It won’t be enough


Sermon for March 12th, 2023


It won’t be enough, you know.

Whatever it is you are chasing after; whatever you are longing for; when you finally get it, it won’t be enough. 

Food, drink, sex, money, attention, fame, power. These are the things that humans spend their lives chasing after and when they get them, they often discover, sadly, that they aren’t enough. We are never content; never completely satisfied. I wish that I could just blame this on capitalism, or “the Man,” or the system, or the government, or big pharma, or Madison Ave, or Wall Street. I wish that I could blame someone for our lack of contentment and all the misery that comes along with it. It would be so easy. I wouldn’t even have to lie. After all, politicians, big business, drug companies, ad executives, journalists, none of these individuals really want you to be happy. They want to sell you happiness, but in order to do that true contentment always needs to be one more transaction or one more vote away, otherwise they’d be out of business. It would be so easy to just blame them, but the truth is, the problem, the real problem, lies within us. Each of us. We are the ones who are never satisfied or content. We are the ones who always want more. That is why it is so easy for us to be manipulated and led astray by charlatans and devils. That is the story of humanity, and that is the great insight of the Bible into human nature. From the very beginning of Genesis the Bible makes it clear that it is this discontent, this longing for just that little bit more, that is the cause of the downfall of humanity. 

No matter what we chase after, when we finally get it, it is never enough. We always want more.

Was it enough that God sent plagues upon Egypt to convince Pharoah to set the Hebrews free? No.

Was it enough that God led his people with a cloud and fiery pilar? No.

Was it enough that God split the sea to let his people escape, or that he released the waters to trap the Egyptians in their own evil? No. 

Was it enough that God sent manna from heaven? Or Quails? No.

Was it enough that God had already turned bitter water into sweet? 

Not for us humans, because it’s never enough for us. I am reminded of this beautiful anthem that the choir sings on Good Friday, the Reproaches, which are based on a passage from the Prophet Micah, but are basically God saying to his people: “what more could I have done for you?” But it is never enough for us.

In the Exodus story this morning, we find the Hebrews journeying through the desert. They have seen visible signs of God’s presence among them all along the way. All along the way, God has provided for their needs. Now they need water again. That’s only natural. You can’t blame them for being thirsty. It’s the desert and human bodies need regular fluids and nourishment. You can’t blame them for being thirsty. But these people who have seen God’s salvation over and over again, why don’t they just ask God for what they need? Why don’t the Hebrews ask God for water? But they don’t. What do they do? Well their first course of action is to go to Moses and complain. Not just complain, but complain bitterly. They are angry, they want to stone him, they blame him for all their problems. No matter how many times God has already saved these people and proven himself to them, it’s not enough. They still don’t trust him. There’s still no faith. Now it could be that these people have already forgotten what God did for them in the last chapter. Humans have notoriously short memories. But it could also be that these people don’t recognize that the God that saved them in the past is still with them. He’s right there. I think that is really the bigger issue. People just don’t recognize that the God who has saved them in the past and who is going to save them now is right there in the midst of them. They don’t recognize that God is there, so they go to Moses and complain.

But what does God tell Moses to do? God doesn’t just say “give them some water.” God gives Moses very specific instructions. God tells Moses to take the staff that he used to perform his first miracle; the stadf that he used to turn the Nile into blood, the first plague to strike Egypt; the first sign of God’s concern for his people; that, incidentally, was the same staff that Moses held over the sea to make it split in two; this staff that has been in Moses’s hand throughout this journey to freedom. God tells Moses to take that potent symbol of his power and his presence and to use that to strike the rock and make water come forth. And God tells Moses that I will be standing there, right in front of you on the rock. But the people don’t see God, they can only see the symbol of his presence, the staff, and even then some manage only to see the water. Enough to quench their thirst for now, but not for long. And the place is given a name that means “is the Lord among us or not?” Fitting, because most of the people there can only see the water, and not the true source of it. It was that inability to see the presence of the Lord that led to all that quarrelling and anguish. That was what made people question if there would be enough. It’s an ongoing problem for us humans. If we don’t recognize God’s presence among us; if we can’t see that the God who saved us in the past is here with us now, then nothing else we chase after or long for will ever be enough. 

This water that the Hebrews miraculously drank from the rock. It wasn’t enough actually. Moses will have to go through this whole scenario again. If you think that the Bible repeats itself, it is because human history repeats itself. God saves us and we forget. God provides for us, and we forget. We forget that God is present among us. We forget that we can ask God for what we need. We forget God and we panic and quarrel. We forget God and chase after other things, but the other things are never enough. The problem isn’t with these Hebrews in the desert; the problem is with humanity. Throughout time.

On one of his journeys, Jesus met a woman at a well. She wasn’t Jewish, she was a Samaritan. Samaritans are related to Jews, but let’s just say it’s complicated. She has come to fill her water jars, but they won’t be enough. She will have to come back again and again and again. Of course, we also know that water isn’t the only thing this lady has been chasing after but never quite getting enough of, she has had five husbands and is on candidate number six right now. And don’t you folks go shaming her because you’re secretly jealous either! We don’t know much about her back story; maybe the men in her life couldn’t get enough either. Jesus knows your secrets too, just like he knew hers. And he offers you the same thing: grace and life, refreshment, rebirth, that is more than enough. We need it, just like those villagers in the story needed it. There is in each and every one of us a voice of discontent that never wants us to be satisfied with what we have; that is always driving us to that next thing which never quite seems to be enough. We are a hungry and thirsty people and until we learn to look to God, to recognize God’s presence among us and to ask God to supply and satisfy our needs, nothing else we chase after will ever be enough. 

O Wondrous Type


Sermon for February 19th, 2023


On this, the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, as the Church is preparing to make the turn into our Lenten season and the journey which leads us symbolically both to the cross and to the resurrection of Our Lord, we hear the familiar gospel passage of Jesus on the mountaintop, transfigured before a few of his disciples. They have a vision. It is an experience; an encounter with something mysterious. For a moment, Jesus’s appearance changes right before their eyes. They already loved him and respected him. These disciples had been following him for a while now. They knew that Jesus was a wise teacher, that’s why they were there, but now they saw something else: they saw glory. They saw light, radiance coming from him. They saw power. It was a strange power too, because it both terrified them and comforted them. It brought them to their knees, but then immediately said to them “do not fear.” 

But then they saw something else too, as Jesus’s image was transformed or transfigured before them, they also saw two very familiar figures beside him: Moses and Elijah. Now I don’t think that the Bible had pictures in Jesus’s day, so I don’t know how Peter and James and John recognized that this was Moses and Elijah; I doubt that they were wearing name tags. There must have just been something about them that made the disciples realize “oh wait, I know who you are! I recognize you!” Sort of like walking through a church and looking for symbols in the stained-glass windows that help you figure out the story that is being told. You look for the clues that tell you who this is. Maybe Moses was carrying a couple tablets and looked like Charlton Heston. Maybe Elijah was riding on a chariot of fire. These are details I would like to know, but sadly the scriptures don’t give them. What the scripture does tell us though is that there is this profound moment when these disciples recognize that there is this mysterious connection between this man that they know, Jesus, and these two men that their ancestors knew, Moses and Elijah. There is some intimacy, there is some dialogue between these three figures.  They are related. That is what this vision reveals to them: there is a connection here. Pay attention! God is showing them something.

