Sunday, August 31, 2008

Prayers for the Gulf Coast

As Hurricane Gustav roars into the Gulf Coast, I know that many of us have friends and family in that region. Many of you have been to the Gulf Coast to assist in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Tonight please let me offer a few prayers for all those who are in harm's way and those who are evacuating New Orleans. Here are a few prayers from the Book of Common Prayer:

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve those who travel, especially those escaping from the path of Hurricane Gustav; surround them with your loving care; protect them from every danger; and bring them in safety to their journey's end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Beat USC

Today I go to my first University of Virginia football game. Alas, the opponent is Tommy Trojan, the University of Southern California. Ack! I pray no one ends up in a coma at the hands of Troy. And I'll be wearing my best blue-and-gold Beat 'SC items.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Forty-five years ago: An American Dream revisited

Worth hearing (and reading) again, 45 years later: Martin Luther King's "I have a dream." This link has text and video. Click here.

Augustine of Hippo: Grace upon grace

Today we celebrate the feast day of Augustine of Hippo, about whom almost as many pages have been written as about Jesus of Nazareth and St. Paul, and with good reason. Augustine (354 to 430, bishop in North Africa), did as much as anyone to shape the theology and ethos of western Christianity. The arguments that rage today in the church are echoes of the fourth-century conflicts in which he was so central, and which were never fully resolved. 

Truthfully, Augustine gives us a mixed bag. It was Augustine who interpreted the Adam-and-Eve story as an allegory for original sin, elevating that story for Christians in importance above the Abraham saga that is foundational to Judaism. A piece of our Jewish roots was lost, and not for the better. Augustine rendered sex into the original sin, and you can connect the dots from that to all of the arguments we have today over sexuality. He also explored the idea of predestination and came up with a double-predestination concept that puzzled his contemporaries at least as much as it might puzzle us.

Yet I would give you another picture of Augustine that is worth exploring. He was the first to write a spiritual autobiography, Confessions of a Sinner and it is still readable today (there are several new translations). He left us hundreds of sermons and major books. Most spectacularly, Augustine explored the meaning of grace, and how grace comes to us free of charge whether we deserve it or not. Augustine was accused of preaching "cheap grace" by those who believed we needed to earn God's favor. Augustine stood firm that grace is a gift of God and not anything we can control. And he preached how we are called to bring heaven to earth -- the city on a hill. Central to Augustine was Christian hope for a better world.

Augustine battled the Donatists, a north African movement that preached that only the pure could be in the church. The Donatists never conceded the point, and they never went away. We see echoes of Donatism today  among those who feel the church needs to purge itself of those people who are considered impure or unworthy. Augustine and his arguments remain as relevant today as they were 1,600 years ago. 

If you want to know more, I highly recommend Garry Wills' short biography, Saint Augustine,  in the Penguin Lives series. For a longer scholarly treatment, Peter Brown's biography, Augustine of Hippo, published by the University of California Press, is still a masterpiece. 

And the Collect of the Day:

Lord God, the light of the minds that know you, the life of the souls that love you, and the strength of the hearts that serve you: Help us, following the example of your servant Augustine of Hippo, so to know you that we may truly love you, and so to love you that we may fully serve you, whom to serve is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Anti-gay rights spending

I recently learned a startling fact that should be considered in every conversation about the controversies in the Anglican Communion and the debate about gay rights: A recent study found that anti-gay rights religious organizations outspend by a ratio of 8-1 those religious organizations that advocate for the full inclusion of gay people.

This week, the Evelyn and Walter A. Haas, Jr. Foundation made an attempt to even the spending ratio by awarding $1.2 million to a coalition of 30 Christian denominational organizations, including Episcopalians, working for the full inclusion of gay people in churches. The award may help level the playing field and bring mainstream recognition that James Dobson and his allies do not speak for all Christians.  

