The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Matthew 10:16-33
Sean C. Kim
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
25 June 2023
Do not be afraid. Jesus speaks these words to his disciples three times in our Gospel reading from Matthew today. Some of you may have heard that this phrase or its variant “fear not” is found 365 times in the Bible, one for each day of the year. If you look online, you’ll find a lively debate about whether there are exactly 365 references or a lesser number. Among the different claims, I’ve seen anywhere from around 100 to 365. Part of the reason why it’s difficult to get an accurate count has to do with the translation from Hebrew and Greek, as well as the different meanings of our word “fear.” Lucky for us, we have a resident Biblical expert, my Hebrew and Greek teacher, Richard Liantonio, who is our subdeacon today. So, maybe we should put him to work. Let’s have him go through the Bible, count the number of times “do not be afraid” occurs, and settle the debate once and for all. Richard, can you get on that right away, please?
However many times “do not be afraid” occurs in the Bible, what is clear is that it is central to God’s message to us. In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks the words, “do not be afraid,” as he gets ready to send his disciples into the world to proclaim the Gospel, in the so-called “mission discourse.” He warns them of the trials and tribulations to come: “they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me…” (Matthew 10:18). And, Jesus further warns, their commitment to Christ may even cause division and strife in their families: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name” (Matthew 10:21-22). I don’t know about you, but if I had been one of the disciples and heard these dire warnings, I might have had second thoughts at this point about staying with Jesus. Who wants to be beaten, humiliated, hated? Who wants to cause conflict in their families? But in the midst of the fears the disciples must have been experiencing, Jesus tells them, “Do not be afraid.”
I doubt that Jesus saying these words, even three times, erased the disciples’ fears. We know that when Jesus was later arrested, tortured, and killed, most of them fled rather than face the persecution that Jesus had foretold. But that isn’t the end of the story. In the end, they came back and courageously endured the persecution, and most of them died a martyr’s death. They overcame their fears. Moreover, their apostolic witness has inspired countless others through the centuries to do the same for the sake of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
While I was preparing the sermon, it dawned on me that today, June 25, is the anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. In 1950, on a sunny Sunday morning such as today, North Korea launched a surprise attack on the South. President Harry Truman – of Independence, Missouri – sent United States and United Nations forces to help the South Koreans defend themselves. My parents were children at the time, and they joined their families in the long line of refugees fleeing the carnage and destruction. Among the bare essentials that my maternal grandmother packed was the Bible. She was, however, afraid that if she were to get caught by the communist North Korean troops, she might have to pay the price for the Bible with her life. And, sure enough, during their long journey, they were apprehended by North Korean troops. One soldier held a bayonet to her neck as the others rummaged through their belongings for food and valuables. Fortunately, they missed the Bible.
As I recall my family’s war stories, I cannot begin to fathom their fears during the war – my grandmother’s fear of being caught with the Bible, the fear of hunger and starvation, the fear of poverty, the fear of injury, the fear of death. When I think about my own fears today, they pale in comparison with what my parents and grandparents experienced in the Korean War. They pale in comparison with the trials and tribulations suffered by the disciples and the early church. But my fears are no less real, and I have to deal with them every day.
What are your fears? Perhaps you’re afraid of losing your job? Are you afraid of relapsing into substance abuse? Are you afraid of getting sick? Are you afraid of getting old? Are you afraid of dying alone? As for my fears, I think some of you already know one of my biggest fears – the fear of change. I shared with you a few weeks ago that I may be moving. Well, that’s still up in the air. And recently some changes – and potential changes – in my work life have suddenly surfaced. This is turning out to be quite the eventful summer, a season of major transitions, stirring up a host of uncertainties and anxieties.
But in the midst of all our fears, we remember Jesus’ words, “do not be afraid.” And we find the courage and strength to work through our fears because we are not alone. We have the help and support of family, friends, our faith community. Above all, we have God’s love and care. We read in today’s Gospel: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).
As you know, we have Bible study based on the lectionary each week before this service. Today, I heard the most powerful and beautiful testimony about how these verses transformed a life. During the discussion, I also remembered Ethel Water’s classic, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” God cares for us in a way that we can never fully appreciate. We are never alone. God is always with us, granting us strength and guidance.
