SERMON AND REFLECTIONS ADVENT 1, 2021 - FR. LANCE A SCHMITZ, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of each of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O God our strength our redeemer and our one and only peace. AMEN
Have you seen it yet? Have you heard/seen that thing/commercial/jingle on the radio that lets you know Christmas is right around the corner? For me its two things, one the dose of encapsulated nostalgia known as the BC Clark Jingle(which for we okies is basically a sacramental)
and those readings that come every advent season that remind us things aren’t all bright and shiny that call us to preparation/repentance/renewal. I love the disconnect between cultural expectations of Christmas and the church’s way of getting ready.
One is about consumption, the other is about repentance.
One is about acquisition, the other is about slowing down life and reflection.
One tries to tell us that everything is about self and gratification, the other is about service of others and reliance upon something bigger than oneself. It is into our lives that the prophet Jeremiah, intrudes today. The long suffering prophet Jeremiah, also known as the weeping prophet, had deep emotional love for his people and was one who was called to serve as God’s mouthpiece to stubbornly uncooperative Judah/Israel.
This was a role he held for nearly forty years, forty years.
Can You imagine holding the job of being a moral voice in the midst of exile/estrangement from God for that long? There’s Jeremiah again telling us we have strayed from the path. Run here comes Jeremiah reminding us we have broken God’s covenant. Quick hide Jeremiah is coming!!!! Nobody likes to be reminded of their own brokenness especially when they probably already know that they’ve got some brokenness. God commissioned/called Jeremiah to invite his people away from the cliff of their own demise.
God’s people decided that, contrary to everything they were taught and known, they would chase after these novel/new/different gods, and refuse to live into the calling that God had placed upon them. These choices placed them outside the bounds and they found themselves exiled, living as strangers in a strange land. Even though they were recalcitrant/obstinate Jeremiah kept speaking God’s truth and reminding them of God’s love even if it was hard to hear. I mean Jeremiah could have tickled the ears of the people with pleasant words they wanted to hear, and honestly who doesn’t like to hear nice things that reinforce our own biases and beliefs? That’s the temptation, to speak nice soothing words rather than truth in love.
The leaders got increasingly frustrated with Jeremiah because of his stalwart opposition to the way things were and invitation to live into the way things ought to be. He wasn’t trying to win friends and influence but speak God’s truth even when it was hard to hear, but he wasn’t devoid of hope. He hoped God’s hope for the people, that they would turn from their broken ways and return to God’s way. Jeremiah speaks hope to the people in exile and offers them a choice. He tells them of a future where things will be different, he casts a beautiful vision of a time where peace reigns. Jeremiah comes to them in their pain and defiance to remind them that there is a day when all things will be made new.
Into our pain and joy, into the midst of our hopes and sorrows; God still comes to us and reminds us that things will be transformed. God is still at work in the world, even if we can’t always see it. It’s hard to see blessings in real time. We usually don’t see the blessings of God in the moment. Jeremiah reminds his people of the past and the works of God that God has wrought on their behalf before he tells them of the hope for the future. When we look back over the course of our lives, when we make room to remember the past only then can we see that we are here today by grace, that we have made it and we are called to be grace and blessing and hope for others.
The more we remember the blessings of the past we can trust God to lean/live into a way of life that is contrary to the way of the world around us. The season of advent is about expectation, repentance, and hope. This isn’t meant to be an isolated personal effort, you aren’t meant to do it alone, frankly we can’t. It’s an invitation to slow down and look for hope and speak it to others. We need to speak hope, we must embody peace, and we must pronounce in word/deed that God loves us as we are and not as we should be. God’s love for us isn’t contingent upon how we behave, but that is not license to do life any way we want. We are called to something bigger than we can imagine. Here is the beauty of the common life of Christian disciples.
Disciples of Jesus Christ(that’s me and you) aren't called to be superheroes.
We are called to be people trusting in faith and pregnant with expectation that God is going to do something. The more we learn to listen and love and be okay with not being okay, the more we can learn to embrace God’s hope for God’s people and live in alignment with the way of Jesus Christ. I can not lie to you, it is hard to live in expectation that God's gonna show up, and to lean into the future of God's hope because life ,oftentimes, runs counter to how we’ve been told how the world is supposed to work. Life can be so very hard, people are difficult, families are messy, work is difficult and those things make it hard to hope sometimes.
