Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Feb 18, 2018 - Lent I

The Cathedral Church of the Nativity
Sunday February 18, 2018
Sermon: The Very Rev. Anthony R. Pompa
I Lent    Mark 1:9-15

The author of Mark’s gospel cuts to the chase. “The Kingdom of God has come has come near.”  The biblical commentaries remind us that 14 times, Mark references this Kingdom; telling us of its coming, describing its nature, attributing to whom it belongs, and impediments to its entry.  What we are to “get” the “reign” or “Kingship” of God is not understood as place but as Power. Power! It is God’s willful power to put right all that is wrong in the world.  This “invasion” if you will into the world, into our time, into our space, into our moment is found active in Jesus himself!
The author of Mark cuts to the chase.  Jesus is baptized, God is on the move. The heavens open, God names for those to hear, this is my son my beloved.  The one who brings Power to make all things right.
42 times Mark uses the word immediately, helping us to know that God’s power is on the move. Immediately the Spirit drives Jesus out into the wilderness, which translates as “threw out”.  Unlike the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, where we see a more intimate dialogue between Satan and Jesus, where Jesus the Kingdom bearer is tempted by the standards of the world, Power, Money, Selfishness; we see in Mark that Satan is at work always in battle against the heavenly Kingdom that seeks to make the wrong right.
You and I know that as I speak these words about God’s power that seeks to make right in the world what is wrong, that again we gather brokenhearted. It is almost as if there are no more words left, no more tears in us; that despair might could win the day. It is almost as if a whole new definition of anger must be created. I speak of course again as we stand in the shadow of another act of senseless violence. We seem impotent or paralyzed to do anything about it.
With Jesus in the wilderness it seems as if the tempter would have us run to places of “either “or” positions regarding the complexity of the sin that has aligned for these repeated (and they are repeated, we are even arguing about that), acts of violence. Gun control, mental health, social deconstruction, If only God were back in schools.  Indeed, here we are in the wilderness, Satan seeks to tear us apart.
I am so mindful this day as we prepare for our Spaghetti Supper tonight. A night so valued in this congregation’s life. A gift given to us by our young people in support of the Camp where so many young lives have been touched, empowered and transformed. I am mindful of one of the young victims of this week’s shooting, Cameron Schentrup who was a leader Episcopal Church youth group. Who the night before the shooting was making pancakes at the parish pancake supper, serving, praying, and laughing just as our kids do here now. I am so mindful of my conversation with my daughter the night after the shooting, after a day in school where she named the nervous tension among fellow students and faculty in her school, a real-time cloud of sadness and fear like a pall over their day.  We can do better friends.
But we can do better. We will do better. WE can claim what has been given us that is a power working in us that can do infinitely more than we can ever dream or imagine. We can Love First! We can turn our hearts and minds. We can repent of our incessant selfishness and sinful propensity to run hard to politicized ideologies where Satan would have us assault one another even as the innocents are dying.
WE can do better, we will do better. We can believe, trust, that God’s Power can drive us together to find a common ground and a common working to make right what is wrong in this world.  Our children living in fear in our schools is not right. All of us I believe agree.
We can do better, we will do better. Let us take the lead. Followers of Jesus.  Let’s find a better way. Let’s talk to one another, let’s pray together, and let us please take action together.  We can follow our Bishop’s lead by working together in our communities and with our lawmakers for common sense laws regarding assault weapons.  (Visit We can support our educators by talking with them, gaining their perspective, asking them what they need.  We can mentor in local schools where we may bring hope and some presence to a young person who needs a little love a little help. We can engage with mental health professionals and begin again a conversation about mental health services to those who need it. We can quite frankly just get to know our neighbors. Build community where perhaps community needs be built.  We can do better, we will do better. We can resist the bait on social media to be forced even in our own minds and hearts to positions that tear apart and do not build up.
The author of Mark cuts to the chase. Jesus emerges from this time in the wilderness with the tempter, arrives on scene, and makes the announcement. Like the announcement at an epic wrestling event, “Let’s get ready to rumble”, Jesus proclaims, The Kingdom of God has come near, Repent, and believe in the Good news”.  Repentance, Metanoia, is to turn ourselves, our mind and our hearts toward God, to “believe” in the good news that God’s reign invades to make right in the world what Satan would have otherwise, is to Trust. “Pistis” the Greek, is to trust in the gut God’s power. To allow God’s Spirit to carry you through the turbulence of what may come your way, to “believe” trust, that God’s power can forgive the darkest and most painful of what is in us to forgive, that God can and will fetch us when we stray so very far away, that God’s power can overcome diabolical powers we seem helpless to control, that God’s  very nature and deepest desire is to restore us, and to hold so tightly, embracing us as if we have returned from a distant journey or having survived a harrowing experience only to be met with Love.