And for those unfamiliar with the Haas family of San Francisco, the gift is symbolically important. Walter Haas, a 1910 graduate of the University of California, took a small work-clothes company and built it into a cultural icon: Levi-Strauss & Co. In recent times, the Haas family endowed the Haas School of Business at UC, one of the leading business graduate programs in the nation, and Haas family foundations have granted more than $300 million to philanthropic causes. This grant is a major milestone for the Haas family, bringing what has been primarily a secular foundation into the religious world. Could this mean that the Haas family will become as important as the Lilly Foundation in funding church initiatives?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Common place miracles

Good morning, dear readers. My Tennessee poet friend, Karen, sends along another gift:

Miracle Fair

by Wislawa Szymborska


The commonplace miracle:

that so many common miracles take place.


The usual miracles:

invisible dogs barking

in the dead of night.


One of many miracles:

a small and airy cloud

is able to upstage the massive moon.


Several miracles in one:

an alder is reflected in the water

and is reversed from left to right

and grows from crown to root

and never hits bottom

though the water isn't deep.


A run-of-the-mill miracle:

winds mild to moderate

turning gusty in storms.


A miracle in the first place:

cows will be cows.


Next but not least:

just this cherry orchard

from just this cherry pit.


A miracle minus top hat and tails:

fluttering white doves.


A miracle (what else can you call it):

the sun rose today at three fourteen a.m.

and will set tonight at one past eight.


A miracle that's lost on us:

the hand actually has fewer than six fingers

but still it's got more than four.


A miracle, just take a look around:

the inescapable earth.


An extra miracle, extra and ordinary:

the unthinkable

can be thought.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Today -- a day off!

Dear Readers,
I am taking the day off, the first day off in a month without looking for a place to live or doing something at St. Paul's. See you back in this space tomorrow! I think I will head to the gym...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Moving day and mini-vans

Today brought an annual ritual here in Charlottesville: The Great Family Move-In, whereby entire families cart their students and gear into the dorms at the University of Virginia. The streets are clogged with mini-vans, and the sidewalks near the dorms barely contain a steady stream of moms and dads schlepping computer screens and laundry baskets. This morning I went for a walking tour with my friends Bill and Beth, and we had a delightful time watching all the action.

Later in the morning I toured a condo that I think will work for Lori and myself. I filled out the rental application; keep your fingers crossed that we've found a place to live, at least for our first stage of living here.

And tonight I go to to a picnic with our teenage youth group out in the woods. That's enough for one day. Blessings and prayers to all... 

Friday, August 22, 2008

We are workers, not master builders

As we embark together on the road of transition and change, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Yet we are only called to take one step at a time, one day at time. That is all our living God asks of us. We are always in a state of becoming, of growing into the fullness of being the Beloved. We are a work in progress. 

I take great solace in the life and witness of Oscar Romero, who was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of El Salvador. He fearlessly opposed the his country's ruling junta, and he was gunned down by a death squad at his Altar in March 1980. Soon before his death, he said this, and his words are timeless:

"This is what we are about: We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Children are our Present: A word to the people of St. Paul's

A major reason that Lori and I feel called to St. Paul’s Memorial Church is that this parish is truly multi-generational. We have been deeply impressed by the level of commitment to serving all of God’s children of every age. We especially marveled at the energy of the children at the Shrine Mont weekend in July, and I was amazed at seeing four generations standing at the baptismal font at our recent Sunday baptisms.

Yet there is much more that we can be doing to centrally involve children and young adults in every aspect of our worship and spiritual life at St. Paul’s. This fall we will launch several new programs for young people, and we will make several exciting additions to our 10 a.m. service to more fully involve children and young adults in our worship experience.

 To learn more, please come to one of two informational meetings following the 10 a.m. service on Aug. 24 and Aug. 31. Here are a few highlights:

·      We are launching the “Godly Play” education program for K-5 children. Godly Play is hugely successful and popular throughout the Episcopal Church, and works well in every size parish, both large and small. The goal of Godly Play is to teach children the art of entering into religious language and sacred scriptural story so that they become more fully aware of God’s presence in their life. And it is fun for children and their adult leaders. We need adult commitment and involvement to make this work. If you are interested please contact Iris Potter. 

