Second Sunday after the Epiphany – Year B
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
1 Corinthians 6:11-20
Sunday, January 17, 2021
Let’s talk about sex.
It’s not often that I start a sermon with a title of a song by Salt-N-Pepa, but I do so to break the ice a little as it is just as uncomfortable for me to talk to you about sex as it is for you to hear me talk about it. Broadly speaking, in The Episcopal Church, we tend not to talk about sexual ethics in church, especially from the pulpit. But frankly, sex is part of the human experience, and it is so powerful that beyond our bodies, it is intertwined with our emotions as well as our souls.
We are not the first Christians to grapple with how our faith affects our sexual behavior. In the epistle lesson, we hear St. Paul chide the Christians living at Corinth for their sexual immorality. In Paul’s day, Corinth was a Roman colony in modern-day Greece. Most maritime trade between Rome and modern-day Turkey passed through this port city, making it both powerful and wealthy. As a seaport, it had its share of prostitutes, and the multitude of foreign religions present brought with it a multitude of religious viewpoints on sex.
Paul begins by reminding the Corinthians who they are in Christ: “you were washed,” he says, “you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” This is the lens through which we should see the rest of the passage, which is only tangentially about sex.
Scholars believe that the Corinthian church used this as a slogan: “All things are lawful for me,” and that they were using the freedom given to them by God at baptism to justify sleeping with prostitutes and promiscuity in general. Paul doesn’t discredit their slogan, but clarifies that just because we’ve been set free in Christ, that doesn’t mean that life is a free for all. In other words, just because it’s permissible doesn’t mean it’s beneficial.
He continues by addressing another slogan of the Corinthian Church: “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” which they were apparently using to say something like, “Our bodies are made for sex, so we’ll have sex with whomever we wish.” He makes an analogy suggesting that the relationship between stomachs and food is comparable to the relationship between the Lord and our bodies. That is, the intimate, indwelling relationship of food to the stomach points to a similarly intimate and indwelling relationship between Lord and human bodies. In fact, this intimacy between the Lord and our bodies is so strong – so deep – that it’s like the physical intimacy experienced in marriage when the two become one flesh. And not only is it a physical, bodily intimacy, he says “anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” He continues with this connection between the spirit and the flesh when he tells the Corinthians that their bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. 
Because we were washed and sanctified and justified by God in Christ, because our Lord came to redeem us as whole human beings – our spirits and our bodies, because we were created in God’s image, we should use the freedom we’ve been given to treat the other person we want to have sex with as if they are loved by God just as much as we are. Our bodies are not our own but are a gift from God and a part of Christ’s body. Therefore, our sexual behavior can glorify or dishonor God. Fornication – whether it be sex with a prostitute, or being promiscuous – is wrong, not because it is a naughty thing to do and it makes God mad, but because it is physical without a spiritual union. It dishonors God because it dishonors the dignity of the other person who was made in the image of God just as you were.
Later in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul wraps all of this up more explicitly when he says, “All things are permitted, but not all things are beneficial; all things are permitted, but not all things edify. Do not seek your own advantage, but that of the other.”
Let us give thanks to God for washing, sanctifying, and justifying us in Christ. Let us give thanks for the freedom we’ve been given as Christians. And let us ask him for the grace to glorify him with our souls and bodies, and value others above ourselves in everything that we do, including in our sexual behavior. Amen.
 This silly introduction is not of my own creation! Thanks to Fathers Jacob Smith and Aaron Zimmerman for their podcast on today’s lections (see Same Old Song, accessed January 16, 2021).
 Melanie Howard, Working Preacher, accessed January 16, 2021. https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/second-sunday-after-epiphany-2/commentary-on-1-corinthians-612-20-5
 David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds., Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary (Louisville (Ky.): Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 258.
 1 Corinthians 10:23-24.
First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday, January 10, 2021
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
The summer after my junior year of high school, Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed suddenly in a car accident in Paris at the age of 36. I didn’t know much about the British Royal Family, but was fascinated that the death of a former princess affected so many around the world with such profound, public grief. I was so fascinated that I decided to wake up to watch her funeral at 3:00 a.m, and what I saw in terms of pageantry and ritual marked the beginning of a love affair with the British Royal Family, both in terms of church and state.
One of the first things I came across in my many hours of reading on the subject was the fact that members of the Royal Family are baptized not with tap water, but with water from the Jordan River, the same river in which our Lord was baptized. This river is about 150 miles long, and forms the western border of modern-day Jordan, and the eastern border of parts of Israel, and of the Palestinian West Bank. It was a dirty river back then, as it is today, filled with mud and sediment. All those who came to John the Baptist to be baptized in the Jordan knew just how special this place was: it was here that their ancestors entered into the Promised Land when its waters were miraculously parted by God. After their time as slaves in Egypt, they had spent 40 years roaming about the wilderness, the very same wilderness not far from the Jordan River in which John the Baptist appeared before Jesus’s baptism.
The wilderness was a place of awful hardship for the Hebrews. Food and water were scarce. They got so hungry, in fact, that they longed to be slaves again in Egypt, for at least there they’d be fed. This is also the same wilderness where Jesus was thrown by the spirit to be tempted by the Devil for forty days before the beginning of his public ministry. In the three temptations of Christ, according to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Satan seeks to dissuade Jesus from being a Messiah of self-sacrifice, but to be to a Messiah of power. He says, "in this period of "wilderness"… Jesus is exposed to danger and is assaulted by the temptation and seduction of the Evil One, who proposes a different messianic path to him, far from God's plan because it passes through power, success and domination rather than the total gift of himself on the Cross. This is the alternative: a messianism of power, of success, or a messianism of love, of the gift of self.”
I’m not sure about you, but I feel like I’m living in the wilderness right now. I’m hungry, not for food and water, but for sharing a long meal with all those I miss and can’t spend time with because of the pandemic. I honestly feel like I’m being tempted much more than usual. The promise of power, success, and domination seems much more tantalizing than giving myself wholly and entirely as Jesus did on the cross. The persistent, systemic racism in our country is really getting me down. Seeing a Confederate flag in the Capitol building, after the initial shock and fury, made me literally cry out loud, “How long, O Lord?”
