Sunday, August 23, 2009


Today was my last Sunday at the church in Midland that has "adopted" me while I've spent the last year here with my dad. Several weeks ago, Father Liggett asked me to preach today and below is the text of my sermon – imagine it with all of the appropriate voice inflections and hand gestures …

August 23, 2009

12th Sunday after Pentecost
1 Kings 8:1, 6, 10-11, 22-30, 41-43
Psalm 84
Ephesians 6:10-20
John 6:56-69

When Father Liggett first asked if I would like to preach today, I almost said an immediate no, but something stopped me and instead I said, "let me pray about and think it over and I'll let you know". I went home and as I read over the readings for today, asking for guidance, I knew almost instantly that my answer would be yes. Most of you know that I'm heading off to seminary and that I'm not being sponsored by the Diocese of Northwest Texas but instead by the Diocese of West Texas. I am very blessed to currently have two church homes: the church I have attended for the past 8 years in San Antonio, St. Thomas, and here, St. Nicholas, and I'll take this brief moment to say thank you for letting me become a part of your community in this short time. You have made me feel at home and loved and I will always be grateful. I will see you in between semesters and will keep you posted on my progress through seminary.

In my "other" diocese, the Diocese of West Texas, each year Bishop Lillibridge introduces a theme for the year and various events within the diocese focus on that theme. This year's theme? Abide in Me. And that phrase kept going through my mind as I focused on the readings so I felt that I could have at least a few things to say. You see, I'm not afraid of speaking in front of people, but what I don't have is the confidence to speak on theological matters. So I guess I'd better start working on that, don't you think?

One thing I discovered is that I've somewhat misunderstood the meaning of the word Abide. I've always thought it to mean to live within, as in God lives in me, and that's not entirely incorrect but the true meaning of the word is more complex. Webster defines it as: to wait for, to remain fixed, and to continue in a place.

In the Old Testament reading, Solomon dedicates the temple built as a fulfillment of God's promise to King David, yet he knew that even the house of the Lord could not contain God. The Israelites looked to the temple as God's abiding presence; his continuous steadfastness; his faithfulness to them, where they could find reassurance of his promises.

This past week, my dad and my son and I returned from a trip to Washington, DC and as we were walking around the monuments, I began to wonder, in light of our country's economic difficulties, about the expense of keeping such places running but I quickly told myself it was worth it because being in DC and watching my son experience it for the first time, seeing the monuments that sit as a reminder of how this country was built and defended and protected, reminded me of the promises and hope that this country was built on and it gave me a renewed pride and hope in my country. I can only imagine that is what the temple did for the Israelites.

In the Letter to the Ephesians we hear about putting on the armor of God, surrounding ourselves with God's strength so that we can stand firm, so that we can abide in, remain fixed in, our faith. If we fill our heart and mind with the Word, our faith will be steadfast.

In the gospel, Jesus tells a shocking way to abide in him; it is a message that some of his followers find so difficult to comprehend that they choose to walk away from him. John is the only gospel in which Jesus uses the metaphor of eating his flesh and drinking his blood to describe the type of relationship he desires with us and it is also the only gospel that doesn't have an account of the last supper. John's description of Jesus' body and blood as our life source is not buffered by the metaphor of bread and wine and for the Jews listening to him at the synagogue being told to drink blood would have been impossible to hear. Blood was synonymous with life and life belonged to God and that is why the Torah explicitly forbids consuming blood. And, I have to admit as I'm sure some of you do too, that it is a difficult passage to hear even as Christians in the 21st century. At the surface, the literal meaning, it just flat out sounds gross.

So, as we are with most of Jesus' words, we are challenged by this passage to look beyond the literal meaning to the deeper layers of wisdom that lie beneath the actual words and it gives a whole new meaning to the old adage "you are what you eat". Jesus didn't want to have just a type of leader-follower relationship with us, a relationship based on a list of dos and don'ts. Jesus' desire is to be in such a close relationship with us that it is as if we have consumed him. A relationship so intimate that he abides in us and we in him. It's not a relationship that is based on a one time or even "once in a while" event, but on a continuous intake of him.

