A Look at Ordination and Consecration

By David Oliver KlingGuest Blogger

[An Essay From 2004]

There are many different forms of ordination. The type of ordination that I wish to address in this entry is the type of ordination that is transmitted through apostolic succession by a bishop – in my case within the Sacramental Christian Movement (also known as the Independent Sacramental Movement), in my case of the Gnostic variety.

This is a specific type of ordination and involves a laying on of hands by a bishop and an energy transfer by passing on a lineage of apostolic succession. This succession (allegedly) originated with Jesus Christ and was passed onto his disciples and – via a succession of bishops through the centuries – to eventually reside within the bishop conducting an ordination or consecration in our modern times. This sort of ordination/consecration is special because it contains this energy transfer and that energy transfer does have an effect upon the person being ordained/consecrated.

In a theological sense this energy transfer places an “indelible” characteristic upon the soul or spirit of the individual being ordained, that is a characteristic that cannot be removed. This alteration, conducted sacramentally, is similar to the sacraments of baptism and confirmation because it changes who you become after the ordination takes place. For those individuals who subscribe to the idea of reincarnation I would even hypothesize that the indelible characteristic of ordination is passed onto subsequent incarnations, and because of this a level of responsibility needs to be acknowledged by the potential ordinand. Things to consider:

  • Do I accept this ordination/consecration forever in this lifetime?
  • Do I accept this ordination/consecration forever for all subsequent lifetimes?

You might find yourself, in the future, in a position where you might no longer subscribe to a desire for priestly or apostolic ministry but the status of your spirit or soul is not changed by your willingness to “leave” a sacramentally ordained or consecrated life. It will still be there no matter what your future disposition becomes. This is something very important to consider, and to evaluate in your life.

Something else to consider is the person who is ordaining or consecrating you. The originator of the priesthood/episcopacy is Jesus Christ, however, when an ordination or consecration is conducted those individuals within the succession are also passing something of themselves on to the new ordinand, and this is an important consideration.

Things to consider:

  • Is the person who is about to ordain/consecrate me a person with whom I would normally be “in communion” with?
  • How do I view the person ordaining/consecrating me? Do I respect him or her?
  • Would I ordain/consecrate the person who is ordaining/consecrating me if the situation where reversed?

These are important questions to ask yourself because an ordination/consecration is a very powerful energy exchange and the energy passed onto the new deacon, priest or bishop will affect each of us in different ways.

Again, something else to consider is how you plan on coping with the changes that will take place after an ordination or consecration. Instead of looking at this energy exchange as, “I’m a new priest” or “I’m a new bishop”, think of it as you now being a priestly initiate or episcopal initiate into the sacred mysteries of the priesthood and episcopate. The essence of the priesthood and episcopate is mystical in nature and NOT administrative or jurisdictional — these are constructs resulting from the priesthood and episcopacy and not directly linked to the mystery of the sacrament. The mystery of the sacrament is about the sacraments themselves and not about anything else. All too often I have seen bishops within the Sacramental Movement focus their attention on the jurisdictional or administrative side of episcopacy. This is not what the sacramental initiation of consecration is about — it is about the fullness of priestly initiation and the fullness of the sacraments.

Things to consider before ordination and consecration:

  • What was my life like before ordination/consecration?
  • Am I equipped to deal with a major change in my life?
  • Am I ready to deal with the added responsibility that this change will bring upon me?

Things to consider after ordination and consecration:

  • How has my life changed since ordination/consecration?
  • Do I find myself depressed? What will I do about this depression?
  • What is my support network, do they understand ordination/consecration? Do they support my decision? What sort of support do I have from other priests and/or bishops?

Having a support network is important for a new priestly or episcopal initiate. It is important because the effect that it has on an individual is specific and peculiar to each individual. Having had experience with energy transfer and initiations I was somewhat prepared for my episcopal consecration and was able to channel the effect in a positive manner: I left full time employment and went back to school full time, radically changed my lifestyle (had to slim things down) and had to deal with the changes that result from becoming a full time student again. I had a supportive network for my life changes, but not necessarily a supportive network for my decision to get consecrated (although it has gotten much better). The effect of my consecration could have been horrific since I was dealing with the recent death of my father a month prior to my consecration and dealing with the depression resulting from that loss. However, being aware of the effects of consecration helped me ride the storm of emotions I was feeling at the time — both from dealing with death and also from dealing with the death of myself as the old me was replaced by a new “me.”

As a final note I want to also point out that consecration is not about wearing purple, wearing a mitre, or other episcopal regalia. All these items are externals and not absolutely necessary for administering the sacraments. Please ask yourself, “Do I fantasize more about wearing a mitre than imagining myself as a apostolic representative of Christ?” The deep responsibility of ordination and consecration far outweighs any sort of external or “episcopal privilege.”

One more point to consider. In the Sacramental Christian Movement (also known as the Independent Sacramental Movement) the idea of jurisdiction is a construction of our modern sensibilities. It is simply absurd to think “if I create it they will come.”  Jurisdictions (i.e., new “denominations”) are created almost every day, and they also die every day. What exists is the episcopacy, the priesthood, and the deaconate. Until there is a renaissance within the sacramental movement and circumstances radically change the situation will be as it is now, which is very fluid. If a priest doesn’t like his bishop he or she will simply go someplace else. If a bishop is unhappy with his or her fellow bishops he or she will create his or her own jurisdiction. This is the nature of this movement. It is unfortunate that this is this way, but it is simply the nature of the movement. This is why I view consecration and ordination as an initiatory experience and not simply as admission into a jurisdiction clergy roles. The apostolic succession sees through any jurisdictional lines and does not recognize “clergy roles” or “jurisdictional canon law”. It acknowledges only correct “matter and form.”

Sermon: Breaking Chains

Breaking Chains
John 17:20-26

For days, I have been thinking of what I would say this morning, and I have been staring at a blank page for days. So many times before this, I have stood in similar places, wondering what to say to make sense of what has happened. How can one make sense of the brutal murder of innocent children and their teachers? How can you make sense of politicians who offer prayers and wring their hands but will do nothing to change the situation?

Oh, sure, people will claim that our country is a mess, and sure it is; it has always been, for we are an imperfect people. We live in a country built on diversity, and we should not be afraid of that diversity. In our founding documents, we claim liberty and just for all, but do we practice liberty and just for all? There is a claim that we are a Christian nation. Well, I have not seen that take place anywhere. Jesus commands us to love all equally. He called us to welcome the stranger. He commanded us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and all the rest.