In the midst of their horrible, seemingly never-ending journey in the wilderness, God provided the Hebrews manna in the desert for food. So too God provides for our needs in this wilderness. But more importantly, Jesus’s baptism reminds us that the wilderness doesn’t last forever. When he comes up out of the water, God opens up the heavens and reveals to all that Jesus is his Son. God anoints Jesus with the Spirit, recalling to mind God’s anointing of the Hebrew prophets of old. The Spirit descends upon him like a dove and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Just as God delivered the Hebrews from their misery in the wilderness by a miraculous crossing of the River Jordan, so too He will deliver us from sin and death in the new exodus of salvation in Jesus Christ. Today, the Church remembers with joy the transformation of our Lord in the dirty water of an old river. We remember that day when God chose to publicly identify with sinful human beings like you and me. We remember that day when all of John the Baptist’s proclaiming of the coming of the kingdom came to fruition when the Spirit of God descended from heaven like a dove upon the One who was so long expected.
In the Baptism of our Lord, just as the Hebrews experienced their freedom at the end of their long journey from slavery, so too do we see the beginning of the freedom from sin and death and suffering promised to us. Let us this day reaffirm our deep and abiding hope that God will bring us safely out of this valley of tears to a land flowing with milk and honey, where racism and the coronavirus are no more, and where, with all the saints, we may enter into the everlasting heritage of his sons and daughters. Amen.
 “General Audience". Vatican. February 2, 2012. Retrieved January 8, 2021.
Second Sunday after Christmas
The Rev. Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
January 3, 2020
In today’s epistle lesson, we hear the beginning of the letter St. Paul wrote from prison to the church at Ephesus. This lesson is packed full of praise and hope using language one commentator described as “the excess of the language of worship.” The reading we heard in English included multiple sentences ending with periods, but the first twelve verses of the original Greek consist of one long sentence of praise.
The first few verses are all about blessing and grace. It opens, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” And we hear that Christ has lavished on us the riches of his grace. According to our Catechism, “grace is God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.” Grace is unearned and undeserved.
One of the foundational spiritual problems in the Christian life is the lack of fortitude needed to believe that God actually loves you as much as the he says he does. This results in being unable to receive God’s unearned and undeserved grace. The truth of the matter is that God loves you. God loves you. He loves you with all of your warts and blemishes, with all of your insecurities and tendencies to sin. He loves…you.
Paul offers us today a counter to the world’s understanding of “worth.” Christian self-worth doesn’t come from within, nor is it affected by your behavior, nor is it related to whatever sins you are prone to do over and over again throughout your life. Christian self-worth is found in believing that you are unconditionally loved by God. In other words, in baptism, our old self dies, and the new self is an entirely new identity: the newly baptized person is God’s beloved.
Paul then moves from a focus on us to a focus on the world. He says that Jesus Christ is God’s “plan for the fulness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” God didn’t send Jesus at Christmas to reconcile humanity alone to himself, he sent Jesus to reconcile all of creation to himself. Furthermore, he didn’t send Jesus to save our merely our souls, he sent Jesus to save all of us – body, soul, and spirit. When we were baptized, we agreed to join with God in reconciling the whole world to God through Christ. God doesn’t need us, he’s reconciling the world to himself with or without us. We made the choice to join him in this work at our baptism – but we sometimes forget our baptismal promises. We sometimes pay too much attention to what that dead, old carcass – our old self – has to say from the grave – that we are not worthy of God’s love, that we are tarnished or stained because of our past, that we are better off living for ourselves than for others.
Friends, God loves you just as you are. And he’s ready to give you the grace you need to do this redemptive work in the world that God has called you to do.
In the last section of this passage, we see a glimpse at what life looks like for those who know and believe they’re loved and blessed. These people have received an inheritance so that they might live for the praise of his glory. For Paul, the “glory of God” is “the weight and gravitas of the presence of God. Those who embrace the fact they’re beloved of God recognize God’s presence within and around them. It’s as if they exist partially in this world with all its pain and suffering and misguided values of power and wealth, and partially in that other world where kindness, mercy, and blessing, and grace are in abundance – a world where “there is no death, neither sorrow nor crying, but the fullness of joy with all [the] saints.” Not only can they operate in both worlds, they do everything they can to make this world like the other world. Those who believe they are loved by God put others before themselves, work to make right those things that are wrong, and to share God’s love and mercy with those around them.
Friends, God loves you. God loves you just as you are. Your worth isn’t found in what you do, it’s found in who you are. No matter what lies the Devil may say about you – no matter what lies you are tempted to believe about yourself – you are God’s beloved.
In a moment, we will all put on our baptismal identity once again by acknowledging before God and this community that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. We will confess our sins and receive God’s unfailing and unconditional forgiveness in the absolution. And then, we move to that time in the service where we will experience what our burial liturgy calls a foretaste of God’s heavenly banquet – The Holy Communion. In the consecrated bread and the wine, God offers us the most tangible glimpse of the other world that we have. When we approach the Sacrament firm in our belief that God loves us for who we are, we are open and receptive to receive the riches of his grace. This food for the journey will then give us the strength and courage we need to recognize God’s presence around us, and then to join with God in expanding his kingdom here on earth, one day at a time. Amen.
 Throughout history, the assumed author was Saint Paul himself, but most scholars today, for various reasons, believe that Ephesians was written by a Jewish-Christian admirer of Paul who sought to apply Paul’s thought to the situation of the church of his own day. See Coogan, Michael David., Marc Zvi. Brettler, Carol A. Newsom, and Phebe Perkins, eds. The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha. Oxford University Press, 2010, 2052.
 David Lyon Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B ed., vol. 3 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 230.
 The three-fold outline comes from Bartlett 230-235.
 Verse 3.