This type of active and continuous relationship with God was a difficult concept for many people listening to Jesus to grasp. God was somewhere else, the temple, heaven, out there, not within them, not a part of their every thought and movement. The picture I have in my mind when I think about this is Tevia from The Fiddler on the Roof. When he talks to God, he gestures and speaks as if God was away from him. The conversation is never turned inward and it always seems to be a negotiation of sorts. But Jesus talks of a relationship with God that is personal, within us. Take a second and think of the person you are closer to than anyone else, maybe your spouse or your best friend or a relative. When you and this person are not physically in the same place you still feel close to them, don't you? You feel their presence. This is the type of relationship God wants with us, why he sent his son. Jesus gives us the difficult instructions to eat of his flesh and drink his blood and then tells us that these words are spirit and life so that we can let go of our lists of dos and don'ts and seek to live in him.

In the post communion prayer we give thanks for being spiritually fed through the sacrament of his body and blood. This sacrament is the outward and visible sign of the relationship we have with God through Jesus. It is the nourishment our soul needs to survive just as our bodies need food. It is how we show that we are living members of God's son. It is a relationship Jesus tells us we must be intentional about. Jesus wants us to abide in him, to stay fixed in his continuous presence.

And when we face the difficult teachings of Jesus, do we walk away or do we answer as Peter did, "to whom can we go?" because we know that through our relationship with Jesus we have come to know God?


Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I am getting ready to take a vacation with my son and my dad; we are going to Washington D.C. Both my dad and I have been before, but never together. My son has never been. For years my dad has talked about wanting to show his grandkids our Capital, but as I like to say life has gotten in the way. One of the things we wanted to do "before I leave" was take a trip together and we decided on DC and now it's time for us to go. We've been looking forward to it all summer.

It's funny how everyone, myself included, acts and talks like I'm going away forever to some far and distant land. I'm not sure why. So many things these days begin or end with "before I leave". Reality is that I lived farther away from my parents when I was in California and they were in Alabama than I will be in Toronto, and I'll be gone for the semesters and then back here to Texas in between, and it's only for three years. My son is at college, Texas A&M, and we've had a year to settle into him "being on his own" (as much as a college freshman can be considered on their own). Amid the difficulties we've faced in addition to him learning the ropes of college life, he has pressed on and stayed focused on school. I am so very proud of him. One of my fondest memories of this year was a phone conversation he and I had. He was having to make a tough decision and as he told me all of the pros and cons he had come up with I told him that I knew he would make the right decision. There was a long pause on the other end of the phone before he said something like "parents don't usually say that, they tell you what to do". Seems to me, about 25 years ago, I had similar conversations with my dad…

It is perhaps my most favorite thing to do to spend time with my dad and my son at the same time. It doesn't matter what we are doing or even if we are doing nothing, as long as we are in the same place. It makes me feel complete. They are my bookends, keeping me from falling over on the shelf.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Why Episcopalian?

One of the questions I have been asked recently is how and why did I end up in the Episcopal Church. I told a little bit of the how in my first post when I wrote about the welcome to the neighborhood letter that I received from the local Episcopal Church. But, the story begins several years before that. In a discussion of my struggles with the church I grew up in, an uncle of mine told me that when I decided to return to church to try the Episcopalian church. I remember him using the phrase "they love everyone".