Rather than doing all that Jesus has commanded, we worship individual rights and guns. I am all for people responsibly owning guns for hunting and other sports but, and let me make this point clear; there is no reason why a person needs to own a semi-automatic rifle, a high-capacity magazine, and 10,000 rounds of ammunition! And no one that is not in law enforcement needs to own body armor, no one.

Change does not come overnight. Change comes very slowly. But change needs to come before more innocents are slaughtered.

Jesus prayed that we would all be one, not in the sense of conformity to some belief or ritual but one in spirit. Today’s passage from the Gospel of John is called the High Priestly Prayer and is like High Priestly Prayers from the Hebrew Scriptures.

Jesus’ time with his disciples has come to an end. This past Thursday, we celebrated the Ascension of our Lord. The day we believe Jesus rose from earth to be with his Father. We now enter a time of wandering as we wait for the promised Spirit that will come at Pentecost. But before he goes, Jesus has this last prayer for his followers.

This prayer of Jesus is not some ritual or liturgical celebration, but it is personal and from his heart. This prayer comes from the depths of his soul and is a prayer in anticipation of loss and suffering but also of joy and gladness.

Jesus prays for his friends. Not just those there with him but all of humanity for all time. Jesus prays not to himself but to the father, the creator of all that is seen and unseen. The Greek word used here is pater, which is not in a patriarchal sense, but it is used to mean the source and giver of life. Jesus does not use this in the male sense of the word, but as Abba, the life-giving source, and that source is love.

And Jesus prays for the world. The created world and all that has been and will be created. But Jesus does not pray that the world turns from sin but rather that it turns from selfishness and towards oneness as it was in creation.

But as I said before, this oneness is not sameness, and it is not even a prayer that all denominations or expressions of faith somehow come together as one. Through this prayer, Jesus is expressing his desire for his friends; remember that although we are different, we come from the same Source. Humanity shares the likeness of Abba, the one who has given life to all. The one who, at the moment of creation, breathed his breath, his spirit into humanity. The very breath of God is what animates us and is what makes us human. There is the belief that this is when the soul enters the body, when we breathe and become fully human.

Jesus is desperate for us to believe this. Our oneness, our solidarity, brings us closer to God. When we forget that we belong to each other, we live in fear of the other and sometimes resort to violence. To believe means trusting, holding dear, and giving our hearts. This is what Jesus believes and prays for, that we trust one another. This is what Jesus came to preach and teach that we love one another. But before we can love, we have to trust.

To do this, we need to heal the hurts of humanity. We need to be able to look past race, gender, and social class to build God’s kingdom here on earth. When we look at another human being, we need to see the image and likeness of God in them. We need to be able to see the breath of God, the spirit of God that is in every human being. This is the glory of God and makes us fully human.

But the problem is prayer is not magic. I think sometimes we believe that if we pray, God will somehow snap his fingers and make things better. That, my friends, is not how it works. We pray, and then we do.

I refer to things I see on Facebook a lot. I mean, it is the center of truth in the universe. However, sometimes there are nuggets of wisdom there. For example, there is a photo floating around of Jesus and another person sitting on a park bench; perhaps you have seen it. The person asks Jesus why he allows wars, gun violence, starvation, illness, and a whole host of other problems. And Jesus responds, “I was going to ask you the same thing.”

Humanity has the capacity to fix every problem that exists today, what we lack is the desire and the trust to do so.

In Judaism, if you say a prayer over something and then fail to do the requisite action that follows, like blessing bread and not eating it, it’s a Bracha levatla – a sinful act. So, likewise, it is sinful if we pray and then do not act.

My favorite book in the Bible of the Letter of St. James. It is a short work and often goes unnoticed, but it is the bedrock of faith for me. In the second chapter of this letter, we read:

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

Faith alone is not enough; we must do something with that faith. If our faith does not force us into action, it is dead; it is lukewarm and not faith at all.

We have a responsibility to care for each other as human beings. Out of our abundance, we must share with those who have little or nothing. We cannot sit by and watch another person starve to death without doing something, anything. Write a check, cook a meal, and yes, pray for that person and others.

You have heard me say this before, being a Christian is not easy it requires a lot from us. We can no longer think only of ourselves and our families. Still, we have to think of and have concern for all of humanity regardless of race, social status, legal status, education level, political leanings, or who they choose to love. Loving all means just that, all.

What can we do? How do we change the world? We start by changing ourselves. Want more love, be more loving. Want less anger, be less angry. Want more generosity, be more generous. Focus on changing what is inside, not what is wrong with others, another’s sins but on our own sinfulness. Change comes from within, not from without.

My prayer is that same prayer of Jesus that we all may be one. So let us strive to be one, one with each other and one with God.


Do you wish to be made well?

John 5:1-9

This past week we passed a rather grim reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us. Johns Hopkins University reported that 1 million Americans have died from the virus that has plagued us and changed our lives for more than two years. I am confident that everyone here, those online or those that will read these words, has been touched in one way or another. Personally, I have lost several friends to COVID, and I know of countless others who have had the virus and recovered.

Along with the physical and mental effects of COVID, there have been spiritual effects. Church buildings were closed, and we pivoted to online worship and other gatherings. The things that were once familiar were no longer available, and many of us became isolated from others. However, we are slowly emerging from our long night to see what is left.

Apart from missing out on fellowship and all the other Church associated events, not being able to receive and provide sacramental ministry was challenging. I am ordained as a minister of Word and Sacrament. And not being able to offer the Sacramental part of ministry has been difficult.

I have shared my views on the nature of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper before this, so I will not go into all the details here and now, but suffice it to say, I believe that when we gather as a community around the table, we are receiving spiritual food that is designed to make us whole and make us well.

Although we may disagree on the precise theological understanding of the Sacrament, most all denominations believe that something happens, be it spiritual or memorial. We all agree that what happens around the table is a Sacrament that provides grace and healing. It was the last action and meal that Jesus shared with his friends before being taken away.

Recently, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco announced that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is not welcome to receive communion in his Archdiocese. In effect, he has excommunicated a child of God for a difference of opinion on an issue. I stand before you today as one who has faced the sentence of excommunication from a Church, and I have to say, it is not a fun place to be. Being cast out, shunned, and having people turn their backs on you is one of the vilest things that can happen, and to have it happen at the hands of your Church is just horrible and really beyond words to describe.

In today’s Gospel message from the Gospel of John, we are presented with the third miracle of Jesus in John’s Gospel. The first was the miracle at the wedding, and the second was the healing of the daughter of one of the officials.

I often shy away from these stories as we focus on the miracle, the tale’s magic, and forget that there is a meaning behind what is happening.