 BCP 858.
 Bartlett 234.
 Verses 9-10.
 Bartlett 235.
 BCP 483.
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
December 24, 2020
Dear friends, unto us is born this day a Savior. Therefore let us rejoice and be glad. There is no place for sadness among those who celebrate the birth of Life itself. For on this day, Life came to us dying creatures to take away the sting of death, and to bring the bright promise of eternal joy. No one is excluded from sharing in this great gladness. For all of us rejoice for the same reason: Jesus, the destroyer of sin and death, because he finds none of us free from condemnation, comes to set all of us free. Rejoice, O saint, for you draw nearer to your crown! Rejoice, O sinner, for your Savior offers you pardon!
That is an excerpt is from what is by far my favorite Christmas sermon, preached by Leo the Great, a fifth century Italian bishop. It has always brought me such joy, year after year. But this year, I read it through a different lens. Like all of you, my life has changed significantly since March when the pandemic began. Beyond seeing some of you from time to time with masks on from a safe distance, Jay and I have generally stayed home. This pandemic has been cruel, not only in stealing away our loved ones such as Dcn. Gerry, but in forcing us to isolate ourselves from our friends and family. As sad and depressing as this year has been for me, I can’t imagine what it has been like for those like my grandmother who have literally been alone for most of the pandemic.
This year, when I read that old sermon by Leo the Great, I really wasn’t in the mood to rejoice and be glad.
This year, when I re-read Luke’s telling of the birth of Christ, it wasn’t the latter half of the story with the all the joy – the part with the multitude of the heavenly host praising God – that caught my attention. It was the beginning of the story, with seemingly mundane details about a census. The emperor of the Roman Empire, whose name was Augustus, published a decree requiring that everyone in the Empire be registered as part of the census. The name of the local governor is given, as well as the names of several cities – Nazareth in Galilee, Bethlehem, etc. These were actual people in history, and places you can go visit to this day.
Likewise, the Christmas Proclamation that we heard chanted before Mass captivated me with its poetic dating of the birth of Christ from nine different events. It situates the Incarnation within the context of salvation history, making reference not only to biblical events but also to the secular histories of the Greek and Roman worlds.
The specific time and place where Jesus was born was, quite frankly, a very dark period of human history. We can think of the Roman emperor the Dark Emperor in Star Wars, with Quirinius the governor as Darth Vader. Jesus was born into what you and I would call a police state that tortured people and denied most people basic human rights. It was brutal unless you were a wealthy, male, Roman citizen. The Jewish people suffered greatly under the heavy hand of Roman rule, and the trip that Joseph and a very pregnant Mary had to make from Nazareth to Bethlehem was arduous and fraught with danger and fear. Jesus was born into a world covered by a great cloud of darkness.
On the one hand, it makes no sense that the God of the universe would enter into our world by such ordinary means in such an awful place and time. St. Leo the Great’s sermon helps us here. He continues, “For the time has come when the fulness of time draws near, fixed by the unsearchable wisdom of God, when the Son of God took upon him the nature of humanity, that he might reconcile it to its Maker. The time has come when the devil, the inventor of death, is met and beaten in that very flesh which has been his means of his victory.”
Jesus took upon himself our very nature in time and history so that he could reconcile us to his Father – to begin to undo the damage done when our first parents chose to eat of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in that garden so long ago. The ordinary, mundaneness of it all is why Christmas isn’t a fairy tale. It is only because God chose to enter our world in history on a specific date, with other people who lived, and in places we can go visit that any of this makes sense at all. It is only after the ordinary details placing this story in its historical context that we hear the extraordinary story of the birth of Christ.
This Christmas, you and I live in a world covered by a great cloud of darkness as we are in many respects at the worst point yet of this pandemic. Just as he met Mary and Joseph in their suffering and hardships on this day so long ago, God meets us here, at [TIME] on Christmas Eve in the year 2020 in Kansas City, Missouri. The extraordinary birth of Christ in all of its mundaneness gives us every reason, no matter our mood, to “rejoice and be glad. There is no place for sadness among those who celebrate the birth of Life itself. For on this day, Life came to us dying creatures to take away the sting of death, and to bring the bright promise of eternal joy. No one is excluded from sharing in this great gladness. For all of us rejoice for the same reason: Jesus, the destroyer of sin and death, because he finds none of us free from condemnation, comes to set all of us free. Rejoice, O saint, for you draw nearer to your crown! Rejoice, O sinner, for your Savior offers you pardon!”
 Leo the Great, Sermo 1 de Nativiate Domini, slightly altered by me.
 https://www.ncregister.com/blog/how-to-understand-the-christmas-proclamation. Accessed 12/23/2020
 Leo the Great, Sermo 1 de Nativiate Domini, slightly altered by me.
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
December 6, 2020
On this second Sunday of Advent, we find ourselves in week two of four in what is the closest thing to a “sermon series” that you’ll get at St. Mary’s. We are looking at the Four Last Things of Advent. We began with death last week, judgement this week, and then heaven and hell.
Specifically, the final judgment that we say we believe in when we say the Nicene Creed, “and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the [living] and the dead.”
We are given a vivid picture of this final judgment the old Latin hymn Dies Irae, arguably the most important hymn ever written in the West. This 13th century hymn was originally composed for the season of Advent, but ultimately became associated with funerals. It begins heavy and somber: “Day of wrath, O day of mourning! See fulfilled the prophet’s warning, heaven and earth in ashes burning.” This is what the Day of Judgment will be like, when God’s wrath will be poured out upon all injustice and unrepented sin. As crazy as it sounds, the Church teaches us that the bodies of the dead will rise from their tombs at the sound of the trumpet, and they, along with all of creation, will answer to Jesus, the Judge and Lord of all. On this terrible day, we will all be judged according to our deeds. When we face our Lord and Judge, we will be exposed before he whom this hymn calls “the King of tremendous majesty.” We won’t be able to hide our sinfulness, or our past, or our fears – all will be laid bare.
