are recorded in our Hebrew Scriptures, and we will ponder why Matthew made such a point of including them in Jesus’ bloodline.

This Sunday, Nov. 28, we will begin with Tamar, a fascinating character who stars in Chapter 38 of the Book of Genesis (and is depicted here with her father-in-law Judah–the son of Jacob–in a painting by the Renaissance painter, Arent De Gelder). Click below for her story, as recorded in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible:

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‘Lead Us Not Into Temptation…’

November 23, 2010

This past Sunday, we held the third and final session of our Adult Ed series on “How Can We Gain Knowledge of God?” by discussing how we may avoid the temptation to worship death (as laid out by William Stringfellow in his book, Count It All Joy). Click below to read the complete Part 3 handout. Here’s my favorite bit, in which Stringfellow argues that being overly worried about “indulgences of the flesh” is, itself, a kind of “indulgence of the flesh.”

There is a distinction between temptation in its theological significance and temptation in its mundane and moralistic meaning… I have in mind pietism, which still flourishes in so many quarters in American Christendom: the “Bible belt” Baptists who regards dancing as consorting with the devil, the Methodist who condemns smoking categorically as a sin, some Presbyterians who regard abstinence in the use of liquor as a virtue, and a host of others from most any of the sects and denominations who think that something that human beings find pleasurable is lust and must be shunned lest the faithful be contaminated…

Some other forms of pietism have been cited here before. There is the all too familiar and peculiar pietism of which Norman Vincent Peale is the prosperous merchant. Here individualistic ambitions are besought and secured by hypnotic incantation, regardless of the costs or consequences to other human beings. There are the dogmatic pietists—seminary professors as well as “Sunday School” teachers are notorious among them—whose pietism consists of threatening damnation to those who conform not to what they say. There are many Anglicans, as well, no doubt, as Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Orthodox… who suppose that God’s relationship with God’s people is somehow jeopardized if the words are not invoked, or incense flung, or the candles not lit, or the gongs not rung at the prescribed times and in the ordained way…

“For Paul, the bondage to pietism is equivocation toward God’s grace. For him, all pietism is “indulgence in the flesh”… Indulgence in the flesh means the aggrandizement of human wants, ideas, pursuits, and enterprises despite the incapacity of any of them to substitute for the work of Christ for all people, including all people who vainly strive in these ways.

I also love this bit on Jesus’ and the Devil:

“Contrary to many ‘Sunday School’ recitations, the wilderness is not a period in which Jesus withdraws from the hurry and hurly-burly of the cares and affairs of the world in order to escape for awhile, practice asceticism, or meditate about the universe. Jesus Christ in the wilderness, so to speak, is not like Ronald Coleman in Shangri-La serenely pondering the ultimate. Nor is it… an occasion in which Jesus finally stops procrastinating about his own office and vocation. Jesus—in the wilderness any more than Gethsemane—doesn’t resemble, as it were, Adlai Stevenson agonizing about whether to accept a nomination…

“The wilderness interlude sums up the aggressiveness with which death pursues Jesus from his conception and anticipates death’s relentlessness toward him during his entire earthly ministry—in his exercise of authority over the demonic in healing, in his transcendence of time by renouncing the political ambitions that his disciples covet for him, in his rejection at the hands of his own people, in his confounding of the ecclesiastical and imperial rulers when they seize him and scourge him, in his submission to the last vengeance of death on the cross and in his victory over that humiliation. It is in that context—not as some yoga or mystic or magician, not as a novice about the character of temptation—that Jesus is visited and tempted by the power of death in the wilderness…

“Consider, for [another] example, the intercession of Christ for humanity in the first utterance of the Lord’s Prayer… The summation of the prayer is “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” that is “from the evil one,” which is the power of death. Evil does not, in the context of the Lord’s Prayer, mean moral evil in its conventional definition and usage but refers to that which is evil for every person and for the whole of creation and that which is in fact secreted in every thought or deed or wish or word called evil: the power of death or, if one renders the proper name, the Devil.

“I am aware how medieval it sounds to some contemporaries to speak of the Devil, though it is Biblical to do so… At the same time I am not, in using the term, thinking of some grotesque, supernatural, anthropomorphic being as such. I do not apprehend the Devil after the manner of those who conceive of God as a Santa Claus figure enthroned in the sky. Yet it does not offend my intellect or other sensibilities to invoke the name of the Devil to designate that power—distinguished only from God—which is present and militant in this world in all relationships, and to which all other powers are subjected. In a word it is the presumption of sovereignty over all of life that marks the power of death, and it is the notorious vindication of that presumption… that makes the employment of the name of the Devil… wholly apt and, so to speak, respectful of such an exceeding great power…

Temptation is, thus, nothing so mundane or transient or simplistic as choosing “wrong” instead of “right,” or surrendering to pleasure or pride, or being enticed by the ethics of self-interest: temptation refers rather to the incitement people suffer to repudiate the gift of life by succumbing to the idolatry of death.

And sin, hence, does not mean that people are bad, or that people have proclivity for wickedness, or that they are proud or selfish, but, instead, sin is the possession of people by the power of death, the bondage and servitude of people to death, the usurpation of God’s office by the arrogance of death. Saying that people sin does not mean that people are pernicious, it means that they are nihilists.

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Sermon 11/21 – Christ the King Rules Us, Even In Our Brokenness

November 22, 2010

To hear a recording of Dean Morris’ Nov. 21 sermon–in which he discussed the letters of Mother Theresa of Calcutta and her confessed struggles with profound doubt and spiritual darkness–click the button below: