Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Upcoming Events

The Season of Epiphany (January 9 – February 28)                    

The Season of Lent (March 1 – April 16)

Christian Education – All Ages  9:30 AM
Chancel Choir Practice – 9:30 AM (in the Undercroft)
Adult Education Discussion – 9:30 AM in the Parish Hall
Holy Eucharist and Sermon – 10:30 AM

MARDI GRAS (Shrove Tuesday)
We will have our annual Mardi Gras dinner on Tuesday, February 28. Social Hour begins at 6:00 with dinner being served at 6:30 PM.

The season of Lent begins with the Ash Wednesday Liturgy and Imposition of Ashes, Wednesday March 1 at 6:30 PM.

Look for upcoming announcements about the date and time of fish fry and work day.

Sunday, April 9 at 10:30 AM: Palm Sunday Procession and Mass

The traditional Maundy Thursday Liturgy and Communion is Thursday, April 13 at 6:30 PM.

The Good Friday Vigil begins after the Maundy Thursday service and lasts until the Good Friday service at noon. Parishioners sign up to take one hour turns to sit and pray in quiet meditation in the candle-lit church in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. This always proves to be a popular service, so be sure to sign up early to reserve your spot. A sign-up sheet will be posted on the bulletin board in the coffee room.

Friday, April 14 at Noon: Stations of the Cross, The Solemn Collects, and Holy Communion (from the Reserved Sacrament)

EASTER – The Sunday of the Resurrection
Christian Education (all ages) 9:30 AM
Choir Rehearsal (in the undercroft) 9:30 AM
Easter Service (a festive, choral “High Mass) 10:30 AM
An Easter Egg hunt will be held for the children immediately following the service.

All Sunday Services Are Followed By Coffee Hour In The Parish Hall
First Sunday Covered Dish Luncheon Following The Service
Nursery Is Provided During Sunday Services

Saturday, November 28, 2015



Sundays:   Chancel Choir Practice 9:30 AM
                  Christian Education for Children 9:30 AM
                  Holy Eucharist and Sermon 10:30 AM
                  Coffee Hour following services

Christmas Eve: Midnight Mass begins at 10:30 PM with the Singing of Christmas Carols

Friday, March 13, 2015


Confirmation Classes are held Sunday mornings (9:15 AM in the Undercroft) during the season of Lent.

Christian Education Program meets in the Parish Hall Sunday mornings at 9:30 AM

Bishop's Visitation with Confirmation and Reception of New Members: Sunday, March 22 at 10:30 AM (followed by covered dish luncheon)

Palm Sunday, March 29: Procession and Mass for Palm Sunday: 10:30 AM

Maundy Thursday, April 2: Mass 6:30 PM followed by an All-Night Vigil (sign up sheet posted in Parish Hall for anyone wishing to take a one hour turn to keep watch in the Nave from the end of the Maundy Thursday service until the Good Friday Liturgy).

Good Friday, April 3: Stations of the Cross, The Solemn Collects, and Holy Communion (from the Reserved Sacrament

Easter Sunday: Choir Rehearsal 9:00 AM, Christian Education Program 9:30 AM, Solemn High Mass 10:30 AM. An Easter Egg Hunt will be sponsored for children following the service.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, the highlight of our church year, will begin at 10:30 PM with the singing of the carols.  A festive Choral Eucharist (High Mass) will follow. The choir and three soloists have been working hard on their music, and we will have a trumpet to accompany our organist this year.

Be sure to plan on attending, and don't forget to bring along your friends and family to celebrate the true reason for the season.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Sun. Aug 12, 2012)

Full Transcript of Father Swann's Homily:
In John’s Gospel---- Jesus is acutely aware of the problem of human hunger—and the need for “nourishment.” The images in the Gospel are about Jesus providing sustenance- and satisfying those who hunger and thirst for the gifts of God.

Jesus’ ministry was built on the rich foundation of many stories of feeding and being fed. We have one example in today’s reading from the Old Testament. In the reading from 1 Kings, Elijah sets out on a long journey sustained by the gift of the angel of the Lord: food! Not just once does the angel feed him, but twice. The angel commands him: “Get up and eat!” This wasn’t just any food, but bread. Elijah “got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.”

Sometimes we are more concerned about “physical food”-to eat----than we are about “spiritual food” which feeds the soul.

According to the late “curmudgeonly” Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes Fame- the two biggest sellers in any bookstore, are the cookbooks and the diet books. The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it.

In one way or another, many of us are obsessed with food--earthly food. Think what a difference it would make in our lives if we were equally obsessed with heavenly food--the food that Christ gives us.

“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

We don’t live by “bread alone”-- but we don’t get far without it either. WE yearn for the “Bread of Life”-- but every 15 seconds we are thinking about “the bread that perishes”-- and how we are going to ‘amass’ more of it. This “bread that perishes” could be almost anything that that we seek BEFORE we seek the “living bread”- Jesus.

