First Sunday of Lent
February 21, 2021
The Rev’d Charles W. Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
Back in my days as an evangelical, I used to look down on Christians that used written prayers in private prayer or in public worship. I viewed the use of written prayers – even the Lord’s Prayer – as a mindless repetition that indicated that those praying them couldn’t pray real prayers “from their heart”.
Fast forward to today. Most days, I pray the Lord’s Prayer at least three times – once at Morning Prayer, again at Mass, and later at Evening Prayer. After getting into this rhythm slowly over a number of years, I’d argue strongly that the use of prayers that have stood the test of time – perhaps especially the Lord’s Prayer – allows the words and their meaning to sink into my bones, providing a foundation for my prayer life that used to be like the chaff that the wind blows away.
That said, it’s always good to take a fresh look at the ancient prayers we use over and over again. A simple 85-page book by New Testament theologian N.T. Wright called “The Lord and His Prayer” helped me to dive deeper into the Lord’s Prayer, and in particular, revolutionized my understanding of the phrase “thy kingdom come.” What is this kingdom we’re praying for?
It's certainly not something purely heavenly, or outside of our physical world, for we pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In his book, Bishop Wright says that heaven and earth are
“the two interlocking arenas of God’s good world. Heaven is God’s space, where God’s [word] runs and God’s future purposes are waiting in the wings. Earth is our world, our space. Think of the vision at the end of the book of Revelation. It isn’t about humans being snatched up from earth to heaven. The holy city, the new Jerusalem, comes down from heaven to earth. God’s space and ours are finally married, integrated at last. That is what we pray for when we pray ‘thy kingdom come.’”
The Hebrew people – God’s chosen people – end their 40-years’ long journey through the wilderness when they arrived at the land God had promised them. The geographical area called Palestine was the physical, tangible land God had designated for his people. In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus rewrites this story and casts a new destiny for not only God’s people, but for all of humanity. In Mark’s brief telling of this story, Jesus is baptized and God’s spirit descends on him and says, “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus is then tempted in the wilderness for forty days, and he proclaims that the kingdom of God “has come near.”
Those who originally heard this story were Jews and knew all about their ancestors’ time in the wilderness. They were waiting to be liberated from their Roman oppressors, and they were specifically waiting on God to send a King – a Messiah. You and I have the benefit of knowing the end of the story. We know what will happen on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But Mark is making a point in the way he tells the story to illustrate that in Jesus, things are different now.
In proclaiming that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near, Jesus is beginning to rewrite the story of Israel by implying here that he himself is the long-awaited King, and later in Mark, he claims this much more forcefully and clearly.
But this proclamation that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near doesn’t happen until after Jesus spends forty days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. We, too, began our forty-day pilgrimage towards Easter on Ash Wednesday during which we will be tempted in extraordinary ways. During Lent, we are called to spiritually listen and watch for these temptations, and to resist. We are called to engage in spiritual battle against the forces that separate us from the kingdom of God. We’re also called to bring the values of the kingdom of God to this world. In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In our Lenten journey, we will encounter temptations, and we’re also called to action, both in giving alms to the poor, and in fighting spiritual battles related to deeper, societal injustices such as systemic racism and extreme economic disparity. We are called to action that implements God’s heavenly principles here on earth.
While we pray for God’s kingdom to come, and offer ourselves to be instruments of its coming on earth as it is in heaven, in a sense, the kingdom of God is already here. The coming of God’s kingdom was foretold at the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would conceive and give birth to the Son of God – the long-awaited Messiah who would set the Hebrew people free. When the Holy Child was born at Christmas, God’s kingdom broke into our reality when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. This miraculous inbreaking of the kingdom of God continues to this day through the Sacraments of the Church, especially in each celebration of the Holy Eucharist when we obey the Lord’s command to continue a perpetual memory of his precious death and sacrifice.