Jesus and his Disciples are at the place of healing. This is a pool, a spring-fed pool that has provided healing waters. People come from miles around to wade in this pool to be healed of what ails them. But the healing only takes place when the spirit moves over the water. I am unsure how often in the day this happens, but the one who is first in the water when it stirs is the one healed.

Sitting near this pool is a man who is lying on a mat. Scripture says he has been there “for a long time.” He is paralyzed and cannot get himself into the pool, and he has no one to put him in when the waters stir.

Let’s think about this for a moment. The man is sitting by the pool and has been for quite some time. He is well known to those who come; they see him every day, yet no one will help this man be made well. Some may step over this man so they can get in the pool first and claim the healing for themselves, yet this man sits and waits.

Jesus does not pick the man up and walk him into the pool; Jesus asks the man a question, “Do you wish to be made well?”

Interestingly enough, the man never answers the question. He tells Jesus why he has not been healed and that others get in before him, but he never says if he wants to be healed or not. Jesus never touches the man, perhaps he was practicing good social distancing, but he tells the man to get up, take his mat and go.

The story ends with the man getting up, taking his mat, and leaving. Then comes the line, “Now that day was a sabbath.” It seems a strange place to end the story, for what comes next is VERY important.

The man leaves the pool and encounters the authorities. They ask the man why he is carrying his mat, which is against the rules of the Sabbath. There is no work to be done on the Sabbath, and the very fact that this man is carrying his mat means he is working.

He tells them that the man who made him well told him to carry the mat. The authorities and the religious people do not fall to their knees and worship God because this man has been made well. They do not ask the man about the healing and congratulate him that he is now whole. No, the focus is on the rules. They have their noses buried so deep in the rule book that they cannot see the miracle that has just taken place before them. This man who has been suffering for years is now made well.

What the Archbishop of San Francisco has done is a modern version of this story. The focus is on the rules while laying aside the pastoral implications of his actions. Although he may feel that he is right, and I have no doubt he is basking in the sense of pious and righteous indignation, the long-term effects of what he has done are incalculable.

How many people have heard this story and have turned away from the faith? How many of the decisions do we make as church turn people away when our job is to be drawing people together? The center of the word Communion is Union, a bringing together the faithful to share a common spiritual meal to bring healing.

I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, At the Last Supper when we believe Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Communion, sitting around that table was the one who would betray him and the one who would deny him. Jesus provided the elements of bread and wine that he blessed with his own hands to the very person that was responsible for his death, and Jesus knew it.

The very idea that Jesus had an open table, knowing full well what those sitting there were going to do, and yet provided the Sacrament to them is a clear indication to me that the Sacrament and the grace that comes with it should be made available to EVERYONE without exception.

Are we worthy? No, none of us are. But by taking that little piece of bread and a drop of juice helps make us worthy. If I or anyone else denies another of that possibility, then I deny the grace of God to another.

John Wesley was such a believer in the potential grace provided by communion that he urged his followers to receive it every chance they could. The idea that communion is now relegated to once a month or less would be a very foreign idea to him. So concerned was he for the people in the new world not having access to clergy for communion, he went against the bishops of the Anglican Church and ordained people himself to provide the Sacrament. He risked it all so people would have access to the Sacrament’s grace.

Through the actions of this Archbishop, we have witnessed the stepping over of others to get into the pool. Rather than building walls with rules to keep people out, we should be building larger tables to accommodate all who wish to come.

The miracle of today’s story is not the man’s healing; the miracle of the story is how Jesus changed everything. No longer is healing reserved for those who have means or those who are first, but healing is available to all who wish to be healed.

Let us strive to be individuals and a community that is genuinely open to all and makes available God’s grace to all.


Life-Giving Access

Life-Giving Access
Acts 9:36-43
John 10:22-30

I feel that I need to begin this morning with a few words about recent developments in our Country.

As you are all aware, the Supreme Court of the United States is poised to make a radical change to women’s health care. I say radical because it has been considered, and the last three Supreme Court nominees agreed in their hearing that the rights under attack should be regarded as settled law.

Let me state as clearly as I can; I support anyone’s right to choose. However, my opinion on the matter does not come into account when it comes to another’s decision. The position of this Church, or any Church, should not come into account when it comes to another’s decision. I hope that any decision is made after much consultation with medical professionals and others and after much prayer. Still, in the end, it is a decision that the individual must make.

I do not stand in judgment of anyone. As your pastor, I am here to support you and help you in any way. I never have and will never force my personal beliefs on anyone; in fact, this is the first time in my 17 years of ordained ministry that I have ever spoken in a sermon on this topic.

My desire is for everyone to have access to whatever they feel they need and make whatever decision they think they need to make that is best for them and their families. If you don’t like abortion, that is your choice but do not try and take that choice away from someone else.

We enjoy a tremendous amount of freedom in this Country, more freedom than many others. But, part of that freedom is to allow others to have freedom. We may not always agree with the choices that others make, but quite frankly, it is none of our business; personal freedom is just that, personal.

Just a quick word on the so-called pro-life movement. If you genuinely wish to be pro-life, your concern for the unborn needs to extend to the entire spectrum of life. If you are truly pro-life, you should be concerned with affordable health care for all, affordable housing for all, jobs that pay living wages for all, education for all, ending state-sponsored murder, child poverty, war, and getting vaccinated! All of these are life issues, and we should be concerned about all of them. Stop using religion to push your political agenda.

Today’s story from the Acts of the Apostle begins at a funeral. Tabitha has died, and the others have come to pay their respects. Tabitha was an amazing woman. She made clothing for those who could not afford them. She was described as a disciple of the way, and she obviously took Jesus’ command to love others and clothe the naked seriously. In addition, she specifically helped the widows in her community, another command of Jesus. Many of these widows had no one to care for them, so Tabitha stepped in and became their family.

Tabitha’s friends had laid her out and had sent word to Peter. It is unclear if her friends felt that any miracle would occur, and I am not sure what their expectations might have been, but another had just been healed, and we do all we can for those we love. So, they sent for Peter.

Just as Jesus had done when he healed the daughter of Jairus, he sent the mourners out of the room. He prayed, and then he said, “Tabitha, get up.” And she opened her eyes and sat up. I can only imagine the joy and fear that her friends must have had. Many became believers after this took place. One life was continuing to change the lives of many. God’s raising of Tabitha was a deed of compassion that turned the existing world order on its head. The message of Jesus continues to change the way we think about everything.

Perhaps while Tabitha’s friends were gathered, they prayed the 23rd Psalm. This is one of my favorites of the Psalms, and I use it a lot at funerals and other gatherings. It uses the motif of the Shepherd tending to their sheep. Sheep rely on the Shepherd for everything, and if the Shepherd cares for the sheep, they will lack for nothing.