Hope isn’t something we can easily muster up on our own.
Thank God we don't have to hope alone. Thank God, because hoping alone is exhausting. We need each other to hope and to help. Life together is a blessing, when we together endeavor to live out lives of practice, welcome, invitation, service, we begin to help ourselves hear the voice of Jesus a bit clearer. Together with each other we can drown out the other voices that seek to drive us from living as Disciples of Jesus Christ. Hope is made easier in community, it is strengthened in worship, it is made resolute in communal worship/prayer. As we do this we start a revolutionary revival of renewal wherein we learn to share God's love as perfectly revealed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Together in the gathered community we are endeavoring to live into God’s call for us to practice simple things and trust in God's hope for creation. God through Jeremiah was calling God’s people back to defy their appetite for novelty and come back to the way of God that they had known. Advent is God’s invitation for all of us to defy chasing after those things that are contrary to the way of God and together embody hope and love, it isn’t flashy, it isn’t going to make anybody a ton of money.
This is a season of simple things, and slowing down. If you take the journey together, the world will be changed. Simple things done with great love move the world. God calls us all of us to live into a way of life shaped by love and nothing else, I hope we will listen; I hope.
~Fr. Lance Schmitz, Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
THE ANGLICAN VERSION OF THE CATHOLIC ROSARY - DR. GIL HAAS, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
This is Our Story
The Anglican version of the Catholic rosary was developed in the Episcopal Diocese of
Texas as an aid to daily prayer. An Anglican prayer bead set consists of thirty-three
beads divided into four groups of seven beads called Weeks with four large Cruciform
beads separating the four groups. Attached to one Cruciform bead is a cross and a
single Invitatory bead. Each type of bead is associated with a different prayer by the
user. The user begins at the cross (saying: In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit. Amen.) followed by the Invitatory Bead (saying: O God make speed to save me,
O Lord make haste to help me, Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy
Spirit: As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.), and
subsequently, to the first Cruciform bead (saying: Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy
Immortal One, Have mercy upon me), moving to the right, through the first set of seven
beads (saying: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.) to to the
next Cruciform bead, and so on continuing around the circle.
If you have a liturgical question or an inquiry about anything that transpires during or
around our worship service, please forward the question you would like researched to:
email@example.com . Please note whether we can credit you as the source.
Dr. Gil Haas, Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
AT THE DOORSTEP - SERMON ON REVELATION 1:4B-8 AND JOHN 18:33-37 - CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY - FR. JOSEPH ALSAY, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
The Feast of Christ the King
Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
November 21, 2021
Revelation 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37
“At the Doorstep”
Doorways are interesting things. In one way they are thresholds into private sanctuary
like spaces where we rest, eat, play and live. But in another way, they are gateways out,
out into the big wide world that is full of mystery, opportunity, and chaos. When we
stand at the doorstep with what we know behind us and what we don’t know in front of
us, new worlds beckon us to come out of our safe sanctuary- like spaces to participate
in what is to come.
In many ways we are standing at the doorstep. Today marks the end of another church
year and we stand at the doorstep of a new Advent, a season of waiting with a longing
anticipation for the reign of Christ that comes to us in real time, in real ways incarnate of
the same dirt and flesh and blood as you and I.
What will we experience as step out across the threshold into a new church year and
into an ever-changing world? What do we anticipate or hope for in this upcoming new
church year? What hesitation might we have for stepping out?
In his testimony before Pilate just before his crucifixion, Jesus says in our Gospel today,
“For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone
who belongs to the truth listen to my voice.”
Death is on the doorstep for Jesus, and in this moment, Jesus testifies to the truth.
As people of faith, we are people who listen to the voice of Jesus, to look for Jesus at
work among us and we are called to respond. But the noise and clamor of the world can
be hard to hear over and we are blinded by the glitz and glamour that surround us.
There are times we may fall into hesitation instead of hope by the evil and death on our
Barbara Lundblad, a Lutheran theologian, reflects on Jesus as king. She asks, “Where
will we hear and see this strange king?
Among us still--and in places we never expected.