Back in my days as an evangelical, just as I held that rote prayers were without faith and devotion, so too, I believed that regular celebrations of the Eucharist somehow made it less special – less appreciated – less meaningful. Fast forward to today when I find myself as rector of a parish that has a long tradition of celebrating the Eucharist every single day. Just as taking a fresh look at the words of the Lord’s Prayer has been helpful to me, so too is dusting off old, forgotten ways of celebrating the Eucharist. One of traditions is somewhat erroneously called the “silent canon.” For most of the history of the Church, the Eucharistic Prayer has been prayed by the priest in a quiet voice that is inaudible to everyone else present. At the time of the Reformation, most Protestants, including our forebears in England, forbade this practice and required each word spoken by the priest to be sung or spoken in a loud voice, ostensibly so that the faithful could more fully participate in the liturgy. During Lent, we are observing this practice at St. Mary’s on Saturday and Sunday. The words spoken by the priest are printed in the leaflet in case you wish to follow along, but I encourage to participate by meditating on the mystery of the inbreaking of God’s kingdom here on earth as Michael/the schola sings, and during the silence. For in the consecration of the bread and the wine, “the holy city, the new Jerusalem, comes down from heaven to earth. God’s space and ours are finally married, integrated at last.” At the moment of the consecration of the elements, the miracle that God worked in the Incarnation at Christmas is brought to us in this place and time, or better said, we, along with the bread and wine, are raised to heaven.
Friends, the kingdom of God is already here, and yet we spend time in the wilderness with Jesus preparing for His death and resurrection. We will be tempted to wander around aimlessly like the Israelites did in their sojourn in the wilderness. We will be tempted to forget what God has promised us. But unlike the first listeners of Mark’s story, you and I know how things are going to unfold. We know how Jesus recast the destiny of the people of God, and of all humanity. We know about Good Friday and Easter. During this “bright sadness of Lent,” we have the gift of a mini-Easter when we celebrate the Holy Eucharist together. When we pray “thy kingdom come” in a moment, let us recognize the inbreaking of the kingdom of God in the bread and the wine, and as we receive it, be given the grace and strength we need to overcome all assaults of the enemy, and live out our Christian lives bringing heaven to earth every single day. Amen.
 Psalm 1:4.
 N. T. Wright, The Lord and His Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 13.
 Schmemann, Great Lent: Journey to Pascha.
February 17, 2021
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
The Rev’d Charles W. Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
“Remember that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.” These words, which you’ll hear in a moment when you receive the ashes, remind us of our own mortality. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Going to church on Ash Wednesday is a bit like going to one’s own funeral. And while that always seems like the right place to begin Lent most years, frankly, I have had enough death for one year. It feels cruel for the Church to call us to self-denial, repentance, and fasting during this time of pandemic, a time when we’ve all had to give up so much. It feels like we’ve been in a non-stop, continuous Lent since March of last year, and I’d really just rather skip right on ahead to the joys of Easter, thank you very much.
But who am I kidding? I need Lent more than ever this year. I need to be reminded that I am a sinner in need of forgiveness. I need to be shaken out of my spiritual complacency, now more than ever.
Off and on throughout the pandemic, I’ve found myself exhibiting these symptoms: fatigue, trouble concentrating, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, loss of interest in things once pleasurable, overeating, overdrinking, persistent sad thoughts. These are the classic symptoms of clinical depression. After talking with my doctor, I don’t think I’m actually clinically depressed. But I’ve definitely experienced the symptoms. I’m sharing my pandemic experience with you not because it’s any worse than anyone else’s, but being in contact with many of you, I know I’m not alone. From my perspective as your rector, we’re all dealing with this. Even those of you who are extremely introverted (as in you normally recharge your internal batteries by being alone) long for human interaction and touch.
Looking back on how I’ve coped with the harsh realities of the pandemic, it’s clear that I’ve medicated my pain with excess food, putting on 15 pounds since March 2020, and probably a few too many cocktails. My prayer life has been stagnant, with routine prayer practices that have always sustained me leaving me feeling as if something is lacking.
After a very dark winter, I need to hear, “Remember that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.”
Lent is all about intentionally returning to the roots of the human condition: we are sinners, and in need of God’s grace. And on this first day of Lent, we are reminded from Matthew’s gospel of the need to practice the spiritual habits of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
The Church’s call to pray is primarily a call to sit down and listen to God. It’s easy for me to pray the words of Morning and Evening Prayer – there are so many words to fill up the time with! Listening is much harder work. It is only by setting aside the distractions the mind produces and spending time alone with God in silence that we can begin to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It is only in silence that we can begin to hear God say “I love you” in the innermost parts of our being.