Someone once described US-- as a “group of lost hikers.” We have (in the words of the Prayer Book) “erred and strayed like lost sheep.” But- the longer we have ‘strayed’ on these paths--the more we run into “dead ends.” We have searched for “The Goodlife”-- through the ‘forest’ of the world’s promises-- and found ourselves just as “lost” as before.

What the Scripture readings for today maintain is that --pursuing the “good things”-- AS ENDS IN THEMSELVES- is NOT the path to the “good life.” The authentic life, the life of depth and meaning-- is rooted in a relationship with God. The “good life” is a by-product of our life with God-- and how that life is lived with those God gives us.

Jesus said to those who followed him, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger; and he who believes in me shall never thirst." And again he said, "I am the living bread which comes down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."

What shall we say to this bold claim that the Savior makes? How is he bread for our lives? Could it have something to do with the sacrament of The Holy Eucharist—with the Mass???

A poll was taken of the national membership of one Presbyterian group. They were asked questions about their devotional practices. One of the questions asked was this: "When do you feel most a sense of being at worship with God?" More than 80 percent of those surveyed said they most felt a sense of worship during the celebration of the Lord's Supper. What is sad- many Presbyterian churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper only from 1 to 4 times a year, or the “more advanced” groups perhaps once a month.

Happily, the central act of worship for Episcopalians is the Mass the -Holy Eucharist-- reflecting our "connectedness" to the Church Catholic. There is something about taking the bread and the wine that lifts us to a higher plane. What is it?

Happily in our Eucharistic Liturgy Rite 2 we finally got our theology straight- WE ARE WORTHY to receive him at His table – not by our own efforts- BUT by being made worthy by the action of Christ. We have no need to pray to be made “worthy” as in the old prayer of Humble Access that contains the phrase- “WE are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under thy Table....” Worthiness is “imputed” to us as a gift of Grace.

When we take the bread and the wine we sense grace: God's unmerited love for sinners. All of us—black- white; gay – straight; rich – poor; conservative- liberal we all need to remember this. “The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord.”- in the words of an old hymn ----THAT HAS NOT CHANGED. We Episcopalians- are a ‘people’ who have prided ourselves -that we are not a church where you “hang up your God given brains”—at the door when you come in. I ask you-- would your prefer a “dishonest” church—which “pretends”--- OR—a church which is mature enough to be honest—and use our own God given reason. Don’t forget that the ‘Anglican way’—involves Scripture , early catholic tradition and REASON.

Some of you “old timers” will remember the same shrill cries of disaster 30—maybe 35 years ago when the first women priests were ordained. Also- some of you remember those who thought “the church was going to hell in a hand basket”- and predicted disaster-- because the church would dare to revise (and I might say Liturgically improve) the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.

Closer to our time, there were those who were disturbed by the sexuality of some who were allowed to be ordained. Few today- can remember the names of the “splinter” – breakaway (single- issue) congregations—which claimed to be the “true” Anglican, the “true” Episcopal Church???

True Anglicanism—is a broad, tolerant, liberal, accepting, loving Catholic (universal) body. One writer on Church History has aptly said- “The Anglican ( Episcopal) Church is the roomiest church in Christendom.” And that is a compliment. When we start to ‘build fences”- and ‘squeeze in’ the boundaries- and overly define ---we are deviating from the spirit of Anglicanism. And I truly believe that we are deviating from the example of Jesus Christ—who was accepting of all. The Gospel is for ALL!

When we gather at God’s Altar to TAKE THE BREAD AND THE WINE WE DO IT AS HIS FAMILY. WE are all connected. There is something about the Eucharist that is akin to "touching His garments".

In a sense, when we leave here this morning, each of us will take with us "a part of Christ". We have reached out and touched him who loves us as we are in all in our great human diversity.

In a world obsessed with food, he gives us the bread that is eternal. As Anglicans ( Episcopalians) we truly and absolutely believe in the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist-- (this is NOT an empty ‘memorial’)-As you receive the bread and wine- think on this-- “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” He is the living bread whose promise is eternal life. AMEN

First Kings 19:4-8
Psalm 130
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
John 6:37-51

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Sun. Aug 5, 2012)

Full Transcript of Father Swann's Homily:
WE human beings are rarely satisfied. This is what our First Lesson from Exodus reveals. What is it that we want? WE long to return from exile, but then—we wish that we had stayed in Egypt. “when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread.” The manna falls from heaven, but—we clamor for meat.

These stories are familiar. The people eat their fill and are satiated—but—they are not satisfied. Their ingratitude toward God and God’s servants, and the forgiveness of God who brought them out of Egypt are NOT attractive qualities—BUT they are human qualities.