Throughout the scriptures we see a different vision of king and kingdom than the one
made known in fairytales, modern monarchies (and even democracies.) Jesus’ reign as
king is revealed in humility, self-emptying and service to others.” Jesus’ reign is made
known through love; love for the Samaritan woman outcast from her community, love for
the disciples as he bends down to wash their feet, love poured out for all in the mystery
of the cross.
Jesus is a king who never rose so high that he couldn’t see those who were down low.
Even today, we see Jesus in the refugee who have left their native lands due to war and
oppression. We see Jesus with those struggling to rebuild their lives. We hear Jesus in
the shelters where wailing women have sought refuge from abusers. To see and hear
the voice of Jesus in all places that kings seldom GO!
This king who moves among the people is unlike any other. His power is always on the
side of justice for the poor, disenfranchised, outcast and oppressed. His power is never
self-serving but always exercised on behalf of others. He does not sit on a throne but
comes into this world to be fully human and embrace all of humanity with love.
And this is good news for us. It means that when this human life seems too much to
bear- when those we love are lost or dying. Jesus too, knows the pain of being helpless
and in sorrow. It means that when our lives are spinning out of control from addiction,
financial strain or family strife, our humble king comes to us in “this body”, to draw us
close and build us up until hope is restored.
So, today we step over the threshold of our doorstep into a church new year we are
reminded of our call to follow Jesus and testify to the truth that goodness is stronger
than evil and life is stronger than death. We step over the threshold with the longing
hope that the reign of truth will come to us to set us free. No longer will we be controlled
or compelled to hesitate because of the seeming power wielded by the reign of fear, or
evil, or death, or lies.
The reign of truth liberates us to love without hesitation.
CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY SERMON - FR. LANCE SCHMITZ, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of each of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God our strength our redeemer and our one and only peace. AMEN
There are few questions that strike fear in the heart of hearers more than “Who is in charge around here?” Rarely is this a question that folks ask because they want to say something nice. Never ever is it uttered in a Starbucks by a pleased and happy customer.
Who is in charge around here? Is one of those questions that folks are always trying to answer, because whoever is in charge is in power and whoever is in power, is on top and gets to tell folks what to do.
Governments want to have power. Businesses want to have power. Family members want to have power. Small children want to have power. Clergy even want power. Power as commonly understood is control, and control means safety for those with the power.
Power in and of itself isn’t bad, because at its very foundation power is just this ability to do something.
Teaching folks how to wield power isn’t taught very well, and what we end up seeing more often than not is folks exercising manipulation, condescension, abuse, and control under the guise of being the one in charge.
Into a world where people brandish power in such dangerous/manipulative ways we find ourselves today celebrating Christ the King Sunday, remembering/commemorating something that is all too easy to forget; Jesus is Lord.
Jesus is Lord is one of those phrases that we have heard so much and has been embodied so poorly, that it has lost its edge and has been robbed its ability to lay hold of our minds, our imagination, our lives.
Life is messy, unpredictable, and tiring. We often end up running as fast as we can to just stay in place and keep up. Our tired minds, our exhausted days end up making us targets of convenience for any person, political party, news outlet, employer who wants to exert power over us so that we become another reliable part of the bottom line.
The peculiar placement of Christ the King as a feast day right before we enter into the high holy days of consumption where we are told by powerful forces “buy too much, eat too much, and worry too much” is a delicious point of irony.
It is at this time of the year there are innumerable voices trying to exert their power/influence screaming or subtly wooing you into believing that you won’t be happy unless…
You won’t be happy unless you give these gifts to your loved one.
You can’t be happy until your home looks just like this.
You have failed because you haven’t done x,y,z.
Christ the King Sunday comes reminding/confronting/comforting us to remember of who we really are, what we are really called to be, how we can properly see the world, and who holds all the cards.
In our reading from Revelation, which isn’t a step by step prediction guide to the end of the physical world despite how it has been depicted in popular culture and far too many odd books and Kirk Cameron movies, we find John inspiring and reminding these readers/hearers that this world is ill the empire of Rome is sick and Jesus is Lord.
He reminds them then and us now, that despite the goings on around us there is something/one greater. Despite all the voices telling us otherwise, we are called to be about something else entirely.
The Kingdom of God, The Way of Jesus Christ is something worthy of giving our lives to, everything else takes a backseat to this way of doing life.