Beyond the physical health benefits of fasting, denying our bodies food and drink that fill our bellies and gladden our hearts helps us to be awake to the spiritual happenings around us. Yes, we can give up potato chips or chocolate or whatever our favorite food is, and I’m sure that has some level of benefit. But fasting does the most good on the spiritual front when it hurts and is disruptive. Skipping a meal each day, or laying aside meat, or completely giving up alcohol – these are the types of fasting habits that help us see and hear and feel what’s going on around us spiritually.
And lastly, the spiritual discipline of almsgiving – of providing material goods to the poor – is about those we’re helping, of course, but it’s also about developing the habit of being aware of the needs of others. Almsgiving helps us to get outside of our ourselves and think about others.
Lent is all about intentionally returning to the roots of the human condition: we are sinners, and in need of God’s grace. It is a time for us to think about how we might store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, not on earth. Too often, we behave practically as though our faith in Christ only affects the here and now. We seem to think that if we just follow the right steps, we will achieve health, happiness, fame, and fortune. When sickness, suffering and death show up, as they always do, we are left confused since what we believed was our faith cannot make sense of these realities for us. In particular, in our repeated sins, we continually look to the passing realities of this world for a sense of fulfillment and meaning they can never provide. The reminder that we are dust and unto dust we shall return force our attention to faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and that alone, which can give meaning and hope to what would otherwise be the final futility of death. This faith assures us that death isn’t an end of our existence but a passage from one age of life to another. Faith in the resurrection of Jesus allows us truly to enjoy the good things of this created world as they were meant to be enjoyed, without placing on them a weight of meaning and fulfillment they can never provide.
I think the Church is right, despite the terrible pandemic, to remind us of our mortality. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. If going to church on Ash Wednesday is a bit like going to our own funeral, let us bury the horrible lie that our faith in Christ is only about the here and now, and let us place all our hope in Christ whose resurrection from the dead destroyed death and brings the promise that we, too, will be raised at the last day. Through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, let us open our hearts and minds and bodies to the spiritual world around us and begin this long journey toward the joy of Easter. Amen.
 Much of this paragraph is from the Ash Wednesday letter of Abbot Placid Solari, OSB, to the student body of Belmont Abbey College.
Last Sunday after the Epiphany
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
The Rev’d Charles Everson
February 14, 2021
Today is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany which means Lent is just around the corner. Can you believe it? Easter is early this year, which means that Ash Wednesday is early. Just before the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, we celebrated the Baptism of Jesus when we heard God the Father say to Him, “You are my Son, the Beloved.” The story we heard today from Mark’s begins immediately after Jesus predicts his own suffering and death, to which the disciples do not respond well. Peter, for example, tries to rebuke Jesus for saying such a thing! But then, Jesus immediately leads Peter, James, and John to a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured, and his clothes became dazzling white. Elijah and Moses, deeply important figures from Israel’s past, appeared to them and proceeded to have a conversation with Jesus. Peter, for some reason, suggests that they make three dwelling places there on the mountain: one for Jesus, one for Elijah, and one for Moses. Then, a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came from heaven saying, “This is my son, the Beloved; listen to him!”
Oh, what it must have been like to be one of these three disciples. What raw emotion they must have felt when they saw Jesus transfigured before them! To see Moses and Elijah in the flesh! It must have been such an emotionally raw experience.
Our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters hold that the transfigured Jesus in this story represents the transfiguration, or metamorphosis, that each Christian is called to undergo. They hold that this story is an icon of a process called “deification,” which means to become divine. We read in the book of Ephesians that we are called to grow into the measure of the full stature of Christ (4:13). St. Athanasius in the 4th century says it this way: “God became a human person by nature so that human persons could become divine by grace.” This is deification: the partaking of and sharing in divine nature by invitation, by adoption, by gift (2 Pet. 1:4). Eastern Orthodox priest and author Fr. George Gray says this about deification: “Human beings are called to be transformed and transfigured (meta-morphed) from a fallen nature to their original nature to pursue our original God-given vocation” which is perfect union with God.
On the top of this mountain, faced with this dramatic scene, Peter recognizes that this is a significant moment. He says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here!” He then suggests that he build “dwelling places” or “tents”, presumably “to capture the moment, or to preserve it for safekeeping…One might imagine Peter, jumping up and down with his hand in the air, like a [school boy] who is desperate to give the right answer, but who cannot quite get it right because he does not really understand the question.”