This Psalm raises an interesting distinction between a want and a need. We do not always see this clear distinction, especially when it involves us. We may feel we need something, but it turns out to be a want.

I believe in the idea that God knows us better than we know ourselves. We might pray to win the lottery, but God knows what we will do with it, so it does not happen. One of the hardest lessons to learn is that God answers every prayer; sometimes, the answer is no. This is a simplistic illustration, but I think you get the point. God, the Good Shepherd, provides those things we need; the want is a different story.

But are the things we need going to fall from the sky? Well, maybe, but not usually. God has given us skills to earn a living, put a roof over our heads, and put food on the table. God has given the farmer skills to grow that food and others to make clothing as Tabitha did that keep us warm and protected. If we lack these things, or the ability to produce these things, there are other means to find support. The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

But this Psalm is not just about God providing material things; it is about the spiritual provision that comes from our relationship with God.

With God, we can experience love. The Shepherd is always one step ahead of the sheep making sure the path is safe. Sometimes, we neglect our health in our quest to accumulate more, and stress begins to mount. If we find those times and places that help us “restore our soul,” we will be better off in the long run.

With God, we have someone to place our faith in. God will never leave us and is with us in the good times and in the bad. I think of that poem called “footprints in the sand” you all know it. Sometimes we walk with God, and sometimes, God carries us. The assurance that God, the Good Shepherd, is walking beside us should bring us comfort in those times of trial.

In God, we have reason to hope. I know it can be challenging to have hope, and it has become even more difficult these last years for some. But our hope should be in God and in God alone. The friends of Tabitha had hope, they placed their hope in God, and God was faithful.

Many people have lost their faith in God for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it was the institutional Church that let them down. Other times it was individuals’ association with the institutional Church that let them down. I have been there, and I have experienced the hurt that comes when these things happen. My faith wavered, and for a time, I lost my faith. But I was drawn back because someone cared enough to reach out.

Perhaps you have been hurt or have lost your faith. Maybe you know someone who has been hurt or lost their faith. The invitation is there for all to come and find rest for your soul. We need to let others know that God cares and loves everyone, even in times when it appears that those who claim to follow God do not.

The Psalmist says the “Lord is my Shepherd” the Psalmist makes no claim for the Church or others, only for God.

Today I invite you to come and find that rest. Come all who weary and are heavy laden. And I hope that each of you will extend that invitation to others. So maybe we can be that Shepherd for someone and lead them to the place of their refreshment.


Resurrection Joy

John 20:1-18

A small group of friends was gathered, trying to come to grips with what they had just witnessed. Three days ago, their world came crashing in around them, and they were unsure what they would do next. Their friend, their leader, was gone. The authorities had taken him in the middle of the night. One of their own had turned him in. He was put on trial on trumped-up charges and given a death sentence. They watched as the government carried out that death sentence. Then, finally, they watched him take his last breath. He was removed from the instrument of his death and placed in a tomb, and a large stone was rolled in front of it. They thought this was the end.

Then came the morning.

Everything was going to be different.

When we strip it all away, this day is about two things, forgiveness and love.

There is a great icon painting called the “harrowing of hell.” The icon depicts Jesus descending among the dead and rescuing those who are there. So you see, Jesus did not come just to redeem the living, but he came to redeem everyone, even creation itself.

We see this played out during the crucifixion itself. Jesus, hanging on the cross, looks down at those who had just put him there, and he asks God to forgive them. So, likewise, Jesus is pleading with God to forgive those who have just killed him.

Jesus also forgives the thief that was crucified with him. As you well know, Jesus was crucified with two thieves, and one of them asked Jesus for forgiveness. Jesus asks no questions and requires nothing of this man and grants his request. The man asked, and it was granted. It’s that simple.

But today is also about love. Of course, the entire Gospel is about love, but it comes to a point today. Everything that was done to this point was about love, the love that God has for each of us. I don’t think this can be said enough; God loves each of us, just the way we are.

I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. Jesus came to turn everything in its head. He came to change the way we worship, how we interact with each other, and how we love. This change continued after his death with his appearance to Mary.

Each of the Gospels tells the same story. The men were all cowering in the upper room. They were afraid, and they did not know what to do next. But the women knew there was work that had to be done no matter what. Jesus was hastily buried, and his body needed to be prepared according to the custom. In the other accounts, Mary is not alone when she goes to the tomb, but in John’s Gospel, she is alone.

She arrives and believes that the body of Jesus has been taken, so she runs back to tell the others. Mary has already heard that Jesus has risen in the other accounts, and she tells the others this, but the men do not believe her. So, they set off to the tomb to see for themselves.

Once they saw the empty tomb, they returned home, but Mary stayed, weeping for Jesus. Then he appears to her. He tells her to go and tell the others, go, and share the good news that I have risen! Go and preach. Yes, Jesus is telling a woman to go and preach. So while the men were cowering, the women did what had to be done. And this was just the start.

Jesus took this complex system of rules and regulations and boiled it all down to two things, Love God and Love everyone, including those who do not love you back.

I have done this exercise before. Get into a comfortable position and close your eyes. I want you to think about the most despicable person you think of. It can be someone you know or someone you have only heard about. The person that makes your blood boil when you hear their voice or see their face. That is the person we are called to love. Yes, it’s hard. It’s supposed to be.

As I was preparing for our Good Friday service, I came across something online that really hit home. It said, “when you learn how to sit at the table with your Judas, you’ll understand the love of Christ.” So Jesus, knowing that Judas would betray him, sat at the table with him and worshiped.

In a few moments, we will spiritually gather around this table, not a table of sacrifice but a table of love. This is the table where we will share a meal that will spiritually nourish us and help us carry out those commands of Jesus. This is an open table available to all who desire to come. The meal we serve is a healing meal, not a prize only reserved for those who live up to a certain standard. The food we offer is available even if you are not ready to love and forgive.

So, I invite you to come as redeemed and forgiven people to the empty tomb and the table. Come just as you are but leave changed.


Sermon: Palm Sunday

Luke 23:1-49

Today we turn a page as we begin the commemoration of the holiest week on the Church calendar. We also turn our face toward Jerusalem, as Jesus does, and we begin the journey towards the celebration of the Resurrection.

Palm Sunday is a day of contrast. First, we began our service outside, waving palm branches and shouting Hosanna. Then, in the Gospel of Luke, we heard the glorious story of Jesus coming into Jerusalem riding on the colt of a donkey. This is another contrast.

