Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sermon for August 16, 2015, by the Rev. Karen Joy Kelly

Sermon – Year B Proper 15/Feast Day of Jonathan Myrick Daniels
Propers: 15 B – 1Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14; Psalm 111; Ephesians 5:15-20; John 6:51-58
For Jonathan Daniels Proverbs 4: 20-27; Psalm 85: 7-13; Galatians 3:22-28 & Luke 1:46-55

Were we to follow today’s proper lectionary scripture selections, we would find that in our reading from Kings, our Psalm and our Epistle, “one word” (as our own Martha Bourlakas would invite us to ponder) would be wisdom.
And, as we are following the feast day of Jonathan Myrick Daniels today, we would hear from the book of Proverbs that essentially to listen for God’s wisdom and then do not turn to the right or to the left … to continue on that path that God has chosen for us. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put all devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward and your gaze be straight before you.” (Proverbs 2: 23-25).#
For Jonathan Myrick Daniels Feast Day the Epistle is Galatians 3: 28 and 29. “There is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
And the Gospel for his feast day is the Magnificat as cited in the Gospel of Luke.
Who is this Jonathan Myrick Daniels? And why has the Episcopal Church given him a feast day?
One might simply say that he is a modern-day martyr … a person of strong beliefs … one who walked his talk. And walk he did.
His life actually began in 1939 in Keene, New Hampshire. Ultimately he graduated from Harvard. His life, to that point, was a constant searching for the meaning of life, death and vocation. It was a struggle for him to choose between medicine, ordination, law and writing. He actually came to Lexington, Virginia and graduated from VMI (Virginia Military Institute) prior to enrolling at Harvard to study English Literature. At one point he was on the edge of losing faith when he was touched by God. The day was Easter, 1962. Place: Church of the Advent in Boston. He immediately became a seminarian at ETS (Episcopal Theological School) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
His soul was moved yet again by a television appeal from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, to come to Selma to secure the right to vote for all citizens. (Interestingly, a day of remembrance for all again this past week.) Jonathan then took a leave from seminary to go to Selma, under the sponsorship of the then Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity, along with several of his classmates and others. As the words of the Magnificat instilled in him new insights he said “I knew that I must go to Selma. The Virgin’s song was to grow more and more dear to me in the weeks ahead.”1
On August 14, he, along with his companions were jailed. Unexpectedly they were released on that same day. Four of them left the jail and walked over to a small store. Sixteen year old Ruby Sales reached the top step of the entrance to the store, where a man with a gun appeared, cursing at her. Jonathan then pulled her to one side to shield her from the threats.
Jonathan was killed by a blast from the 12-gauge gun.
He gave his life to protect another.
The profound effects of Selma left their mark in his writings. He says, “The doctrine of the creeds, the enacted faith of the sacraments, were the essential preconditions of the experience itself. The faith with which I went to Selma has not changed: it has grown … I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s death and resurrection … with them, the black men and the white men, with all of life, in him whose Name is above all the names that the races and nations shout … We are indelibly and unspeakably one.”2
Jonathan never made it to priesthood…but clearly heard God’s call and was where he was supposed to be doing God’s work. Ruby Sales, the teen whose life he saved, completed that task for him. She went on to seminary. Yes, she went on to attend Episcopal Theological School (now Episcopal Divinity School). She works as a human rights advocate in Washington, D.C. and founded an inner-city mission dedicated to Daniels. 3
Also, in his memory, several of his classmates from VMI meet annually on this day and march to follow his footsteps in Haynesville, Alabama, where he was brutally shot.#
How very poignant his story as we experience a resurgence of the very things for which he fought.#
Wisdom … the body of Christ … loving our neighbor … knowing that we are all part of the same human family and are equally loved by the one who loves us all. Knowing God, through the example of the presence … the bread and wine … that we, too, are to stand for righteousness, no matter what.
How do we … can we … will we … go forth this morning, embodying that which we have heard in our heads, felt it in our hearts and then use head, heart, hands and feet to serve, like Jonathan … and as Christ has taught us?
The seed is planted … God invites and God will be with us and, God willing, we, too, can achieve Kingdom living here on earth.
Let us pray:
O God of justice and compassion, you put down the proud and mighty from their place, and lift up the poor and the afflicted: We give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression; through Jesus Christ the just one, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.4
1 Compilation of authors; Holy Women, Holy Men – Celebrating the Saints, Chuch Publishing, Inc., NY, NY, 2010, p. 526.
2 Ibid, p. 526.
3 Wikipedia
4 Compilation of authors; Holy Women, Holy Men – Celebrating the Saints, Church Publishing, Inc., NY, NY, 2010, p. 527.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sermon for August 9, 2015 by the Rev. Karen Joy Kelly