As for the why, well that isn't as easy to tell. The basic tenets of our faith are laid out in the Nicene Creed (I encourage those of you who aren't familiar with it to google it), and they are no different than any other Christian church really. Although you won't find it in any of the official doctrine, most everyone in the Episcopal Church will tell you that the church is built on Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, often referred to as the Pillars of the church. We believe that scripture, the Bible, is the inspired word of God, written down by humans to documents their beliefs, laws, and history. I like to equate it to Jesus being wholly God and wholly Man; the scriptures in the Bible are divine and human at the same time. You can't separate the humanness from the godliness. Our tradition is to worship in the same way that some Christians did a thousand of years ago and will worship thousands of years from now; it connects us, in worship, to those who were before and those who will come after – the communion of saints. We use our God given reasoning abilities and the Holy Scriptures to make decisions to live our lives in worship and fellowship as we create God's kingdom here on earth.

These are the beliefs and behaviors that I have experienced in the people that I have come to know that are the Episcopal Church and I believe that they reveal the image of Christ.

Do I think the Episcopal Church is perfect? No. Most of us are just doing the best we can in our humanness to do that which God would have us do. We have our own internal struggles just like most if not all churches, but for the most part, we accept and embrace difference in opinion and open discussions. Being in communion with one another is important to us; we cannot fulfill God's purpose as individuals, but together, in Christ, we can become who God would have us to be.

I feel very much at home in the Episcopal Church and I believe it is where God has called me to serve.

God's Peace be with you,


Monday, August 3, 2009

Why a Blog?

Okay, so this is my very first blog post ... and I'm still a little uncomfortable with it. It seems a bit self-centered to be posting my experience for all to see. Why on earth would anyone be interested in my story? I don't really know. But I do know that many of you have asked me to tell my story and to start a blog of my experience so I'll think about it this way - God has put me on this journey and if my experience can help any one on their spiritual journey, well isn't that why I'm doing what I'm doing? So here goes ...

Becoming a priest isn't something that I've come up with since I turned 40. It began when I was a teenager. In the time I spent in prayer and scripture, I began to hear God tell me He was calling me to the ministry. The problem was I belonged to a denomination that didn't believe in the ordination of women. I tried to talk about this dilemma to church leaders and was told that I must have interpreted God incorrectly. Over the next few years I tried to convinced myself that they were right, but I began to find other aspects of this denomination that I disagreed with. Since this was the only church I had ever known, I tried to conform but was never again completely comfortable with it. Eventually, I just stopped going.

Fast forward about 10 years and my son and I are living in California. I had just bought a house and received in the mail a letter from the local Episcopal church that said welcome to the neighborhood, come grow with us. So maybe it wasn't a burning bush, but I felt it was significant enough that I couldn't throw it away. The letter laid on the kitchen table for several weeks before I woke my son up one morning and said "we're going to church". We were welcomed warmly. The lesson and the sermon that Sunday? The Prodigal Son. I may be a little thickheaded sometimes, but I began to pay attention. Father David took an interest in both my son and I and soon Ike had his first communion and I was confirmed at the same time. We were only at this small church a few months before things fell into place for us to move back to Texas, closer to family. On my last Sunday, Father David said to me "I sense that you have been running from something and now you are going back to face it". At the time, the call to the ministry isn't what came to my mind.

After moving back to San Antonio, we began attending St. Thomas. Ike became an acolyte and did things with the youth group. I got involved in everything I possibly could - I just couldn't seem to get enough of the Christian community there. After several years, I enrolled in the Education for Ministry course (a 4 year curriculum developed and distributed by Sewanee). One of the first assignments is to write a spiritual autobiography. As I was writing mine, I began to hear God's call again. This time, when I approached my priest, he was supportive and encouraging. I spent a year talking and praying with Father Chuck and several leaders of the parish about my call. They, too, believed I was being called to ordination. A year and a half ago, I began the "official" discernment process with the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas (that's another post) and now I find myself making final preparations to begin seminary in September.

It has been a long journey, full of "delays and tough growth" (to quote Father Chuck); It has been a joyful journey, and yet I feel it is really just beginning.

I hope this blog becomes an interactive site - please respond with your comments and questions. I encourage and welcome all opinions.

God's peace be with you!