Friday, May 4, 2018

Easter 7, Year B

Dear friends, I am looking for feedback on this draft of my sermon for Sunday, May 6, 2018.  Comments on here, on my facebook (Emily Morisette), or as an email are welcome.  Thank you in advance, and blessings to you.



Preface: May the words I speak be only truth, and may that truth; let them express the love of God for everyone.

I hate admitting that I hadn’t been to church in almost a month until last Sunday… but “coming back” felt like God was speaking directly to me to welcome me back, especially in the readings of scripture.  And then this Sunday’s readings brought last week’s readings into even more vivid light than they had been.

This week I was struck by today’s first reading, when Peter says that it makes no sense to deny Baptism – inclusion into this union – to anyone who has received the spirit.  It makes no sense to deny anyone: welcome.  We welcome you here in love because we can’t imagine it any other way.

Last week we read from the first book of John.  The first sentence of the reading is: “Beloved, let us love one another because love is from God; everyone who knows love is born of God and knows God.”  So begins descriptions of love and its importance to and of and in God.  Twice in the reading we are called “Beloved.”
Beloved.  Not a term you use for just anyone.  A word for someone incredibly special.  What more perfect emulation of God’s love could be there by assuring people – strangers! – that they are not only loved, but Beloved.

This week John continues by saying “we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey His commandments.”  Now let’s look at the Gospel today: “this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  More love!  And this time, we are told that God’s commandment is to love one another.  Go back to earlier, when John said, “we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments.”  This time John tells us that obeying God’s commandments is how we show love to God’s children.  And God tells us that his commandment is to love one another.  Love comes full circle.  Love God, love one another, and be loved.

In theory it sounds easy.  Of course we love God.  We’re all gathered here by our own choice to celebrate our love for God.  Our choice shows our love for God in here, in this building.  I bet you all know what I’m going to say, but I’m going to say it anyway, or should I hand it off to Deacon Barbara, who reminds us every Sunday?

Let us turn toward the door where our journey truly begins!

Our journey is pretty clear after the last two weeks’ readings: love one another.  We’ve heard it all before.  We know how to do this; I’m sure we can recite at least a hundred ways if we all put our heads together.

But here’s the sticking point.  We have to actually DO IT.  Doing it is the hard part.  We need to ask ourselves what keeps us from doing this?  Are we too tired?  Too angry?  Too confused?  Too “busy” in our own affairs that we forget about others (we’ve all been there)?

Let’s stop being too “whatever.”  Let’s start small: I’m going to resolve to do at least one extra kind thing every day this week.  What will everyone do?  Will we let the Spirit move us into bringing God’s love out of the doors of this church?  Will we structure and schedule things to make sure we do them so that we can get used to it and make it a habit?  Will we continue doing what we have always been doing?  What will we do to live in God’s love, and what will happen because of it?  It is up to us.
Amen.
d

Monday, February 19, 2018

I've had enough of these shootings.

again.
again, again, again.
again.

the blood, the screams.
the shaking embraces.
the parents who never fathomed
this Again.

the keening, the wailing.
the primordial screams.
the angry opinions
on every computer screen.

again.

the dark, the pain.
the confusion.
the anger, the fury.
the fruitless rage.

again.

the pain of empathy,
the dolor of love.
the bitterness.

again.

the ribbons, the posters
the billboards, the flags.
the meaningless moments of silence.

again.

the sanctimonious speeches.
the "thoughts and prayers."
the political gain

again.

When will our screams reach
not the ears
but the hands of Action
before another Again?

when will the outpouring
of poetry, music, art,
about these Agains
STOP?

when will 
         AGAIN
stop its jarring cadence
of our hearts pounding?

again.
again
again
again
again, again, again.

the "we should have known."
would have.
could have.

the infinite futility
of only words.

again.

Fuck these Agains.
enough Agains.

enough.
enough
enough
enough
enough
enough, enough, enough.

c.2018 E. Morisette

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B


The lessons: 


  • Isaiah 40:21-31
  • 1 Corinthians 9:16-23
  • Mark 1:29-39
  • Psalm 147:1-12, 21c

  • The Sermon:

    Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  So says the first reading.  Twice.  Seems like Isaiah is telling us to listen up.  It’s one of the greatest attention-getters in almost any conversation.  People use it all the time: “did you hear that so-and-so is getting married to that guy?  Did you hear that so-and-so died?”  In fact, I used that expression only last week.  I do not know whether it is comforting or not to know that the preface for almost all modern gossip, good and bad, has been around for millenia.  At any rate, it gets you listening.

    So.