Monday, January 29, 2018

January 28, 2018

The Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, PA
Sunday January 28, 2018
Sermon: The Very Rev. Anthony R. Pompa
Mark 1:21-28

Why does he do what he does?
For whom does he speak?
Who has authorized his ministry?
Who is this guy and why does he matter?

Imagine if you will, being part of a first century audience, gathering to hear a great and true story being told in the city center by the greatest of story tellers. Imagine if you will the story just in its beginnings, opening with a splendid fight scene. A story of an unknown underdog, stepping into the ring with a powerful and seemingly unbeatable enemy.

Here is the story of Mark. The story of Jesus and this Kingdom Jesus is born to bring and fight for.

The scene is a synagogue in Capernaum, a place like this, a place of prayer, teaching, and worship, the least expected place for a fight.  But there is one.

A man with an unclean spirit finds Jesus, and sensing perhaps he is about to meet his match, or perhaps a sense of arrogance, he asks Jesus, “What are you up to Jesus?” “Have you come to destroy us?”  “We know who you are”.  Some suggest perhaps a nuance in Mark’s gospel that goes like this, “Are you picking this fight Jesus”?   “Can’t you just leave well enough alone, others have”?  “We know who you are and what you can do”.

This is a one rounder, Jesus and the Kingdom Jesus represents acts quickly and with authority. The evil that bounds, that possesses, that limits this man’s freedom is cast out and told to be quiet. It is hushed. We do not know where that evil goes, we are told that it is silenced and the man free.

A remarkable story then, for those gathered in the city center listening to the story teller tell it. The teller invites the listener then to the questions provoked about Jesus through those characters within.  For those witnessing Jesus actions ask basically these questions.

Why does he do what he does?
For whom does he speak?
Who has authorized his ministry?
Who is this guy and why does he matter?

The answers to these questions will emerge throughout Jesus ministry. The answers will emerge through conflicts and confrontations as Jesus authority (exousia), presence, word, and deeds will threaten all forces that claim authority over people’s lives.  This includes Caesar and the government that occupies and oppresses, those members of the religious establishment who abuse and use the religious laws of the day to incarcerate spirits rather than liberate them. It includes the forces at play in everyday life, hunger, illness, despair, “demons that oppress”, prejudice, fear, and ultimately even death itself.

Imagine now the storyteller is here, today in this place. What could be next? What will we see and hear of this Jesus next? Look for it and for him this day and this week and perhaps in your own life and the world you inhabit ask these questions.

Why does he do what he does?
For whom does he speak?
Who has authorized his ministry?

Who is this guy and why does it matter? 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

January 21, 2018
The Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, PA
The Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Sermon: The Ven. Richard I. Cluett
Mark 1:14-20

I was wondering this week is you have ever been confused or disappointed by God, if you have ever been disappointed in God. Or how about the Bible. You ever been confused or disappointed in or by the scriptures? Or have you maybe had some down times when you have been disappointed that your relationship with God didn’t go the way you thought it would or should? Have you had sometimes when your trust and faith became somewhat tenuous? You weren’t so sure any more. There seemed to be no proof in the pudding, as it were? I have!

Take for an example, today’s gospel reading. I find it confusing and disturbing that in these past weeks we have become used to the Power and Glory of God at work in the world. We have heard and read of such things as the miraculous pregnancy of Elizabeth, the announcement that Mary carries the Son of the Most High, Mary’s powerful hymn describing what this means for the powers of the world, as well as the least powerful of the world. The birth of Jesus, the presentation of Jesus to the world represented by the 3 wise visitors, the naming of Jesus, the baptism of Jesus – in all of these the presence and power of God are clear, obvious, and palpable – you can almost feel God near – in your bones and in your spirit.