You may or may not be familiar with the word ‘type’ as it is used in reference to scripture or religion, but it pops up now and then, even in our hymns, and it is a very important concept to understand, not just for when you are reading the Bible, but also to help you see God at work in your daily life. 

“O wondrous type, o vision fair of glory that the church may share” we sang in our opening hymn this morning. Type. There is also the old Latin hymn Tantum Ergo that we sing at special services here that celebrate the Eucharist: “Therefore we before him bending, this great sacrament revere. Types and shadows have their ending, for the newer rite is here.” Types and shadows. So, what is a type? What does that word mean in this context? 

Well, I don’t usually use props in the pulpit, but in this case, I think it is genuinely helpful to use a visual. We all know what this is. It is an arrow. An arrow is a symbol or a sign that points you in a direction. It says to you, “go this way,” or “go that way.” We see arrows all the time. Our lives are filled with arrows that guide us and direct us. They point us to where we want to go and hopefully move us away from places we don’t want to go. They show us the way. Well, the easiest way to understand a type, is to think of it as an arrow. A type is a symbol that points you in a direction. A type is revealing something to you. It is directing you to something else. 

Our scriptures are filled with types; symbols that direct. Scriptural passages that point you to other scriptural passages. Arrows. For Christians, what all these arrows are ultimately pointing to is God. Specifically, the God who was incarnate in Jesus Christ. The arrows are revelations of God, that point us to the supreme revelation of God in Jesus. Sometimes those arrows are people, great heroes of the Bible: Jonah, Moses, Elijah, Joshua, Noah. All of them, in their own way, arrows pointing to God. Jonah calling the people of Ninevah to repentance and offering them God’s forgiveness. Moses and Joshua, leading God’s people out of slavery into the promised land. Elijah, calling the dead to life. Noah, saving humanity by carrying them through the waters. All in their own way, these figures pointed to what God was going to do in Jesus, but they also reveal to us little glimpses of who our God is, and what he is like and what he is up to. Beginning with those three disciples on the mountaintop, the early Christians looked back at their scriptures, their history and their faith, and they began to realize that all along the way there had been these arrows, symbols, that had been directing them to Jesus. Before Jesus was ever born, God had been revealing himself to his people. Showing them his character. Peter and James and John had this great moment of revelation, but part of that revelation was the realization that God has been directing and guiding and pointing us to himself all along. 

And see, part of what is amazing about types, is that they are each encounters with God. It is as if every time you find one of these arrows in scripture, it is being held in God’s hand. God is directing YOU to where he is. God is revealing himself to YOU. Not just to the people in Ninevah, or the Hebrews in Egypt, or to people living in distant lands and ancient times. God is revealing himself to you. You are being given the chance to see Jesus for who he really is, just like those disciples on the mountaintop. 

Some of the early Christian leaders believed that the world could be filled with types. Not just the scriptures, but the world you and I live in today. I’m inclined to think they were right. Who is to say, if you encounter someone or something that points you to God in Jesus Christ, well who is to say that you haven’t just had an encounter with God? Who is to say that God isn’t constantly trying to point us and direct us and guide us along the way? The way, of course, which leads to him. That is after all, where God is leading us. God is leading us to himself. God is pointing us to himself. Our opening hymn this morning reminds us, that this isn’t just about the past; it is about the future as well. When these arrows point us to Jesus, when they show us the face of God, they show us the Father who will someday hold us in perfect peace. 

With shining face and bright array, Christ deigns to manifest today

What glory shall be theirs above, who joy in God with perfect love.



Sermon for February 5th, 2023

Annual Meeting Sunday


I received a love note from the altar guild last week. It was stuck to my computer screen and read simply: Holy Water. It was a gentle reminder to me that we were running out of Holy water in the sacristy and that I needed to bless some more. Now of course, because I think antiquated rituals are the best kind, the blessing that I use to make holy water here is a very bold one. Not just old…bold. It doesn’t mince words about casting out demons and evil spirits, and it confidently proclaims that there is power, real spiritual power, in blessing things in Christ’s name. I like that. When it comes to our own power and abilities and understanding and righteousness, we Christians are called to be humble; but when it comes to Christ’s power, we don’t need to be humble. We need to be bold. And that holy water blessing is bold. 

And a funny thing if you have never observed it, the blessing also involves salt. Quite a lot of salt actually. When you make holy water in this very traditional way, you mix salt with it. You exorcise (yes, exorcise!) the salt, then you bless it. You exorcise the water, then you bless that. Then you mix the salt and the water together, and bless the whole lot of it again. Now there is some biblical symbolism to this mixture of salt and water. Elisha the prophet cast salt into water in the second book of kings to purify it and give it healing properties. But pouring salt into the water also has a very practical benefit: it is a preservative. Salt keeps things from growing in the water that you would rather not have growing. Leave some untreated fresh water in a container for a few weeks and you will see what I mean. It can be pretty gross. But throw in some salt and the bacteria and algae just have a harder time growing. I love it when the physical world and the spiritual world intersect like that. The salt isn’t just a symbol; it properties are real.

Salt meant something to our ancestors that I fear we are losing touch with. It has gotten a bad rap lately. We think of salt as something that is bad for us, that we should avoid, but the truth is, without salt we would all be dead. Salt isn’t just something you sprinkle on your French fries, it is an essential nutrient. Our bodies need it. And before we had refrigeration, we had salt. Salt preserves food. Ham, bacon, salami, corned beef, pickles, sauerkraut, and almost everything that comes in a can or a jar, is salted. The salt makes the good stuff taste better, but it also makes it harder for the bad stuff to grow. That is part of the essential nature of salt. It enhances AND it preserves. It increases flavor and it decreases contaminants.

Now, I have about a dozen different types of salt in my kitchen cabinet. They weren’t all expensive, and I’m not trying to brag here about being extravagant or having super refined tastes. For the record, I have a box of cheap generic iodized table salt that I use all the time. But as someone who loves food and loves to cook, over the years I have discovered the great diversity of salts in the world and their different characteristics and uses. So in addition to table salt I have kosher salt, and sea salt. And even sea salt has different types: there is fine salt from the Red sea, coarse salt from the French Mediterranean. There is pink Himalayan salt, pink Hawaiian salt, Dead Sea salt, grey salt, black salt, smoked salt, celery salt, garlic salt, truffled salt. I think Maldon flaked salt is one of my favorites. Different salts have different qualities and uses, but they all have that essential nature of enhancing and preserving. If salt doesn’t do at least one of those things, then it is completely useless. It doesn’t matter how many types of salt there are, if they aren’t each in their own way salty, then they aren’t good for anything. There is a reason why we don’t go around sprinkling beach sand on our food: it wouldn’t do anything. It wouldn’t enhance or preserve, it would just be gritty and gross. Salt changes things. That is why we use it. 

What does church do? Does belief in God change your life in any way? Does Christianity make life richer and more beautiful? Does faith in Jesus help to inhibit the growth of some dangerous things? What is it good for?