When a king enters a city after a victorious battle, the king comes riding on a horse. The horse is a symbol of power and strength. The king has come to take possession of the city from the king that lost the battle. The people of that city are now under the control of the new king.

When a king enters a city as a friend or visitor, that king comes riding on a donkey. The donkey is a symbol of humility and peace. The donkey is a beast of burden and not one of war. The king comes as a friend to being greetings to those in the city and the other king.

Jesus comes not on a symbol of power but on a symbol of humility. Jesus has not come to conquer the City of Jerusalem but to bring a message of peace and a message of hope. Sure, Jesus is going to turn things on their head, but he will do it peacefully. No longer is he here to turn over the tables in the Temple; Jesus has come to turn over the tables in your heart.

But as we know, soon those shouts of Hosanna will turn to screams of “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”

In reading Passion Gospel from Luke, we see this play out. A few days before, the people were hailing Jesus as king and laying their coats on the ground and waving palm branches; by Thursday, they were out for blood.

We witness what can happen when the rulers of the day spread lies and make false accusations. It stirs up the people into such a frenzy that they storm the home of the Roman Governor and demand he does something. They want blood and are willing to spill the blood of an innocent man to get what they want.

There is also a contrast between the leaders. The religious leaders want Jesus put to death. We see them conspiring against him, and they enlist the help of one of his inner circle, Judas. In their belief, and rightly so, Jesus has come to change everything. He has given the people another way, and they do not like it. Whenever power gets threatened, power acts with its power, be it the state or be it religion.

Jesus came to transform and reform how the people thought and worshiped. God was no longer held captive in the Temple, where a sacrifice was demanded. God was not present in all of creation, and the sacrifice demanded was one of love and acceptance of everyone. Jesus is the completion of the law and all the prophecies. Jesus came not to change the law but to simplify it, love God, and love neighbor. This made the power brokers uneasy as they were going to lose control.

But the state was not convinced. We see the Roman Governor Pilate as a conflicted character. On the one hand, he has pledged absolute loyalty to the emperor in Rome, and he has promised to keep the peace in Jerusalem or lose his job. Empires are at their best when there is peace. During peace times, everyone works, and trade can happen. When war or strife breaks out, all of that comes to an end. Wars cost money; peace makes money.

Pilate has a dream, and, in that dream, he is to have nothing to do with this man. Pilate’s wife comes to him and tells him the same thing. But the religious leaders, so afraid of losing power, convince Pilate to put Jesus to death. They would rather have the blood of one innocent man spilled than risk losing their control. In the end, Pilate gives them what they want.

But there is another contrast, and we will hear more about this later in the week. The modern contrast of Jesus needing to die to satisfy some debit and to satisfy an angry God contrasted against the idea that the suffering and death of Jesus were voluntary and necessary to show us the way. I do not buy into this idea that Jesus’ death, although necessary, was to fulfill any debit.

We reduce God to a vengeful, blood-thirsty being if we believe that. And for me, that does not square with the God of love we read about in John’s Gospel. The God that loves the world so much that he sent his Son, knowing he was going to die to show us the way of love. There is much more to unpack, so you will have to come to the services this week.

So today, it begins. Jesus now knows that his end is in sight. Everything he does from this point forward is to ensure his death. This action today, riding into Jerusalem and being hailed as king, is the final straw, and he knows it.

But the point of today is a personal one. Today, and in the days that follow, are times for us to examine our lives and look for those times we went from waving palms to outright denial. Times when our words and actions betray our commitment to follow the way of love.

Take some time this week to walk with Jesus. Meditate on his words and witness his actions. Walk in the way of love, for the way of love will change the world.


Leave her Alone

John 12:1-8

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana and Mississippi coast, I was deployed to the area with a church disaster relief organization. I had only been ordained for about a year, and this was my first deployment. I packed all of the things I thought I would need for a couple of weeks in a disaster zone and boarded a plane south.

The details were sketchy at best. I was not sure where I would stay, and I think I got the last rental car available in the region. If worst came to worse, I could sleep in the car. I mean, there were folks worse off than me. I was to meet the rest of my team when I arrived, and we would figure it out from there.

Sure enough, we found places to stay, and all was well. I was there four days when we received a call about some folks stranded at the airport. The airport was on high ground, so folks started to head that way when the water began to rise. There was no food or other provisions at the airport, and we were not sure what we would find when we arrived. So we commandeered a bus and a security detail, and off we went.

When we arrived, it was absolute chaos. People were everywhere. The place had an odor of fear and other emotions mixed with some things that it is not polite to talk about. People were huddled in corners and standing together in groups talking, and they all had this look of despair on their faces.

Just before we left, I decided to put on my dog collar and grab my bag with my priest stuff in it. As a chaplain, I always have this bag with me. As a matter of fact, it is out in the car right now. In this bag are various little books with prayers, items needed for Communion, and a little gold vessel that contains oil for anointing people. I grabbed the bag as a last thought and left my room to board the bus. I am glad I made that last-minute decision.

As we walked through the airport, a man came up to me and grabbed me by the shoulders. He was wearing camouflage, and I noticed that he had the medical symbol of an Army doctor on the collar points of his jacket. He looked me in the eyes and asked me if he had done the right thing. He kept asking repeatedly, “did I do the right thing.”

After he calmed down a bit, he told me he was the chief medical doctor for a group of Army reservists sent to the airport to set up a medical clinic, much like a MASH unit. They had limited supplies and all of these people, but the worst was the area where the nursing home patients were being cared for. When the water started to rise, those charged with the care of nursing home patients took off and left their patients behind. Many of them were rescued and brought to the airport. But, the medically worst of them were all being cared for in one spot.

Due to the lack of medical supplies, this doctor’s job was to decide who lived and who died, and it was eating him up inside. So we spoke for a bit, and then he asked if I would come and pray with the folx he was caring for.

The area was separate from all the others. It had begun its life as a gate area of the airport once filled with happy people setting off on journeys. Now, it had been transformed into a nursing unit filled with people waiting to go on another journey.

All the chairs had been removed, and there were Army stretchers on the floor in their place. The medical staff looked tired and worn, not unlike the medical folks we see these days dealing with COVID. Yet, they were doing the best they could with minimal supplies and no actual knowledge of the conditions of any of those in their care.

I prayed with the staff and allowed them some time to tell me their stories and where they were from; then, I went, knelt beside each person’s cot, prayed, and anointed them. They were someone’s parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and friends. Each was a precious life abandoned by those charged with their care and nowhere, lying on an Army cot in an airport.