But today we hear of the death of John the Baptist, and we hear Jesus proclaim the presence of God’s kingdom and his calling a very few disciples to join him. No angelic or archangelic voices, no clear voice of God. No John. Just Jesus and some followers are left. That’s it. One might call it a rather inauspicious beginning of a kingdom, much less a movement.

Something else that is a little out of sync for me is the call of those disciples. Jesus called – and they just picked up a left – everything – immediately. Did you think that was a little extraordinary? Now, I have never been “slain in the Spirit.” Jesus has never appeared before me to invite me, nor has Jesus knocked me off my horse, to ask why I was not following him.

When I was aware of Jesus calling me, I thought both he and I were mistaken. That would never happen, not if you know what I know about me. And when the niggling whisper became an insistent call, my response was not immediate, to say the least.

What I do know is that each of us is here today because we have been called by God to follow Jesus. If your response was an immediate, “Yes, Lord, I believe and I will follow”, what a blessing for you. My years of experience being with followers of Jesus is that Jesus had to pursue most of us. Many of us more than once. He was the Hound of Heaven at our heels, until we were overtaken, overcome, and wanted to willingly, even pleadingly ready to say, “Yes, Lord, I believe and I will follow”.

Theologian Karl Barth once wrote that Simon, Andrew, James, and John are “elected to discipleship simply through the fact that Jesus claims them.” In other words, it was not about them, it was about Jesus. Like it or not, our place is with Jesus. It is in the mind and heart of God to have it so. Jesus claims us therefore we are disciples.

It is kind of like that car dealer who says in his ads, “You may not have known it, but I have always been your car dealer.” You may not have known it, but Jesus had already claimed you as brother, sister, disciple, and more. We had to, at some time, and have to today decide whether or not to claim Jesus.

It is clear from today’s reading that a lot depends on Jesus and his disciples. The powers of the world did their most heinous worst when they killed John, a righteous and good man. It was now up to Jesus and those who are with him to be signs that this is God’s kingdom, here and now in whatever era or generation we have been placed. Clearly the stakes are high.

And it is no wonder that we demur, that we equivocate, that we delay, that we are suddenly distracted by urgent other business. And therefore, Jesus must wait for us to claim him, too, but of course in our own good time.

The first time I left home, I was 14. It was the most difficult thing I had ever had to do. I boarded a train to go to boarding school 100 miles from home. My choice, my desire, but still very, very hard. When our son left home at 18 to go into the army, there were 3 very emotional, anxious people with tears in their eyes. It is always hard to turn from what we have known, loved, counted on, found comforted in and to enter into a new way, a new future, a new purpose.

John Calvin wrote that “God called rough mechanics like Simon, Andrew, James, and John in order to show that none are called by virtue of his or her own talents or excellences. Like those disciples who misunderstood and failed Jesus at every turn, we too are sinners in need of forgiveness… Like them, we sinners, despite our failings, are slowly being formed into followers of Christ. Like them we are called not to the enjoyment of a private salvation but to a public vocation.”

As warm and comforting as those Advent and Christmas readings are, God comes in Jesus into the real world, to claim real people, to give love to real people, to heal a very real world – and all of it in need of repentance, forgiveness, merciful healing and loving Grace. We forget that those readings earlier include the slaughter of innocent children, an escape across the desert into Egypt, and more real world danger, degradation and desperation than we could possibly imagine.

And so here we are, you and I, today called by Jesus, claimed by Jesus as God’s beloved, and presented with this very real world we have been born into that is in sore need of the awareness of God’s presence, the righteousness of God’s judgement, the acceptance of God’s love and mercy, and the repentance that will lead us all deeper into being the Kingdom of God.

That is what Jesus proclaimed after the death of John. That is what he called those fishermen to. Like them, we too are called to trust him, trust his message, leave behind what we must and follow him. And we are called by him to do that today and tomorrow and all our days. He will be with us wherever we go and in whatever we do, and he has given us this wonderful community to be with us.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Feast of the Epiphany

The Cathedral Church of the Nativity
Feast of the Epiphany
The Very Rev. Anthony R. Pompa
Sunday January 7, 2018

“When they had heard the king, they set out, and there ahead of them, went the star they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.”

There you know our story goes, these “wise men” who traveled from the East, following a star which they had discerned would lead them to something, someone, worthy of a King’s homage. These wise men, would navigate their way past the single most ominous threat to the promise of this new Kingdom reign as they worked their way around Herod, the puppet King, who had no interest in any potential threat to his power.  There these men, having been guided by a star, would indeed pay homage, and bring offerings, Gold Frankincense, and Myrrh.