Revelation comes to us and reminds us when we feel lost, when we feel confused, when we encounter hurt that there is one you can cast your energy, love, and fears upon and that person is Jesus.
Then as today, there are people exerting power/control trying to lay claim to your life and imagination and inform you on what it means to be an acceptable person, a good citizen, a member of the right group.
Revelation reminds us that Christ is Lord, Jesus has primacy and ultimacy, that God who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty. God is the beginning and the end. Despite all appearances, we have one that is worth casting our allegiances/cares/concerns with, and that is Jesus.
So what does this all mean for us as Christians dwelling in the 21st century? It is really easy to say Jesus is Lord with our lips and not embody it with our lives, but what could it look like if we did?
To claim Jesus as Lord means we live in this world as a peculiar people seeking the welfare of all and allowing no one to exert control over who we will love and help. We give no fealty to systems, structures, or isms(no matter how useful they are) that seek to harm those robbed of power.
To profess/proclaim/uttter Christ as King means that we refuse to allow any modifier/name to come before Christian. We are not liberal or conservative Christians but rather Christians who happen to be either liberal or conservative.
This subtle shift of language serves as a reminder to place our Christian commitment/identity before any other allegiance and it means that we ought always and universally give Christian love and charitableness towards all people, regardless of our political preferences.
When we say Jesus is Lord we make public confession that we follow the one who has called all things into being and everyone/thing else takes its proper place, because we know who has true power.
Because we follow Christ as King we are liberated/freed/loosed from worrying about protecting things that don’t need to be protected. Because of Jesus has freed to love and seek the welfare of all despite what others will say because we follow the one who throughout his life, death, and resurrection confounded conventional expectations/wisdom of what was expected and revealed to a hurting world the way of salvation and love.
God's sacred hope for you and for me is nothing short of absolute fealty to Jesus. Honestly though it is hard to ignore/drown out those voices seeking to exert power over our lives and usurp the lordship of Jesus.
Worship is the most effective form of resistance to the powers who would dominate our lives, because in our worship, whatever form it takes reminds us and others where our hope and faith truly rest.
When we show up in prayer the better we hear the voice of the one who is worthy of being followed, the more we serve the powerless the better we get at feeling God’s love, when we confess to God and one another that we aren’t in control the easier it becomes to claim Christ as King over our lives.
We are freed to follow God and ignore all those voices begging us to do otherwise, and this is some good news.
~ Rev. Lance Schmitz, Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
CENTERING PRAYER - DR. GIL HAAS, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
This is Our Story
Centering Prayer is a method of silent prayer that prepares us to receive God’s presence within us - closer than breathing, thinking, and even consciousness itself. Some theologians find Centering Prayer controversial and nearly the opposite in method to Lectio Divina. Centering Prayer can be traced to books by three Trappist monks in the 1970‘s. To summarize, Centering Prayer is prayer that is “centered entirely on the presence of God.” Unlike many meditative techniques, Centering Prayer does not empty the mind or attempt to reach an altered state of consciousness. In this sense, Centering Prayer is not a mantra producing a desired cause-and-effect. Centering Prayer is merely consenting one’s will to God’s presence by reaffirming our intention to be in God’s presence and to surrender to His divine action. Throughout a Centering Prayer, our intention predominates to move our will to consent to God’s intention in a quite personal way. Thus, Centering Prayer, is a personal relationship with God, not a technique. Centering Prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer. Centering Prayer is a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Him.
If you have a liturgical question or an inquiry about anything that transpires during or around our worship service, please forward the question you would like researched to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note whether we can credit you as the source of the question.
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
WHAT IS LAS POSADAS? DR. GIL HAAS, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
This is Our Story
Las Posadas is a novena (nine days of observance commemorating the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy) from December 16th to the 24th. Las Posadas is Spanish for “lodging” which refers to the inn with “No Vacancy” in the story of Jesus’ birth. Some historians believe that Las Posadas rose from the ashes of holidays on the ancient Aztec calendar. Tonantzin Guadalupe (the mother of the gods) was celebrated on the winter solstice, and missionary priests transformed this pagan festival into a Christian celebration. Others believe that the tradition originated 400 years ago in Mexico to commemorate Mary and Joseph’s searching for a warm place to spend the night in Bethlehem. Regardless, either a couple dressed as Mary and Joseph riding on a donkey or statues of the couple are processed. In some traditions, the Holy Family is denied entrance at several homes until they reach the designated “lodging” for that evening. Here Mary and Joseph are welcomed, and the Holy Family and guests (often including musicians and children dressed as angels and shepherds carrying lit candles) enter, pray, and sing around the Nativity scene. After a festive meal, a star-shaped piñata is broken open.