Sermon Year B Proper 14
2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51

And thus, God’s retribution toward David continues.
David, having accepted responsibility for the wrong that he had done, was faced with God’s consequences. His first loss was the loss of the child, carried by Bathsheba.
And now, we skip six chapters to the death of Absalom, following the death of Ammon, David’s firstborn. Now we know that three of David’s children are dead … one at birth, the other two in the course of events that followed.
We actually glide over the story that was the beginning of the end of both Ammon and Absalom. Interestingly, it is the story that ensues that is probably most responsible for these brutal deaths and is also the stuff of which best-selling novels are made. These appear to be parts of the Bible that are or could be life like … the parts that make the Bible alive … and parts that show the underbelly side of human behavior.
Certainly women residing in a domestic violence shelter would understand some of it.
You see, this part of David’s story begins with the beautiful Tamar. She is the daughter of David by one wife. And she is the blood sister of Absalom. The plot thickens when Ammon, son of another of David’s many wives enters the scene.
Ammon is pining away for his step-sister Tamar. He has fallen in love with her. His friend and cousin Jonadab (David’s brother’s son) noticed him pining away and asked the reason. Jonadab then conspires to convince David to send his daughter Tamar to “nurse” Ammon back to health. During this time, Absalom raped his half-sister and then his love turned to hate and he threw her out of his room.
Tamar would bear the mark of shame for the remainder of her life. Absalom was devastated at his sister’s tragedy. David was angry but did nothing to punish Ammon, his first son, for his brutal action.
For two years, Absalom plotted revenge. At a special feast for David’s sons, Absalom had Ammon killed.
David, upon hearing the news, commanded that all return to his kingdom except Absalom. Absalom then went into hiding for three years. Then, upon hearing the words of the woman of Takoa (a fortune teller, at David’s servant Joab’s insistence), David consented to Absalom’s return to Jerusalem, but not to David’s presence. Absalom, during this time became father to three sons and a daughter he named Tamar, after his beloved sister.
Absalom, after 5 more years, asked his neighbor Joab to intercede for him to his father David. After Absalom burned down Joab’s barley field, Joab took the hint and visited the king. Reconciliation took place.
Then, as they say, the plot thickened once again!
Absalom was given a horse, a chariot, and an army of 50 men. He camped outside the gates and insisted that those entering the city give their allegiance to him, hence winning the loyalty and power to raise an even larger army. He returned to Hebron, where he had previously lived, with David’s blessing while all the time plotting a conspiracy to become king.
Eventually, David was outnumbered and he left Jerusalem … but left the ark behind as a symbol of his ultimate return, trusting that God would be with him.
War ensued. David asked that his troops protect Absalom. Plot and intrigue through agents and spies continued throughout the war.
One day, as Absalom was riding his mule, his head got stuck in the branch of a mighty oak. The mule continued … leaving Absalom in this most precarious position. He was discovered by Joab, who ran three spears through him and then had 10 of his men finish him off. Revenge, once again, even against King David’s wishes.
David divided his armies into three camps and re-took Jerusalem, all the while hoping that his son Absalom would be spared. He was then given the news of Absalom’s death.#
Sometimes reading portions of the Bible, without reading behind and ahead can give us a very different perspective.
Was this all about Absalom’s vengeance against his father, David, who did nothing to protect Tamar, the vulnerable and shamed sister? Was Joab’s vengeance because of Absalom’s burning of his barley field? Why is it that in our day, we deny the telling of that portion of the story that sets up the beginning reasons for the war that ensued? Was Absalom an agent of God and part of the overall “airing of family laundry” as God had promised?
What are we to think of a father who allows his son to get away with rape of his daughter and another with murder?
Is it any wonder that the response to today’s OT reading is Psalm 130 … “Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord, Lord, hear my voice!” One of David’s most urgent pleas.
Our Epistle this morning offers us another means of settling grievances …
  1. Speak the truth
  2. Be angry, but do not sin
  3. Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t make room for the devil
  4. Let no evil come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, so that your words may give grace to those who hear
  5. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit
  6. Put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander … be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as you have been forgiven
  7. Be mindful of Christ’s offering and sacrifice to God
And our Gospel reminds us; once again that Jesus is the bread of life. Isn’t it interesting that both David and Jesus were born in Bethlehem … which means city of bread. Jesus declares to us that he is the living bread that came down from heaven …