Today’s Gospel story is another story about anointing. The story takes place in Bethany at the home of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. We are told it is six days before the Passover, the last Passover that Jesus will celebrate. The earthly ministry of Jesus is coming to an end, and he knows it.

As they sat around talking, Mary opened a jar of anointing oil that filled the room with fragrance. I recall as if it were yesterday, the smells in the room where I was anointing people and the scent coming from that little oil vessel that I had. It is a scent of healing, of comfort of joy. It is a scent of hope and is a scent that reminds me of each person I have ever anointed with it.

Mary takes the ointment and begins to anoint Jesus with it. This is not the first time we have heard this story. In the other Gospels, it is another Mary; it is unclear who, that anoints the feet of Jesus. Bu this Mary, the sister of the man Jesus raised from the dead, anoints his feet and dries them with her hair. This is a very intimate moment shared between friends, friends that are almost relations.

By Jewish custom, the body is washed and anointed when a person dies. There is a theological reason and a very practical reason. Theologically it prepares the body for what comes next; practically, it is used to cover any smell that might develop. The body is then dressed and wrapped in a linen shroud from head to toe and placed in a tomb. What Mary is doing, whether she knows it or not, is unclear, is preparing Jesus for the next phase of his journey towards his eventual death.

Right away, Judas objects. This could have been sold and the money given to the poor. He says this could have fetched 300 Denarii, which equals about $950 in today’s currency or more than a year’s wages for the average person in 1st century Palestine. But Judas wants to give the money to the poor, or so he says.

But John tells a different story. John calls Judas a thief and that he will steal the money. On the surface, his motives might have looked as pure and caring as the motives of Mary, but just under the surface, there is a different story being told. Jesus tells Judas to leave her alone and let her do what she must do, just as Jesus will tell Judas to do what he must do in a weeks’ time.

Mary does not realize that she has just turned the page and began a new chapter in the story. I am not sure Jesus even knew when his end was coming, but in this scene, it is starting to become real for Jesus. He knows his death is not far off.

Here we see Jesus in a very human moment. He is having a good time with friends, sharing stories, food, and laughs. In these human moments, we are the closest to Jesus, and Jesus is the closest to us. It is in these moments that I get assurance that Jesus understands what I am going through. And it is in these moments of assurance I can give to someone who is facing their death.

Jesus makes a very confusing statement here; he says that the poor will always be with you. Over the years, this phrase of Jesus has been used to justify the lack of care and concern some have shown to the poor. But what Jesus is saying is that tomorrow the poor will still be here, but I won’t, so for just this moment, it is okay to focus on the task at hand. What Mary is doing by anointing Jesus is a task of love. Love for her friend and love for her teacher. She is preparing Jesus for the next phase of his journey.

Anointing with oil is an ancient custom and a sacramental act. Kings and Prophets are anointed before they begin their work or the next phase of their life. Priests and bishops are anointed with oil before starting the next step of their life. And oil is used for the sick and those dying as they prepare for their journey. It may not seem like much, but to that doctor in New Orleans, it meant that he had done his job as best he could.

In a few moments, we will gather for another sacramental act where we acknowledge God’s love for us through the mystery of Communion. Just like Mary anointed Jesus for his journey, this feeding with these simple gifts prepares us for our journey, which includes caring for others.

We are close to the feast of feasts, and there is still time for preparation. So take some time to spiritually prepare yourself for what is coming over these next days. Anoint yourself with the oil of God’s words and in prayer as we prepare to walk the road with Jesus.


Consecration of Russia and Ukraine

This may sound strange coming from a minister in a reformed tradition, but I have always held Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in a particular place in my heart. I grew up and had my initial formation in the Roman Catholic Tradition, and Mary played a significant role in that.

I was initially ordained in the Romanian Orthodox Tradition, and presently I have the honor to serve as a priest in the Independent Old Catholic Church. All of this is to say I plan to participate, along with Pope Francis, in the prayer of the Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to Mary on Friday, Marcy 25, 2022, the feast of the Annunciation.

Regardless of your theology or spirituality of Mary and her role in the Church, I think we can all agree that any prayers for Russia and Ukraine are necessary during these days of the war.

If you have the time, please consider joining others worldwide in praying this prayer. Although the time is unnecessary, Pope Francis will lead the prayer at 5:00 pm Rome Time, noon EDT.

I have printed the prayer below for your use.

Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Basilica of Saint Peter 25 March 2022

O Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, in this time of trial we turn to you.  As our Mother, you love us and know us: no concern of our hearts is hidden from you.  Mother of mercy, how often we have experienced your watchful care and your peaceful presence!  You never cease to guide us to Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Yet we have strayed from that path of peace.  We have forgotten the lesson learned from the tragedies of the last century, the sacrifice of the millions who fell in two world wars.  We have disregarded the commitments we made as a community of nations.  We have betrayed peoples’ dreams of peace and the hopes of the young.  We grew sick with greed, we thought only of our own nations and their interests, we grew indifferent and caught up in our selfish needs and concerns.  We chose to ignore God, to be satisfied with our illusions, to grow arrogant and aggressive, to suppress innocent lives and to stockpile weapons.  We stopped being our neighbor’s keepers and stewards of our common home.  We have ravaged the garden of the earth with war and by our sins we have broken the heart of our heavenly Father, who desires us to be brothers and sisters.  We grew indifferent to everyone and everything except ourselves.  Now with shame we cry out: Forgive us, Lord!

Holy Mother, amid the misery of our sinfulness, amid our struggles and weaknesses, amid the mystery of iniquity that is evil and war, you remind us that God never abandons us, but continues to look upon us with love, ever ready to forgive us and raise us up to new life.  He has given you to us and made your Immaculate Heart a refuge for the Church and for all humanity.  By God’s gracious will, you are ever with us; even in the most troubled moments of our history, you are there to guide us with tender love.

We now turn to you and knock at the door of your heart.  We are your beloved children.  In every age you make yourself known to us, calling us to conversion.  At this dark hour, help us and grant us your comfort.  Say to us once more: “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?”  You are able to untie the knots of our hearts and of our times.  In you we place our trust.  We are confident that, especially in moments of trial, you will not be deaf to our supplication and will come to our aid.

That is what you did at Cana in Galilee, when you interceded with Jesus and he worked the first of his signs.  To preserve the joy of the wedding feast, you said to him: “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3).  Now, O Mother, repeat those words and that prayer, for in our own day we have run out of the wine of hope, joy has fled, fraternity has faded.  We have forgotten our humanity and squandered the gift of peace.  We opened our hearts to violence and destructiveness.  How greatly we need your maternal help!

Therefore, O Mother, hear our prayer.

Star of the Sea, do not let us be shipwrecked in the tempest of war.