Perhaps the greatest gift these three “wise guys” bring in our story is that which Scripture uses to define them. Wisdom.  They had the sense, not all that common, for who would just follow a star for miles and miles, but the sense to be guided by a star, sent their way by God.

Today, as we observe this Feast of Epiphany, I wonder, what stars has God sent you in your life?  Who have been the stars or pointed to a star that has guided your path?  Those people or circumstances that you may have had the sense, common or uncommon to have found help in navigating you away from those “Herod” like things that perhaps sought  to disrupt, destroy or overcome. Those who helped point your attention to something more than the temptations to go down a road where maybe you struggled with alcohol or drugs, or an unhealthy relationship, or idolizing money or other things. I wonder today if we could just pause for a moment and think of those who Grace working through, pointed us to a Star that re-kindled our dreams, or showed us the way home, or Loved us when we were utterly unlovable, or just listened to us when no one else would, Or even those who hit us in the noggin with a two by four and told us to “wise up” and get our act together.

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.    “Wise Guys”. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

How you get to the Party

The Cathedral Church of the Nativity
Sermon: Sunday October 15th, 2017
The Very Rev. Anthony R. Pompa

How do you get to the Party

Some years ago a middle aged man was invited to a party. It was a big number birthday for a person he knew. What he remembered about parties this person would throw, and this party specifically  is that many didn’t want to go, in truth, he probably could be counted among them. In fact often when an invitation would come, the middle aged man killed the invitation immediately, by tearing it up and throwing it away before his wife would see it.  The man thought to himself, I can’t go to that party because,

a. I have other things to do, important things.

b. These parties are notorious for having all kinds of people there. This host is notorious for inviting just about anybody he saw.

c.  Sometimes these parties got, well, raucous. Not unseemly mind you, but vibrant, a little loud, sometimes a little extravagant. “I sometimes feel out of place amidst all of that, not sure if I fit in.”

Well, party day came, and the middle aged man’s spouse of course learned of the party, not by the invitation the man had killed by tearing and throwing it in the garbage, but by other friends. After a long and fervent dialogue, the two dressed and went to the party.

And it was extravagant, and it was loud, and it was full of all sorts and conditions of people, and people the middle aged man just wouldn’t otherwise ever had associated with, but they were all there and having a good time, but the middle aged man still wasn’t sure and feeling a bit out of place. And then, the music stopped.
The host of the party called everyone’s attention, reached for a box, and then one by one, to his guests, he by name delivered to them a small, but precious gift. Each gift thoughtfully chosen and presented to each guest. Each guest lovingly, warmly, thanked for being there, for being part of the celebration, for being part of the hosts life, and naming how valued each person was and the gifts of life each guest brought to the party.  It was beautiful. The middle aged man was humbled, and grateful, and a little embarrassed inside about his reticence to want to attend, but mostly, he was covered in gratitude, glad to be there, and felt o.k. … he fit in, was supposed to be there.

A modern day story about the parable we receive today in Matthew’s Gospel account of the wedding feast. A gospel narrative that portrays the great feast of the Kingdom where God tirelessly invites those who will come to a feast of extravagant love and mercy and where those who cannot come to find it, find themselves in darkness.  A feast where all too many times we out of our own insecurities or prejudices, or stubbornness or fear, may literally kill off an invitation to mercy.  Or we may at times be pre-occupied with the distractions of life, or our misconceived notions of what is important, or our investment in the idols we have made of our need to succeed, or gain social status or importance, or even an innocent misconception about what matters most in life, may cause us to miss the invitation to an extravagant feast of love and life, of Grace and Mercy that God offers so persistently. . Even at times we may have found ourselves taking the things of our lives and like the Israelites at the bottom of the mountain waiting for Moses, spinning our fears, our impatience, our insecurities, our inadequacies, into a golden calf that shines bright the dark contrast of our unspoken darkest myth of our lives……that we are not o.k.  That we are unworthy of such extravagant love.

Yet the Good news couldn’t be more  loud and compelling when it comes to God’s desire for us and the Kingdom we are called to live into. The invitation comes multiple times and when we get ourselves to the party, however we get ourselves to the party, there is a gown of love and mercy that covers every inch of our bodies and every ounce of our being and our hearts are changed and we know that we are o.k. and we are worthy.  And so does everyone around us because of who we become.

