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Yes, the Baptismal Covenant Is More Than Words

7 Mark’s Gospel B. the prelude image 3 of 4. Christ baptized. Ryley

In many Episcopal parishes today, members renewed the covenant they made with God at baptism. Our Catholic and Lutheran friends, among others, also use the baptismal covenant. Though the exact wording may vary, the basic structure is the same: a question-and-answer format where we renounce evil and vow to walk with Jesus.

On this Sunday, liturgical churches celebrate the Baptism of Christ, helping to remind us of that promise made. It’s also a time when many will make those promises for the first time, either for themselves or on behalf of a child they’re sponsoring in baptism.

In Christ, we join the ranks of God’s beloved. Because we have the Spirit of God in us, we are part of Christ’s mission of reconciliation and justice.

There is a lot of talk of opening the eyes of the blind, releasing prisoners from dungeons, and bringing those in darkness out of prison in the Isaiah 42:1-9. Even though this brings a lot of vivid images of physical blindness and literal prisons to mind, I think Isaiah was looking at a bigger picture here.

There are many who have become spiritually blind or prisoners through sin, human malice, or even emotional brokeness like depression, PTSD, or substance abuse. It often seems like the world’s brokeness rules the day, but the good news is that God’s redemption through Christ is there to bring us through it.

By choosing to live in companionship with Christ, we can experience healing and reconciliation, as well as help bring both to others. We should let the words of the baptismal covenant remind us of both this promise and our responsibility.


January 8, 2017 Posted by | Holidays/Feasts, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

St. Bartholomew: Humble Servant

A clip from St. Bartholomew’s in NYC, named after tomorrow’s saint

Tomorrow, the Church remembers a leader most known for being one of the original 12 apostles, but the Bible tells us little about him beyond this. He is associated with having brought the Christian faith to both India and Armenia. What we do know is that, as one of Jesus’ earliest followers, he would have been familiar with the humble servanthood expected of followers of Jesus, and most likely lived it out.

Israel had looked forward to another great prophet like Moses since the days just after the Exodus. (Deuteronomy 18:15-18) I’ve often wondered how people would behave today had history worked out so that Jesus walked among us in this day and age. Would we be like that first generation of his followers, or would we get too caught up in the celebrity worship that permeates our society? Given how some in the public eye who claim to be followers of Jesus behave today, I think it would be safe to say that the celebrity worship would dominate things.

It’s very easy to imagine people seeking out selfie opportunities and sharing viral videos of miracles. But, in many ways, I think people living today realize that we need a Redeemer. Like our earlier counterparts, many look to the present-day political and social systems as the answer to problems that are spiritual. In fact, we must ask ourselves: had Jesus become incarnate in our age instead of 2,000 years ago, would he have faced death just as surely? I believe so, and I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.

Following Jesus today isn’t easy, and it was back in New Testament times, either. (1 Corinthians 4:9-15) Being in want, having false accusations made, being driven out from society, imprisonment, and death are some of the things that the apostles faced that are unfortunately still with Christians today. The persecutors may follow different sociopolitical idealogies and different religions, but the dynamic is still the same: Christ’s followers will often pay a price for sharing God’s gift of love and grace, especially to the marginalized.

Most of the intrigues and conflicts over power that play out in political and economic circles should be absent from the Church as well, but unfortunately aren’t. Jesus’ message about leaders being like one who serves (Luke 22:24-30) would be good for all in positions of authority to bear in mind. Bartholomew and the apostles, though the subject of legends involving miracles, aren’t best-known for their signs and wonders. They are known for spreading their message of redemption in the face of great hardship, and being faithful to that even to death.

Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

August 23, 2016 Posted by | Holidays/Feasts, Saints and Feasts, Sermons/Homilies | , , , , | Leave a comment

So Many Tempations, So Little Time

February 18, 2016 Posted by | Holidays/Feasts, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

In Honor of Upcoming Shrove Tuesday…

The author of this is totally unknown to me, but provides a bit of levity before we launch into Lent (which is early this year:

All God’s Children are shriven toda-ay
No more Shroves for days and da-ays
Forty days is not so long
Burn your Shroves, you can’t go wrong

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Holidays/Feasts, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Bless This House…Literally

On the Feast of Epiphany for some Christians and during the week following for others, it is traditional to bless the house in some way. Although we have already celebrated the Feast of Epiphany, I think this tradition is worth mentioning in its broader context.

Catholics have a tradition of asking God’s blessing on their homes, as well as anyone who will visit their home. This tradition is an open invitation to make Jesus a daily part of life.