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve experienced several moments in my life in which I encountered the divine in a similar way that Peter did. No, I didn’t physically see Jesus or Moses or Elijah, but God’s Spirit spoke to me in such a deep and moving way that I was amazed and even astonished. My encounter with Jesus Christ in these moments was so moving – so strong – that one might describe it as “spiritual high.” Beyond some indescribable moments in the mountains of Colorado, I can recall a true moment of spiritual high even during the isolation and loneliness of this pandemic. A week or so after the initial shutdown, when I was celebrating Mass at home on the buffet that normally serves as our bar, the simplicity of God making himself present under the auspices of bread and wine moved me to tears. Which leads me to the many spiritual highs I’ve received when I’m praying here, by myself, in front of the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance. Looking upon Christ in the Blessed Sacrament often leaves me feeling overwhelmed with a sense of assurance and comfort knowing that Jesus does in fact share himself with us at each and every Eucharist, giving me his unconditional love, helping me to overcome every doubt, every tinge of regret, every feeling of guilt.
You may have had a similar experience or two in your life when you were so overwhelmed with God’s presence that you wanted to stay there forever.
People don’t generally live on mountaintops. Peter’s suggestion to build dwelling places on this mountain must have sounded ridiculous to his friends. We climb mountains, we spend a bit of time there, but we come back down, and most of our lives are spent in the valley. It is no accident that this reading is prescribed before Lent begins. We are about to enter the desert with Jesus as he is tempted in every way, and ultimately prepare for the sorrow and suffering that is to come on Good Friday. During Lent, you and I will be tempted. We will pray. We will try to resist sin, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We might even go to private confession. We will sin. We will humbly confess our sins to God and be forgiven. But ultimately, none of this makes any sense without first starting with God’s grace, grace being God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.”
And that brings us back to deification. We are called to cooperate with the grace of God in order to restore our original likeness. This process starts by spiritually watching and listening – being open to seeing God’s grace in our day-to-day lives. And then when we see it, we accept it. Remember that grace strengthens our wills. The next time we’re faced with temptation and sin, God has already given us the grace we need to choose to say no. And so, it goes. We are tempted, we pray, we try to resist sin, we sin, we repent, and are forgiven. This cycle is part of being human – no one can escape it. But if we cooperate with God’s grace during the cycle, we are being restored – little by little – to our original likeness. God’s grace transforms us into His image as revealed in Jesus. In the transfigured Jesus, we are given a glimpse of what we are to become.
If you’re watching and listening, you will experience God’s grace – his unearned and undeserved favor – in the doldrums of your life, even in the midst of a pandemic. You’ll experience it inside – in your interior or spiritual life. But thanks be to God, we have been given outward and visible signs of this inward and spiritual grace in the Sacraments of the Church. Cooperating in God’s grace, for us, also involves choosing to accept the love he offers us in the Sacraments. When you receive communion, no matter how you may or may not feel emotionally, God forgives your sins, enlightens your mind, stirs your heart, and strengthens your will.
Lent begins on Wednesday, and we know we’ll be in the valley for the next 40 days and 40 nights. Let us ask God to give us a strong memory of those mountaintop experiences we’ve had – those spiritual highs, so that when we are tempted to sin, we intentionally remember the closeness and intimacy we felt with God in those moments and resist temptation. And let us ask God for the courage to watch and listen for his grace at home, at work, and at church; and to say yes and accept his unconditional love each and every time we encounter it.
 George Gray, "The Transfiguration of Christ and the Deification of Mankind," St. Nicolas Orthodox Church (blog), December 1, 2007, accessed February 10, 2018, https://stnicholasportland.org/transfiguration-deification/.
 "Commentary on Matthew 17:1-9 by Audrey West," Matthew 17:1-9 Commentary by Audrey West - Working Preacher - Preaching This Week (RCL), February 3, 2008, accessed February 10, 2018, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=27.
 The Book of Common Prayer: And Administrations of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church: According to the Use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Together with the Psalter or Psalms of David (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 858.
 Paul Nuechterlein, "Transfiguration B," Girardian Lectionary, February 9, 2018, accessed February 10, 2018, http://girardianlectionary.net/reflections/year-b/transfigb/.
