September 03, 2017
In our church cycle of time, today we are at the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, “Ordinary” time or “Counted” time we sometimes call it, with 12 more weeks before we reach Advent, and our church calendar begins again. I’ve been curious about that. At first, I questioned why we intentionally celebrated the essential ups and downs by name—Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Good Friday, Easter—why we celebrated receiving the Holy Spirit, by name, calling it Pentecost, and then, walked through the rest of the calendar—half a year—simply counting the weeks and calling it ordinary. Are our lives not continually transformed by the Holy Spirit, breathed into us at Pentecost, and yet, we count the weeks and call it ordinary?
But our Gospel reading this morning reminds us of the whole story. In the midst of our counted time, God draws our attention into an essential reminder, a teachable moment that has the power to keep us on our way. In just eight verses, we hear Jesus teaching his disciples about life’s journey. Jesus is teaching them about the road to Jerusalem, about the road through Jerusalem, about the road that leads to New Life.
July 23, 2017
Psalm 139 is one of my favorite prayers in the Psalter. It declares a complete trust in God’s care, petitions God for help, and sings praises to God. It speaks of an intimate relationship with our all-knowing, always present God. The part we heard today is the prayer that my journey group often prays together before we work on interpreting our dreams. We pray this Psalm because only God knows all there is to know about us, and our dreams, even our nightmares, we believe, are messages to help us recognize what we need to change in our innermost self—a slow, thoughtful, mysterious process of transformation that never ends.
There is a part of Psalm 139 that we did not hear this morning because it is left out of our Sunday lectionary. Without buffer or warning, right in the middle of its praise, it turns to profound cursing: “O that you would kill the wicked, O God. . . I hate them with perfect hatred.” [i] A simplistic reading of this, or any Scripture for that matter, has caused all kinds of problems. But we want to read for depth. Just like my journey group, we want to glean the innermost meaning of God’s word. So, we want to pay attention to what is missing in our reading, we want to pay attention to the tough stuff. I couldn’t always do that—I flat out skipped the cursing parts because I didn’t know what to do with them. But then, I experienced the Psalms.
[i] Psalm 139: 19—21.
July 02, 2017
A morning devotional from one of the monks at the Society of St. John the Evangelist recently got my attention: “God of Love,” he prayed, “Your gaze meets mine at every turn and your presence inflames my heart.” I think something like this prayer is happening in our gospel this morning. Here’s why:
Matthew has framed his story by telling us in his very first chapter that, through Jesus, God will be with us. [i] In the last chapter, Matthew concludes his story with The Great Commission [ii] where the resurrected Jesus, in his final meeting with his disciples, sends them out to make all the nations—Jews and non-Jews--into disciples. And in this context, Jesus tells the disciples that he will be with them every single day. [iii] Matthew is talking about an ongoing ministry of the Church that includes us, as disciples, walking with Jesus—that is Matthew’s big picture.
[i] Matthew 1:23, “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
[ii] Matthew 28: 16-20, The Commissioning of the Disciples
[iii] Matthew 28: 20, “. . . And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
February 19, 2017
The first thing I learned when I walked into an Episcopal Church was the awesome recognition that I had finally stepped into a place that I had been yearning for, aching for. I learned that in this tradition, I had permission to ask hard questions about God and what a relationship with God means. I learned to read the Bible not only with question marks, but also with God-given imagination using my reason, my own life experiences, tradition, and especially, input from the community of faith—to find my own story within the biblical narrative.
Our Old Testament reading for today is from, of all things, Leviticus. If you don’t know much about Leviticus, it is probably because it doesn’t show up very often in our Sunday lectionary, and depending upon your perspective, you might be horrified or grateful for it. The first thing we heard from Leviticus this morning is the command: “Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Well, what does it mean to be holy? What does it mean to be holy because God is holy? Can we, mere mortals, mere dust, be holy?
October 09, 2016
October 9, 2016, Trinity Cathedral, Luke 17: 11--19
Rev. Deb Cooper
"Art is life; life is art." That is how Mimo Khair describes her work.i Mimo is a Lebanese street photographer who has traveled the world capturing real-life human faces that illustrate moments of human connection that can change the way we see one another.
I discovered Mimo's work two years ago when I sat down at my computer at an unusual time of day for me, and clicked on a yahoo news link--something I had NEVER done before. One of Mimo's photographs captured my attention: a young Syrian girl, probably a Muslim, living in a refugee camp in Lebanon. The thing that drew me to the photograph was the word "LOVE" written in English across her fingers--capital "L-O'V-E." The caption informed me that the other marks on her hand was also the word LOVE written in Arabic.