·      Our teenage youth group will have its regular meetings after the 10 a.m. service each Sunday, with lunch provided. This will allow our young adults to more fully explore the themes they have experienced in our worship service, and to be more directly involved in the service itself. For more information, please contact Janet Legro.

·      We are looking for teenage and young adult readers on Sunday mornings. We will have an Old Testament and an Epistle reading each Sunday and we would love to have at least one young person every Sunday read a Scripture lesson for the congregation. Please contact David Nelson or the church office to become a reader.

·      The Youth Choir will be regularly featured singing an offertory anthem. To join the choir, contact Albrecht von Gaudecker.

·      And stay tuned for the children’s procession and blessing on Sunday morning! More on that later!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Prayer by Maya Angelou

Many years ago I had the opportunity to meet Maya Angelou and hear her read some of her poems and prayers. I've been carrying around this prayer on a yellowing piece of newsprint ever since, and so I share this with you:


Father, Mother God,
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.

Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.

And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.

For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.

For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.

For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.

For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.

For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.

Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give all the
world that which we need most -- Peace.

-- Maya Angelou

Monday, August 18, 2008

Favorite links, and a poem to start your day

Good morning, dear readers. Today I have added a list of my favorite links off to the left side of this page. Check them out when you get a chance, and please send me some of yours. 

And I've had several requests for more poems, so I leave you with this from Mary Oliver, sent to me by my poet friend Karen in Tennessee. Here's the poem:

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver


Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean--

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down,

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.


I don't know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?


Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Generous Orthodoxy

Lately I have been reading A Generous Orthodoxy, by Brian D. McLaren. You may recall he spoke at Lambeth and dazzled the bishops. He has a breezy, easy to read style, and he pushes the envelope on all things Christian. Here is a gem from his book (p. 293):

"To be a Christian in a generously orthodox way is not to claim to have the truth captured, stuffed, and mounted on the wall. It is rather to be in a loving (ethical) community of people who are seeking truth (doctrine) on the road of mission... and who have been launched on the quest by Jesus, who, with us, guides us still. Do we have it? Have we taken hold of it? Not fully, not yet, of course not. But we keep seeking. We're finding enough to keep us going. But we're not finished. That, to me, is orthodoxy -- a way of seeing and seeking, a way of living, a way of thinking and loving and learning that helps what we believe become more true over time, more resonant with the infinite glory that is God."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Q. How many Vestry members does it take to change a tire?

A. All of them.

Thanks to Dudley Rochester, we have photo documentation of my first days as the newly-minted rector of St. Paul's Memorial Church, including fixing my flat tire on the way back from the Vestry retreat (and thanks to Pat Punch; he's the one fixing the tire -- I am the one looking clueless).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Jonathan Daniels

Today is the feast day of Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian murdered during the civil rights struggles of 1965. He died protecting a young black child from vigilantes. He was 26 years old when he died. This is from a very good Daily Office website:

The 1965 murder of Jonathan Daniels, a seminarian at Episcopal Divinity School and civil rights volunteer who gave his life for a Black girl named Ruby Sales in Hayneville, Alabama, galvanized the Episcopal Church, turned it away from the Establishment as “America’s First Church” and made it what it is today. He is the only seminarian ever honored with sainthood.

Holy Spirit, let me be aware of your presence and that of countless others, as together we pray your Divine Office in love. Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, “I dwell in the high and holy place and also with the one who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite.”Isaiah 57:15

And I highly recommend this particular Daily Office website for your prayer life. It has all of the readings for the day and tracks particular feast days like today.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Webcasting sermons; talking Indaba

A couple of quick things. Thanks to Tony Potter, you can now hear webcasts of sermons at St. Paul's by clicking Sermon Page. An audio stream of sermons is posted there and we will keep doing that every week. The text of sermons is also posted on line there. Thanks Tony!

The other place I would like to take you is the Lambeth Reflections Document, which is the end product of the now concluded Lambeth conference (finishing just in time for the Olympics!). The document is a summary of the "Indaba" conversations amongst the bishops, and there is a great deal of conversation on the internet and elsewhere about it. Have a look at it and in the next few days let's have more conversation here or informally elsewhere.