There is truth hidden beneath these stories—that the literalists fail to recognize. Literalism does NOT reveal truth: it hides it—we will see more of that in today’s Gospel from John.

WE are told that after their liberation in Egypt as they moved across the Sinai wilderness the people accused Moses and Aaron that they had brought then into the desert to starve them, after all at least in Egypt that had enough to eat. The Lord told Moses that, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you.” I will “test” them whether or not they will follow my instructions, or not.

Moses tells the people that ( in effect) God will provide quail in the evening, and in the morning the ground will be covered with “manna” a fine flaky substance. Scholars tell us that quail migrate across the desert that that time of year, and the “manna” is the substance secreted by scale insects after they feed on tamarisk plants. IN any case, Moses tell the people “this is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.”

IN today’s Gospel from John, Jesus tries to get the people to “look beyond” the literal—to the truth of God’s revelation. But they refuse to see it. Jesus says, “You are not looking for me because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” Here Jesus is being a realist. He knows that they are looking for ACTUAL FOOD that only fills the stomach.

We meet Jesus in today’s gospel just after he has fed the multitudes. (Last Sunday’s Gospel). After everyone has had their fill of bread. They have had the pleasure of eating enough. We know that people have pushed away from the table Jesus set for them in the wilderness feeling sated, satisfied, because according to the story, there are even leftovers.

Funny thing about “enough.” Just what is “enough”?

The people Jesus had fed wanted a guarantee that they would always have enough. Jesus’ provision of plentiful bread seemed to them something they wanted more of. So they pursued him. They thought if they could have him, they could have bread – limitless, wonderful, unending bread. Enough.

Jesus fed hungry people. He knew people need to eat. He told his followers to feed people, real, physical, tangible, nutritious food. But he also promised that he himself would be enough.

He didn’t want to be just a provider of physical bread. He wants to be our bread – our sustenance, our nourishment, our daily strength, our source of satisfaction.

Jesus is bread, but he wants to fill the hunger of our hearts and not just our stomachs. He wants to fill the gnawing, aching emptiness that we try to fill with lesser things, to satisfy the longing or the boredom that we use substances of all sorts to quiet, to put an end to the grasping, fretting, worrying about having enough of anything that will in the end possess us, rather than allowing ourselves to fall into the hands of the one for whom we were made.

Jesus is daily sustenance. He is “bread” to be savored, gathered around. “ Bread” to inspire thanksgiving, to remind us of the wonder of life, to strengthen us. We can contemplate him, but we will gain more if we come to him as hungry beggars, open to whatever he places in our outstretched hands.

He was taken, blessed, and broken. He is to be shared. The sharing of his life invites us to exercise the creativity of an experienced bread-baker.

IN the Eucharist, we don’t merely listen to the words, “Take eat,” but we actually get up, come to the altar rail to take and eat. It Is not just the bread that we take , bless, break and give. God took Jesus’ whole life, blessed, broke, and gave it to us. We are to let that story of God’s love for us—take us, bless us, and give us back to the world.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry.”


Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Psalm 51:1-13
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Sun. July 29, 2012)

Full Transcript of Justin Crisp's Homily:

“Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.”  In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When I was growing up here in Seymour, the story of Jesus feeding the five-thousand was one of those storybook, shock-and-awe scenarios that confirmed Jesus' divinity and miracle-making power.  He would receive the bread and fish from the little boy—important to the story because even I could be this little boy— lift his hands to the sky, say a few magic words, and then hand out the food to everyone.  In my mind, this seemed to happen instantly too, because it would have taken far too much time for all five thousand people to go through a cafeteria line, like I had to at Seymour Primary just down the road from here.  And at the end of my dream, the camera would zoom out and pan across the countryside, as a few of the more slow eaters among us finished munching and the rest of the people began to gather up the remains in big baskets, which were all filled to the point of overflowing.

How beautiful is that?  Jesus took a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and BAM!  Abundance.  We could use a little abundance today, couldn't we?  We are a paralyzed people, understandably overwhelmed by the weight of terrifyingly complex economic problems, trapped in complicated webs of social and cultural despair, oppressive systems that have polluted our minds and hearts by telling us that some people matter more than others, some people are worth more than others, some people deserve more than others.

I don't know about you, but I have often find myself closed in by the immensity of the problems we have made for ourselves, and frustrated by the sheer incompetence of our political and intellectual discourse.  I have been shocked by the level of despair I have witnessed as a chaplain at the University of Tennessee Medical Center this summer, the despair born of being confronted with a diagnosis with a cure for which you know you cannot pay, the pain of hearing of a spouse's death over the phone because you simply don't have the resources to get to the hospital to be with her; as if being chronically ill isn't enough, you have to deal with the burden of knowing that the daughter who is holding vigil by your side has counted out pennies in order to get something for her headache from the gift shop.