Back in my Southern Baptist days, we talked and thought a lot about heaven and hell and things eternal, and the fear that the Day of Judgment evoked in me led to lots of guilt and shame. I lived in that guilt-laden world for far too many years. So hear me when I say that the Church’s call for us to reflect on the Day of Judgment isn’t a call to wallow about in fear and guilt.
It is a call to prepare. Despite the Christmas lights and consumerism going on in the world around us, the Church calls us to keep awake and prepare for the coming of Christ in the manager at Christmas, in the bread and wine at Holy Communion, and at the last day.
It’s a call to judge ourselves, lest we be judged by the Lord. It’s a call to examine our lives and conduct by the rule of God’s commandments and acknowledge our sins before Almighty God with full purpose of amendment of life. It’s a call to heed the words of John the Baptist, to prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight in our hearts, and turn from the selfish and sinful devices and desires of our own hearts. Advent is a call to wake up from our spiritual haziness and fatigue and prepare the way for our Savior.
But beware of the risk of thinking that Advent means that we are called to clean ourselves up, or somehow by our own strength work our way to God. For judgment – whether it be our own self-judgment of our lives, or God’s judging of us at the last day – judgment leads to mercy. For the God who mercifully redeems us is the same God who judges us. And he uses the same means to both judge and save us: his unconditional love. God’s love has both effects – first judgment, then mercy. Advent isn’t about us pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and being good enough to deserve God’s love, it’s about putting ourselves in a position – by prayer, fasting and repentance – by watching and waiting – to receive the unconditional love of God in Jesus Christ.
Fr. Austin Farrer (Fare-er), a priest of the Church of England who died in the 1960’s and, ironically, came from the Baptist tradition, tells us how love leads to both judgment and mercy in his book “The Crown of the Year”. He says,
"Advent brings Christmas, judgement runs out into mercy. For the God who saves us and the God who judges us is one God. We are not, even, condemned by his severity and redeemed by his compassion; what judges us is what redeems us, the love of God. What is it that will break our hearts on judgment day? Is it not the vision, suddenly unrolled, of how he has loved the friends we have neglected, of how he has loved us, and how we have not loved him in return; how, when we came before his altar, he gave us himself, and we gave him half-penitences, or resolutions too weak to commit our wills? But while love thus judges us by being what it is, the same love redeems us by effecting what it does. Love shares flesh and blood with us in this present world, that the eyes which look us through at last may find in us a better substance than our vanity.
"Advent is a coming, not our coming to God, but his to us. We cannot come to God, he is beyond our reach; but he can come to us, for we are not beneath his mercy. Even in another life, as St. John sees it in his vision, we do not rise to God, but he descends to us, and dwells humanly among human creatures in the glorious man Jesus Christ. And that will be his last coming; so we shall be his people, and he everlastingly our God, our God-with-us, our Emmanuel. He will so come, but he is come already, he comes always: in our fellow Christian, in his Word, invisibly in our souls, more visibly in this sacrament. Opening ourselves to him, we call him in: blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord: O come, Emmanuel."
 BCP 328.
 Pope, "Sing the Dies Irae at My Funeral - A Meditation on a Lost Treasure," Community in Mission, June 10, 2015, accessed December 4, 2020 http://blog.adw.org/2011/11/sing-the-dies-irae-at-my-funeral-a-meditation-on-a-lost-treasure/.
 Christopher Webber, Love Came Down: Anglican Readings for Advent and Christmas (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 2002), 2-3.
The First Sunday of Advent – Year B
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
November 29, 2020
The Church begins its new year today on the First Sunday of Advent, not with the joyful carols we already hear at Costco or the holly and the ivy or egg nog, but with death.
I’ve been reminded of death a lot lately, not only because of the countless deaths from COVID-19, but because we recently converted the front half of St. Margaret’s Chapel downstairs into an office for me. If you haven’t been downstairs to see the chapel, please let me know – I’d love to show it to you. You can see what the back half looks like on the front cover of your service leaflet. Since 2014 or 2015, St. Margaret’s Chapel has been a mortuary, or requiem chapel, with a columbarium behind the glass door on the left for our beloved deceased. Each time I enter my office, I make a solemn bow toward the consecrated altar that is permanently draped in black, the liturgical color of death.
Sounds morbid to you? Well, in a way, it is. And such is our entrance into this new church year. For centuries, the Church used Advent not only to prepare for Christ’s coming in the manager, but also his coming again at the Last Day. This has traditionally been done by preachers examining what theologians call “The Four Last Things” on the four Sundays preceding Christmas: death, judgment, heaven, and hell.
Death is not something we talk a lot about in our culture, or even in church. Most people go to great lengths to avoid death at certain points in their lives. Yet there is no escaping death – we all know that each of us, one day, will die.
Those of us who follow Christ have already died, not physically, but spiritually in the waters of baptism. We followed Our Lord right on over the edge of life itself into his death, and by dying with him, we also are raised with him to newness of life. For death itself was transformed by Christ, having endured it in an act of total and free submission to the will of his Father. Jesus’s obedience transformed the curse of death into a blessing. This transformed view of death is expressed beautifully in our funeral liturgy: “For to thy faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body doth lie in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.”
This doesn’t mean that we are free from the pains of sin and suffering in our world right now. It means that “the essential bridge of death has already been crossed. We do not wait to “cross over the Jordan” or to “fly away” to heaven when we die. Rather, we are already living the resurrection life. Yes, the promise of the resurrection of the dead gives us hope for the future, but this resurrection from the dead is the state in which all of the baptized are already living – here and now. By our baptism, we are called to take concrete actions in our daily lives to care for the orphan and the stranger, to feed the poor, and to love our neighbors as ourselves now, not later.
And yet, the fulness of this resurrection life we live is not yet fully realized. We continue to live in a world rife with discrimination, division based on economic status, persecution, and poverty. When will it all be made right? When Christ returns again with power and great glory, an event we call the “Second Coming” which we profess in the words of the Nicene Creed when we say, “he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” It is only then that Christ’s victory over sin and death will be fully realized.