In our gospel this morning Jesus calls his disciples the salt of the earth. They would have understood that he was referring to something that is vital; an essential element of life. Something of great value and great use. He wasn’t just talking about a little salt shaker on the table that maybe you use to give your dinner a little extra flavor, but probably should avoid. Salt, real salt, was a powerful life-giving, life-preserving thing. It changes things. But then Jesus poses an interesting question: what happens when salt loses its saltiness? If it doesn’t enhance flavor, if it doesn’t preserve, if it doesn’t change anything at all and essentially becomes like sand, then what would you do with it? Well you would just throw it out of course. It’s not good for anything. What happens if Christianity loses its life-changing power? 

What good is a Christian that doesn’t believe in God or a church that doesn’t pray? What good is it to be vaguely ‘spiritual’ if you don’t actually demonstrate or experience any of the actual fruits of the spirit in your life? You remember what the fruit of the spirit is, don’t you? Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. If you don’t have any of that in your life, then why on earth would anyone be interested in the God you worship or the church you attend? If you don’t believe that your God has the power to change things, and if faith doesn’t have any real effect on your life, then why should anyone else bother with it? 

Jesus also called his disciples the light of the world. He told them to let their light shine before the world. How does that light shine? Through Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. The fruit of the spirit is the saltiness of the Christian life. It enhances it. It flavors our lives with purpose and meaning. It inhibits the growth of some things that don’t have any business in our lives. The fruit of the spirit is the light in our lives that other people see that draws them to give glory, not to us, but to our God. None of this is for us or about us. It is for and about God. There are probably more types of Christians and churches in the world than there are types of salt, each may have their own unique characteristics and uses, but underneath the differences should be the same essential element of a living relationship with Jesus Christ that changes us; a relationship that both enhances life and preserves it. 

Our style of worship here and the way we do things here in this church, it’s not going to be for everyone and there is nothing wrong with that. There will always be some people who just don’t get us. That’s ok. We don’t need to be like everyone else. What we need to be is salty, bold, a bright light to others. We need to be people who have faith not in our own abilities and plans, but in a God that has power to change things, and bless things, and heal things, and yes even cast down demons with water blessed in his name. We aren’t called to be perfect. We aren’t called to be everything to everyone. We aren’t called to have all the answers. We aren’t called to save the world, but we are called to be a people whose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control and a witness to the savior who does. 

Blessed Charles


Sermon for January 29th, 2023

Commemorating King Charles the Martyr


Our Lord is at the height of his popularity when he delivers the Sermon on the Mount. There are thousands flocking to hear this Galilean preacher. And the vast mob of people that have gathered around Jesus have tremendous respect and admiration for him. They love him.

It won’t always be this way. Jesus knows that it won’t always be this way. 

In his sermon, Jesus famously talks about all the people who are blessed in God’s eyes: the poor in spirit, those who are mourning, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted. These people are blessed in God’s eyes. That’s what he says. That’s interesting. 

But then Jesus says something even more interesting. He says, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 

There is a prediction in that statement…and a warning. Jesus knows that the tide of public opinion is going to turn against him. He’s popular right now, but in a minute, so to speak, he won’t be. It’s sort of like our Palm Sunday ritual where the same folks who shout “Hosanna” at the beginning of the service end up shouting “crucify him” before the mass has ended. The mob that is adoring him right now is much the same way. They will soon enough be abandoning him or even be calling for his death and eventually the death of his followers. That’s the prediction in Jesus’s statement. The warning is implied: don’t go tying up popularity and public approval with God’s favor and blessing. They are not linked. There is no direct link between public approval and God’s approval, except for maybe sometimes a reverse link: sometimes God’s light is shining on and in, people that the world has rejected.

You see, we have to be very careful with things like popularity, and public approval and opinion polls, and yes, even votes. We have to be careful, because you see the public changes its opinion all the time. Popular one minute, unpopular the next. Ridin’ high in April, shot down in May. Popularity and public approval don’t necessarily have anything to do with what is righteous or blessed in God’s eyes. What the world considers to be wise on Friday afternoon, it will condemn as foolishness on Monday morning. To make matters worse, public opinion is not only fickle, it also has no mercy. Public opinion shows no mercy. Remember that. Remember. 

Remember when you are deciding what to put your faith in, remember when you are deciding where to put your trust, and what to value. Remember that we do not worship a God of public opinion. Our God doesn’t do surveys, but our God does show mercy. Remember that. Remember that our faith is not built on what this world values, but on what God values. We are not measured by human standards, but by divine standards. It isn’t strength in the world’s eyes that ultimately matters, it is strength in God’s eyes. That is what it means to be blessed: to be strong in God’s eyes. 

Today we commemorate someone who in the world’s eyes was very weak. Charles Stuart, otherwise known as King Charles the first of England, Scotland and Ireland, or King Charles the Martyr, was in many ways weak in the world’s eyes. Unlike his brother-in-law, Louis the 13th of France, Charles did not have absolute power and authority in his realm; English kings didn’t. It was a more limited monarchy. And historians, like the Monday morning quarter backers that they are, love to point out all the mistakes that Charles made with the authority that he did have. He did make mistakes, and like every human that has walked this earth except our Lord, he was a sinner who had serious flaws. In the world’s eyes, he was an imperfect man and an imperfect king. In the world’s eyes, he was weak. When public opinion turned against him, he lost a war and lost his head. So why remember him?

Because despite whatever flaws Charles might have had, he was also a man of faith. The Anglican faith to be exact. It was the faith of his father King James, to whom we owe the King James Bible. But Charles’s faith was not the faith of stripped-down puritanism; it was a faith with pomp and beauty and ceremony and tradition. It was a faith that he believed had been handed down through the apostles and through the bishops of the church and through ancient ritual and scripture. At one time, Charles’s vision of the Anglican faith was very popular, but you know how it goes with popularity. It’s fickle. There was growing opposition in Charles’s time to anything remotely resembling “popery.” It didn’t matter to Charles. He thought that his faith was worth fighting for. He thought it was worth dying for. On the scaffold before the crowd he declared:

I die a Christian, according to the profession of the Church of England, as I found it left me by my father.

He forgave those who condemned him to die and he proclaimed: I have a good cause and a gracious God. I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown, where no disturbance can be. No disturbance in the world.

Charles was not a perfect man; saints never are. But he was a man of faith. He was a man who put more trust in God than he did public opinion. He may have lost an earthly crown, but in exchange he gained a heavenly one. As our Lord reminds us this morning, such people are indeed blessed.