    Have you not heard that the Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the heavens and the earth?  He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless!  Sounds pretty excellent.  And Isaiah tells us that it gets EVEN BETTER.  Even the youths will faint and grow weary, the young will fall exhausted. 

    How many times have we said that we got through something only because God was at our side?  I remember, when I was in the depths of a very severe depression, that I somehow survived a trip to Cincinnati with my family for a wedding.  I don’t remember much of the weekend (even through pictures), but I know that God got me through it.

    Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.  They shall run and not grow weary.  They shall walk and not grow faint. 
    The Psalm emphasizes this even more.  Not only does the Lord rebuild Jerusalem (I understand that’s a pretty excellent thing), but he also:
    Gathers the exiles out of Israel.
    heals the brokenhearted
    lifts up the lowly
    prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow upon mountains, green plants for mankind, and provides food for the flocks and herds.  How lucky we are to experience this!  Healing of our heartbreak.  I’m sure we can all relate to having some form of heartbreak in our lives, and the gratitude we feel to God for helping us through it.

    But wait, there’s more! Paul tells the Corinthians about proclaiming the Gospel, the GOOD NEWS.  He tells us how to do it: for the Jews he became a Jew, to those under the law he became one under the law, even though he is not.  To the weak he became weak.  In essence, he made sure that he spoke the language of his audience, and met them where they are.  In so doing, he became accessible to everyone who heard his message.  He became comprehensible.  It helps us get on board with this.  We all know how quickly a conversation can end when someone uses “jargon” that we don’t know. 

    In the Gospel, Jesus came into town, casting out demons, healing the sick.  First he helped out Simon’s mother-in-law with her fever, and, as we have learned, news spread.  I can imagine the people of the town saying things like, “haven’t you heard about the guy visiting Simon’s mother in law?  He made her better!”  By the end of the day, the whole city was gathered around the door to ask Jesus to cast out demons and heal the sick.  The next morning Jesus went out and prayed alone.  Once Simon and his companions found him and told him that everyone was looking for him, Jesus spoke of his real mission:

    Let us go out to neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also.  Proclaim the message of the Lord rebuilding Jerusalem, giving strength to the weak, heals the brokenhearted, gives power to the faint, strengthens the powerless.  And more!  What a joyful and wonderful message.  A message that has been with the prophets for, well, about as long as that gossip-preface has been.

    Jesus proclaimed the message by helping to heal the sick, casting out demons.  He didn’t stand on a soapbox and tell it.  He proclaimed it, through his actions.  The old adage of “actions speak louder than words” is true even for the son of God.  Or maybe especially.

    So how do we proclaim the message?  Jesus did it by casting out demons, healing the sick.  But what about us? What do our actions show?  Deacon Barbara turns us toward the door, where our mission truly begins.  YES!  It’s great that we spend this time together as a community, and share our love and friendship with each other, but why stop there?  Jesus went to neighboring towns.  Paul spoke the language and entered the culture of those he proclaimed to.  So why should we limit our proclamation to just these walls, just our Episcopal friends?  And do we have to tell everyone that being Episcopalian is the best way to proclaim and learn of the good news?  As much as I wish we could (I like being Episcopalian!), it would contradict Paul’s advice of meeting people where they are so that they can truly understand and internalize the message.

    So how will we live God’s message and, in so doing, proclaim it?  How will we spread the love of God through this world through our actions?  I do not expect us all to be able to cast out demons, but we certainly can spread the love of God and the joy we have from it, even if we use terminology that’s not necessarily “Jesus.”  The customer who ends every phone call to the pharmacy with “God bless you, dear,” brings me joy and love of God.  There’s a lady who comes into my work every month to give me a copy of Living Faith, the “roman catholic” version of our Forward Day By Day booklet.  She doesn’t do it out of effort to convert me; she does it out of love for God and love for me.  What a beautiful way to proclaim!  Returning my cart to the cart corral might help the cart-pusher feel a little more joy and a little less drudgery.  (I am very big on this thanks to my own cart-pushing experience.)  Listening.  Holding hands with someone as she or he grieves, and allowing them the comfort that their grief is valid and accepted.   Sharing in the joy of someone who just got good news.  Doing it.  Living it.  We don’t just go to church; we are the church.  In being the church, even outside this beautiful building, we proclaim the message.
    Amen.