Fr. Sean C. Kim
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
31 January 2021
One of my favorite films of all time is “The Exorcist.” When it first came out in 1973, I was too young to see it in the theaters. But I did see a hilarious parody of it on the “Carol Burnett Show,” which made me want to see it even more. I was finally able to see it a few years later. The film exceeded all expectations. It’s a classic. I’ve seen it several times, and I’ve also seen the sequels. Not only am I a huge fan of horror movies; I find the religious dimension of “The Exorcist” fascinating – the Roman Catholic priests driving out the demon, all the mysterious rituals associated with it, the dramatic struggle between good and evil.
In today’s Gospel, we read about the origins of the Christian tradition of exorcism. Jesus is teaching in the synagogue when he encounters “a man with an unclean spirit.” The man cries out: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” Jesus then confronts the spirit and drives it out of the man (Mark 1:23-25).
Jesus is the original exorcist. In the Gospel of Mark, it is an exorcism that launches Jesus’ public ministry. Moreover, the exorcism establishes Jesus’ identity and authority. The demon calls Jesus “the Holy One of God.” Elsewhere in the Gospels, we see Jesus with power over the forces of nature. He can calm the stormy waves. Here, we see him with power over the supernatural world, the realm of spirits. Jesus is lord of all. There are numerous exorcisms that Jesus performs throughout the Gospels. And he empowers his disciples to do the same. For two thousand years, Christians have been carrying out exorcisms in all parts of the world, and they have played a significant role in spreading the faith.
You may not have noticed, but there is exorcism incorporated into many of our rituals, for instance, in the prayers for blessing Holy Water or blessing a new house. And the big one is baptism. The candidates for baptism are asked to “renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God” and “to renounce the evil powers of this world, which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God.” In the Book of Occasional Services, which is a companion to the Book of Common Prayer and contains various rituals not in the Book of Common Prayer, there’s a section on exorcism. It begins with this statement: “The practice of expelling evil spirits by means of prayer and set formulas derives its authority from the Lord himself who identified these acts as signs of his messiahship.” It goes on to say that if a person is “in need of” the rite of exorcism that he or she can inform the priest, who then consults the bishop. So if any of you are in need of an exorcism in the future, please contact Fr. Charles – but not me. By the way, I found out from Fr. Charles yesterday that in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Church of England, there is usually an official exorcist in each diocese appointed by the bishop.
I don’t know about you, but in spite of the fact that exorcism is in the Gospels and is also a part of our liturgy, I’m not quite sure what to make of it. I love seeing movies about exorcism. But I’ve never seen an exorcism in person, and I doubt that I will ever see one. Spirit possession and exorcism are not part of my experience or worldview.
Among Christians today, there are different views of this phenomenon. Most biblical scholars view demonic possession as a form of mental illness. Ancient people didn’t have modern psychology so they turned to supernatural explanations.
But the belief in demonic possession has not gone away in modern times. In fact, it’s thriving in Christianity today. Although Christianity is declining in Europe and the United States, it is growing by leaps and bounds in Africa and Asia. And the form of Christianity that the new converts are embracing is one that is rooted in the world of the supernatural. Unlike us, they have no difficulty with the exorcism stories in the Gospels, and, in fact, they’re also casting out demons and performing acts of miraculous healing. What is interesting is that in many cases, Christian exorcism draws on indigenous beliefs about the spirit world. In Korea, for instance, the exorcist will diagnose the possessing spirit not as a demon but as the spirit of a discontented dead relative, an angry ghost. So be nice to your mother-in-law.
Exorcism is alive and well in Asia and Africa. And we have it in this country as well, though we may not hear about it as much. Pentecostals and charismatics take the exorcisms in scripture literally, seeing them as gifts of the Spirit, and some practice exorcism. And, to go back to the film “The Exorcist,” it deals with an exorcism that takes place in the context of modern Roman Catholicism in the United States. Many Romans today believe in the reality of demon possession and exorcism. So it looks like those of us mainline Protestants who have a rational, scientific view of the phenomenon are actually in the minority in Christianity.
Yet, whatever differences we may have in our views of exorcism, what is undeniable is the fact that it is a form of healing. The unclean spirits cause mental and physical pain and suffering. Exorcism frees the person from the illness and brings healing and wholeness.
Whether we believe in demons or not, we cannot deny that there are forces of evil that seem to grip us at times and cause destructive tendencies. Indeed, we contend with unclean spirits in our daily lives. Perhaps it’s an addiction – alcohol, drugs. Or perhaps it’s a personal vice – gossip, backbiting, road rage. We try to stop the bad behavior, but it’s almost as if an outside force is controlling us. And then there are the demons that possess us collectively as a society – racism, homophobia, corporate greed, and, recently, domestic terrorism. The forces of evil are real, and they abound within and around us.