What a good preacher does


Sermon for December 4th, 2022

The Second Sunday of Advent


There was an architectural trend in many Anglican churches in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of making the pulpit the central focus of the congregation’s attention. So instead of the altar being front and center, as is the case here and in almost all Episcopal, Anglican, and of course, Roman Catholic Churches nowadays, what you had was a large prominent pulpit right in the middle from which the scriptures were read and the sermon was preached. A sermon, I hasten to add, which could have gone on for an hour or more. There are a few old Anglican churches around that still have this arrangement, and today in many, if not most, Congregationalist and Baptist churches you will see this setup with the pulpit in the center. Now the reformers who proposed this trend in church design had the best of intentions. They wanted the scriptures to be at the heart of religious life. The written word of God was so precious to them, it was such a powerful encounter with God, that they wanted to make that encounter, the encounter of God in scripture, the central focus of their worship life. So the pulpit, the place from which the Word of God is proclaimed and preached, it in the eyes of the reformers ought rightly to command the most prominent place in the church. It ought to be the focus of the congregation’s attention. That was their thinking. That, I think, is an admirable intention. The scriptures are sacred, holy. They are an encounter with God. They deserve to be respected and revered by the faithful. The intentions of the reformers were good, but you know what they say about good intentions…

The reformers may have wanted to exalt the scriptures, but very often what they ended up doing was exalting the preachers, and that’s really not something that you want to do. It’s very dangerous actually. Most priests are already prone to being egomaniacs with delusions of grandeur to begin with, they don’t need the building helping them out. But you put someone on a platform in the middle of the room with all eyes on them; with a congregation hanging on their every word; laughing at their jokes no matter how bad they are; you put someone who already thinks that God talks to them in that situation, and what you end up with is clergy, preachers, who come to work thinking that they are the star of the show. You get priests who have the audacity to think that you came here on your sacred Sunday morning to see and to listen to them. Incidentally, this is another reason why I think that altars should be firmly mounted against the East wall like ours is here. Making eye contact with people while celebrating the holy mysteries, it’s the devil’s trap I tell you! You are likely as the priest, to get a little confused about who the congregation is there to see and worship. But I digress…the reformers tried to do a good thing, but even they underestimated human sinfulness. Things didn’t always turn out quite the way they hoped. So the reformers, and their re-fashioned buildings, needed a little re-forming. 

One of my ecclesiastical heroes, a priest named John Keble, lived in England in the early nineteenth century. He was appointed to a church in a quaint country village named Hursley, just outside of Winchester, and when he got there he found a building much like I just described with a prominent pulpit, and what was even worse in his eyes, it had a huge memorial in the front of the church to Richard Cromwell, the son of the famous puritan and regicide Oliver Cromwell. Well, in Keble’s eyes both had to go. To Keble, both of those things represented a departure from the good traditions of England and the English church. So he spent quite a lot of his own money, rebuilding and refashioning the church, so that once again the altar was the main focus of the congregation’s attention and not monuments to the egos of priests and politicians. The pulpit was placed at the crossing, similar to this one, where the nave of the church, where the congregation sits, meets the more sacred choir and chancel, where the altar sits and where Jesus meets us in the sacrament. And the pulpit was also placed off to the side, again like this one, and not in the middle of the room. That was the old tradition and Keble wanted it back. You see symbols meant everything to him, and the placement of the pulpit symbolized the role of the preacher. He didn’t want the preacher to be the main focus of the congregation’s attention; he wanted that to be Jesus. The preacher’s role is to be a witness; a witness to God’s presence in the midst of his people; a witness to an encounter with God; a witness to Jesus. That is why the pulpit, in Keble’s eyes, should be right here: If the altar is the place where we as Christians most fully encounter Jesus, then the pulpit should be here, so that the preacher can point people to Jesus, but not get in the way. Because that is really what the preacher is meant to do: point people to Jesus, and get out of the way. The preacher can’t solve all your problems, but he or she can point you to the one who can. The preacher doesn’t have all the answers, but he knows the one who does. The truth is, I can’t do much for you at all: I can’t live your lives, or make decisions for you. I’m not even that good at changing lightbulbs. The more I try to do, the more likely I am to just get in the way. The one thing that I can do is make an introduction. I can direct you to Jesus. I can keep my eyes peeled, looking for signs of the Lord’s presence and say to you: here is your God. The Lord is right here in your life, only you may not be able to recognize him. The Lord is just over the horizon; can you see him coming? That is what the preacher is for: to help you see the Lord; to help you recognize the signs of his presence; to prepare you to meet him. That’s what a good preacher does.

You know one of the greatest sermons ever given was given by a different preacher named John. Standing in the midst of a crowd of people who thought he had all the answers, he pointed to another man off in the distance and said simply: Behold the Lamb of God. Short and to the point, just like a good sermon should be. John the Baptist was surrounded by people who came to him looking for salvation and answers, but he pointed instead to Jesus and said: “there’s your answer.” Follow him. John is the preacher who introduces the real preacher. His job was to make the introduction. His role was to help people see that their God was coming to meet them, in fact he was already in the midst of them. But to do that, John had to first deliver some news that most people didn’t want to hear. John’s words weren’t always sweet. In fact, sometimes they were pretty bitter. 

Brood of Vipers! He calls his congregation today. Snakes. I mean I get the temptation to call folks that, but calling people out for being a bunch of sinners, isn’t what I would call a winning marketing technique. Folks don’t want to hear that. Folks want to be told that Jesus loves them and that they’re ok just the way they are. Folks want to be told that they are beloved children of God; that he is always on their side; and gosh wouldn’t it be great if they leant God a hand now and then. What folks don’t want, is to be compared to chaff. You know, chaff, that’s the part of the wheat straw that is basically useless, at least for nutrition. The wheat is the seed with all the nutrients that we use to make flour and grow new wheat. The chaff is garbage that just has to be separated out. That is what John compares some folks to: chaff and fruitless trees. You just try preaching that message nowadays and see what happens. It didn’t work out so well for John either, but you know what maybe it was a sermon that had to be preached. Maybe folks needed to hear the bad news before they could receive the good news. Maybe folks needed to recognize their need for a savior, before they could respond to the savior when they finally met him. 

John’s job wasn’t a pretty job, but it was a necessary job. The truth is, folks probably already suspected deep down that everything wasn’t alright in their lives. Maybe I’m not completely chaff, I may have a few wheat kernels in the granary, but I know there’s a lot of chaff in my life. And what is more frustrating is that no matter how hard I try to sort it and sift it out, there’s still chaff in my life. I can’t seem to get rid of it. And I look around, and I know the world is full of it. Stuff, junk, garbage that has no future life and no lasting value. Maybe it’s the same for you too. It would be easy for me to just smile all the time, say everything’s all right; I’m doing good. I’ve got my life together and my priorities straight. Everything is beautiful and even if it isn’t we can just go and clean it up and fix it. That’s all the world really needs: a little hug and some dusting off. That’s all I really need, right? I’ve got a pension plan. I live in a nice house, in a nice village, in a great country. What more do I need? If I’ve got a little money and power do I really need God in my life? Do I need someone to save me? Would I bother looking for him? Maybe that is why we need people like John to tell us the truth that we don’t want to talk about: sin. Insidious, pervasive sin. None of us are living the lives that God desires us to live. None of us. That is the bad news that John has to deliver. We cannot take it for granted that we are alright in God’s eyes. We cannot presume that we are always the wheat. I suspect that it’s not really news though. I suspect that you already knew that, deep down. But John makes us face the bad news. Why? So that when the good news comes, we are ready to receive it. 

Something good is coming. That is John’s ultimate message. Something good is coming. There is a savior coming, and boy is he going to sort through some things. Are you ready to meet him? 

John doesn’t just point people to Jesus, he prepares them to meet the saviour, by helping them to understand how much they really need him. John gets people’s attention with bad news and then directs their eyes to Jesus who has the good news. And he managed to do it without a pulpit at all. Now that’s a good preacher. 