So, I suppose the compelling point must be,  just get to the party.  I don’t know about you, about how  you got to this party, but clearly somewhere, somehow  you made it to a party where this Jesus was the host because here you are. And maybe like me you may have come here today because you need to be reminded or ae hoping you might be drenched or covered anew by the lavish extravagance of love and mercy the host has prepared for us. 

It is our season of stewardship here in this Cathedral. All year long we live into the stewardship of response to the gifts we are given by our Host by giving our time, talent and money to the kingdom work of love and mercy. Each fall we enter our season of stewardship where we ask the faithful to consider generosity and ask for the giving of monies to support what we do together in Jesus name. But, hear me this day, our story doesn’t begin or end with us asking one another for money. It begins with accepting the invitation to come to the party and it ends with our hearts changed and overflowing with generous love that can change everything!

For me, I was taken to the party as a child. By my mother, whose mother took her to the party. And she, my grandmother, by her parents who took her to the party. And the generation before that, and before that. Anglicans, English and Welsh, who through prayer and sacrament found Jesus,  the extravagant host who gave them a place to fit in, be o.k., to find resilience and strength for life by being covered every inch and every ounce in a wedding garment of Love and Mercy.

I think about the awkward teenager I was and I think about the community of party attenders my mother chose for me. The people who rallied around our family during difficult times where shame was the unspoken darkness in my quiet soul but where love and acceptance prevailed through the actions of a faithful Christian community. I learned not in my head by reciting a creed or even by reciting my catechism or a bible verse implanted by my extraordinary mentors and Sunday School teachers, I learned by being Loved and shown that Jesus IS that Love,  that I was o.k., that I was worthy, that I was going to be okay, and that God working me me and others could do wondrous things beyond my imagination or asking. I came to know  that I was loved. This because it was written on my heart by a host of a great feast, whose name is Jesus. Life has never been the same since.

My friend Pat Wingo, who some of you have met, a Priest, a friend who was here as our preacher at the end of the Summer.  Pat was studying in Guatemala city last month, seeking to learn to speak Spanish. On a Sunday morning he attended the Roman Catholic Cathedral in that city for morning mass when as he described it to me through tears, he witnessed the bold beauty of Grace unfold before his eyes. A Cathedral filled with all sorts and conditions of humanity, movement caught his attention out of the corner of his eyes. An image of an older woman, peasant woman, poorly dressed and whose face was worn hard by life. Slowly making her way the length of this large and beautiful Cathedral.  Inch by inch, slowly, deliberately, making her way to receive communion. On her knees. Clearly with a physical impediment, he watched with tears in his eyes, as she made her way to the Table to take part in the feast.  On her knees.

I suppose all of us come to the party in various ways. I suppose all of us at one time or another have sought to kill the invitation, or avoid it for whatever reason. But come to the party, this extravagant party. And Receive your gift. Love, Mercy. You’re O.K.  Your belonging. Life can never be the same. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Sermon by Rick Cluett

Pentecost Proper 20                Nativity Cathedral                  September 24, 2017
A Sermon by Rick Cluett

“The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt…for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Exodus 16:2-3

I begin with this passage because it helps, I think, to give to some context to our own day and time. The newspaper had a headline yesterday, Ordinary life beyond reach in Puerto Rico. Actually, ordinary life as we had known it seems to be beyond the reach of most of us.

We seem to think that this time is the epitome, the quintessential human life lived in all its extreme. We wonder, “Was there ever such a time of angst, agony, stress and distress as this?” We turn on the news, we open up the newspaper, we check Facebook or Twitter, we talk with our neighbors and our counselors and our pastors and we discuss the plight of humankind. We learn about the devastation, destruction, displacement and pain brought by the Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria hurricanes, by the earthquake in Mexico and the fires in the northwest and southwest of this country. Earthquakes, fires, and floods the apocalyptic signs of the end-time.

In Matthew 24:6-7 Jesus said, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places…” Well, Pretty much… and good luck with not being alarmed… and there is a famine in almost every country in central Africa and elsewhere.

