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You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbor as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question. Mark 12:28-34
I …

Discerning our Common Call

What does it mean to be a Christian in the 21st Century?  What does it mean to be part of a church that has a hierarchical structure like the Episcopal Church?  What does it mean to be a “Diocese”?  These are all important questions with no simple answers, but ones we must be brave enough to engage. 
The reality is that the way we do “church” is changing, even since I was ordained 12 years ago!  While the majority of Americans still believe in “God” (or some mystic entity), most don’t go to church or another religious institution.  That is partially because the institutions have let people down, but also because priorities of life have changed.  People, especially children, are busy ALL THE TIME.  There is little to no “down” time to just be (which is kinda ironic, since that is part of developing our spiritual lives, but I digress). 
We can look at the changing dynamics and fear what that means for the future, because it won’t look or work like the past. Or we can begin to envisio…

The Revised Common Lectionary

One of the hallmarks of our Sunday worship in the Episcopal Church (and other Catholic and Protestant traditions) is the use of a 3-year cycle of appointed texted for the Liturgy of the Word. Rather than having the preacher or senior pastor choose a passage to focus on, we decided to follow a pattern similar to what is used in our Daily Office tradition and establish a fixed rotation of readings from the Bible to give continuity to our corporate worship. 
The current iteration of this practice is called the “Revised Common Lectionary” or RCL, which was adopted for use in 1994.  Its roots go back to the Second Vatican Council, but this version was developed by a wide range of Protestant groups.  The 3 years are entitled “A,” “B” & “C”.  In general, the Gospel of Matthew is used in Year A, the Gospel of Mark is used in Year B, and the Gospel of Luke is used in Year C, with the Gospel of John interspersed throughout the triennium.  Similarly, passages from the Hebrew Scriptures and…

Prophetic Prayer

I have said often that the vocation of prophet is not for the faint of heart.  Calling your family and neighbors back into right relationship with God can get you into a lot of trouble, if not killed, especially if you are seen as calling another’s actions into question.  Rather than accuse someone of not living into the obligations of being in a right relationship with God, sometimes it is better to remind people, especially those in positions of authority in our society, of what their obligations are while hoping and praying they will self-examine that they are, indeed, living into their part of the bargain. That is why we pray for our country and those who have been elected to make our government work.  These prayers are intended to be offered without regard to party or affiliation.  We are not here to debate about who is “right” or what is going “wrong.”  This is about reminding us and those who serve about our basic values as humans, Christians, and Americans. I believe there i…

Mental Wellness

Do not approach the Lord with a divided mind. (Wisdom of Sirach 1:28)
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12:30)
It is not a subject that many people are comfortable talking about. Fortunately, thank God, that is changing.  But there is still a stigma, partially due to ignorance and partially due to fear.  If we are willing to confront both of these obstacles with Truth, then we can have a meaningful conversation about mental wellness.
Note that I am starting from a place of health, because that is where God is.  When we start from a place of sickness or abnormality, it literally infects the conversation from the very start and limits our ability to trust that God is in the midst of whatever situation we are facing.  This is not easy, especially for those of us who have dealt with those suffering from illnesses of the mind, like depression, schizophrenia or addiction.  It is impossible …

Can I get a Witness?

A couple weeks ago during our Patronal Feast worship, we proclaimed various aspects of our life together as the community of St. Barnabas that we value – acceptance, inclusivity, fellowship, food (!), music, worship, support for each other to name a few. Can I get an “AMEN!”? These are wonderful ways of how we demonstrate our commitment to our live as disciples of Christ and our commitment to support each other in our journeys of faith.  Let’s dare to take this one step further.  How have you witnessed these (or other) values played out in the community?  A couple of people offered short explanations of why these values were named, but in the context of the sermon, we didn’t have the time to offer longer stories about particular times when these values were exemplified.  So take a moment right now. Think about your time at St. Barnabas and allow your heart to remind you of a time then you felt nurtured or challenged in your life in Christ. What was happening?  Who was involved? How…

Our Patronal Feast

Yes, “patronal” is a churchy word since it is not used in many other contexts (and should not be confused with the Patronus charm from Harry Potter, but I digress).  It is the adjectival form of the word “patron” and, in this case, refers to the patron saint of our church, i.e. St. Barnabas. I think it is wonderful tradition to name a community of believers in remembrance of persons of faith.  Many of these people have been given the title of “saint” for their extraordinary life and are usually remembered on the day of their deaths in the Church calendar.  Often times a church is dedicated on the feast day of a specific saint and hence takes on the name of that saint.  Such is the case of St. Barnabas. A faithful community of believers gathered together on June 11, 1872 (June 11th is the feast day of St. Barnabas) and dedicated themselves to living as disciples of Christ in this area of New Jersey, along the Route 1 corridor.  In the 145 years since its inception, several buildings…