Ark of the New Covenant, inspire projects and paths of reconciliation.

Queen of Heaven, restore God’s peace to the world.

Eliminate hatred and the thirst for revenge, and teach us forgiveness.

Free us from war, protect our world from the menace of nuclear weapons.

Queen of the Rosary, make us realize our need to pray and to love.

Queen of the Human Family, show people the path of fraternity.

Queen of Peace, obtain peace for our world.

O Mother, may your sorrowful plea stir our hardened hearts.  May the tears you shed for us make this valley parched by our hatred blossom anew.  Amid the thunder of weapons, may your prayer turn our thoughts to peace.  May your maternal touch soothe those who suffer and flee from the rain of bombs.  May your motherly embrace comfort those forced to leave their homes and their native land.  May your Sorrowful Heart move us to compassion and inspire us to open our doors and to care for our brothers and sisters who are injured and cast aside.

 Holy Mother of God, as you stood beneath the cross, Jesus, seeing the disciple at your side, said: “Behold your son” (Jn 19:26).  In this way he entrusted each of us to you.  To the disciple, and to each of us, he said: “Behold, your Mother” (v. 27).  Mother Mary, we now desire to welcome you into our lives and our history.  At this hour, a weary and distraught humanity stands with you beneath the cross, needing to entrust itself to you and, through you, to consecrate itself to Christ.  The people of Ukraine and Russia, who venerate you with great love, now turn to you, even as your heart beats with compassion for them and for all those peoples decimated by war, hunger, injustice and poverty.

Therefore, Mother of God and our Mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine.  Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love.  Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world.  The “Fiat” that arose from your heart opened the doors of history to the Prince of Peace.  We trust that, through your heart, peace will dawn once more.  To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and hopes of the world.

Through your intercession, may God’s mercy be poured out on the earth and the gentle rhythm of peace return to mark our days.  Our Lady of the “Fiat”, on whom the Holy Spirit descended, restore among us the harmony that comes from God.  May you, our “living fountain of hope”, water the dryness of our hearts.  In your womb Jesus took flesh; help us to foster the growth of communion.  You once trod the streets of our world; lead us now on the paths of peace.  Amen

Open Invitation

Open Invitation
Luke 13:1-9

Since moving into our home, Nicky and I have been working on our yard. The previous owner of the house did a fantastic job marking out planting areas and putting in stone walks, but it had gotten overgrown the last few years. So we spent the last couple of years pruning, digging, moving, replanting, replanting again, and just getting things to a point where we can now say what’s next.

Late last summer, we planted some rather large rhododendron plants in the back garden. At first, they were doing great. They had magnificent flowers, and all was well. Then, one of them started to look well, less than perfect. We tried feeding it, watering it more, praying for it, and it seemed that no matter what we did, it just was not getting any better. Finally, we decided it was not getting enough sun and needed to be moved.

Moving any plant is a radical step and can kill the plant. But it was dying anyway, so we decided it was time. Finding a new place can be a challenge; it not only needs the right light, but it has to look right in the landscape. So we found it and prepared the new hole. Dug the plant from its old spot and moved it. Feed it, watered it, prayed for it, and hoped for the best.

The little plant overwintered well and seems to be doing okay, but we will not know until later on in the spring when it begins to flower.

The Gospel passage from Luke can sound harsh at first. The first half ends with a stern warning, “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” But the second half of the story seems to bring some hope, the hope that we the Church needs to bring into this world.

The second half of the Gospel is a garden story, not unlike my story about our dying plant.

There is a fig tree that produces no fruit. For three years, the farmer has been tending to this tree, spending time and resources on it, and it has not borne any fruit. Space is valuable on a farm, and each inch has to be profitable, so the farmer asks to have the tree cut down.

The man that has been tending this tree asks for one more year. Give me one more year, and it will bear fruit. I will tend it, water it, fertilize it, and see that all will be well. After all of this, I will cut it down if it does not bear fruit.

This is where the story ends. I even read ahead to find out what happens, and there is nothing; we do not know what happens to this poor little tree. But let’s come back to that.

The story begins with some rather nasty things. Some folx come to Jesus to ask him a question. They tell Jesus about some from Galilee who Pilate struck down. The attempt here is to pin Jesus into a corner, as it usually is. They are trying to raise in Jesus a sense of Nationalism. Keep in mind that the people thought the Messiah spoken about by the prophets would be a military hero that would free them from the Romans.

Jesus turns to a spiritual question about sin and repentance. He asks who the greater sinners were; of course, they cannot answer to do so will invalidate their entire argument. He ends this little section by saying we are all in need of forgiveness.

The other day I posted what I thought was this funny little thing about a kid stealing a bike. It started by saying,” I asked God for a bike, but I know God does not work that way… So, I stole a bike and asked God for forgiveness.” Again, I posted this as a joke; I do that sometimes. We do not always have to be serious; we can let loose now and again. The world is so crazy right now we can laugh.

It caused quite the theological debate about the nature of forgiveness in any event. One person wrote, “asking for forgiveness and getting forgiveness are two different things.” I chimed in that I did not think so. I believe we are forgiven, even before we ask, but if we ask for forgiveness, we are forgiven.

The theological argument is that we have to be genuine, promise not to do it again, and amend our lives, but I think that just complicates things. Where does this belief come from? Jesus forgave the thief on the cross.

Just before he died, Jesus forgave one of the two men crucified with him. Scripture says they were both thieves, but only one asked for forgiveness. Now, this could have been a death bed confession; after all the man knew, he would die. There was no recorded repentance, no chance for the man to amend his life, just forgiveness. The man asked, and Jesus forgave. It’s that simple.

With that said, let me add that I believe that confession is good for the soul. Acknowledging that we have done wrong, gone astray, missed the mark, whatever term you want to use is healthy. Asking for forgiveness is healthy. Striving to change our lives is also healthy. The funny thing about all of this is that God knows us better than we do and knows that we all need help.

I mentioned before; there are no promises in Scripture other than the promise that God will never abandon us. Sure, we can leave God, but God will never abandon us.

So back to the fig tree.

The fig tree is us, you, and me. At times we do not bear fruit. The fig tree is also the Church. At times, the Church does not bear fruit, and in fact, it can cause more harm than good. Jesus is the one who asks for more time to tend to the tree. Jesus provides the spiritual food necessary, the way, the example of his life, and the Scriptures. We are fed and nourished by the Church, the Word, and the Sacraments.

In a few moments, we will come to the table to receive the nourishment of Jesus, but before we can do that, we need time to confess. We make this confession each time in preparation, not in some legalistic way, but as an acknowledgment that we have gone astray and need help, God’s help to get back on track.