We read about Afghanistan and Syria and South Sudan and so many other places. There is hardly a spot in this world, hardly a place on this earth, where enmity does not reign and the horrors of war are being visited upon innocent people – in more places in this world than it is not. If war is not actual, it is a threatening potential.

Terrorists and mentally ill people with guns make going to the grocery store or restaurant or a sporting event or a public gathering of any kind, or simply getting on an airplane, a potentially life-threatening activity. Government cannot govern, Leaders cannot lead.

We are living in a world, not of discord but of hate where whole groups of people have become the objects of the hate of other groups of people. Someone posted the other day, “We can remove flags and statues all day, but until we figure out how to remove the hate in our hearts, nothing will change.” Clearly, we are not ready for that change yet.

A friend recently suggested to me that stress and dis-stress are so extreme and so constant, that many of us are walking around with undiagnosed PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome — except it is not Post-. It is ever present; for some, present every minute of every day. People, to quote Thoreau, “… lead lives of quiet desperation.” Or they violently rage, rage against unknown, unseen powers of oppression.

And we think, “Was there ever such a time of angst, agony, stress and distress as this?”

Then we read Psalm 60,
O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses; you have been angry; now restore us! You have caused the land to quake; you have torn it open; repair the cracks in it, for it is tottering. You have made your people suffer hard things...

In Exodus, chapter 3 the Lord God said to Moses, “I have seen the misery of my people; I have heard their cry… I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them. So, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people… out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:7-10

Eugene Peterson writes that Job speaks the language of an uncharted irony, a dark and difficult kind of truth when he says, “We take the good days from God -- why not also the bad days?” The Book of Job is not only a witness to our suffering but also to God’s presence with us in our suffering, it is also a biblical protest against (easy) answers.

And in Matthew’s gospel: When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority… over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. Matthew 9:36-10:1

So… Yes, there has been a time such as this. Indeed, there has never not been a time such as this. Every time is an apocalyptic time with signs of the end time, including ours.

In the year 2000 I and three colleagues were sent by Bishop Paul to the southernmost county and diocese in Sudan. They had been living with the presence of war and all its attendant horrors for 50 years. When we arrived, they were having a quiet and peaceful moment in time. We spent almost 3 weeks visiting their towns and villages. We listened and heard their stories, stories of horrific violence, with burning, rape, desolation and loss. And we prayed with them, and worshipped with them.

The gift we brought to them was that fellow disciples of Jesus from a little diocese, thousands of miles away, had heard their cry and been sent by God to encourage and love and support them. They told us that they knew we had been sent by Jesus and they were filled with Joy by our presence and love as this new sign of God’s presence with them in all their suffering.

Their gift to us was the power and joy of their faith, how they loved one another and shared what little they had. They literally had nothing, except they found everything in the love and presence of God shared with one another. And that gave them the power to sing mightily, dance joyfully, and to pray powerfully in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

So, if you begin to despair, if the stress of these times weighs you down, remember the Lord God’s promise of presence, remember Jesus sending his disciples to minister to the people. And remember the Cajun Navy driving their boat trailers to from Louisiana to Texas. Remember the guy jumping into the fast-flowing flood waters to free a woman from her flooded car. Remember those two women hugging and comforting each other in the midst of the swirling waters.  Remember the hordes of people and dogs searching for survivors in the collapsed building in Mexico. Remember the thousands of folks who have come from near and very far to volunteer and to let other people know that they are not alone and to help them reclaim their homes and lives. Remember all those volunteers who have placed themselves in immediate danger in war zones around the world to protect us and those who live in those places. Make no mistake, our time is a time of heroic love lived out.

Listen to our presiding bishop: “It may be that we cannot solve everything, and we cannot do everything. But we can do something, no matter what. We can pray. We can give. If possible, we can sign up and go to work.

We have been nurtured in the love and presence and power of the Lord God who knows us, who loves us, who hears our prayers and cries and who sends us to be with one another. For no matter what it looks like around us or within us, this God is faithfully present with us. And this is “who we are to be for one another”, to quote a colleague.

And then perhaps, we, too, can joyfully sing and dance and pray and worship together in the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  Pray God. Amen.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Breadth of my Love.