We could use a little bit of that abundance now, Lord.  I know some people who need those loaves and fishes.  I know I cannot simply lift my hands to the sky and watch as bread magically multiplies, or falls to the ground like manna from heaven— but if there never seems to be enough for everyone, I must ask why.

I have fallen in love with our reading from 2 Kings, this story of Elisha feeding the prophetic community assembled around him, which St. John's re-telling of Jesus' feeding miracle seems to mimic.  There's something important foregrounded for us by this passage from the Hebrew Bible, something to which we should pay attention.  Think about the contrast between the characters of this story: you've got the servant of the man who has provided food for the group, for one, and he's positively incredulous at Elisha's suggestion that twenty loaves and some grain could satiate a hundred hungry stomachs.

No way! He cries. This is impossible. You're so impractical, Elisha. It'll never work.  Elisha, however, simply recognizes the gifts his community has been given and calls for their just distribution: "Give it to the people and let them eat."  And in accordance with God's faithfulness and Elisha's prophetic wisdom, there is more than enough.

Here we've got personifications of two logics, two ways of seeing the world: a logic of scarcity and a logic of abundance.

We see abundance in Elisha's retort to "Give it to the people! Let them eat," in his thanksgiving for God's providence and trust in God's faithfulness, and in his dogged determination to ensure the hungry among him are fed.

But a logic of scarcity is being exemplified by the servant: this is never going to work, there isn't enough to go around, so I've got to protect my treasure to ensure that, at the most, me and my closest loved ones are safe.

Sounds just like our culture to me.  Sounds like the paralysis, fear, and resignation that characterizes this, our stately culture of death which sparkles.

The servant is not wholly to blame for this, nor am I suggesting that a wholesale condemnation of our culture is the answer.  Fear does terrible things to human beings.  And we've been told this is all the best we can do.  It's about fixing it, patching it up, bailing it out.

This is exactly the issue, because the difference between Elisha and the servant, what keeps us from living out a logic of abundance, is a failure of imagination.

Growing up, I loved watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood on our local PBS station—my mother can tell you, it was a daily routine for us.  And one of things I appreciate most about how Fred Rogers taught me, through his television show, to think and to play was his focus on "make-believe," on imaginationRecently, PBS did a mock-up re-mix of some Mr. Rogers' songs which, interestingly enough, went viral on YouTube, which I think says something about that for which our culture is hungryThe chorus of the remix goes something like this:

Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind?
You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.
It’s good to be curious about many things.
You can think about many things and make-believe
And they’ll grow.

Growing things in the gardens of our minds is something intrinsic to the Christian life, something integral to our theological and spiritual tradition.

I love this closing doxology from our reading from Ephesians:
"Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine."

More than we can ask or imagine.

So much for, "That's not realistic. That's never going to happen.  This is the best we've got."  We have a God who is at work in usa God who is giving us the good of God's own life through gifts of supernatural grace, raising us beyond our natural capacities, out of our conditions of scarcity, and empowering us to participate in the movement of Christ through history.  We have a God who does extraordinary things with ordinary stuff: twenty loaves and some grain, five barley loaves and two fish, and in the bread and the wine of the eschatological feast we are about to celebrate together.

See, something interesting is happening in St. John's re-telling of Jesus' miracle—verse 11 includes what might seem at first glance to be a throw-away clause.  It reads, "Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them..."

When he had given thanks. Whatever happens hinges on this. On giving thanks.  In the Greek, this a form of the verb euchariste√≥—from which we get a term with which we Episcopalians are intimately familiar: the Eucharist.  If you break down "Eucharist" etymologically, you see that "Eu" means good and "charis" means grace—so, in a sense, euchariste√≥ is an offering of praise and thanksgiving that God's grace works well.  In the words of our prayer book, "It is [indeed] right to give God thanks and praise."  The Great Thanksgiving that follows is form of anamnesis, or a sacred remembering or recollection of God's goodness and faithfulness to us from the beginnings of creation, and culminates in our remembrance of the Words of Institution, another time when Jesus took bread and gave it to friends.  In remembering this, we re-member Christ's body, and by consuming these holy gifts, we are consumed by them
we become, as we pray after Communion, "living members of the Body of Christ."  In this meal, there is always enough for everyone.

Our world needs our imaginations, needs for us to grow good and faithful and true and beautiful ideas in the gardens of our minds, needs us to embody a logic of abundance which is never satisfied by with "that's just the best we can do" until everyone is fed.