Yet, as people of faith, we have hope in Jesus, the Holy One of God. Just as he drove out the demon from the possessed man in the synagogue, he will drive out the demons that possess us today and grant us healing and wholeness. He will make us pure and holy, even as he is pure and holy.
I would like to conclude with a prayer that is part of what are called the secret prayers, which the celebrant prays in preparation for Holy Eucharist. You may have been wondering what Fr. Charles and I say under our breaths at the altar. Well, this is one of them. This particular prayer is said during the washing of the hands as a sign of purification. But I think this prayer is appropriate to pray together as we purge ourselves of the unclean spirits in our personal lives and in the society around us. So as we seek healing and wholeness in the Name of Jesus, we pray:
Lord, wash away my iniquities and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and sustain a right spirit within me. Amen.
 Paul S. Berge, “Commentary on Mark 1:21-28,” Working Preacher. https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/fourth-sunday-after-epiphany-2/commentary-on-mark-121-28-4
 Matt Skinner, “Commentary on Mark 1:21-28,” Working Preacher.
 The Book of Common Prayer (New York: Church Publishing, 1979), 302.
 The Book of Occasional Services (New York: The Church Hymnal Corporation, 1991), 170.
Third Sunday after the Epiphany – Year B
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Sunday, January 24, 2021
In the midst of the political happenings of the last few weeks, we’ve all enjoyed seeing the popular meme of a grumpy looking Senator Bernie Sanders sitting in our favorite places with his arms crossed and his large mittens, including right here in front of the altar at St. Mary’s. One of the more enduring memes over the past couple of years is the one with the two actresses from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on the left yelling at a cat, with the cat on the right providing some sort of snarky response. I can see this meme in today’s epistle lesson from 1 Corinthians. On the left, the ladies are yelling, “For the present form of this world is passing away” and on the right, the cat is responding with a smirk, “No it isn’t.”
I mean, it’s not hard to disprove this statement. As St. Paul tried to navigate all of the unknowns in the early church, he had no guide but the Holy Spirit, and he firmly believed that Christ would return in glory during his lifetime. He didn’t. 2,000 years later, we are still waiting for the world to end, and Christ to return in glory. After having spent my teenage and college years in the evangelical world, when I came to The Episcopal Church in my mid-twenties, I was relieved to hear preachers and teachers tell us God is calling us to build his kingdom here on earth rather than obsessing over over the world to come. But in ditching all thinking about eschatology, or the theology of the last things, the Church risks becoming nothing more than the Rotary Club with beautiful architecture, fancy vestments, pretty music, and nice-smelling incense. Yes, Christians are to focus on feeding the poor, welcoming the stranger, and bringing God’s kingdom to earth, but Christians of every age are called to live as if the world to come…….is coming tomorrow. In other words, for those of us who follow Christ, time has been shortened. At our baptism, we were joined to a new reality in Jesus Christ, a redeemed reality. Time has grown shorter. The verb that Paul uses here is used nowhere else in the New Testament. However, in other ancient Greek literature, it is used to describe the shortening of sails, the cowering of scared people, and the retrenching of armies. That is, the term carries a sense of being reduced, restricted, or contracted in upon oneself. There is a sense, then, that for Paul, it is not only that a specific eschatological event may be about to happen – that Christ will return at the end of time – but rather that time itself is hunkering down and making preparations for a challenging obstacle. 
“Let those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.”
With the contraction of time in upon itself, all aspects of reality are affected. Our relationships, our experiences that cause us grief and joy, our possessions, indeed all our dealings with the world – all these things are passing away. They are neither permanent nor final. Though it seems morbid, St. Benedict told his monks to keep death daily before their eyes.
Being aware that we’ve been baptized into this new reality gives us the freedom to engage with the world differently. It’s not that we shouldn’t get married, or mourn or rejoice or own possessions. Rather, we should do all these things knowing that our lasting hope – our ultimate hope – is in the One who transformed reality by his death and resurrection. It is only when we live with death daily before our eyes that we can begin to get outside of ourselves and put the needs of others before our own needs.