Giving a gift to God


Sermon for Sunday, November 20th, 2022

Christ the King


Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

I have to admit that I am already very excited about Christmas coming. Now I know that the Christmas season, Christmastide, doesn’t even begin until Christmas Eve; I know that next week is the beginning of the season of Advent which is its own special time about waiting for Jesus, but still I know that Christmas is coming, and you know that Christmas is coming, and I am starting to get excited about it. 

Maybe it is because this year, as most of you know, there is a new baby in our family. Part of my joy and part of my excitement this year is knowing that I get to share Christmas with someone who has never experienced it before, and doesn’t really know what it’s all about. Now our son is only 5 months old and even though I obviously think he is brilliant, at this age he isn’t going to understand the full meaning of Christmas, I know that. But he can experience joy, and probably better than most of us he can experience wonder, and mystery, and beauty. Sometimes as we get older, we spend so much time trying to figure things out that we no longer experience the beauty and the mystery that is all around us everyday. But when you are young you still understand mystery and magic. We older folks are the ones who need to be reminded of joy and wonder. So as much as I have to teach my son about the meaning of Christmas, he has much to teach me as well. 

For my part, I want him to know that the story of Christmas isn’t just a “once upon a time,” legend about people living in a far off land in an age long, long ago. I want him to know that what Christmas is really about is the God that created the whole universe, becoming a human being, a little child just like him, so that he could live with us as a part of our lives. The real king of all the earth was born in a humble and lowly stable, among cows and donkeys and sheep, so that he could gather his sheep, his lambs his children together, and live with them. And I want him to know that that same child that was born in the manger, suffer and died on the cross, and rose again from the grave, so that even death would not separate him from his children. I want him to know that God’s kingdom is in this world, but not of it. It is bigger and greater than all the kings and kingdoms of this world, but if you look closely, if you pay attention, you just might get a little glimpse of it. I want him to know that God is all around us, even if we can’t always see him. God wants to be with his children. God wants to gather his children together. God loves his children. He picks them up when they fall down. He forgives them when they make mistakes. He teaches them the right way to live and the paths they should follow, and then goes and finds them when they get lost. That is the story that we are telling here throughout the year. Christmas, Easter, Advent, Pentecost…all year long we tell this story, but this year, this Christmas I am especially excited to tell it to someone that has never heard it before. I want him to know that.

And the amazing thing is that as I share the story of Jesus and of Christmas with my son, his part, is that he shares the experience of it: the joy, and the mystery and the excitement and the wonder with me. I am reminded of what an amazing experience this is for someone who is new to it. I get to experience that joy again. I have joy in sharing the story of Jesus; new Christians have joy in experiencing the story of Jesus…and then there is God. God has joy in all this too. Afterall, the Christmas story is about God wanting to live with his children, to gather them together and share his life and his love with them. Nothing brings God more joy than having to set another place at the table; adding another person to his family. When another person comes in and wants to share in God’s life and love, that brings God joy. So when we share the story of Jesus with people that don’t know it, we aren’t just giving that person the joy of knowing about the God we worship here, we are giving God joy too. It isn’t just a gift to another person. It is a gift to God. 

But giving someone a gift, whether that someone is God or another person, giving someone a gift means making a sacrifice. Parents make sacrifices to give their children gifts. We talk all the time here about the sacrifice that Jesus made to give us a gift. God made a sacrifice to invite us into his kingdom and for us to share the good news of that, the gift of that story, we have to make sacrifices too. Sharing the story of Jesus with people who don’t know about him (and the world is still filled with people who don’t know about him) it can be simple, but it isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is very hard. It involves making sacrifices. We want to have a nice place for people to gather together to meet and worship, and that takes lots of money. We want to have good music. We need people to sing, and read the scriptures, and greet visitors, and teach, and cleanup. It takes a lot of time and talent, and treasure (money) to share the story of Jesus in this place. It takes people making sacrifices. That is why we are all called, as people who know the story of Jesus, as Children of a Heavenly king, to sacrifice from what God has given us, so that other people, even maybe people that aren’t even born yet, may come to someday know Jesus, and the love that God has for them. 

And when we make that sacrifice, when we give from what God has given us, so that God can continue to gather his children together here in this place, we aren’t just giving them the greatest gift of all, we are giving God joy too. It is a gift to God too. The money that we give to the church, it isn’t just to pay bills. It is to pay the bills, so that future generations can come to know Jesus here in this place, and that is something that brings God great joy. That is what we believe our God is all about: gathering and protecting his sheep; calling all his children together. 

Everybody has a role here in helping to share the story and the experience of Jesus. Everybody has a place in worship. Everybody, from the youngest to the oldest, from the little ones who we might wish would fall asleep during mass, to some of the older folks, who maybe can’t help but fall asleep during mass, and everyone in between. Whether we can only give 50 cents, or whether we are making a gift of $50,000, we all have something to offer, and that offering isn’t just to the church, it is a gift to God. So give what you can. I don’t care how old you are. Give what you can. I am asking you now, if you haven’t already given us a pledge card for the coming year, to take a moment and consider what you can sacrifice, what you can give, what you can do to help us tell God’s story and invite new folks into his family. Write it down and I am going to ask you after the sermon to come up drop it in the basket and offer it to God. Telling God’s story in this place takes all of us. We all have a role. Young and Old, and everything in between. Today we are asking some of our younger parishioners to take active roles in leading worship, but the truth is, in God’s eyes, every service here is being led by his children. We all have things we can learn. We all have things we can teach. And we all have a story, a true story, full of grace, hope, joy and love to share. That is something to get excited about. 

The Gospel is weirder than you think.


Sermon for November 6th, 2022


Job 19:23-27a
Psalm 17:1-9
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke 20:27-38

The gospel is weirder than you think! And by “gospel” I am talking about the good news of Jesus Christ. That good news is written down in the four accounts of his life, the four gospels, but THE gospel, the message about who Jesus was and what Jesus did, that isn’t just a biography of a good teacher; it isn’t just a book, or four books; it isn’t just a philosophy of being nice; it isn’t a set of rules that we must follow; it isn’t a blueprint for fixing the world or establishing world peace. THE gospel isn’t about something we can do. THE gospel is a good news message about what GOD has done in the world and it is a message about what GOD is going to do in the world. We often think that the gospel is just a past-tense account or story of what Jesus said and did, but the real gospel isn’t just about the past, it is about the future too. And the real gospel, THE gospel, THE good news, isn’t just about Jesus. What makes THE gospel such good news, what makes it so compelling, is that fundamentally it is about us. Each and every one of us. The real good news is that Jesus’s resurrection is a foretaste, a glimpse of our resurrection, and that really is weirder than most people think. 