Our world, our nation, our region, our town— Seymour needs your voices and your bodies, So the next time someone tells you your idea, your vision, your dream, for a more just and beautiful world is just not realistic, I want you to remember that you are the Body of the Messiah in this world, that in the words of St. Augustine, what you receive at this table, is the mystery that means you, so be a member of the Body of Christ, and make your Amen true.  Let us make the Eucharist our imagination.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thank you for such an inspiring Homily, Justin.  If you would be interested in attending a class Justin will be teaching consider attending "Jesus and Paul on Poverty and Economics:"

This class will be taught by Justin Crisp, in partnership with Dr. Diana Swancutt, Visiting Scholar at Boston University.  The course is sure to ignite stimulating dialogue on moral life as it pertains to economic justice and the reality of poverty in our city, nation, and world in light of the Christian tradition—and the witness of Jesus and St. Paul in particular.

At Tyson House Episcopal-Lutheran Campus Ministry on UT's Campus,
**Thursday, August 2 and 9 from 6:00-7:30 PM and
**Saturday, August 4 and 11 from 9:00 AM-12:00 Noon

On Facebook: 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost (Sun. July 22, 2012)

Full Transcript of Father Swann's Homily:

What is it like to be a “celebrity?” I certainly would NOT know. I read an account about an “event” that happened to Jimmy Buffet the singer—you know – the Margaretaville guy. It seems that Jimmy Buffet lost his cell phone at a restaurant. It created a “panic” – for good reason-- among all his close friends—including President Clinton, Bill Gates, George Clooney and some others. All these people had “private numbers” on the cell phone. Can you imagine someone having “access” to all those celebrities.

Many in our culture today— “worship” celebrities. Fred Allen the old “wry” comic--– now long dead- once said that “a celebrity is a person that works hard all his life to become well known, and then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.”

Today’s Gospel lesson makes it clear that Jesus was becoming a “celebrity” in his small corner of the world. Mark tells us that the “disciples’ were returning to Jesus after their missionary journey. They were “downloading” all their experiences. Jesus, following his familiar pattern of “withdrawing” after being “exhausted” by the rigors of ministry—and out of concern for his “tired” disciples –realizes the need to “get away.”

What about us?? Quite recently Sharon had her second “overnight” at a Sleep Study Center- regarding sleep apnea. This helped me “make a connection” to some information about “weariness.” We are in many ways a weary people. Literally and figuratively, we are tired.

A survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that 47 million American adults suffer from sleep deprivation. That’s almost a quarter of the adult population in America. That’s a lot of weary people. And it is a serious problem. It can also be deadly. Sixty percent of licensed drivers reported that they drove cars while drowsy. Sleep deprivation is a serious problem, and it has a number of causes: from lifestyle choices, to work, to illnesses, to sleeping disorders. The results of the survey are clear: many Americans, too many Americans, both adults and children, are not getting enough sleep. We are, quite literally, a weary people.

However, we really didn’t need a survey to tell us this. Most of us have heard people say things like: “I’m exhausted.” “I’m running myself ragged.” “I’m wiped out.”

People are “tired” these days and they will tell you so. We are over-worked, over-committed, over-extended, stretched-thin, stressed-out, and burnt-out. We are too busy and we are too tired, and we will tell you about it. It seems like there is some kind of ‘strange competition’ going on where we try to outdo each other with how busy and how tired we are. In a curious way, “busyness” has become a socially desirable good.

And we are not just physically tired. The Germans have a good word for this other kind of weariness: weltschmerz, which means “world weariness.” We are wearied by many things in our lives. In our work lives, people speak of being tired of the rat race. In our political lives, people are tired of broken promises, empty rhetoric, and partisan bickering, and “do-nothing” politicians.

In our personal lives, we are tired of being alone, tired of the routine. We may be tired of feeling angry all the time, or feeling afraid all the time.

In our gospel lesson, Jesus addresses the weariness and busyness of his apostles. We are told that the apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they were doing and all that they were teaching, and, apparently, they were very busy. They were so busy, we are told, that they didn’t even have time to eat.

So many people were coming and going, that they didn’t even have a chance to grab something on the go. So Jesus’ words to them must have felt like ---cool, refreshing water to people who are slaked with thirst. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

How refreshing this response must have been to his weary disciples. Notice Jesus didn’t respond to the apostles’ reports about “what they were doing” by going over a new strategic plan. Notice he didn’t respond to their reports of “what they were teaching” by going over a new curriculum. No. He said to his weary apostles, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.”

No doubt we are created to find meaning and value in the work we do, especially when it is done to the greater glory of God and--- the service and up-building of our neighbors. But our “weariness” in what we do and our pervasive busyness are signs that something isn’t quite right.

We keep “adding” one more thing to our ‘to-do list,’ rather than take some time and reflect on why we are doing all these things.

Our Lord knows what we need, even when we do not. When we gather around him, we may want to tell him all the things we have done and all the things we have taught others. We hold up before him our busyness and our weariness as objects worthy of praise and reward. And we say to ourselves, “surely all these things will prove to Him----how important and valuable we are.”