Paul wants us to know and believe that our identity is in Christ, not in our relationships or emotions or possessions. No, the Church is not the Rotary Club in drag. We love our neighbors as ourselves because of the life, death, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ. Because that’s who we are. And yes, there’s a sense of urgency about this work God has called us to do. The fact that Christ didn’t return in Paul’s lifetime doesn’t diminish Paul’s point that we are called to live as if Christ were going to return in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye. The time has grown short for us to proclaim Jesus Christ, and him crucified, and to devote ourselves to serving others in love. This urgency will often make us frustrated with the many things in this world that hinder the advancement of God’s kingdom, and move us to tear down those walls wherever we see them.
Friends, the appointed time has grown short. The present form of this world is passing away. Let us live faithfully and diligently in this new reality into which we’ve been baptized, and let us with haste love the Lord our God, and love our neighbors as ourselves. Amen.
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.
Sean C. Kim
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
25 December 2020
There’s been quite a shift from last night to this morning. Last night, our gaze was focused on a baby lying in a stable in the little town of Bethlehem. This morning, we behold a grand cosmic vision – the creation of the world by the Word of God, the Logos. Yet both scenes are about the same person – Jesus Christ. He is both the vulnerable little infant born to Mary and the all-mighty author and sustainer of the universe. In the mystery of the Incarnation, the divine and human come together.
A lot of ink has been spilled over interpreting what we’ve just read in the Gospel of John. The fact that among the Four Gospels, it’s the only one that is given a fancy title, the Prolegomena or the Prologue, should give us some idea of how theologically significant it is. During the Seasons of Advent and Christmas at St. Mary’s, we conclude every Daily Mass with the reading of the Prologue.
The idea that Jesus is the Word of God, the Logos, is not easy to understand. As one biblical scholar defines it, the Logos is “the logic that permeates and structures the universe, the divine reason that orders and gives meaning to all that is.” Try explaining that at a cocktail party. We’re dealing with abstract Greek philosophy here.
But, the fact is, we don’t have to understand the complex meaning behind the Logos to know God. Our faith is not based on grasping the nature of the divine reason or logic behind the universe. We can leave that to the theologians. Our Christian faith rests on the statement at the end of today’s reading: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14). When we come to this sentence in praying the Angelus, we genuflect to express our deep reverence. In Jesus Christ, God became human. The Word became flesh. God became one of us and entered our world. Hence, God is not just an abstract, transcendent concept – someone up there beyond our comprehension. We can now know God through Jesus. Later in the Gospel of John, we find Jesus telling his disciples: “If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:7). Jesus is the incarnation and revelation of God.
John, like the other Gospels, is an account of how Jesus, the Word made flesh, lived among the people of Palestine two thousand years ago. The Gospels describe and explain how Jesus revealed God through his teachings and ministry. After his death and resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven, and we wait for his coming in glory and power at the end of time. But we also believe that the body of Jesus continues to be present here on earth. The Incarnation was not a one-time event that ended two thousand years ago. It is ongoing. Jesus lives among us.
To go back to the statement “And the Word became flesh and lived among us,” the term that we translate as “live” is in the Greek actually “tabernacle” or “tent.” So a more literal translation would be “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” or “pitched a tent among us.” Interestingly, we use the word tabernacle to refer to the box that contains the reserved host, the Body of Christ. So Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, is present with us now in the tabernacle, and he will be present as we come up for Holy Eucharist. In the bread and wine of Communion, Christ will come to us in flesh and blood.
One of my favorite Christmas carols is “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.” I just heard it on the radio this morning on my drive from home to church. I have come to especially appreciate the refrain: “Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.” I know that I am not alone in having experienced loss during the Season of Christmas. My mother died eight years ago around this time of the year. This season has never been the same since. But when I sing or hear this carol, I am reminded that Jesus came to give us comfort and joy. That thought consoles me and lifts my spirits.
This year Christmas is not the same for any of us. COVID has wreaked havoc in our lives. We have all suffered losses. Yet, Christmas reminds us that God is not deaf to our cries of pain and suffering. In Jesus Christ, God became one of us to share our human lot and to give us hope and strength. This year, not all of us will be able to find comfort and joy in the presence of our family and friends. But we can all find comfort and joy in the presence of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, who comes to us today as a baby in the manger and in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. Merry Christmas!
 Judith Jones, “Commentary on John 1:1-14,” Working Preacher.
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 sermons preached at High Mass at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, are posted here!