Advent calls each of us to remember that we have already died with Christ in our baptism, and that we’ve already been given the grace we need to live out the resurrection life in our acts of charity, justice, and peace. But also, the Church calls us to be mindful of our end. In other words, we are to “keep awake.”
Keep awake, for death could come for you tomorrow, or Christ could return without any notice. Keep awake, for you do not know when you will die, nor do you know when Christ will come “with clouds descending.” Jesus’s call to “keep awake” goes beyond keeping our physical eyes open, it is a call to actually lose sleep as we are living out our baptism day in and day out. It is a call to vigilance – to mental, physical and spiritual rigor, despite the side effects that occur when we don’t get enough sleep. It is a call to cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light.
I’ve told some of you this story, but I am deeply reminded of one of our parishioners who died just a little over two years ago. His name was David Higdon, and he came to St. Mary’s a year before that after a friend of mine who is a psychologist recommended that he give us a try. He had been in prison, and had been suffering from non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for years, though he was in remission. After his first visit, I went to coffee with him, and he adamantly told me that he wanted to get right with God, and to reconcile with those he had hurt throughout his life. Despite being introverted and quiet, David hung around at coffee hour and got to know a few folks, and joined the adult confirmation class. He was confirmed along with Raja Reed, John Stanks, Chris McQueeny, and others in April 2018. His cancer returned soon thereafter, and now-Deacon Lynda, Raja and I looked after him, taking him communion from time to time. On Thursday, November 8th, I received a phone call at the bank from a nurse at Truman Hospital who told me that David had gone downhill over the past week, and that she didn’t expect him to live more than a few hours. I was shocked as he hadn’t told any of us that he had been readmitted to the hospital. I was fortunate in that my boss at the bank was an Episcopalian, and she immediately told me to go. We got an early snow that year, as when I went outside to jump on one of those motorized scooters downtown, it was snowing pretty hard. By the time I got to the hospital, he was not conscious, and his nurse and I sat with him for a couple of hours as he died.
At first, I was frustrated that David hadn’t told any of us at St. Mary’s how bad his cancer had become. If he’d only made us aware, I could have taken communion to him to prepare him one last time for that great wedding feast in heaven. But in retrospect, I can see now that David heard Christ’s call to keep awake when he first came to St. Mary’s, ironically during the season of Advent. He spent his last year living out his baptism with rigor, not knowing the day or the hour of the Lord’s coming or of his own end.
When I enter my office downstairs, I bow at the consecrated altar draped in black, and I give thanks for the life of David Higdon whose final resting place is right there in the columbarium. For it is through David that God taught me what it means to “keep awake.”
Friends, as we begin this powerful season of preparation, let us be mindful of our end, both at our baptism, and at the end of our earthly life. Let us remember the death that we died in our baptism, and let us keep our own future death ever before us. Will you pray with me?
O God, whose days are without end, and whose mercies cannot be numbered: Make us, we beseech thee, deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of life; and let thy Holy Spirit lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days; that, when we shall have served thee in our generation, we may be gathered unto our fathers and mothers, having the testimony of a good conscience; in the communion of thy Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; in the confidence of a certain faith; in the comfort of a reasonable, religious, and holy hope; in favor with thee our God; and in perfect charity with the world. All which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1006-1009.
 1979 BCP, p. 349.
 Hannah Bowman: https://livingchurch.org/covenant/2019/12/02/advent-the-four-last-things-death/
 1979 BCP, p. 328, with the word “living” used in place of the word “quick,” as in Rite II.
 Hymn #57, The Hymnal 1982. Words: Charles Wesley.
 Courtney Buggs: https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/first-sunday-of-advent-2/commentary-on-mark-1324-37-5
 1979 BCP, p. 489, attributed to Bishop Jeremy Taylor, slightly modified.
The Ordination of a Deacon: Lynda Hurt and Isaac Petty
Feast of St. Margaret of Scotland
The Rev’d Charles Everson
November 16, 2020
This is the first time that I’ve had the privilege honor and privilege of hosting an ordination at the parish where I serve. Thank you, Bishop Field, for being here to ordain two very dear friends who will soon become cherished colleagues as well. As I started to think about how the service might look and feel, I skimmed through some old service bulletins in our digital archive. Beyond the flowery Anglo-Catholic language that we use when the bishop comes – e.g. “Pontifical High Mass”, I also made note of the frequent reference to the “Solemn Reception of a Bishop” where it seems the bishop is ritually greeted outside the narthex doors before the service begins. One can imagine the bishop knocking impatiently while the rector scurries over to open the door. We chose to skip that tradition to avoid unnecessary movement during the pandemic (and perhaps because I don’t scurry about as quickly as I did when I was Isaac’s age). But one rather ancient episcopal tradition we are observing today is hidden from plain sight.
Underneath his chasuble, Bishop Field is wearing a dalmatic like the one I’m wearing, though mercifully for him, it is lighter and thinner. In today’s Church, the dalmatic is known almost exclusively as a diaconal vestment. You’ll see both Lynda and Isaac vested in one later in the service after they are ordained. The dalmatic, however, has never been exclusive to deacons. As an ecclesiastical garment, it was first worn exclusively by the Bishop of Rome. In the early 4th century, Pope Sylvester granted deacons in his diocese the right to wear the dalmatic to signify their special relationship to him and his ministry.
We see the origins of diaconal ministry as an extension of the ministry of bishops in the story we heard from Acts chapter 6. Early in the life of the church, it became known that the needs of two groups of people were not being met: the widows and the apostles. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, the widows represented the disadvantaged in general, and apparently, the earliest Christians were not taking care of the most vulnerable among them. Likewise, the apostles were in need of some help as they were neglecting the word of God in order to try to tend to the practical needs of the community. So, the apostles asked the people to select seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, for them to appoint to do this work, which the NRSV translates as “wait on tables.” The diaconal call isn’t to be a waiter or a waitress, though there is some truth to that from time to time. The meaning behind this isn’t entirely clear, as it might also refer to managing financial assistance to those in need. In any case, these men were chosen to do this apostolic work of serving the most vulnerable among them.