    Sunday, June 18, 2017

    Trinity Sunday sermon

    Preface:
    May the words I speak be only truth; let them express the love of God for all of us.
    There are three verses in the Bible that I fervently believe should be taken literally.  The first is “love your neighbor as yourself.”  The next is “God is love.”  And perhaps my favorite, from the Gospel of John: “God is love, and whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”
    Note the common theme here: LOVE.
    Recently I explained to a friend why the message of God being LOVE is so important to me.  My friend has dealt with a lot of unspeakable heartbreak in his life, and at his recent loss of his foster child, he messaged me with the cynical quip that “the man upstairs must have something out for me.”
    He was kind of shocked when I told him that the image of some bearded guy in a big nightgown is not a realistic image of the God I know.
    When I explained to him that God is LOVE, and love is all around us, he got quiet.  Of course he asked “kind of like The Force in Star Wars?”  I had to say yes to God being invisible and powerful, but I also had to tell him that God would not hide the droids he was looking for.
    God is love.  Not a man upstairs with a long beard in a nightgown, not a George Burns-type character, not even Whoopi Goldberg.  Love.  Pure and simple.  God. Is. Love.

    But what about this trinity business?  3 persons, one God? But God is LOVE?  How can we assign three “persons” to a conceptual and omnipresent element such as love?

    Well, there are so many different ways that we can love.  If you break it down, those types of love are shown to us explicitly in the relationship of the Trinity: the love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  What types of love they are -- and more importantly how these loves relate to each other -- in the concept of the Trinity.

    God the Father.  Think about the love of a father; if not a father, of a parent.  This love is protective, tender, intense, hopeful, and eternal.  It’s the love that wants only the greatest for us, even if it means making sacrifices for the sake of us: “God so loved us that He sent into the world His only Son that WE may have life.”  We often talk about what a beautiful and incomparable sacrifice that is.  Those who have children know that the kind of love a parent has for a child is a love unique unto itself, and no one can replicate it.  The “you won’t understand this love until you have your own children.”  Wanting the best for them, encouraging the best in them, but ultimately having to watch them grow up and be themselves.

    God the Son.  Think about children.  When a baby cries, what is the parent’s first action to try to comfort them? They hold them.  Touch.  Corporeal love.  Love that is literally tangible, in our own human form, that we can understand.  Jesus came to Earth as a human – as a tangible being! – that we might understand the love of God in a way that we can touch and hold.  Mary Magdalene loved Jesus tangibly by pouring expensive perfume on His feet and wiping them with her hair.  The woman in the Gospel of Matthew who said to herself “if I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.”  Jesus who rubbed mud on the blind man’s eyes – touched his eyes! – and made him able to see.  Jesus, the tangible emulation of the love that God the father has for us.

    And then there’s the Holy Spirit.  Come, Holy Spirit; fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in us the FIRE of your love.  The holy spirit came upon the apostles as tongues of fire, and the apostles were able to speak the languages of all of the persons from all over the world, allowing people to come together to hear the message of the Lord. 
    People come together in groups around fire.  Think of how many times we use candles in church: candles on the altar, the Easter candle, the candles we light in prayer for ourselves and others.  Novena candles you can find in the Hispanic section of the grocery store.  My favorite moment of the church year is during the Great Vigil of Easter when the Pascal candle enters the dark church and suddenly the entire sanctuary is bathed in a light brighter than one would expect.  Of course my love for everyone holding their lit candle while the Exsultet is chanted isn’t too bad either.  All of these candle experiences are expressions of LOVE.

    There is beauty and love in gathering around fires also;  I heard a story of a Cursillo retreat; the first night was silent (as is always the practice).  The power went out, and the leader of the retreat entered the common room to find that the candidates had built a fire, all without speaking.  How beautiful a representation of the Holy Spirit at work, both literally in the fire and spiritually in the silent communication of starting it, and the LOVE that was involved in doing so.

    And how do these all relate to each other?  LOVE.  God is love.  Therefore, let us emulate God in loving one another, especially after this Pentecost; after all, Pentecost charges us to spread the message of God – LOVE – into the whole world.

    Amen.

    Saturday, May 20, 2017

    Gardening

    This morning I found myself in my garden space; the one that I hope to be pretty excellent this year, despite my previous record.

    The last tenant at our home was quite messy and didn't do much of anything with the house and/or yard; hence the garden area is a veritable command center for dock weed.

    I loathe dock weed.  I can't dig it up (easily broken tap roots), I can't kill it.  I've resorted to all kinds of eco-unfriendly methods, including but not limited to pouring an entire bottle of RoundUp CONCENTRATE on the one plant at the base (after making sure it went downward into the roots).  That darn plant came back after a week.  The only damage it seemed to display was that a couple of its leaves were a little misshapen at first... then it was back in its full anti-glory.