Thanks to all! 

Monday, August 11, 2008

And now for something completely different...

Here, dear readers, are a few items to brighten your Monday. First, follow these links to the latest buzz in the church world. Wonder what we learn in seminary? Here's your chance. Get a preview of the latest developments in church music, with a preview of the "It's All About Me" greatest hits. Next, check-out the latest trends in church growth strategies at Watermark Church. You won't be sorry! You might want to go there! 

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Feast

Today was a feast. An amazing feast! And it began on the road early this morning.

This morning I drove into Charlottesville for my second Sunday at St. Paul's Memorial Church. In all candor, I still need my GPS to get there. I got on the road at 6:30 am, and as I drove the 15 miles into Charlottesville, I flipped on the radio on my borrowed car. The station I found was playing the Putumaya World Music hour, hosted by Rosalie Howarth. For me, this was a holy moment. Rosalie broadcasts from KFOG San Francisco, simply the greatest radio station on the planet (OK, I am biased).  For the past year,  I listened to Rosalie and Putumaya every Sunday morning on my one-hour commute to Berkeley. Home felt very close this morning.

Then something more amazing happened.

As I drove into Charlottesville, the skyline was filled with hot air balloons. They were drifting in the gentle early morning breeze just barely above treetop. What a feast for the eyes! How do they do that?

And it got better.

We did nine baptisms this morning at St. Paul's.  The joy, the celebration, the feast, the laughter burst from the pews to the ceiling. We even had two great-grandmothers of babies being baptized. We sang, we prayed, we splashed water, we had a wonderful time. This is truly a wonderful, warm, caring community.

Tonight I was celebrant at the 5:30pm service, and David McIlhiney spoke wonderfully about how there is hope for all of us and how if Peter, with all his flaws and fears can make it, we can, too.

And then I drove back to the countryside. And I was treated to a double rainbow just as I pulled down the gravel road to the home where I am staying. I only wish Lori were here for all this. Soon.

Friday, August 8, 2008

What a week...

We've had an intense week in Charlottesville, meeting many new friends, and being feted royally in so many wonderful homes (and, truly, thanks for wearing nametags). 

We've looked for a home and we'll keep you posted on developments on that front. Lori is on her way back to Sacramento to wind up things there. Tomorrow is a Vestry retreat here in Charlottesville; I am much looking forward to sharing stories and beginning work with the St. Paul's Vestry. This is truly a wonderful community -- thank you for all of your warmth, prayers, ham bisquits and the great welcome.

And to our friends and family in California, I miss you terribly and need you as much (or more) than ever. So please stay in touch. Email, phone, postcards, texting (that would be Trev & Wendy).  And I am going figure out how to use Skype soon!

Love to all,


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Webcast with Bishop Katharine today

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will be answering questions live on a webcast this afternoon (Thursday Aug 7) at 2pm eastern time. You can access the webcast at the Episcopal Church page, and you can email questions to her through there. She will be discussing the Lambeth conference and related issues.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Spend time daily doing something you enjoy

Lori found this little gem in the on-line newsletter of Trinity Episcopal Church, Bend, Ore. (Ok, we read a lot of church newsletters). I pass this along to you as a reminder to myself in the midst of our transition:

* Spend time daily doing something you enjoy. 

* Do those things that bring inner peace. 

* Learn to laugh heartily and frequently. 

* Cultivate an attitude of hope. 

* Fill each day with as much love as it can possibly hold.  