If you have a liturgical question or an inquiry about anything that transpires during or around our worship service, please forward the question you would like researched to: email@example.com. Please note whether we can credit you as the source of the question.
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
SERMON ON 1 SAMUEL 1 4-20, FR. LANCE SCHMITZ, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of each of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O God our strength, our redeemer, and our one and only peace. AMEN
Our Old Testament reading today is a character study for folks who just don’t get it.
Every year Elkanah, Penniah, Hannah and the family go on a journey to make the appointed sacrifices and, like every family trip I’ve been on, there is drama.
Elkanah has two wives(which I’m sure always leads to weirdness), one who has, in the words of scripture, given her husband children and rubs this fact in the face of the other wife mocking her barrenness every chance she gets. (Real helpful behavior)
Elkanah dotes on both of his wives but he makes sure Hannah, the one who has not been able to have children, gets more food because he wants to show his love.
Hannah is despondent because of her station in life and her husband fails miserably at consolation(which a lot of folks do) and turns the conversation back to him,
“Oh, Hannah, why are you crying? Why aren’t you eating? And why are you so upset? Am I not of more worth to you than ten sons?”
This is a Grade A example of a man knowing exactly what a woman doesn’t want/need to hear.
Hannah was probably just tired of dealing with all these people(something we can all sympathize with at times) pushes her feelings inside, finishes her food and sneaks away to the temple to pray.
This is where we meet Old Eli the priest, sitting in his chair as old men are wont to do.
He spies Hannah from afar and decides this lady is drunk and he needs to tell her to leave.
Hannah comes back at him with a hopefully a bit of sass, and I love this,
“I'm a brokenhearted woman. I haven’t been drinking.
I’m here full of tears and crying out to God.
Don’t you dare think for a minute I’m a bad woman.
It’s because I’m so desperately unhappy and in such pain that I’ve been here so long.”
Eli is taken aback, and I hope he feels a bit ashamed of his assumptions, and basically says to her “Go in peace and may God give you what you want.”
Hannah left changed, Hannah left transformed this interaction even with all it’s stumbles/hiccups/ left her with hope. It was in due time she was blessed with her child Samuel.
So many people in this story either made assumptions, or turned the story in towards themselves, or just decided to be flat out mean towards the one who was hurting.
Plenty of failure to go around.
Hannah was in pain, and no one was really helping until Eli came near to scold but ended up listening to Hannah’s hurt.
His posture changed from judgment to listening/hearing and ended up transforming a situation.
Let’s be transparent/honest here, it’s hard/dangerous/frightening to enter into someone else’s hurts/pains.
It is scary territory because it reminds us of our vulnerability and truthfully who likes that?
We all like to think we are strong, independent, and need no one else.
There is a cultural addiction to acting like we’ve got it all together or that we are captains of our own fate.
Our culture (explicitly and implicitly) idolizes being busy, self sufficiency, production, and toughness probably due in large part to our fear of people seeing us as weak.
That running around wears folks down and rewards them with exhaustion.
We set ourselves up to judge and fear people’s brokenness when they show even the slightest bit of vulnerability or dare reveal any hurt; more often than not because it scares us to be confronted with a reminder of life’s fragility and our own.
I don’t think this apprehension is new, getting hurt is one the universal human concerns, because it exposes the unwelcome frailties we have that we don’t want anyone to know about.
Here’s the truth though, every single person here in this room has wounds, each one of us gathered here today has hurts that only they know about and some are terrified that others might find out about them.
We each and all have been hurt by someone or something and we hold that pain close and it determines how we see and act towards others and invariably what we think about ourselves.
Our hurts, our pains, our wounds aren't unique, we each and all have them.
You aren’t the only person that hurts.