Christians have a long history of settling for less than the full good news of the gospel. We want to over-simplify it or sanitize it to make it more palatable to our skeptical friends. We want to strip it of the miraculous and make it mundane. We want to make it an instruction manual for this world, something else for us to do, and not the glorious vision of a transformed world to come that we have been offered, promised even, a place in. There is nothing mundane about a dead body coming back to life. Jesus wasn’t somebody that coded in the ER and was resuscitated. He crawled out of the grave. That is not something any of us have ever seen in our lives. You may have witnessed a miracle before, but you haven’t seen a miracle on that scale. The resurrection is a very weird thing. A glorious thing, but a weird thing. It is so weird that even people who wholeheartedly believe in Jesus’s resurrection still have a hard time believing that this is their destiny as well. It is so easy to make the gospel just about what God has done in Jesus, and not about what God is going to do in our lives, but that isn’t the full good news. 

You know, if you ask a lot of Christians what happens when we die, they are likely to say, “well, your soul goes to heaven (or maybe somewhere else).” But a spiritual, disembodied heaven has never been the full Christian hope. It isn’t the full gospel. Our real hope, our real destiny is resurrection. God taking the dust the remains from our earthly existence and transforming it into a new, living creation that is no longer subject to sin and death. That is our real hope and it is a hope that takes place in a future day at the end of all time. A new heaven and a new earth. Our blessed dead may exist now in a realm of paradise and rest in the presence of the Lord, but that is not the ultimate end. The ultimate end is the day of the Lord when the dead are rasied to a new life in a new body, in a new and very different, although recognizable and familiar world. That is our real hope, that is the real good news, the full gospel message: we have been invited to be children of God. Children of the resurrection. We have been offered the promise to some day walk out of the grave, just like Jesus did. Not metaphorically or spiritually, but flesh and bone. 

That is real good news, but it is real good news that people struggle with, in part because it is weird. None of us have seen a really dead body come back to life, so there’s that. But also, none of us have ever lived in a world that isn’t stained by death and sinfulness, so it is really hard for us to imagine what that might even be like. All of our relationships, even the most loving ones, still have the marks of this sinful, fallen world all over them. People struggle to imagine what a resurrected world and a resurrected life might look like, so the resurrection is a complicated and somewhat controversial idea for many people of faith, and that was true even more in Jesus’s day than it is in ours. There were some Jews who believed in the resurrection and hoped for it, and there were some who didn’t. The Sadducees were trying to make fun of Jesus’s belief in the resurrection in today’s gospel reading. They aren’t asking him a serious question; they are asking him a ridiculous question. A woman marries seven brothers, they all die. In the resurrection, whose wife will she be? In other words: who does she belong to? Belong to! That is what they are really asking. Think about that for a second…the Sadducees can’t even conceive of a world where a woman doesn’t belong to a man like a piece of property. Jesus’s response is basically: she will belong to God. Any world where we all stand equally before God as his children is bound to look a little different than the world we are living in right now. It isn’t that our loving relationships won’t exist in the next world, but they will be transformed, in ways that we probably can’t even imagine. That is good news too. 

The devil does not want you to believe this good news. The world, and even many in the church, will sell you a gospel that is less than good news, or at least less than the full good news. Don’t settle for it. Don’t settle for anything less than the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Don’t settle for a gospel that is just about what Jesus said, and not also about what he did, AND, AND what he is going to do. Don’t settle for a gospel that is just about the past, and not also about the future. Our future, as people who have been promised our own resurrection and a share in a new world that God is creating; a world that our sinful minds can’t even properly conceive of. Don’t settle for less than that. Don’t settle for a gospel that isn’t weird. Because good news, really good news, can seem pretty weird sometimes, and even hard to believe.

Do the work of an evangelist


Sermon for October 16th, 2022


Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 121
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Luke 18:1-8

The church, or at least the temporal, worldly institution that we think of when we talk about the church, always exists on the precipice, on the cliff’s edge, of extinction. It may be founded on the rock, but there are always existential dangers all around. It never feels completely secure. There are always powerful forces working against it. So much so, that since its very beginning people have been predicting the imminent demise of the church. Some people have longed for it, blaming the church or religion for every conceivable evil in the world, and trying to tear it down by any means necessary. Since the day Jesus died, people have been gleefully writing the obituary of the church he founded; proclaiming that his followers would soon fade into oblivion in the light of new knowledge. Always new knowledge. Maybe the intransigent old-timers will cling to their superstitions, but the next, more enlightened generation, is bound to see sense and abandon all this hocus pocus.

 Paul reminds us this morning in his letter to Timothy, that since his time, in the earliest days of the church, people have been doing just that: abandoning the faith. Paul says: “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” Paul predicted that people would abandon scripture, tradition, and the gospel, in favor of teachers that suit their own desires, in favor of people that just tell them what they want to hear. I understand why. Faith in God has never been an easy thing. Following Jesus usually involves a degree of sacrifice and suffering. There are many things about God and God’s world that we simply do not understand, and some people just don’t want to live with that ambiguity. Some people just don’t have the humility to admit that there is a power in the world that is smarter than they are. Some people don’t have the patience or the capacity to just be still and let God be in control. And many people don’t want faith, they want certainty. Paul knew all of that and he shares his knowledge with Timothy so that he won’t get discouraged when he sees it happening.  And it did happen. It does happen. In every generation people have drifted away from Christianity. Every generation. In the Eighteenth century, during the time of the enlightenment, there were many that predicted that Christianity would soon fade away in the light of reason and science, new knowledge. They said the same thing in the Nineteenth century, when modern biblical criticism met up with even more scientific theories like evolution, again more new knowledge. They said the same thing in the Twentieth Century. They are saying the same thing in the Twenty-First century. Frankly, I’m bored. 

The people who predict the demise of the church always do so with a sense of originality and insight. They all seem to think that they are very clever in devising arguments against the existence of God, or against any Christian doctrine, as if they were the first ones to do so. Of course, they usually only prove how poorly read they are, or how little they actually understand Christian doctrine, because their arguments are never original and never insightful. New knowledge indeed! Here’s the thing: people in the modern age are not half as clever as we think we are, and people in the ancient world were not half as dumb as we think they were. Our ancestors may not have been right about everything, but they weren’t wrong about everything either. We still have a lot to learn from them. 

That is why Paul encouraged Timothy to pay such close attention to scripture and the traditions he was taught. The sacred writings have something to teach you. There is a message there that can touch and change and effect your life right now. These are not just dead, dusty books filled with old disproven ideas. Scripture can teach you, it can correct you, it can challenge you, it can show you a better way to live. Most of all it can give you hope for something that a lot of people just don’t think they need, until they realize that they really do…salvation. It can give you hope for salvation. I wonder sometimes how many people drift away from church for no other reason than they just don’t think they need a savior. Faith in God isn’t always an easy thing. If you think it’s optional. If you think you really don’t need it, and don’t need a savior, then why bother? 

It is sad, but in every generation people drift away from God. In every generation people leave the church and predict its immediate downfall. And yet, here we are. Here we are. We are still living on the cliff’s edge: worried about property and budgets; concerned about declining numbers and participation, and people that drift away. We are still worried about trying to pass this tradition which we treasure on to our children, just like Paul and Timothy were. But we are still here. You think scripture is a dead document? A dusty old book full of outdated ideas? Well guess what, here we are 2,000 years since Paul wrote his letter to Timothy…2,000 years or very close to it have passed and here we are dealing with the exact same struggles that Paul and Timothy were. And people think that scripture doesn’t have a word for us today? I don’t need to make scripture relevant to you; it IS relevant. It is relevant because, humans are still human, God is still God, and truth is still truth. 