And our gracious Lord looks past all our illusions and he doesn’t even mention them, because if he did, he would have to remind us that all that we are and all that we do are gifts from God in the first place. Rather, he looks into our hearts and sees what we truly desire, what we truly need. From our Psalm today---“He makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside the still waters and restores our souls.” And he says to us, “Come away to a place all by yourselves and rest a little while with me.”

Recall the words of scripture from our Rite One Liturgy; “Come unto me all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” That is what we need to hear—AND—what we need to do.  AMEN.

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Sun July 15, 2012)

Full Transcript of Father Swann's Homily:

“John, whom I’ve beheaded, has been raised!”

Herod must have been terrified. A man like Herod, who relied on treachery, questionable political moves, the power gained through wealth, is confronted with his “worst nightmare.” He knew John was dead. He saw his head – yes, through a haze of drunkenness – but he saw the head.

But this Jesus, obviously a man of power himself, is becoming known throughout Herod’s kingdom. Who is he? Could it really be John, raised from the dead? John, the man Herod killed because of a grudge, a grudge he held against him for telling the truth?

Because of what we’ve seen in our own lifetimes of the consequence of misused power, political greed and society’s belief that “it’s all about me,”---maybe--- Herod has something to teach us.

Herod is an interesting character. Suzaznna Metz ( The Rev. Dr...) has written: What Benedict Arnold is to the word “traitor,” the name Herod has become to the word “evil.” He killed his own relatives to gain the throne and then surrounded himself with men who would use Herod’s favor to garner their own power.

Let me “insert- parenthetically” at this point- I am indebted to Suzanna Metz for some excellent material on today’s lectionary readings. Suzanna has an interesting background- there is a “Tennessee connection.”

She was originally a Roman Catholic nun, who left the Roman Church and became an Episcopalian -- who sought ordination to the priesthood, and was ordained. She obtained a doctorate and joined the staff at the seminary in Sewanee as an instructor. She was also the Vicar of the very small mission St. John’s, Battle Creek—which is at the foot of Sewanee mountain. She has visited us at St. Paul’s- at our “small church conference” a few years back.

A couple of years ago she decided to leave teaching at Sewanee, and being Vicar of St. John’s in Battle Creek. She moved to England where she is vicar of Petrockstowe in the Torridge Team, Diocese of Exeter, North Devon, England, and is the publisher of Tuesday Morning, a quarterly journal focused on lectionary-based preaching and ministry. She is an excellent writer.

The parties given by the Herod were – to say the least- “wild.” There were days of feasting and uncontrolled drinking, entertainment that was sometimes less than respectable. Into this sad state of the political life of Israel, John the Baptizer dropped the embarrassing and dangerous truth. For this John lost his life.

In today’s gospel --this same Herod, who thought he had gotten rid of his adversary John, is now faced with a new adversary, Jesus. Herod had to be frightened. Who is this man he was hearing so much about? Could John have come back from the dead to haunt him, or was this someone new who would challenge his authority?

We know the answer and Herod would soon find out. Jesus was soon known by most as “a man who taught with authority,” who spoke the truth without fear, and who preached a return to faith by all Jews if they were to be truly children of God. And he “broke the rules” made up by weak men who were afraid of losing power.

While today’s gospel passage is mostly a bit of history, the letter from Paul to the Ephesians fills out what the people were saying about Jesus in Herod’s time. Paul helps us understand how we are connected to God. Paul reminds us of the amazing gifts we are given because God loves us.

Instead of being afraid that Jesus is “John raised from the dead,” Paul says, “Blessed be God … who has blessed us in Christ with ever spiritual blessing in the heavens!” No fear here, just deep and joyful gratitude that we are empowered by God’s blessings. Paul goes on to tell us what some of those blessings are: adoption as God’s children, redemption through the blood of Jesus, forgiveness for our sins and grace lavished on us. That is a wonderful image. God’s grace being lavished on us! None of these things is a “worldly gift.” They are all of a “heavenly nature,” that we can, however, use here in our earthly lives. These gifts give us a spiritual authority and power that we must use to do good and to spread the Good News among our brothers and sisters.

There’s no comparison between this kind of power and authority ----and that of people such as Herod and Pilate or those before them.

We hear Paul, in our reading from Ephesians give us God’s plan for the “fullness of time.” The plan is ; “to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

That sounds, well, mysterious. Can we understand that? Yes, we can. It is our inheritance. The question is, do we want this? It’s all fine and good to think about that being what happens in heaven, where all is supposed to be perfect love and union with God. But don’t we often find that people still think that in heaven it will be “me and Jesus”? Some even seem to be “fixated,” here on earth, with deciding who gets there and who doesn’t. Let’s be honest about that, sometimes we may want to be able to judge “who gets there and who doesn’t.”