Why did the apostles choose this part of their ministry to delegate to the deacons? Is it because they thought that serving the poor and needy was menial and somehow below them?
Later in this chapter, Luke describes Stephen, considered the leader of this first group of deacons, as “full of grace and power” and says that he did great wonders and signs among the people – miracles, really - using the same language used earlier in Acts to describe the work of the apostles. The signs and wonders Stephen performed among the people ultimately led to his death, for they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. So glorious was the witness of the first deacon that he quickly became one of the most popular saints of the church, with many venerating him and asking him to intercede for them.
I don’t think the apostles pawned off the menial work to lesser folks, rather they saw how great a need both serving the poor and needy and preaching the word of God was in the life of the Church. Over 200 years later, when others began to hear about Sylvester granting his deacons the right to wear the dalmatic, one writer, not without a touch of irony wrote, “Today, the deacons vest like bishops.” 
Serving the most vulnerable in the community isn’t the least important work that ordained people do, it is perhaps the most important work. It is foundational to everything that ordained people do, so much so that you can’t be a priest or a bishop without first being ordained deacon. A large portion of my time – roughly one-third – is spent doing diaconal work, but there is so much more of this work that I don’t have time for because of my ministry at the altar and the pulpit. The “signs and wonders” a deacon is called to do are so important that we only choose those of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.
The deacon isn’t just ordained to do a specific type of work. The late Deacon William Donovan writes,
“By virtue of sacramental ordination, the deacon acts in the name of the whole Church and of Christ, and raises the meaning of service to an efficacious sign of grace. … The deacon is not someone who performs sacramental signs; the deacon is a sacramental sign of Christ the Servant. … In living out this commitment in such a public, consecrated and permanent way, the deacon stands forth as a sacramental witness that the kingdom of God, made visible in Jesus Christ, has arrived”.
Lynda and Isaac, when Bishop Field lays his hands on your head in a moment, you will be changed, and from this day forward, you will represent Christ the Servant to both the Church and the world. You will be called upon to live out this commitment in both word and deed. There will be times when you will feel woefully inadequate and even unworthy, and you’ll often be tempted by the Evil One to ignore the diaconal sacramental character that will be imprinted upon you this day and conveniently forget that you represent Christ the Servant in our midst. I can tell you from experience, at times, this simple white piece of cloth around your neck will feel like a chain that is holding you back from whatever it is that you’d rather be doing.
The only way you can possibly begin to do the work you’ve been called to do – to be who God made you to be as a deacon – is to be faithful to the vows you are about to make. Be faithful in prayer, and in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures, even when you don’t want to. Pray the Daily Office every day unless you’re prevented for good reason. Do your best to pattern your life in accordance with the teachings of Christ. In all things, seek not your glory, but the glory of the Lord Christ. Look for Christ in all others, and be ready to help and serve those in need.
In a moment, when you are vested according to the order of deacons, your loved ones will help you put on a dalmatic. In the older rites, the bishop would be the one to vest you with this garment, saying, “May the Lord clothe you with the garment of salvation, the vestment of joy. May you always be surrounded with the dalmatic of righteousness forever". Wear this vestment of joy again and again, not for your glory, but for the glory of your Lord, being ever ready to help and serve those in need. Amen.
 Acts 6:8.
 William Donovan, The Sacrament of Service, Alt Publishing as quoted in https://www.deaconharold.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/%E2%80%98Munera%E2%80%99-of-Deacons-Deacon-Digest.pdf, accessed November 14, 2020.
Proper 28 – Matthew 25:14-30
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
November 15, 2020
Today’s gospel reading is the well-known Parable of the Talents. It is often understood as being about stewardship, which, to be honest, is rather convenient during the annual pledge campaign. You’re in luck, though, as that’s not the direction the Spirit led me, though I will remind you to return your pledge card if you have not already done so. The former banker in me got intrigued by some of the economic details in this parable, so that’s where we’ll go for a moment.
The word “talent” as used in this passage is a transliteration of the Greek word talanta, which skews our understanding of this passage. Talanta means a large sum of money equal to the wages of a day laborer for fifteen years. It is because of the wide circulation of this parable that “talent” came into the English language in the Middle Ages as a term for God-given abilities. But the talents in this story refer to sums of money; there are other Greek words used to describe God-given abilities.
The master entrusted his three slaves with huge sums of money, more than most of us will ever be entrusted with in our lives, certainly at any one time. Using my banker spreadsheet skills, my calculations indicate that one talent is roughly equivalent to half-a-million dollars in Kansas City in 2020. Think about it – he entrusted the first slave with the equivalent of $2.5MM, the second slave with $1MM, and the third with $500,000.00.
As a banker, it’s hard to imagine entrusting anyone, let alone a slave, with such a great sum. Collateral would be required, as well as income verification and evidence of the applicant’s credit history, etc. The text says that the first two slaves “went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.” This process is referred to as moneylending, which was usually conducted through the Roman temples. These temples were not only religious institutions, they doubled as banks because they were well guarded, and deposits were considered safe there. Since few people had capital, those who did could lend money at significant interest. Investors thus could receive five or even ten times their investment; at the very least, they could double their investment.
The two servants who traded the money entrusted to them earned double their money, which wouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone hearing this story. In fact, the first two slaves aren’t the key actors in this story at all. They are merely supporting actors to provide a reference point to the lead character: the third slave.