    So my amazing husband got me a 500,000 BTU weed torch.  (It doesn't kill the dock either, but it's kind of fun to blast.)  It really helps me clear the ground before I plant all of those annual veggies and replace a few of the herbs our puppy decided to dig up earlier this spring.  (Lesson learned: never let a 3 month old vizsla puppy loose in the yard if you're not paying complete attention to him.)

    I started doing a little blasting with the torch yesterday and then again today.  Today I felt an almost profound experience as I watched the flames obliterate all of these weeds to nothing but ashes.  I want to honor God and God's creation in this activity, so that I can eat and share the bounty that I cultivated with my hands and by the generosity of God.  How am I honoring God's creation if I am busy obliterating and trying to obliterate the plants that I find "undesirable," just so that I might grow the plants I want to?  Is that really  honoring God?  Is it really honoring the Earth?  Or is it just honoring my desires for tasty food?

    I still don't know the answer.  But I am still torching the weeds.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2017

    Closer to God?

    Yesterday our dog walk through the woods was through a veritable ice-rain shower, one that made my face feel like it was being pelted by miniature ninja stars.  I was cranky anyway, as I'd been having stomach issues all day and felt like garbage.  By the end of the walk, I was downright... bitchy.  I said something short to my husband, and he replied that for an aspiring clergy member, my words and behavior were not very reflective of that.

    I wouldn't be surprised if you heard my eyebrows slam together just by reading that.  I hate when he does that.

    I mentioned it to him today, once I'd gotten into a better place, asked him why can't clergy be human and have mistakes and instances of bitchiness.  He replied "because you're closer to God."

    Nope.

    I hate to think of any person as closer to God than another person.  (Unless you're being the smart aleck who says someone older is closer to God than someone younger because likely the older person will die first... which husband also said.)

    "But isn't the job of clergy to be closer to God?"

    No.

    I don't think anyone is closer to God than any other human being.  People may look at clergy as closer to God, but I disagree.  Clergy, to me, sometimes function as intermediaries simply because they are more schooled, more studied on the documents and histories of spirituality.  I do think it is the job of clergy to be well-read on documents of multiple spiritual philosophies/religions.  So, closer to God intellectually?  Possibly.  But not actually closer to God;  God is always with us, in us, around us.  Can't get much closer than that.

    Amen.

    Thursday, September 1, 2016

    On rocks and religion

    About a month ago, I started noticing something beautiful on our dog-walks.  Along the trail we walk (it's in the woods in a state park), I noticed some rocks at the base of trees, on fallen logs, etc.  Each rock was painted a rather neutral color to fit into the woods, and each rock had a positive message on it.  I remember "ah, songbirds -- the love song of the morning" as one of them.

    (I've made my Cursillo, and I immediately thought of these as palanca, but I refused to take them because I wanted them to make other people's days better too.)

    One night the rocks disappeared.  I thought the park maintenance workers had taken them, and when I asked them (they know us well), they said they hadn't, so I hoped more would come.

    Meanwhile, I started making rocks of my own, and thought I'd add Project Semicolon work to these rocks.  Project Semicolon is a mental health initiative (see link above), and I thought to myself that maybe having the semicolon on them would help people who encounter these on the trail, maybe people who are suffering from depression or even just having a crappy day.  I wrote things like "The universe is glad you are here" and "thank you for being."  I made sure to plant a few that said "your story is not over"... and I put a large semicolon on all of the rocks after the message I wrote.

    People started adding them and it was wonderful.  Until someone started adding religion.

    This might be unexpected -- I, the Super-Episcopalian, didn't want to see religious messages spread across the trail?  You're darn tootin' I don't.

    Here's why.

    Religion divides.  As soon as you say "Jesus," a whole bunch of people who think of the bad things about Christianity are automatically repelled from the underlying message.  Same if you say "Allah" or any other specified-by-religion name the world uses for that force of love that is the most universal message of God: it repels those who are automatically repelled by the thought of established religion. (Cases in point: my father, my husband, and me when I was going through difficulties with my faith...)  And suddenly the rocks have chances to generate negative emotions instead of positive ones.

    Love unites. Using love without specified religious terms makes these messages more accessible to everyone, religious or not, spiritual or not.

    I do not want anyone to be repelled/put off/offended/negatively affected by these rocks in any way.  I'm sure someone will find something to be offended about, but I think that if the specified religious wording is kept away from the rocks, people of different or struggling or nonexistent faiths will feel more comfortable seeing these rocks, and possibly the message of Love will enter more hearts.

    And that's what God's all about, no?  It/He/She is about LOVE.  All are welcome.  Why wouldn't we want to welcome everyone no matter what?  And to do that, I don't think that making something feel off-putting will make someone feel welcome.

    All are welcome.
    Amen.