We must not forget that Jesus constantly talked about the kingdom of God being right here, right now, too. That would suggest we ought to be living in this “abiding love” right now, with everyone. That will be tough-- we are still surrounded with people like Herod and Pilate. People are fighting for power.

Our need – is to “want to be delighted” in the thought that God lavishes his grace on us – pours it out joyfully – if only we’d be aware that it’s happening and learn to bathe ourselves in that abundance. We might ask what the consequence would be if we could do this.

It would change our lives. We might see the beauty in all God’s people and be willing to take their hands when solidarity for good is needed. We might see our churches begin to fill up-- because others would see our witness and want to share what we have. We’d learn to speak about our faith in convincing and inviting ways.

That is the challenge—for YOU and ME.  AMEN.

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Sun. July 8, 2012)

Full Transcript of Father Swann's Homily:

AS none of us can deny, as we move toward the November elections, we are bombarded with those telling us through every media imaginable—what we should think, and who we should listen to. In many cases we are “mislead” by individuals who cannot wait to tell us of their importance –or—the importance of their candidate. They would have us to believe that “humility” is a sign of “weakness”—and we should certainly NOT strive toward that.

Strength, on the other hand, is associated with “power,” and power must be sought in this world—or so they say. Power might also be perceived in the “boastful claims” of those who say that only they have the insight into what God intends in our lives.

Most of us, don’t care much for people who think they have a “corner on the truth,” or that they clearly know God’s will. There are far too many instances of people being “led astray” by self-proclaimed experts and zealots-- usually with bad results. WE are “right” to be careful, to be skeptical. It can be “dangerous” not to be.

Without some “checks and balances” stories that we tell tend to become “embellished” over the years in repeated re-telling. Generally the story becomes more exciting and dramatic each time around. Sometimes this is the case when people tell their “faith journey.”

The congregation at Corinth [from our epistle today] apparently had such a problem. Some of the people there began “telling others” of their own mystical experiences and visions, and every time they told their stories they ‘embellished them’ to make themselves “look better” than they really were.

Soon, these people began to think pretty “highly” of themselves because of these experiences. And then, as more and more people told “better stories” – they began to think that everyone had to have some sort of dramatic religious experience to “qualify” as a Christian. [Sadly we see this in some Protestant groups today--- “You are not “real” Christian unless....YOU CAN FILL IN THE BLANKS..........].

Some in the Corinthian congregation even went so far as to question the Apostle Paul. Paul had NEVER spoken of any “dramatic personal experiences,” so was he really someone to ‘look up to? Was he really with it?? Was he really a part of the “inner circle?” There were other leaders in Corinth who claimed that THEY, because of their experiences, were better than Paul. Well!!!, that was going “too far” and Paul wrote to the Corinthians to warn them about “false apostles” who were misleading the congregation.

IN response to questions about his leadership, Paul asserts, “I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up into the third heaven.” Now most Biblical scholars agree that Paul was “actually” talking about one of his own personal experiences.

IN essence, he was saying that “he could play the same game” as the others, but that he won’t. His overriding concern was NOT for his status, but for the unity and strength of the Corinthian congregation. Boasting about spiritual superiority, or superior leadership does NOT “build up the faith of others. It does not lead others to a greater knowledge of Jesus Christ, BUT—instead creates hard feelings and divides the congregation.

It is at this point that Paul shares his weakness in the hope that others will identify with him as a “human being,” so that he may lead them to Jesus Christ as equals. Paul speaks of his “thorn in the flesh,” about which many have speculated over the centuries.

Time after time we have seen people who were “physically weak” develop such spiritual strength that they have inspired others.

Paul knew that “boasting” never won anyone to Christ. He knew that whatever the “crisis” in his own life, God would not forsake him. So from his vast storehouse of experiences, St. Paul wrote: “Therefore I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for wherever I am weak, then I am strong.”

The Episcopal Church in America is meeting in General Convention in Indianapolis at this time. No doubt we will have a opportunity to hear about how God has transformed people, communities and the church through acts of humility and compassion. And likewise, there will be equal opportunity for boastfulness and for those with “agendas” seeking power, not for the good of all—but for a few.

For this important work of the Church at large, let us pray that “voices” bringing forth the work of God will be supported.

Remembering the words of Paul, let us give thanks for our “strengths” and for our “weakness”--- and use them both for the furtherance of God’s kingdom. AMEN.

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Sun. July 1, 2012)

Transcript of Father Swann's Homily:

Today’s readings reinforce for us the undeniable reality that suffering is not unique to us or to our times, and that we know very little about the ultimate meaning of death. Wars, hunger, economic disasters abound and may bring us to despair; personal illness, pain, and loss in our families may cause us to lose hope. Sometimes we feel as if we are alone in our pain; we ask, Why me?