Every Sunday, before our 10 o’clock service, the clergy, altar party, and choir gather in the chapel to pray the Office of Preparation. Among our prayers is Psalm 43, and the most striking verse for me in that psalm is verse 5: “Why art thou so heavy, O my soul, and why art thou so disquieted within me?” “Why art thou so heavy, O my soul, and why art thou so disquieted within me?” For me, this moment provides an opportunity to name the things that burden my heart and mind – my fears and anxieties, my sins and transgressions – and to lay them at Jesus’ feet. The words, “why art thou so heavy, O my soul,” call me to purge myself of the things that stand between me and God.
Dear friends, Our Lord Jesus invites us to come to him and lay all our burdens down. In this sacred hour of worship, as we offer up our prayers and supplications, we find relief and refuge from our daily cares and worries. And as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, we are nourished, refreshed, and renewed. And when the service is ended and we go back into the world, we will carry within us no less than the presence of God, empowering us to face whatever comes our way with courage and strength. God is with us. God cares for us. Do not be afraid.
Feast of the Dedication
June 18, 2023
The Rev’d Charles W. Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
Friday afternoon, I jumped in my little Honda Civic and drove almost 3 hours southeast of here for the installation of Fr. Isaac Petty as rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Springfield. Many of you know Fr. Isaac as St. Mary’s was his sponsoring parish. I got settled at the hotel, and then Fr. Chas Marks and I headed over to St. James.
When I have the rare treat of attending a church service with music other than at St. Mary’s, the very first thing I do is grab the bulletin and look at the hymns. Yes, the liturgy and the Scripture readings and the names of the ministers are arguably more important, but I’m just being honest with you – the first thing I look at are the hymns. And I immediately noticed that the hymns Fr. Isaac chose for the service were all hymns we sing regularly at St. Mary’s (with one unfortunate exception – he had to throw in a Nazarene tune from his upbringing!).
The preacher was Deacon David Wilcox, also a son of St. Mary’s, and it wasn’t even a minute into the sermon that he got teary-eyed and choked up, something Isaac did later when he knelt down in the middle of the church and devoted himself to God and to God’s service as rector of St. James. I, of course, had been crying off and on throughout the service, and as I surreptitiously tried to wipe tears away at one point, it hit me – good God, they learned to be teary-eyed during the liturgy from their rector.
Later in the service, we finished singing the rousing hymn at the Offertory. I put my leaflet down, and looked up to behold Bishop Diane flanked by Fr. Isaac and Deacon David and a few others, and I became overwhelmed with the gravity of what I was witnessing, particularly in light of the recent actions of my former denomination the Southern Baptist Convention in which they expelled churches with female pastors: a female successor of the apostles, flanked by two openly gay clerics, in the Bible Belt in a church full of Christians singing the praises of Jesus Christ. Not just any female bishop, but my bishop with whom I have grown quite close; not just any gay clerics, but two that were raised up by St. Mary’s – in this building – in this community of faith – my friends.
St. Mary’s has raised up a proportionally large numbers of folks for ordained ministry in its 169 years of existence, but this phenomenon is even more acute with the laity. I informally went through the list of those who have joined St. Mary’s since I arrived nearly six years ago and counted those I knew had moved away from Kansas City: 17 just off the top of my head – there are probably more. Like Isaac and David, they too were formed in this place, in this community of faith. Like us, they experienced the breathtaking beauty of this building, and the breathtaking love and welcome of this congregation. They saw that, as the book of Genesis reads and as the cantor sang earlier, “O, how awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
During the reception after Isaac’s installation, I had a chance to talk with Fr. John Biggs. Fr. Biggs is 86 years old and recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He immediately asked me about St. Mary’s is doing, and after awhile, he told me of a memory of a conversation he had with Fr. David McCallum, 11th rector of St. Mary’s from 1962-1967. He giggled and said that Fr. McCallum called this place “Mad Mary’s” because there was always so much going on around here, though I suspect he also meant to say what I’ve said about this place for years: you have to be a little crazy to be a part of St. Mary’s (me included!).