Both are God’s chosen … one who was fully human and one who was fully human AND divine at the same time. This morning David reminds us ever so much of our human tendencies and Jesus reminds us that he is our hope and our salvation.
According to The Reverend Jane Herring, Hospice chaplain, “We have been made new by the forgiveness of Christ. Ugly behavior comes from within us, not only from traumatic events we have been uable to resolve within our own hearts but from the depths of our primal fears of abandonment, our fears that God cannot really love us. We are forgiven and by the grace of God we can extend forgiveness to the world around us.
As we mature in Christ’s forgiveness of us, our growth is made evident in the way we live, the words we say, and the actions we take. Our lives become manifestations of this forgiveness. We speak in ways that support faith in ourselves and others. Our actions become expressions of Christ’s love.1
I pray that we all think upon these things whenever we come forward this morning remembering that it is the bread of life, which we will receive that helps us. That it is the bread that gives us the strength to overcome our human tendencies and weaknesses as we struggle through our day to day trials. It is the outward and visible sign that God loves us and forgives us. It is the remembrance that we have embodied Christ by accepting this bread. We are now new once again and expected to follow God’s commands as we relate to and with one another. We will find the strength, not through our own efforts, but only through the love of Jesus Christ. May we always be able to stand strong against the enemy and love one another as we are loved by God.

1Herring, Jane, Disciplines 2015, A book of daily devotions, Upper Room Books, Nashville, TN, 2014, p. 230

Monday, August 3, 2015

Sermon for August 2, 2015, by the Rev. Karen Joy Kelly

Sermon – Year B Proper 13
I am the bread of life

Bread. Who does not respond favorably and warmly to the wonderful aroma of fresh baked bread … while it is baking and when it is taken right from the oven.
Bread. A staple in every diet. It is one of our basics … a common, everyday food, that of which, most of us partake. It is readily available for most of us in some form. It is always within reach … for a snack … for a sandwich or a slice of toast in the morning.
Bread. “I am the bread of life” Jesus says in our gospel narrative for this morning.
“I am the bread of life.”
This metaphor got me thinking about a product that many of us, if not most of us, grew up with.
Wonder bread.
Did you know that Wonder Bread was created in 1921 by the Taggart Baking Company in Indianapolis, Indiana?
Did you know that its ever-famous red, yellow and blue balloons on the package were inspired by those same colored balloons being sent up into the sky at the Indianapolis Speedway one day? It was the International Balloon Race. This sight instilled Elmer Cline, vice president of the company, with “wonder” and hence, the name and the balloons created that famous logo that is still on some grocery shelves to this day.
Did you know that in 1925, Taggart Baking sold out to Continental Baking (owned by Gene Autrey) and that in 1930 it began selling “sliced bread.”? Did you know that this inspired the expression, “the best thing since sliced bread”?
Did you know that in 1941 they introduced vitamins and minerals into the bread to make it healthier? (This was done to fight diseases like Beriberi and pellagra.) It was also mass produced to make it more affordable for the less fortunate of the day. They also introduced that same year a way of making it in a way to eliminate holes.
Fort-five years later they introduced Wonder Light, which added fiber. And in 2004 Interstate purchased Wonder Bread from Continental and ultimately filed for bankruptcy protection. But, they’re still in business and you can find the product yet today.
Wonder Bread. Touted to build strong bodies in 12 different ways. Squishy white stuff that promises to do so much.
We are blessed to know the real wonder bread.
Jesus the Christ.
This wonder bread that we know as the son of God will always feed, always nurture and always be there. It will not go bankrupt. It isn’t squishy white stuff, but rock solid and eternal.
It is full of life in and of itself. And it is fully life-giving.
I am the bread of life,” Jesus said. “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.”
David Sellery, rector of St. John’s, Salisbury, Connecticut, suggests that “The crowd thinks they’ve caught the gravy train and they don’t want this party to end. After some probing, they put in their order, ‘Give us a sign to believe in you. How about a regular diet of manna raining from heaven? Jesus seizes on their opening to explain …” his being the bread of life. “He is offering himself as the spiritual food that will fill our deepest needs.”
They (and we) are being called into a more intimate relationship. Not only are we to follow him as the living Word of God, we are now to “consume him” as Fr. David puts it. “He wants to become part of us, to shape us to his purpose, to live in all that we do.
And part of this consummation takes us from being individuals experiencing something private and unique to us, but it becomes the common feast that brings us together as a community.
We are not Christians because we call ourselves Christians. We are Christians because we are baptized into grace; nourished and strengthened, body and soul, fully committed, fully absorbed in the love of Christ.
We are here to do God’s work in the world. We are here to share the Bread of Life with a world that is stuffed with sin and starving for love. ”1
And so, dear ones, as you receive Holy Communion next week, known as the body of Christ, you will be able to think of the many ways that this particular “wonder bread” strengthens you for your day to day journey. I pray that you will take this opportunity to re-member (as in re member) yourselves with the saints and family members long gone.
Feed on this opportunity with thanksgiving as it energizes you, knowing that it is that outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual grace that can and will let the light of Christ shine in you.
May it lead you to leave this holy place, filled with Christ’s light that is overflowing, not just for yourself but out into the world we are called to serve.
And may you also say this morning, “Thanks be to God.”

1 Sellery, David E., This Week’s Focus, An email publication. 7/13/2015.