You'll still have plenty of problems, but through it all, you'll find all you joy you will ever need.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Housing hunting

Dear Readers,
We are in the throes of house-hunting in Charlottesville. Our eyes are weary, and our brains are saturated with square-footage data, bathroom tile, basement rumpus rooms, guest bedrooms, leaking skylights, backyard decks, storage space, granite counters, fresh paint.  And we've seen some wonderful amazing neighborhoods all over Charlottesville. Onward we go. I will keep you posted on our progress. Love to all...
-- Jim & Lori

Monday, August 4, 2008

Final words from Lambeth

Lambeth is drawing to a close, and I am still reading bishops' blogs and the reactions to all that took place, all the words that were said, the angst expressed, the hopes for a Communion based not just on common English roots but following the way of Jesus. I will have more to say, but not just yet. Please let me know on this blog what you think. Archbishop Rowan Williams delivered his final address; it is long, thought-provoking, and he continues to push the idea of a "covenant." No actions were taken by the Lambeth conference, which itself may be disturbing to some, cause for relief with others. +++Rowan left the bishops -- and us -- with these words:

Our Communion longs to stay together - but not only as an association of polite friends. It is seeking a deeper entry into the place where Christ stands, to find its unity there. To that end, it is struggling with the question of what mutual commitments will preserve faithful, grateful relationship and common witness. But it must remember too that the place where Christ stands is also every place where God’s image is disfigured by the rebelliousness and injustice of our world — just as he once stood in the place of every rejected and lost human being in his suffering on the cross. To be with him in unity, in prayer and love, in intimacy with the Father, is at the same time to be with him among the rejected and disfigured.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

A good Sunday

We are launched. We had about 400 people in church this morning, and I was honored to have all of the clergy of St. Paul's, active and retired, vest and process in with me. Below is my first sermon; the laugh lines may not translate well, but you'll get the idea. Blessing to all...

Aug. 3, 2008

Genesis 32: 22-31

Matthew 14: 13-21


            Good morning. In case you are wondering, I am the new guy – the new rector.

            Someone sent me one of these, and I applied and, well, they gave me the job. So here I am.

            They told me this is a major pulpit in the Episcopal church. But what is this?

            I want to tell you a bit about myself this morning. First let me introduce you to Lori, my wife, my partner, my best friend, the one I feel most passionate about in the universe.

We are both excited and grateful to accept this call to be with you.

            I want to thank you for your patience in waiting for us. I made a commitment to All Souls Parish in Berkeley, California, to be with them until they called their new rector. I am please to say I kept my commitment to them.

I believe in keeping commitments, and I believe in keeping my commitment to you to be your rector in the years ahead as we minister together by seeking to live out the gospel as a congregation where our lives, and the world around us, are touched by God's grace and love.

            I am from California, you’ve probably figured that out by now. I am a fourth generation Californian. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a brief interlude for high school on the East Coast. I am graduate of UCLA and I spent the better part of my life working for newspapers in Southern and Northern California.

            Lori and I have lived in Sacramento for more than 20 years, and I’ve been commuting to Berkeley for the past year. It is good to be moving north – yes, north. If you look at a map, Berkeley is actually south of Charlottesville.

I am here to tell you that every stereotype you’ve ever heard about California is absolutely true.

Palm trees really do grow everywhere; we wear Hawaiian shirts for all occasions; and, yes, you do see movie stars all the time in California, even in Sacramento, but it is not polite to stare at them when they get in the elevator with you, especially when it is the governor who is late to work.

            I’ve been asked by some of you how a California guy like me could end up here in Virginia. I must admit to you, I’ve wondered that myself a few times in the last few months.

            Your very able search committee showed Lori and me the possibilities where we could not have imagined, and they showed us with gentleness and patience. We owe them a great deal of thanks for their faithfulness in the possible.

            It took me awhile, though, to see this place and this church as a possibility, or to be more precise, to truly discern that this is where God wants us to be and that this is truly a calling. Callings take time. I am absolutely humbled by the prayer composed by your search committee that included the line: “Ready us to receive the one you have been forming for service in this place.”

It has been a long journey getting here, over many, many years, and I hope to share my story with you in the coming months, as  I want to hear your story, and as together our journey together unfolds and we write a new story together.

            But for now, let me give you one detail: There was a moment when I knew this is the right place. It came during Holy Week, when the clergy of the Diocese of California assemble at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to renew their ordination vows.