I say that not to diminish your pain, not at all, but to let you know that you're are not alone.
Here lies a troubling disconnect though; Christians for almost 2,000 years have gathered to worship one who has shown us that it is okay to be vulnerable, that it is normal to be scared, that it is alright to be clear about what we need.
Jesus our savior, our Lord, and our friend lived all of these things and it was put in our scriptures; and yet we are scared to do the same.
We are fine to worship that person but we dare not practice that kind of vulnerability, it terrifies us.
BUT WHAT IF WE DID? BUT WHAT IF WE DID?
We could have a change of heart like Eli and speak hope into others lives, our transformed hearts could shine light into so many forgotten places.
If we learned to listen like Eli(hopefully without the chastising of someone we misunderstood), love like Jesus(despite our own biases), and be willing to share a bit of our pain(requiring us to go against the grain of acceptable wisdom), so many lives might be transformed; including our own.
If we cried out to God and told our story like Hannah we might find some healing and our willingness to be vulnerable would be a help to others.
The world would be made better because we would show up and be okay with not being okay.
Shining some light on our own wounds and sharing our light with others could be all the light they need to see some healing that they thought would never come.
We come here to worship the all powerful God of the universe who, let us never ever forget this, became fragile flesh to show us a new way of being in the world.
Everyone you meet is struggling with something, everyone, and to them it is huge.
When we listen and hear others, we enter into their life with all of its struggles and joy and we become a healing pathway of Christian hope for someone who may have lost it.
Is this an easy way of life? Nope not at all, people are messy and unpredictable and oftentimes really really difficult.
It is worth it? Oh my yes it is, for we have the opportunity to be grace for others who are hurting and be for them the embodied love of God and that makes all the difference in the world.
When we practice living with and for others our hearts are strangely warmed and our capacity of care grows.
The more we practice being with people in their hurt, the better we will get at it, the better we get at listening and understanding the more our love for self, others, and God will grow.
Y’all we are given the unique powerful opportunity to practice here with one another in community, if we are willing, to be the kind of people the world and God needs us to be out there.
The church ought to be that place where you don’t have to hide your hurts and everyone wants you to succeed and when you fail they are there to pick you up and walk with you towards healing.
We don’t need perfect people, because nary one of us has it all together, but rather folks like Hannah who are willing to be real/honest/vocal with their struggles.
The world won’t/can’t be healed by perfect churches/people, but by everyday folks embodying as best they can the perfect love of God for everyone as revealed through the life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Following Jesus and claiming him as Lord is a public confession that yeah we are not okay and we need help, and that is beautiful and honest and healing.
We’ve a calling, we’ve an invitation; it’s up to you if you take it.
I hope you do. AMEN
Sermon by Fr. Lance A. Schmitz, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS - SERMON AND REFLECTIONS BY FR. JOSEPH C. ALSAY, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
A Sermon Delivered
The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay
On The Feast of All Saints Sunday - 2020, Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Two spectacular events in the life of our church are taking place today!
One is All Saints Day. Traditionally for Protestants, All Saints’ is when we remember the people we have loved and lost. It’s a time to remember All the Saints
On All Saints’ we proclaim our hope in Christ’s love, and we talk about what is called the “Communion of Saints” transcending time and place, of which we are a part. That’s a confusing phrase, but to simplify it, by Communion of Saints we just mean this: all who have taught us by their lives how to live faithfully, who have given their lives for the sake of the Good News, and now live in God’s nearer presence, encouraging us, and interceding there for us.
The other major event is: today is Stewardship or In-gathering Sunday.
Over the past month you’ve seen and heard videos from various members talking about the difference SAC has had on their life. Because, my friends the point we’ve tried to make is that stewardship is about more than money. Instead, stewardship is about life, and it’s about taking every good thing you have been given, and being a good steward of it, which in 21st century terms just means being a good manager.
Stewardship is about recognizing what God gives us and then deciding to use it well. Our time, our talents, our treasure…no matter what we have, we make the choice.
So, today we are collecting pledge cards for next year, and after worship they will be tallied up, the total announced and the work of building God’s kingdom through this community continues.
Now, these two events had to fall on the same Sunday this year. That made me a little uneasy at first. Money is hard enough to talk about. Money and the memory of people we have loved is even harder. And I didn’t want anyone to think we had done this deliberately to try to emotionally manipulate anyone into giving more.