Chalking the door with the letters C, M, B and the year. The initials stand for Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, the three traditional wise men, or the initials for the Latin translation of “May Christ bless this house”. Traditional prayers follow.

In Episcopal churches, parishioners may ask their priest to bless their homes on Epiphany or in the week after. During the blessing, a special prayer is said for each room. Consider making one of these traditions part of your Christian life, and you’ll be glad you did.


January 18, 2016 Posted by | Holidays/Feasts, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Finding a Place for Epiphany

Today, the Church celebrates Epiphany, which is also known as Little Christmas or Three Kings Day in some cultures. We might think about it as the holiday where gifts are sometimes exchanged instead of on Christmas or when we eat a King Cake, but there’s more to it than that.

At the time of Jesus’ birth, many had a myopic view of the influence the Messiah was to have had. For many, he would be a Redeemer to the Jewish people alone, but God had other plans, as God usually does.

The visit from the Magi, or wise men, dispelled that belief for the first time. These men (their exact number is unknown but traditionally considered three for the three gifts given) were Gentiles, and their desire to find and worship the Son of God signified how God’s plan of redemption was for all people.

When we pay close attention to the Bible readings for the Epiphany season, there is a common thread among most of them: Jesus’ interactions with Gentiles, many of whom were considered unclean. Reaching out to misunderstood religious minorities of the day with God’s message of salvation was just as important then as it is now.

Maybe  the most important thing we can take away from the message of the Epiphany is this: the good news is for all people – let’s not keep it to ourselves!


January 6, 2016 Posted by | Holidays/Feasts | | Leave a comment

The Cup That Truly Matters

Chalice (PSF)

A simple, paper cup has caused at lot of controversy among some Christians with the start of the retail holiday season. The red cup that coffee chain Starbucks is using has angered some Christians upset over its lack of designs associated with Christmas. This has prompted a movement of people making it a special point to give their names to baristas as Merry Christmas so that the phrase will appear on the cup.

Sometimes, I think that, in the effort to “put Christ back in Christmas”, many Christians are forgetting one thing: the retail world’s celebration of the holiday’s has nothing to do with “Christ’s Mass” and everything to do with making money. The real enemy isn’t those who celebrate different holidays, but greed and commercialism that even many who profess Christ get caught up in.

One thing that I find ironic is how many Christians are unaware of or forget that most of what the world tells us is part of the Christmas season isn’t actually part of it at all. Most of the anger directed at what greeting store clerks use or how stores advertise their products takes place during Advent, not the actual Christmas season.

Sometimes retailers and others may take things a little too far, as in holiday trees instead of Christmas trees. However, where is the outrage over the fact that much of Christianity essentially allows the secular world to dictate the terms of the holiday’s celebration? If we must “take back Christmas”, maybe we need to consider it in the context of universally celebrating the traditional seasons – after all, isn’t that part of beng in the world, but not of the world?

The image above serves as a reminder that Christmas has its meaning in the Mass – one of the most important ways in which the Incarnate Christ makes himself known to us. It’s not about how much stuff you baked, whether the dog’s present is wrapped, or whose house you’re having dinner at. It’s about whether we honor the humble birth of Our Lord and bring his message of peace and reconciliation to a world that needs it.

November 11, 2015 Posted by | Holidays/Feasts | , | Leave a comment

Epiphany: A Season of Endings and Beginings

Enjoy this reflection from Linda Ryan, published on Episcopal Cafe

January 22, 2015 Posted by | Holidays/Feasts | , , | Leave a comment

Being Joyful, in All Things

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Despite songs to the contrary, the weeks leading up to Christmas aren’t wonderful for many. Deaths of loved ones, estrangement, money problems and more make this time of year stressful for many people. Sometimes, that Christmas joy is elusive.

Though the Church celebrates the Christmas season on a different timetable from the rest of the world, it doesn’t change the fact that Advent is often overtaken by the retail version of the season. As much as we try to insulate ourselves from the commercialism, it’s there. The question isn’t how we can totally shun the secular world’s observance of the holiday, but how we can bring the true Light of the World to everyone.

  • Be thankful. It may seem like it’s a cliche, but an attitude of thankfulness does make a difference.
  • Among other things, be thankful for what is good about this time of year, even if it’s not “churchy”.
  • Keep this in mind – the Incarnation was about God coming down to us. Maybe the secular/sacred divide isn’t that big a divide after all.

December 15, 2014 Posted by | Holidays/Feasts | | Leave a comment

Advent from Spirit Juice Studios

December 7, 2014 Posted by | Holidays/Feasts | Leave a comment