And then we read of David’s immense sorrow at the death of his friend Jonathan; we read of Paul’s urgent call for help for the starving in Jerusalem, and hear Jairus’ cry, “O Jesus come touch my daughter so she may healed,” and we recognize that we live in a world that has always contained profound tragedy and that our experiences are not unique. We also are reminded that despite much suffering and destruction, plagues, and starvation, human beings continue to survive and to multiply.

This kind of “endurance” gives us hope in a world where the “predictors of doom” arrive in every generation “to howl in apocalyptic fear.” Some do so out of a tragic misunderstanding of Scripture; others because it suits their purposes, or because of idolatry. It is with astonishment that people of faith hear that 2012 was predicted as the year for the destruction of the world, and that there are youngsters and even adults among us who are terribly afraid because of such predictions; they listen to those who have no faith in a loving God, and not having been taught the truth, allow fear to rob them of hope.

Listen to the contrast in the words of the psalmist:

I wait for the Lord, my soul
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for
the morning,
more than those who watch for
the morning.

This is the balanced perspective and focus of a person of faith: wait on the Lord. Living and faith both require patience – wait on the Lord. Fear is the result of having no one greater than ourselves to look to. Waiting on the Lord takes away fear.

St. Paul adds another dimension to this waiting – acting in faith. Despite his apparent conviction that the Lord Jesus would return soon, Paul does not hesitate to look after the living. In his great effort to feed the starving in Jerusalem, he is not hesitant to ask for help from all those he had brought to Christ. He is not one to say, “Ignore the poor, ignore the hungry, because soon we all will be taken up.” He knows that life is a gift of God, that it is good, and that the bodies of children and adults must be fed. St. Paul knows what matters because he compares everything to the ultimate gift instead of to apocalyptic fears: “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”

Listening to Paul helps things “fall into place,” helps us achieve a mental and spiritual balance when we focus on the redemptive work of God through Jesus Christ.

And finally, let us look at Jesus. His two encounters in today’s story, one with a sick woman and the other with a dying girl in Capernaum came at a time when Jesus was at his most popular. Hundreds of people followed him wherever he went. The scene is riveting.

He has just arrived by boat and is immediately surrounded by people who are in need of hearing words of hope, by those who are sick and need to be healed, and by the curious.

A man, Jarius, obviously important in his city and synagogue, runs to him, falls on his knees and begs for the life of his child. He says; “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” Is there a more helpless, a more desperate feeling than having one of your children become critically ill? Is there ever a “darker” time than that?

Jesus does not hesitate. He leaves the crowds to go with this father in need. Jarius, the ruler of the Synagogue, knows that his colleagues “would NOT look well” on the fact that he had invited Jesus into his home to heal his little girl. They would be shocked. After all--- What credentials did Jesus have?? By what “authority” did he heal?” None of that mattered at this point.

The Jairus story gets even worse--- servants meet them with the bad news- they tell him ; “Your daughter is dead!” At this point Jesus puts his hand on Jairus shoulder and says ;”Do not fear, only believe.” When they arrived at his house- people were weeping and wailing—and Jesus says—“Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is NOT dead but sleeping.” Then Jesus says, “ Little girl, get up!” And with that- the girl got up and started walking around. Jesus then tells them- “ Give her something to eat.”

The people who had mocked Jesus—had seen that Jesus gave Jairus and his family the gift of life restored.

The other miracle in today’s Gospel story was when a stooped woman approaches and touches his cloak. Not a big deal. He is surrounded by so many people that she is sure no one will notice; she is convinced that the touch will heal her, and it does. Simple enough.

What is unusual about this story is that Jesus stops and asks, “Who touched my clothes?” When the disciples express amusement and surprise at his question, another reporter of this story tells us that Jesus responded that he felt power going out of him. What a remarkable reaction.

There was something in the woman’s immense faith, a total conviction that after years of suffering, she had found the cure in the person of Jesus, and the energy of that faith was more powerful than all the shoving and pulling of the crowd. One touch of utter faith calls forth the creative power of the divine, and healing occurs. The connection of Jesus to the source of life and love, to the one he called Father, is so intense and unbroken that it is like electricity: Jairus “plugs into it” and receives hope, and the woman “plugs into it” and receives healing. Nothing else matters and nothing interferes with Jesus’ purpose. Two people with specific needs have reached out to him and he knows that he can help them. He does.

There is so much fear in this country and in the world today: fear of “the other,” fear of losing a job and not being able to pay the mortgage, fear of crazy people with guns, fear of not succeeding, oh, so many fears. How do we confront them?

The psalmist’s answer is to “wait on the Lord;” St. Paul’s answer is to remember what Jesus did for us; and Jesus’ answer is to be whole. This wholeness, “holiness” in theological terms, is possible only when we are focused on the one who brought us to new life with a trust so complete that it takes away fear, even fear of death.

For that “thanks be to God.”  AMEN.