It was during Fr. McCallum’s tenure that we came close to being razed to the ground. In 1963, the city plans for what is now I-670 placed St. Mary’s right in the middle of the freeway. Fr. McCallum and Bishop Welles began negotiations with the Missouri Department of Transportation, but they had a hard time convincing them to spare the building given that it was, well, falling apart. Like St. Mary’s has been throughout most of its history, the congregation lived hand-to-mouth and couldn’t begin to afford the necessary repairs. Two prominent parishioners from Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral - James M. Kemper, Sr., and James M. Kemper, Junior, of Commerce Bank – stepped in and helped. The Kemper family and the diocese worked out an arrangement with MDOT that changed the route of the new freeway past the church rather than through it, provided that the entire exterior of the church be tuck pointed, and the ridiculously expensive slate roof of both the church and the bell tower be replaced, all of which happened due to the generosity of the Kemper family, primarily from the David Woods Kemper Foundation.
Like me and you, and the myriad upon myriad of those who have encountered this building and this community of faith, Fr. McCallum, Bishop Welles, and Kemper family saw it for what it is: “O, how awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
It seems that I wasn’t the first rector of St. Mary’s to be afflicted with becoming emotionally overwhelmed from time to time. Fr. McCallum apparently wanted nothing other to serve as a missionary in Nicaragua with the Order of the Holy Cross, but was prevented from doing so due to concerns about his ill health. After serving as rector of St. Mary’s for five years, the superior of the order finally relented and allowed him to serve as a missionary to the indigenous peoples of Nicaragua. While en route, Fr. McCallum wrote a love letter of sorts to the people of St. Mary’s, which Fr. Brinkman, his successor, read out loud at all the masses during the week in which it arrived. In it, he says, “My years with you have been happy and delightful ones. To avoid virtually breaking down, I have not been able to say all that is in my heart. I hope this note…can somehow express the depth of my caring and gratitude…for having had the privilege of serving with what will always be the finest congregation in the Church. The most precious thing of all to me – a single person starting on a new and unknown venture – is the certain knowledge that in such friends, I do indeed have a home and family. One could not even ask for as much as you have given. I pray the best for “Mad Mary’s” as I know will be the case. Fondly and gratefully, David McCallum.”
Fr. McCallum served as a missionary in Nicaragua for the next 26 years before retiring to his native Wisconsin.
As I realized anew on Friday evening at Fr. Isaac’s installation, the influence of St. Mary’s Church goes far beyond these four old walls.
Today’s feast recalls the dedication and consecration of this glorious building… the building which houses…all of us. Today is not really about the building, it’s about each and every one of us and the mission of the Church in this place. We give our heartfelt thanks to God for this gem of a building in the heart of Kansas City, but even more than this building, we give thanks to God for giving us his son Jesus Christ for our redemption; for grafting us into his body through the waters of baptism; for bringing us to this beautiful community of faith; and for continuing to feed us with his Christ’s body and blood at this altar. May this holy food and drink give us the strength and courage to take the love we’ve experienced at Mad Mary’s out into world, and tell all who listen, “O, how awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
 Genesis 22:17, 22; this is the Introit for the Feast of the Dedication.
St. Mary’s Church
The Rev’d Charles Everson
June 11, 2023
Despite having entered the “green season” after Pentecost, commonly called Ordinary time, two Mondays ago, we are still wearing white on Sundays! Last week, we celebrated Trinity Sunday, and this week we celebrate with great joy the feast of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, commonly called Corpus Christi. After the 40 days of Easter and the 12 days of Ascensiontide, we’ve been feasting for so long it feels extravagant – almost overindulgent.
Today’s feast has its origins in the High Middle Ages. Observed in England from 1318, this feast quickly became very popular among the lay people. Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, Corpus Christi guilds comprised of lay people (not clerics) were founded to organize elaborate Eucharistic processions in both small villages and large cities. [If you’ve never experienced a Eucharistic procession and have no idea what I’m talking about, you’ll have the chance to do so at the end of today’s Mass, though because of the rain, it will be a much more muted indoor procession.] These processions consisted of elaborate ceremonial and huge amounts of money were spent on banners, garlands, lights, and flowers. They were also civic events at which prominent members of society put their piety on display for all to see. These celebrations also became the principal occasions for the performance of cycles of devotional and didactic plays on the theme of salvation history, which in some places involved virtually the whole community.
Why all the fuss?