Though the third slave was given less money than the other two, he was still entrusted with roughly $500,000 in today’s currency, a huge sum of money. On the surface, he seems to have been the most risk-adverse of the three. Rather than investing the money which would introduce some risk of loss, he chose to hide the money in a hole in the ground. In first century Palestine, people sometimes buried money in a strongbox to keep it safe, but it would have actually been safer with the bankers, and it would have very likely doubled. When it was his turn to account for what he had done with the money, the third slave says something that would have shocked the original audience: he calls him a harsh man, insulting his master, and blaming his master’s harsh character for his own failures. But he reveals his true motivations when he says “so I was afraid, and I went and hid your money in the ground.” It is not a conservative, risk-adverse investment approach that leads to his demise, it is his fear.
After giving an account of their actions, the master responds to the first two slaves, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” They aren’t being lauded for their obedience, but rather because they were actively responsible while the master was away. They took initiative and accepted some level of risk, while the third slave’s fear of his master paralyzes him, resulting in his inactivity while his master was away.
This parable is the third of four stories in the gospel of Matthew in which Jesus tells about the implications of the end times. All four of these stories center on the return of the master or bridegroom or king, the judgments that come with that return, and how those who await his return spend their time.
Rather than being about stewardship, this parable is about how we should spend the time the Lord has given us until we see him face to face, either because of our own death, or because of his coming again with power and great glory at the end of time. Like the slaves were entrusted by their master with extravagant amounts of money, God loves us extravagantly more than we could ever deserve. What will we do with the love with which we’ve been entrusted? Will we, out of fear, sit idly by and play it safe throughout our lives? Or will we embrace the fact that we are truly loved by God, and then actively and intentionally work to expand his kingdom here on earth by extravagantly loving those around us in word and in deed?
It is difficult for you and me to not only accept but embrace the fact that God loves us. Deep down in our bones. For we know that we are prone to act in self-destructive ways, and we know how many warts and blemishes we have underneath the surface. We often feel inadequate and afraid. The reality is that we are made in God’s image, and by his death and resurrection, Jesus has begun to restore us to what we were in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve ate the apple – before the warts and blemishes and inadequacies and fears came to be. By our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, we have access to the riches of God’s grace to help us overcome our fears and live an active life of faith, loving God with all that we are, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
How will you spend the time with which you’ve been entrusted before the master’s return?
 Keck, Leander E. The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary. VIII, Abingdon Press, 2015, 335.
 NRSV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Zondervan, 2019, 1682.
 Verses 21 and 23, NIV.
 David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds., Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary (Louisville (Ky.): Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 308.
Year A, Proper 27
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
November 8, 2020
The texts we hear in the liturgy in these last few weeks of the church year are strange to modern ears, as they talk about “the last things” using rather dramatic and fantastical imagery. In the three weeks preceding Advent, the Church invites us to in the liturgy to wrestle with this question: what does the coming of the Lord mean to us today?
For some Christians, Paul’s message to the church at Thessalonica explains a doctrine called “the Rapture.” The word Rapture comes from the Latin rapiemur which is the Latin translation of the Greek word that Paul uses in verse 17 to describe what will happen to those who Christians who are alive when Christ returns – that they will be “caught up” (raptured) in the clouds to meet with Jesus and those who have gone before. Some believe that this passage isn’t about the coming of Christ at the end of time, but is about a distinct event that happens before then in which all true believers in Christ will be snatched up to heaven, leaving behind those who are destined to live through times of calamity and war and destruction in the years preceding the Lord’s coming in glory.
Others hold that this passage is about the Second Coming of Christ, which we all profess to believe in when we in the Nicene Creed say “he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.” Paul’s description of this event is quite dramatic: the Lord himself descends from heaven with a cry of command, and the archangel’s call and the sound of God’s trumpet, and all Christians, dead and still living, are caught up in the clouds where they will meet the Lord in the air (vs. 16-17).
What beautiful and dramatic imagery! But Paul is not giving us a description of what will happen at the end of time. He’s addressing a particular group of people in a specific time and context. The early Christians who heard this message believed that Christ would come again immediately within their lifetime, so much so that Paul had to remind the Thessalonians twice to keep their jobs and continue working. Expecting Christ’s return at any moment, they worried about what would happen to the faithful who had already died. What would come of these poor souls when Christ came back again?
It’s important for us to hear this passage in light of the early Church’s fear about what would happen to those who had already died. “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.” (v. 14). The physical resurrection of Christian believers is bound up with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, those who have already died will not miss out on the return of Christ in glory – they too will be there. Paul is emphasizing here the unity of the living with the dead.
Instead of focusing on the details of exactly when and how Jesus will return a second time, this passage is better seen as addressing one of our deepest human fears – that of being abandoned by those whom we love. It’s more about the Communion of Saints than it is about “the end times.” It’s ironic that this passage is, for some, a source for stories of children coming home to an unexpectedly empty house and being frightened that the Rapture had occurred and that they had been “left behind.” Rather than being about fear, this passage is about hope.
We live in a world deeply in need of hope. We live in a world where persons of color are disenfranchised and subject to continued discrimination. We live in a world in which some of our fellow human beings will not observe simple and effective public health protocols and wear a mask to protect others. We live in a world in which the most vulnerable are dying at an increasing rate of COVID-19. We live in a world where fear abounds.
In the three weeks preceding Advent, the Church invites us to in the liturgy to wrestle with this question: what does the coming of the Lord mean to us today?
It means a great many things – more than we can cover today. But one thing is for sure – the promise of the coming of the Lord give us great hope. Hope that we will be reunited with those who have gone before us. Hope that the gun violence will one day come to an end. Hope that wars will cease and there will be no more need to thank our veterans for their valiant sacrifice and service. Hope that each person will follow public health guidelines out of care and respect the most vulnerable in our society. Hope that COVID-19 will be eradicated and we can pack this place out again and hear the choir lead us in worship. Hope that the bridegroom will come and lead us to the heavenly wedding banquet.