The Church is always one generation away from non-existence. By that, I mean the church here on earth. Christ’s mystical church is eternal, but if we want future generations to know about that mystical body of Christ, the eternal church, if we want our kids to have a share in it, if we want them to know and experience the grace of God, then we have to preach the gospel to every generation anew. Every new generation needs to hear Christ’s story and recognize that they are a part of that story, and that that story holds a promise for them. Every generation. Scripture instructs us; scripture informs and corrects us, and guides us, but it isn’t ink and paper that we worship it is the living relationship with God that those books point us to. That is what all of this is about: a living relationship.

We as believers, we are not responsible for saving the world and we are not going to bring about God’s kingdom. We also do not earn our salvation through an accumulation of good works, but we do have work to do. Part of that work is being stubbornly faithful. Holding onto the traditions that our ancestors gave us. Learning from them. Studying their works. Knowing the scriptures. Letting them speak to us today. Knowing the hope that we have in Jesus and being unafraid to proclaim that message to the world. The world needs to hear it. The world needs hope and the world needs grace. The world needs salvation. As Mother Frazier said in her wonderful sermon for Robbie’s baptism: there is no salvation by halves, and therefore there can be no proclamation by halves.. 

Ours should be a full-throated witness to God’s saving power that is available to anyone. People are always going to be tempted to turn away; people are always going to be distracted, they will find this too hard, they will find teachers who will tell them what they want to hear rather than challenging them to grow closer to God. We cannot let that reality discourage us. Because we are still here singing God’s praises, and preaching the gospel 2,000 years after people first turned away from Jesus. We are still at it. So I guess some people along the way remained stubbornly faithful. Some people still needed to hear the gospel, and some people were unafraid to share it. That’s why we are here today. Some people when they walk through those doors, will walk right back out and we will never see them again, and we may never know why. Others will come and stay here for a lifetime. And others still may be transformed by the gospel here and go out into the world sharing it with others. We can’t always tell who is who, and it doesn’t really matter. Our job, like Timothy’s is to do the work of an evangelist and carry out our ministry fully. To the best of our abilities. All of us.

You know it’s interesting. Paul was writing this letter to Timothy, his advice was to him, and yet someone else overheard these words and really took Paul’s advice to heart. Just because Paul was writing to Timothy doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a word there for you too. As many of you may know, Paul didn’t usually handwrite his letters himself. He had scribes; secretaries if you will, that he dictated his letters too. That is why his letters sometimes end with the rather odd: see what big letters I am writing with my own hand. Paul is basically just signing the letter at that point because the scribe had handwritten the rest of it. These scribes are often unknown to us, but not in the case of this letter. We know who is helping Paul write this, because Paul says he is the only person with him. 

Clearly this scribe was moved by Paul’s words even though they weren’t directed at him. He was moved by the importance Paul gave to teaching the scripture. He was moved by the command to proclaim the message…to be an evangelist. Paul wasn’t talking to him, but the message hit home nonetheless. He would share the message. He would be an evangelist. And our faith today, would be so much poorer if he hadn’t. Some may drift away in every generation, but in every generation there will also be others who still faithfully carry out their ministry and proclaim the message. Thanks be to God for them, and may we be inspired to do the same.

Oh, and in case you were wondering who Paul’s scribe was, perhaps you have read him…his name was Luke.

A symbol of something greater


Sermon for the Memorial for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

September 18th, 2022

She was not my mother, or my grandmother, or an aunt, or a distant cousin, or a relation of any kind. 

She was not a personal friend; I’ve never had tea with her; Never chatted with her by the fireplace. She never invited me into one of her homes, although I have been in almost all of them. 

She was not even an acquaintance. I never got to shake her hand. Never got to meet her or even see her from a distance. The closest I ever got was standing outside the very thick and heavily defended walls of Windsor Castle once when she happened to be at home.

She was not aware of my presence. She did not know my name.

As I am a citizen of the United States, she was not even my Head of State,

But she was my Queen. 

That is why this hurts so much. That is why this loss feels personal; like family. 

I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. As I have watched some of the ceremonial proceedings this week, I have noted the mass outpouring of grief, the tears, the crowds, the flowers, the lines of mourners waiting hours for just a glimpse of that casket draped with the Royal Standard. How many of those people standing in line to see that casket never got the chance to meet or even see the woman inside? But still they waited…for hours, they cried, they mourned, and they all probably felt just a little bit broken inside. Just a little bit lost.


Because she was their Queen.

Even though they never met her she was a part of their daily lives. Her picture was engraved on the money. Her initials could be found on banners and on post boxes. She was on the television every Christmas. Politicians, musicians, fashion trends, those things all came and went, but the Queen was always there. People around the world, people like myself and I’m guessing many of you here, people are not just mourning a remarkable individual that they never met. They aren’t mourning a celebrity or a political leader; they are mourning their Queen. 

The grief that is being felt isn’t just about the loss of an individual though, remarkable though she may have been; it is about the loss of a symbol. A living symbol.

I could stand up here for hours talking about the unique personal qualities of Elizabeth. Books have been written, and many more will be written, about this remarkable person. News commentators tomorrow will tell you all about the countries she visited, the world leaders she met, and the everyday regular people whose lives she engaged with. They may talk about her personality: her razor-sharp intelligence, her dry sense of humor and her inherent shyness. They may talk about her love of horses and Dubonnet and gin. People may talk about all of the many things that made Elizabeth such a fascinating individual, but none of that will explain the collective grief that is being felt by so many across the world. None of that explains the pain that so many feel on the loss of someone they never met.

It’s because we have lost more than an individual; we have lost a symbol. A symbol of so many things. A symbol of a country, that whether or not we are citizens, many of us dearly love. A symbol of Anglicanism. The most famous Anglican Christian in the world was the Queen, who lived her faith, our faith, quite openly and unapologetically. A symbol of the generation that lived through the war. A symbol of monarchy. A symbol of reserve, of grace, of dignity, of humility. She was a symbol of service and charity. She was a symbol of so many things and now she is the symbol of an era that we all lived through. The funny thing about symbols is that they always point to something greater than themselves, even when the symbol is a living person, even when being a symbol is your job. Elizabeth did that supremely well.

Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about Elizabeth as an individual, her greatest personal strength we might say, and what made her so well suited to her calling in life, was the extent to which she knew, knew, that none of this was actually about her. Elizabeth understood that she was a symbol. She knew that the crown and the palace and the gold carriage and the robes, she knew that all of this stuff wasn’t for her. It wasn’t Elizabeth that was really being celebrated; it was the monarch, the Queen. Elizabeth knew that. Of course, symbols are complicated things, especially when that symbol is a living human being, and people often project onto symbols negative as well as positive things that have nothing to do with the individual. To put it bluntly: you get blamed for things that are not your fault. Elizabeth knew that too. For better or for worse, when you live your life as a symbol of something greater, you have to continually remember that this is not about you. Elizabeth did that. 