The heart of the Eucharistic procession, is, well, the Eucharist. A piece of consecrated bread is put in a glass container inside of a ridiculously extravagant silver or golden vessel called a monstrance so that everyone can gaze upon it and worship what they see. And then after the procession concludes, the priest blessed the people with the monstrance, or more specifically, with what it contains – the body of our Lord – in a ceremony called Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
Why gaze upon the consecrated bread rather than eat it? Beyond pointing out that the two are not mutually exclusive, as is evident at this Mass when we will do both, because taking the consecrated host in procession through the area around the Church is a way of insisting that Jesus is not only present in this world spiritually, but also physically. This isn’t to say that the Lord’s human body is present in today’s world as his body ascended into heaven on Ascension Day. Rather, Eucharistic adoration proclaims that we believe that Jesus is not only spiritually present here on earth, but is present in the physical elements of the bread and wine of Holy Communion. In other words, he actually meant what he said: “This is my body” and “this is my blood.” He actually kept the promise he made to his church when he said, “I will not leave you comfortless.” By the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the hands of a simple priest, the extravagant love of God is made present to us today not only spiritually, but tangibly, on this and every Christian altar throughout the world. We rightly and routinely eat and drink of the Lord’s body and blood as he commanded, but the extravagance of this feast rouses us out of our slumber and reminds us that the Incarnation of God – God’s taking on human flesh – remains a reality even in our own day.
When these ceremonies came into being in the Middle Ages, lay people were required to come to Mass every Sunday and major feast, but were only allowed to receive communion a few times a year. At nearly all masses, the clergy would receive communion, but not the lay people. The average Christian’s Eucharistic piety was not about receiving the body and blood of Christ for his or her redemption, it was all about gazing upon it – when the priest elevated the host and the chalice during the Eucharistic prayer, and at moments when the sacrament was exposed in a monstrance, as we will behold in a moment. It isn’t surprising, then, the lay people cherished the feast of Corpus Christi, nor is it surprising that the Reformers objected to the excesses of Eucharistic adoration and insisted on a return to the origins of this rite which consists of all the faithful – cleric and lay - eating and drinking, just as the Lord commanded. Thankfully, the faithful have been encouraged to receive communion regularly – even daily – since the beginning of the 20th century, and for my part, I’m thankful that Eucharistic adoration has also made a revival, at least in some corners of the Church. For in gazing upon the Lord as he is made known to us in the breaking of the bread, with all of the ceremonial and ritual extravagance and grandeur the Church can offer, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ has not left us nor forsaken us. He is here with us, in the midst of our troubles and our joys, binding up our wounds, and little by little, restoring us to the fulness of the image of God in which we were created.
Eucharistic adoration at a time when the bread of heaven and cup of salvation was being withheld from the faithful! What cruelty! It was as if the clergy were taunting the faithful with the Sacrament! Look, here it is, but you can’t have any! No, the balance we have here at St. Mary’s is just right – almost daily mass where all of God’s faithful people can receive the Sacrament regularly, and Eucharistic adoration on this great feast and a few other times throughout the year, reminding all of us of the lavishness and extravagance of God’s love for us – that he really did not leave us nor forsake us. All of this was beautifully summarized by St. Thomas Aquinas, the author of most of today’s liturgical texts, during a sermon he preached on this day.
“O precious and wonderful banquet that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it, sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.
“It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was about to leave the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfillment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation."
May Jesus Christ in the most holy Sacrament of the Altar be our abiding consolation, this day and evermore. Amen.
 Much of this paragraph comes from Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, pp. 43-44.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusculum 57, in festo Corporis Christi, lectures 1-4.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
Fr. Charles Everson
June 4, 2023
When I’m talking with seminarians about preaching, I often repeat what a now-retired bishop once told me. A good preacher preaches about two things: Jesus and 10 minutes. The second thing I say is that you can preach one of two things: you can preach one of the biblical texts assigned for the day, or preach the feast. What I mean by that is that there are some seasons and feasts in the church’s calendar that need to be explained, and this is certainly one of them.