But as I thought about it, I really came to appreciate the beauty of talking about stewardship and talking about our whole lives. I’ll tell you why.
One of the traditional readings for All Saints’ is the Beatitudes, which you just heard. Blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the merciful. In other words, blessed are people who, in reality, are nothing like me. I want to be all those things, but I stumble on a daily basis.
And on All Saints’ my flaws are front and center. Martin Luther said that we are all simultaneously both saint and sinner, but I can testify that my saint is far outweighed by my sinner. And this talk of saints…those are the holy people, the ones who seem to walk around with halos on their heads. That’s not me.
But our faith says something a little different. We are all imperfect. We also teach that when we die, we don’t become angels like Hallmark tells you.
On the day when we will leave this life, we do not have to fear. Because we all belong to a merciful God who has given us extraordinary grace. And on that day, we will find that we have joined the great Communion of Saints. One of the defining features of saints is not that they were these great, perfect, worker of miracles, but that they were people. They were good, honest, hard-working people who didn’t get it right every time, but who taught the value of trying again, of keeping on, people who remind us that God loves us no matter what.
And so, that means that we, you and I, are saints-in-training, whether we believe we are worthy of that title or not. We are not going to get it entirely right this side of the kingdom of God, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t take our work of preparing for sainthood seriously.
That’s why if you look closely at the four banners hanging in the nave you will notice the names of the loved ones you wrote down or sent in inner dispersed with names of those Saints who have been honored throughout the ages by the entire church.
But, if you are ever so perceptive and glare just a little more closely and you might notice this year, your name is written on this “roll of champions.”
So, what is the best way to become a “saint” in the twenty-first century? Is it to do what St. Anthony did in the fourth century: turn your back on the pleasures of this world and live apart from society?
Is it to do what St. Francis did in the thirteenth century: turn our backs on material wealth and preach the Gospel wherever we can find a crowd and a soapbox?
Or is it to do something like St. Elizabeth Seaton did in the nineteenth century; raise a family and spend the rest of our lives working with society’s sick and needy?
The answer to theses questions is no. And the reason that’s it’s no is obvious. You don’t become a saint by doing what God made someone else to do. You become a saint by doing what God made you to do at this moment in your life.
God has given you this life. This “one wild and precious life”. All that we are entrusted with, God entrusts to us to manage, care for, use, and steward to live full abundant lives, and to meet our neighbors’ needs near and far as God’s hands and feet in the world.
It’s that simple. And it’s that hard.
What is your plan to do with it? Whatever your answer is, that is stewardship.
Stewardship is nothing less than figuring out what you will choose to do with every moment, and every GIFT you’ve been given, in your “one wild and precious life”.
WHAT IS LECTIO DIVINA? DR. GIL HAAS, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
Lectio Divina is the ancient method of prayerfully reading the Bible recently taught by Canon Dr. Tony Moon. Its origins were in monastic orders, but now the practice has become an important part of the lives of many Christians from many different traditions. The method enables the reader to contemplate God and God’s will which deepens the reader’s relationship with God. When beginning a lectio divina of the Bible, the reader is not concerned with study to increase their knowledge or with an expectation of some extraordinary experience. Instead the reader is attempting to listen to what God has to say, to know God’s will, and to live more deeply in allegiance with Jesus Christ. The recommendation of Eli to Samuel is appropriate in this context: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” The practice of lectio divina does not depend on the effort of the reader, but entirely on God’s freely-made decision to dialogue with the reader. Like any meditative practice, the right surroundings facilitating attentive listening are important. In addition, the reader must ask what the words actually say, what does the text say specifically say to the reader, and what does the text lead the reader to say to God?
~ Dr. Gil Haas, Saint Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
SERMON ON MARK 12:38-44 - FR. JOSEPH C. ALSAY, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
A Sermon Delivered by The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay, Rector
St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
November 7th 2021
All Saints/Stewardship In-gathering Sunday
“Give Your Whole Self”
She gave her whole life---everything she had to live on. Tw small copper coins, two pennies really, but it was everything she had.