I think that we often have some Disney-esque fantasies about what it means to be a King or a Queen. We think of fairytale princesses with fancy dresses and glass slippers, or we think of petty tyrants screaming “off with his head!” whenever their slightest wish isn’t granted. We think of grand ceremonies and throne rooms with people groveling at the monarch’s feet. Elizabeth knew that being the Queen had very little to do with any of that. Her personal wishes and desires were going to be superseded for most of her life. Elizabeth knew that being a symbol was not just about show; it was also a lot of hard work. Countless hours of sitting in her office reading and signing paperwork. Innumerable engagements: sitting with politicians whom she may or may not have liked or agreed with, supporting charities, visiting communities, marking events, and almost all of these things having to happen whether she felt like it or not. Elizabeth knew that her feelings, her opinions, her emotions, her personal likes and dislikes all had to take a back seat in her life, for her entire life, so that she could serve something greater. Her life needed to be about or point to something greater. That is what it means to be a symbol. It means being a part of, or representing something greater than yourself. Something bigger and more important than you. Monarchy, for Elizabeth, wasn’t a fairytale. It wasn’t about glass slippers; it was about sensible shoes. It wasn’t just diamonds and gold. It was endless, literally endless, hard work serving others. That is the opposite of the tyranny that some people imagine monarchy to be. 

You know what tyranny is? Tyranny is being enslaved to one person’s emotions, opinions, and feelings. Tyranny is having your life completely centered upon and controlled by one person. No one else matters. Well I do think we are living in an age of tyranny, only the tyrant that is seeking to control our every thought and action isn’t a king or a queen, or a president or a premier, or a dictator. The most dangerous tyrants we face right now are ourselves. We are living in an age where people have become enslaved to their emotions and their opinions. We are told over and over, in every survey we are sent just how much our opinions and our feelings matter. Every online newspaper article has a comments section underneath, wherein we may share our oh so valuable opinions, regardless of how ill-informed they may be. We feel compelled to offer them more and more and more. Our own individual opinions, emotions and feelings have become so sacred to us that if someone should commit the heresy of having a different opinion, feeling, or emotion we cut them off and cut them down. They are now the enemy of the only person that matters: me. It’s tyranny. We live in an age of tyranny and the tyrant is often staring right back at us from the mirror. Yes, there are still the old-fashioned tyrants in the world that would steal our freedom and our lives, but we will never be able to fight those tyrants if we don’t first learn how to fight these tyrants, the ones inside. 

As our Western culture has been descending into a tyranny of individualism for decades, there all along the way standing in contrast to the culture around her has been a woman who has been the image, or the symbol, of the opposite of all that. Other than laughter and joy, we rarely witnessed her emotions. Her opinions went unshared. Her feelings were usually unknown. She was willing to talk about her faith, because that was bigger than her, but she rarely talked about herself. Week after week she sat down with prime ministers that she may or may not have liked, and listened to policy proposals that she may or may not have agreed with. You can’t do that if you are enslaved by your own feelings and opinions. You can’t really serve others. Elizabeth, in the way she lived her life and conducted herself was a constant reminder that we don’t have to give in to that tyranny. Whoever we are, at whatever station in life we are, we all have the power to live lives that are about more than just ourselves. We all have the power to be a living symbol of something greater. 

That was Elizabeth’s conviction as a public figure and it was her faith as a Christian. As Christians we are a part of something greater than our individual selves. We have a greater calling than just serving our own emotions, opinions and feelings. Like kings and queens, we too are anointed to be a symbol of something bigger. We represent and belong to a kingdom that is in this world, but not of it, and we are called to serve a king who promises us more than just victory on the battlefield, but instead gives us victory over sin and death. Elizabeth was anointed as queen over a very large kingdom, but she always knew that she served a greater king. None of this was about her. Well we serve that king too, and when we gather to mourn a fellow, faithful Christian, whoever it is, it is right for us to remember the hope that we have of that future day when the one true king will raise us up and set us free; even if that tyrant we are being set free from is ourselves. Someday we will know that although we are individually treasured by God, this whole story isn’t about us personally.

In British tradition, the monarch never dies. A king or queen may die, but the symbol of the monarch immediately lives on in the heir, the new King or Queen. It isn’t about an individual person, it is about recognizing that there is always someone greater than yourself to serve. Many people have said that there will never be another like Elizabeth, but I don’t think that that truly honors her legacy and the way she lived her life. She was a unique individual, but that wasn’t important to her. Her life wasn’t about her. What was important to her was being a symbol of something greater. That is why we have come together to mourn a woman that we never met. Because she wasn’t just a woman. She was something greater. She was our Queen.

She is gone. The Queen is dead. But the role she served, the living symbol lives on, just like she always knew it would. God save the King. 

On the death of Her Majesty


Dear Ascension Family,

Today is a day that we always knew would come, and yet never wanted to see. 

While the news of the death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, does not come as a great surprise given her advanced age and recent illnesses, it is nonetheless an occasion of great sadness, not just for the people of Great Britain, but for people throughout the world. We are not simply witnessing the death of a great and remarkable woman; we are witnessing the end of an era.

Although most of us are citizens of the United States of America, and we are members of the Episcopal Church, our shared tradition and history as Anglicans, means that we have a familial relationship with our brothers and sisters in the Church of England, of which Queen Elizabeth II was the Supreme Governor. It needs to be said that in addition to being an extremely influential head of state in world affairs, Her Majesty was a serious and committed Christian who lived her faith openly in front of the world. Her annual Christmas speech has consistently been a powerful witness to her faith in Jesus Christ. Her stability and sense of duty, in both civil and religious affairs, in good times and in bad times, have been an inspiration for so many. I can only pray that for those of us who may be wondering, “where do we go from here?” that her life may serve as an instructive example. 

The British system of democracy is different than the American system. Prime Ministers may come and go, but the Monarch remains a constant throughout his or her life. It is a system that values stability in the midst of change. I have always found that to be very comforting, because in a world that is constantly changing we all need stabilizing forces in our lives. Queen Elizabeth was certainly that. I also think that there is something to be said for having a head of state that is not a political figure, but one instead that seeks to be a symbol of national unity. Queen Elizabeth was that too. I suspect that although Her Majesty’s earthly service may have ended, her life will be teaching us lessons in leadership for many years to come.

Our prayers at this time are offered, first and foremost for the soul of Queen Elizabeth, that the Lord will welcome his servant into his heavenly kingdom; secondly, for her son Charles, who now ascends the throne as King; for the Queen’s family, during this time of great personal loss; for the people of Great Britain and of all the Commonwealth Nations; for Anglicans throughout the world; and finally, for all those who mourn the passing of a great woman who touched the lives of so many. 

A memorial service to mourn for and celebrate the life of Her Majesty will be scheduled at Ascension in the near future at a date and time to be announced. 

Our parish was founded during the reign of Queen Elizabeth’s great, great grandmother Queen Victoria. Her 63 year and seven month reign was the longest of any British monarch, until it was surpassed by Queen Elizabeth in 2015. Even the greatest kings and queens of this world come and go though, and now Elizabeth, who has lived a life of service to others may rest in peace and receive her reward. What gave Elizabeth strength in this life, was knowing that no matter what throne she sat on or what crown she wore, she always served a greater King. 

May that King, the King of Peace and the King of Glory, comfort us all now.


Fr. Kevin Morris