I once read something on the national Episcopal Church website that I have not since been able to find when I looked for it, but I swear it was there at one point. It was a sort of Q & A about Episcopal beliefs. One of the questions posed was this: Do Episcopalians believe in being born again? And the answer was: yes, we do. We are born again, and again, and again. I liked that. I don’t know if any of you are even familiar with that phrase – “born again.” I grew up with it in a different denomination, and in that context, being “born again” meant that you had to have a moment in time when you decided to invite Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior. It was understood as the moment in time when you went from the status of being an “unbeliever” to being “saved.” But Episcopalians in general don’t think in quite such either / or terms.
At the Brown Bag Eucharist on Tuesdays we read and discuss the Gospel lesson for the coming Sunday. We go around the circle, each of us reading one sentence. This week the scripture from Matthew was so short that there wasn’t even one sentence for each of us. But let’s hear it now as we heard it on Tuesday.
There is a Jesuit priest named Father Gregory Boyle who has lived and done ministry in South Central Los Angeles for more than thirty years. When he started his ministry there, his neighborhood had the highest concentration of gang-related activity in the country. After a while Father Boyle founded an organization called Homeboy Industries, which seeks to help formerly incarcerated men and women get job training, housing assistance, tattoo removal, and whatever other support they need. He says that they work with the people no one else wants to work with. Why does he do this?
For a long time, I have been steeped in the culture and values of recovery. Although I myself am not an addict, my life has been intimately impacted by addiction in many ways. My husband Jeff is very open about the fact that he has been sober and in recovery for over 30 years, and for many years he has also been an addiction counselor. Before I married Jeff I dated other addicts. Some of my best friends are alcoholics, and others in my extended family have struggled with substance abuse. Addiction, and recovery from addiction, is in the air I breathe and the ocean I swim in. And so as I’ve learned over time, since addiction is a family disease, and a disease of the mind, I have discovered I also need recovery. The paradox of recovery is that to begin to recover, you have to admit you can’t make that happen yourself—either in your own life or in the life of another.
I want to thank Wendy and Chad for the wonderful prelude, Kate Wolf’s Give yourself to love. When I was in college in the late 60’s in the Bay Area, Kate was a frequent performer at local coffee houses and pubs. I heard her several times at the Cotati Inn. This song I believe speaks directly to our Way of Love practice; if you do not know the song, I hope you add it to your library. When Bishop Prior chose this song for our recent convention and a blog of his, we shared our appreciation of her work. As I suspect Kate knew well, if it isn’t about Love, it is not about God.
How many of you were aware that President Trump came to the Twin Cities this week? How many of you had feelings about that? How many of you think that the feelings you had about it are probably fairly close to what most of the people around you were feeling? How many of you think your feelings were different than most of the folks around you? How many of you are sick of hearing about President Trump? How many of you think we don’t talk about what is going on in our country enough? How many of you had stuff going on in your personal life that took more of your attention and energy than the political scene in our nation and in our city? How many of you think there are other issues going on in our city and country and world that aren’t getting enough attention because of how much the country is polarizing around politics? How many of you think the country polarizing around politics is urgent and must be addressed? How many of you would like to preach under these conditions?
In case any of you haven’t yet gotten the memo, we actually do have a theme as a community this fall: we are exploring the seven practices of the Way of Love, which are: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, and Rest. We are doing this through sermons, adult forums, and blog posts published on our website under the new “Way of Love” page. Each Sunday in the bulletin, you’ll find a question related to the day’s practice that I’m asking you to ponder, respond to, and either tear off your answer and put it in the offering plate, or email me your answer later. Then we collect your answers and put them up on the Way of Love bulletin boards in the parish hall. Last Monday Bishop Mariann Budde came to St. John’s to speak about her new book, called Receiving Jesus: The Way of Love, which is about her personal experience and understanding of these seven practices.
St. John’s former Rector, the Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington D.C., was at St. John’s to speak about her new book Receiving Jesus: The Way of Love. In her book, she describes how we can experience a “loving, personal relationship with God” through the seven practices of Christian faith.[…]
Jesus said all this to his friends so they could have joy. Complete joy. His friends are like branches and he’s like the vine. The vine is strong and woody, growing up from deep roots, sending all the lifegiving energy from the soil up into the branches. The branches that are not pruned off “abide.” The pruned ones fall to the ground and dry up. God the farmer rakes them up and bundles them off for kindling..