I was sitting with my friend and mentor, Don Brown, who is the retired dean of my cathedral. We stood with all of the clergy, and Bishop Marc Andrus asked us whether we would vow to serve those entrusted to our care. When I said “yes,” I thought of you.

            Then it dawned on me that Marc Andrus is from Virginia. He was educated in Virginia, and went to the Virginia Theological Seminary, and later served as a rector in Middleburg. Bishop Marc had never lived west of Appalachian mountains until he became bishop of California two years ago.

            It occurred to me, in that moment, that God delights in moving the pieces around, in sending us on new adventures to be with new people, and grow in ways we can not do on our own. God delights in moving the pieces around, and so I come to you.

Moving the pieces around presents an extraordinary opportunity for all of us to discover the gospel in ways we’ve never dreamed, and, more than that, to wrestle with the meaning of the gospel more intensely than we have ever done.

That, at its most basic, is what we will be doing as we journey together over the next years, as we learn together what it truly means to be God’s beloved, and to live out our lives in the fullness of God’s promise of healing and wholeness and salvation.

Make no mistake: We will have challenges. I will make mistakees. And at times it may feel as though we are wrestling with God.

We will be in good company. Wrestling with God is precisely what Jacob does on the riverbank in the Old Testament lesson today.

Jacob wrestles with God, and though he encounters pain, he comes out seeing God and understanding life in a new way.

He could not have gotten where he was going any other way.

Many of us are in the midst of some of life’s most important, and wrenching, transitions – new jobs, moving, retirements, or maybe the beginning of a new relationship, or maybe the end of a relationship, or the loss of a loved one.

Our kids will soon be faced with the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year, and new university students will soon descend upon us – we hope so. There is a lot of change going on here even without a new rector showing up.

            It might be tempting to say this is “God’s plan.” But let’s avoid that. For one thing, I don’t believe for a single second that God has a single plan. I think God has an infinite number of plans. God provides many right answers. If this doesn’t work, try this, or try that. God works over and over to show us alternatives, and the way forward to a better place.

That is why we hear about Jesus feeding all of these people with a few loaves and fishes. God provides, and provides abundantly – and will keep surprising us with more food and more food.

Isn’t it amazing that the central act of our worship is a common meal?

No matter our station in life, or our differences, we come together to share the bread of life and this common cup. And Jesus never puts limits on who can share in this meal of grace, and so neither can we. All are welcome at this table where all are blessed. That is the meaning of grace.

And if you don’t quite see it yet, or taste it yet, don’t worry. You will get another meal, and another and another. God keeps showing you – and me – another way to see and taste, and keeps inviting us to discover together how to live our lives in the full promise of God’s grace.

            Jesus loves to use meals to illustrate the meaning of grace, and he does it over and over. He shows up at a wedding and turns water into wine, he goes to a dinner party bringing a tax collector with him.

He dines with religious leaders and prostitutes alike with no regard to social ranking.

Jesus is always stopping somewhere to share a meal with someone on his way to share a meal with someone else.

            And along the way, Jesus turns a handful of loaves into enough food to feed thousands; he heals people, brings a few back from the dead, and then on the night before he goes to the Cross, Jesus implores us to remember him – to live on with him – by sharing in his last supper of bread and wine every time we gather.

His last command to us is a dinner invitation.

            For Jesus, this banquet is to be shared by all.

What will we do with a meal like that? How will we live into the full promise of that meal? Richard Hooker, possibly the preeminent Anglican theologian of all time, wrote in the 16th century that the most important question about our Communion meal is not how the bread and wine is changed into Christ’s presence.

Rather, Hooker says, the most important question is: How does the bread and wine change us? How does the bread and wine change us? How will grace enter our lives through our coming together again and again, Sunday after Sunday, at this Holy Table?

What will we do with this meal? How will this meal change us in how we live the rest of our lives?

            This meal-of-grace is not a dream, but the reality of God’s kingdom right in front of us, and we get to share in it again in a few moments. And, I pray, we will share in many more meals for many years to come as we grow into God’s promise of salvation for all. Amen