The Cathedral Church of the Nativity
Sunday May 14, 2017
John 14
Sermon: The Very Rev. Anthony R. Pompa

In my the parish of my growing up, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Jim Thorpe, PA, now St. Mark’s and St. John’s, there is are two treasured Louis Comfort Tiffany windows. One depicting the resurrection story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus, and the other a non-biblical story entitled the “breadth of my Love”. This depicts a youthful looking Jesus resurrected, standing in a field with his arms stretched wide. His very garment in the artful mastery of tiffany is transparent, showing the very flesh of Jesus’ arms and legs through his vibrant white garment of resurrection.

It is a window that reveals hope and LOVE that the resurrected Jesus shows the breadth, the wideness, the embrace of God’s Love in his resurrection. It is reassurance, it is promise, and it is as real as the feel of a warm embrace in the flesh, here and now!

This window by the way is a memorial to Lucy Packer Linderman, daughter of Asa Packer, and grandmother (or great grandmother)  of our own Ann Shanley.

Today’s Gospel from John is a familiar one. It is read often at funerals to convey that very promise of Jesus’ revelation of promise of hope and breadth of God’s love. It is a narrative of reassurance and it is a promise of God’s presence here, now, and throughout eternity.

But lets take a look at its context here and now for us, this morning. This section of John’s gospel narrative takes place as part of what scholars call his farewell discourse to his disciples. What has happened to this point is that Jesus disciples have followed and witnessed Jesus’ performing many “sign’” as the great revealer of God’s very nature. He has healed the sick, cast out demons, brought sight to the blind, and even raised a dead man to life!. God the healer, God the ruler of even demons, God the enlightener, God who has power to bring life even in the face of death. This Jesus, “the revealer” has shown his disciples the very character of God, and now he prepares to leave them.

But here now they find themselves gathered with Jesus and they seem unsettled and in need of reassurance. The setting for his address:  He has had a “last super” with them. Washed their feet and explained they must be servants of all. He has foretold of his betrayal by one of them, and the betrayer has gone off into the night to do his work. He has let them know that he will be with them only a little bit longer and that where he is going they cannot come AND he has told them that one of them will deny him. (Peter). Tough night, tough speech, tough dinner conversation.

So one might be sympathetic of an anxiety that may be in their midst and the need for reassurance.
“Let not your hearts be troubled” Jesus says. “Believe in God, believe also in me”.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places, and I go there to prepare a place for you”. “And as I go to prepare a place for you, I will come back to you, so that where I am you will be also”.

I like here by the way the King James Version of this translation, In my Father’s house are many mansions. Mansions to me conjers up the image Jesus is really after. Mansions are BIG,  Bigger than you can imagine, Mansions are solid, firm, Foundational.  The breadth of God’s Love is the same.

In other words, you may feel like the foundation of all that I have shown you about God (the healer, the enlightener, the one who has power over even demons, and the one whose love conquers even death) is on shaky ground, but it is a firm and wide and broad and certain as the finest dwelling place……and it is in that dwelling place that God and you, and I will live. It is the best definition of home base. 

The dialogue continues to reveal that in Jesus, the disciples, you and I,  find the way to know God’s breadth of Love, even as Philip gives us permission to say to Jesus, well sometimes we miss it, that is sometimes we miss seeing in Jesus, the nature of God’s hope-filled presence, that Jesus himself “shows us” again and again that God is about healing, God is about enlightenment, God is about “saving” us from our demons, God is about Life over death”.  This the breadth of God’s Love.

Have you seen this breadth?

I see it---when a sister lovingly washes her brothers feet, as Jesus washed his disciples.

I see it—when a person struggling with the demons of addiction, find a Grace to overcome it.

I see it—when waters are poured over a child’s head surrounded by the Love and hope-filled expectation of parents and a community of faith who can’t wait to get their hands on this child. When they will be fortunate enough if they hang in here with us for Barb Ianelli to introduce them to the Breadth of God’s Love through story. When mentors in the Journey to Adulthood experience reveal to them that community support and love with one another can literally heal the deepest anxieties and insecurities of the young and unsure—that acceptance is a gift of Love. Broad and wide.

I see it ---when the courageous extend hospitality and care to the most vulnerable, a family trying to make a new life, a stranger hungry or in need of clothing, or a place to sleep.  I see it---

I see it---the breadth of God’s Love, when someone we Love finds hope and comfort and belief that death is never the final answer, even as we lovingly say good-bye here to one we have loved desperately, finding faith in the promise tha that Love never dies.

Breadth of my Love?  Have you seen it?