The nourishment will help us grow, grow in faith so that we might bear fruit for others and be the gardener for another who is about to be cut down.

Repentance, confession, and acknowledgment of our wrongs are not meant to make us feel bad for what we have done or left undone. No, all of it is spiritual nourishment designed to make us bear fruit so we can feed others just as Jesus feeds us with his life and his words.


Strong and Tender

Luke 13:31-35

We live in a world obsessed with power. Just look around. One man, Vladimir Putin, decides he wants the land occupied by another sovereign country. What does he do? He attacks that country. Vladimir Putin is a bully obsessed with his own worth and his own power. One might go so far as to call him a mad man.

Ukraine, Putin says, was going to attack Russia. Putin claims that Russian culture was being wiped out in Ukraine and that the minority ethnic Russians living there needed his help. Putin calls this a peace-keeping mission, yet he is destroying cities, homes, shops, and most recently targeted a maternity hospital filled with expectant mothers, new mothers, and their babies. Peace-keeping missing my…

In the eyes of the world I am a rather insignificant minister but today I join my voice with Pope Francis and say “Vladimir Putin, in the name of God end this massacre.”

But we also must look right here at home. For the entire history of our nation, there has been a peaceful transfer of power from one administration to the next. Historically, national politics has been nasty, yet when the campaign is over, and the votes are cast, power transfers from one person to the next until 2021.

For the first time in the history of the United States, one president refused, despite all evidence to the contrary that he had lost the election. There is mounting evidence that an attack was planned at the highest levels of the government to try and change with force what they could not change at the ballot box. On January 6, 2021, we witnessed not people exercising their right to free speech and protest but an attempted coup d’état that we only barely survived.

John Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton, an English Catholic, historian, and writer writing in a letter address to an Anglican bishop had this to say about power and its effect on humanity.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.”

In today’s Gospel passage from Luke, Jesus confronts power directly and, in so doing, places the responsibility to confront power to the Church.

To put this passage in context, we need to back up a little and look at the entirety of the 13th Chapter of Luke. Jesus had been out and about preaching and healing. They had preached about repentance. He had the audacity to heal a woman on the Sabbath. He spoke of faith and the mustard seed and that the entrance to heaven was a narrow way. Jesus was becoming a burr under the saddle of his day’s religious and political leadership, and they were getting anxious.

There was a balance that existed between Rome and the Jewish authorities. If everything was quiet, they were left to their own devices and could do whatever they wanted. However, if an uprising started or things started to get out of hand, Rome would step in and put an end to it all.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day have people under their thumbs, and they liked it. Later in Lent, we will hear the story of the money changers and all the other ways the leadership had corrupted religion. Jesus comes to stand it all on its heads, they know it, and they do not like it.

Some Pharisees come and warn Jesus that Herod is unhappy. The Pharisees tell Jesus that Herod wants to kill him and that he should leave town. Then comes this great line from Jesus, “Go and tell that fox for me, ”Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.” (v32)

What was Herod upset about? Jesus was doing what the Church should have been doing all this time. Jesus called out the religious and political leaders for not serving the people.

One of the greatest freedoms we have in America is the freedom of religion. Not originally in the Constitution but granted, along with some other essential freedoms in the Bill of Rights. However, the freedom to worship as people see fit is the first of those rights.

Those who first came to these shores came for many reasons, but chief among them was they wanted to worship their God in the way they felt called by that God to do. They did not like that the King was calling them to conform to worship in a certain way, so they left rather than keep bucking the system.

Of course, the first thing they did when they arrived in the new world was to persecute anyone who did not believe the same way they did, hence the formation of Providence, Rhode Island, and many other places. How much blood was spilled in places not far from here in the name of religion? How many people lost their lives just because they would not conform to religious practices they believed went against what God was calling them to? TheThe very thing those early settlers were running from in England they brought to the new world.

I am often accused of preaching liberal politics when I preach of such horrible things, equality, love for all, feeding people, clothing people, taking care of the sick and the elderly. I am told that I should stick to the Gospel and leave the politics to the politicians. It’s funny that politicians have no problem using my religion when it suits them. I am addressing this to politicians on all sides, but let me speak one word that smacks of politics, and suddenly the age-old “separation of church and state” gets dragged out.

And where do I get these wild, liberal ideas about how we should treat one another from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You see, people often accuse me and others of preaching politics when it turns out that what they want to do runs counter to the Gospel they claim to cling to. They sit in Church on Sunday morning, shouting Amen and Hallelujah. They take communion and confess their sins, yet almost immediately after leaving the Church, their persecutions of others begin. So there is a significant religious word for those folx, hypocrites.

The Church of Jesus Christ is political because Jesus Christ was political. What Jesus was not was partisan, and there is a difference.

Politics comes from the Greek word meaning “affairs of the cities.” In other words, what is good for the people. Politics is about caring for all the people, not just some of the people. Politics is about caring for the least of them, while partisan politics is about caring for some of them. Politics is very much part of the Gospel.

But in the last few years, we have seen the very dark side of what happens when religion and partisan politics get into bed together. When you combine religion and partisan politics, you end up with partisan politics, and religion all but disappeared. Oh sure, it looks like religion; there are holy writings and messiah-type figures. Religion is put on parade, the bible is used, even if it is held upside down. But, it is not religion because what partisan politics does is exclude and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about inclusion, not exclusion. It is about building tables, not walls. It is about breaking down barriers, not building them. It is about love and not persecuting people for who they love. The Gospel of Jesus Christ stands in the face of power and speaks the truth, and power never likes the truth.

Jesus Christ was killed for our sins. But Jesus Christ was murdered by the state and by religion after being tried in a kangaroo court because he called them out for how they were treating the people, and the power players of the day did not like it. So I would venture to say that if Jesus Christ were to walk this earth today, those in power would do the same thing.

Friends, as Christians, we are not called to power; we are called to hold power accountable for how they treat everyone and not just some. We are called to care for the least of these and those with no voice. We are called to stand up for those living in the subway when the bombs are falling. We are called to sacrifice for those who have nothing. We are called to be Jesus Christ in a world that so desperately needs to hear the message that God loves everyone and cares deeply for everyone.

Today we see the first warning given to Jesus that his life was in danger. The message was getting through, and the authorities were getting anxious. Our job is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. Our job is to speak the truth in love to power at all times and in all seasons. We cannot back down; the price is too high.

What we see in Ukraine, what we saw and continue to see as a result of the events of January 6th, is evil, and it needs to be confronted. So let us pray, and then lets us act. Amen.

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