As our burial liturgy reminds us, the Eucharist is a foretaste of that heavenly banquet. At this and every Eucharist, we are brought into the presence of the great company of Saints – those who are here with us, and those who have gone before. It is when the Church celebrates the Eucharist that we are closest to the dead. No matter how we may feel, in this liturgy, we are brought so close to them that all of creation seems to groan and long for the day when all will be made whole, when the endless violence will finally cease, when Christ will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, when the immigrant will be fully welcomed in the foreign land in which he finds himself – the day when all our hopes will be fulfilled. In this Eucharist, let us receive the Sacrament as a comfort in affliction, as a pledge of our inheritance in that kingdom where there is no death, neither sorrow nor crying, but the fulness of joy with all the saints.
“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.” Amen.
All Saints Day
October 18, 2020
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Church
One of the biggest changes around here at St. Mary’s since the pandemic began is that we aren’t having the reception after the 10:00 Mass (on Sunday). And we’ve had a surprising number of new, regular worshippers who have only known St. Mary’s since the pandemic began, but because coffee hour has been cancelled for safety reasons, they don’t get to stick around and meet other parishioners. It has been bizarre welcoming new people to our community without it.
I’m still trying to meet with every new person who comes through the door, but for obvious reasons, I’ve been trying to meet with people here at the church rather than in a coffee shop or restaurant. Since we don’t need it for the reception, a couple of months ago, the staff and I created a little living room area in the northwest corner of the parish hall with a couple of hand-me-down couches and chairs. The furniture is spread way out so that a few people can safely meet and chat for a bit. It’s been very interesting watching newcomers gaze up at the portraits of the previous priests of St. Mary’s that line the walls of the parish hall. With one obvious exception, Mtr. Lauren Lyon, the newcomers have had a plethora of white men to gaze at. Some are young, some are old, some look happy and content while others look scared and seem to lack self-confidence.
I’ve recently done some digging around the St. Mary’s archives at the Central Library, and during this first round of research, I’ve focused on my predecessors, both those who made the cut and are featured in the parish hall and those who did not.
Fr. John Klaren was one of the latter. He was priest-in-charge for about 8 months in 1918 at the end of World War I, and I came across a one-page court deposition in which the secretary of the Vestry gave testimony that Fr. Klaren had approached him and said a lot of nasty things, including the fact that the vestry and the wider parish were made up of “wicked men and must be rebuilt from the bottom up.” He added, “You yourself are not quite as wicked as some of the others, and I hope, perhaps, to make a place for you on the new Vestry [I wish to form].” The deposition also mentions that Fr. Klaren made the following announcement to the congregation on Easter morning: “The congregation are requested to pray for Arthur W. Miller into whose heart Satan has entered as he did in the heart of Judas Iscariot. Let us all join in silent prayer for our brother.”
Fr. Klaren’s portrait is not on the walls of the parish hall for a reason.
Beyond the occasional juicy tidbit like this, the archives are full of articles and photos and newspaper clippings and vestry minutes that exude holiness, and this is certainly true when it comes to the two longest-serving rectors of this parish, the portraits of whom are not only in the parish hall, they’re also hanging prominently on the back wall of St. George’s Chapel. Fr. James Stewart-Smith served as our rector for nearly 24 years from 1891-1915, and there are so many beautiful stories about his devotion to prayer, both at the altar and in private, and about his love and devotion to the poor of Kansas City. He developed the hobby of creating wrought iron scrollwork from the ironworker who created and installed the rood screen and this very pulpit. Various items that he made out of wrought iron are still with us, most importantly the cover for the baptismal font at the back of the church, and the crucifix in the inner sacristy where the clergy vest. Fr. Stewart-Smith died of a heart attack late one evening not long after his 64th birthday when he climbed the steep staircase leading up to the apartment after counseling the family of a deceased parishioner.
Fr. Stewart-Smith has become one of my heroes.
Another is Fr. Edwin Merrill who served this parish for 35 years from 1918 to 1953. He, too, was devout in prayer and in service to the poor. He was particularly gifted as a musician, and during his tenure, the congregation (and outside benefactors) raised the money to install a new organ in the church tower as well as replace the clear glass windows with many of the beautiful stained glass windows in existence today that lead us all to God. One evening, after hearing a confession, Fr. Merrill climbed the same steps to the apartment to retire for the evening and stopped to catch his breath, and died peacefully at the age of 74. At his retirement party, Bishop Welles said this of Fr. Merrill: I have tried to think of an apt quotation to describe the life of Fr. Merrill, and I believe that the 13th verse of the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians fits him well. “And now abideth faith, hope, and love…” Not only has he promoted the Christian faith, he has, himself, faith in human beings. During the Great Depression, and those were tough times for this downtown church, he never lost hope, and his hope was contagious.”
Like all the saints throughout history, these two men were considered especially holy for one reason: they allowed themselves to receive the riches of God’s grace and mercy through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. And that’s what we celebrate today on All Saints Day: those Christians who in some way figured out how to allow themselves to receive God’s grace and forgiveness despite their own sin and wickedness – those Christians who loved God with all they are and their neighbor as themselves.
In my initial research in the archives, I focused on the clergy of St. Mary’s, but intermingled in their stories is, of course, the stories of your predecessors in faith in this holy place. Some of them stand out as particularly holy, and some do not. Today, on this great feast of All Saints, we remember the heroes of the faith and ask for their prayers, not because of their blameless lives, but because of their extraordinary ability to receive God’s unconditional grace and mercy. After the Creed, we will ask the saints to pray for us. As we do, you will recognize many of the names of the heroes of the faith. They represent the million upon millions of souls who have followed Christ through the ages. They represent the many thousands of souls who have walked down this aisle here at St. Mary’s to receive the body and blood of Christ. They represent “all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are one forever.” They represent the whole Communion of Saints to us because they figured out how to allow themselves to receive God’s extravagant grace and mercy.
As you and I ask for their prayers, let us be mindful that just as Fr. Merrill had a contagious hope, we should be hopeful that even the likes of the apparently awful Fr. Klaren may have lived a later life of holiness. For as St. Augustine once said, ‘There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.” All ye holy men and women, saints of God, pray for us, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.
 From the service of Nine Lessons and Carols.
The sermons preached at High Mass at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, are posted here!