It’s unimaginable. Shocking even. Can you imagine coming to church one day bringing your check book and signing over a blank check? Or placing all of your credit / debit cards in the offering plate? Bringing your valued possessions – your car title, the deed to your home, all of your electronics- and handing them over to the religious leaders who are dressed in long robes and preparing to pray long prayers? Even the most generous givers could not imagine doing so.
It’s stewardship Ingathering and All Saints’ Sunday. What a combination. This story is often used to encourage people to give more, to be like the widow who gave everything she had. But if we compare the widow’s giving to our own giving in the church, we have missed the point of the story.
So, let’s take a step back and look at this story
Again. This widowed woman, living at the margins of society, unnoticed by the religious elite, gives “all that she had to live on.” If we translate it literally it means: “her whole life.” This phrase is from the Greek word “Holos” the root word of holistic.
These days it’s very hip to be “holistic.” A holistic approach to health care specializes in the treatment of the whole person, taking into account the mental, and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of the disease.
We and all people who care for us, are to pay attention to our “whole self” not just our physical self.
So rather than look at the widow and her mite as a stewardship icon, today I invite us to understand this woman and her gift in a new way. She gave her “whole self.” This is not just about two coins, but it’s about Jesus seeing her offering and getting others to notice it too.
Not just her limited money, but het whole self- emotional, spiritual, vocational, social everything. He notices this woman on the margins, someone who is easily overlooked and overshadowed but the religious who are used to places of honor and power, and Jesus invites the disciples to honor her gifts and respect the life she has to share.
Because we cannot live our holistic, best self, without caring for others too. That is what Jesus calls us to do. If we look at the widow as an example of giving everything- something none of us will ever be able to do, we are stalled even before we reach for our pledge card. But if we lament with this woman the circumstances of her day and our own, we are joined with Jesus in caring for her. God will not stand for such abuse- especially within the community that is meant to care for widows and all who are oppressed. God see her, God cares about her, especially when it’s clear nobody else did.
The good news is that God sees our struggles too, recognizes our challenges and cares about us when we are hard pressed o make ends meet. And at the same time God calls us to see others in their vulnerability too: those discriminated against because of their ethnicity, the hopelessness of those who cannot find work, the many who battle addiction, and those who are weighed down with grief. God invites us to look around and see each other, those in our community, and those beyond it and challenge and advocate for a system that doesn’t leave anyone behind.
Over the past few weeks, I hope you had an opportunity to look at and listen to the video of your fellow members. The one thing that stuck me, was the constant mantra and emphasis of St. Augustine’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, acceptance, and outreach to those most need.
You may not be aware of the fact that your faithful commitment in 2021 to give to the holistic work and ministry of this congregation was manifest in many ways.
Of the 70 churches and institutions in the Diocese of Oklahoma, St. Augustine’s gave the MOST to the 2021 Bishop’s Appeal to the historic Vernon A.M.E.
Maybe that’s because we take seriously the concept that discrimination of any people due to the color of their skin is a most heinous and detestable sin. We dared to make a difference in a life and ministry of a congregation that survived the ravages of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot – the worse in America’s history.
It was due to St. Augustine’s consistent and generous giving, even in the midst of the throws of the pandemic that our brothers and sisters at the Jesus House, received the much-needed supplies to make sure that those trying to recover form various addictions and looking for a place to sleep were able to do so. It is because of our steadfast commitment to this organization we will be honored in the Spring of 2022 with a well-deserved award from the Jesus House.
And most recently, the congregation of Santa Maria de Virgin recognized the monies given by St. Augustine’s was the largest to date, given to help with the repairs of their roof. A project that we will engage in further in the upcoming Advent season.
We did these outreach projects not to be prideful or to have SAC name emblazoned in stars. We did so because this community understand why we sacrificially give. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing.
In today’s gospel story Jesus speaks truth to power, admonishing those in authority to open their eyes and see something new, even in those from whom the least expect it.
The widow’s offering of her whole self, foreshadows Jesus’ own giving of his whole life for the sake of the world. It is the mystery we claim and barely understand, the holy one who knows our own vulnerabilities and brokenness, is the very one who gives us new life. God wants nothing more than to give God’s whole life-for us. This is essence of God-giving love, giving hope, giving God’s whole self so that we may have life and live it abundantly.
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.