Trinity Sunday is sort of a hinge day in the liturgical calendar of the Western Church. The first six months of the church calendar has been action packed: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost. We’ve walked with Jesus from his birth to his death, resurrection, and ascension, and last week, we celebrated the gift of the breath of new life breathed by our Lord – the Holy Spirit. Now, as we enter into the long Season after Pentecost, we stand back from all of the action and explore the meaning of the word god itself.
And yet, I doubt many of us will leave church this morning with a better intellectual grasp of the Most Holy Trinity. Those whose academic discipline is theology, no matter how faithful and smart they may be, cannot make the notion of one God in three persons any less mysterious. Just ask any of the many preachers throughout history who have inadvertently committed heresy by using a flawed analogy. For example, water is often used to describe the Trinity in that H2O is still water whether it’s liquid, frozen, or steam. The problem is that it implies that God changes forms or modes depending on the situation, but does not exist as three persons at the same time – a heresy called modalism.
Rather than risk falling into heresy, I’m going to take a tried-and-true approach and talk about the Trinity using a symbol. Last year, I talked about the fleur-de-lys and Mary’s relationship with the three persons of the Trinity, and this year I’m going back to my favorite window in this church: the Scutum fideli, the Shield of the Trinity. You have to stand in the far back corner of the church to see it as it’s way up in the corner on the other side. You can see a copy of it on the front of your service leaflet.
The Shield of the Trinity shows us that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all fully God by linking each of the outer circles – Pater, Filius, Spiritus Sanctus – to the center circle, Deus – “God” with the three connecting lines in which is written “est” meaning “IS”. Hence, the Father IS fully God, the Son IS fully God and the Holy Spirit IS fully God. The outer lines connecting the Three have written in them “non est” – “IS NOT”. Hence, the Father IS NOT the Son or the Holy Spirit, the Son IS NOT the Father or the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit IS NOT the Father or the Son. Each Person in the Godhead is each fully and completely God, one not more so than the other. But they are also distinct from one another.
This image shows us that the Trinity is all about relationship. God the Father is with the Son who is with the Spirit who is with the Father, self-communicating, self-giving, self-receiving. When we profess belief in the Trinity, we affirm that it is of the essence of God to be in relationship. Not only a relationship, but many relationships, beginning with the communion of the three Persons within the Godhead, and expanding to the relationship between God and all of creation.
How does this beautiful connectedness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit manifest itself to us? St. John says in chapter 3 of his gospel, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” The Son of God was eternally begotten of the Father and made incarnate by the Holy Spirit because of love. The loving relationship that exists between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit isn’t meant to be merely observed from afar, the way we gaze upon this beautiful stained-glass window. The perfect state of loving communion between the three Persons of the Godhead is made known to you and me in the person of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. To use traditional theological language, God is not only transcendent, but also imminent. The God that St. Athanasius called “incomprehensible” in his creed wants to be intimately involved in our everyday lives.
On Trinity Sunday, we aren’t just grappling with an abstract, theological idea. Rather, we are celebrating the relationship of self-sacrificial love that begins with the perfect communion of the three Persons within the Godhead and expands to the relationship between God and humankind both in and beyond time.
In a moment, we will go unto the altar of God…the altar where God the Father communicates his love to us by giving us the precious gift of his Son by the power of the Holy Spirit via the hands of a human priest. We are invited to bring ourselves, our souls and bodies, just as we are, to intimately encounter the God of the universe in a moment when we are somehow transported outside of time into God’s wider existence. As we kneel at the rail and receive the Almighty into our very selves, something happens. You’ve heard the expression, “You are what you eat.” The more and more we encounter God’s grace, the more and more we are transformed into the image of the One who created us…the One who humbled himself to share in our humanity, that we might come to share in His Divinity. St. Paul says, “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” Despite the fact that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is difficult if not impossible to comprehend, on this great feast, in the words of the opening prayer, we “acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty…[we] worship the Unity.” The mystery of exactly what happens to the bread and wine at communion, and how it happens, is as much an inexplicable mystery as the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. And yet, it is perhaps at the rail as we intimately receive the body and blood of our Lord that the mystery makes the most sense. Amen.
 David Lyon Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds., Feasting on the Word. Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 47.
 Full Homely Divinity. https://tinyurl.com/2jnz9hsa
 John 3:16.
 Full Homely Divinity.
 2 Cor 3:17-18.
The sermons preached at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, are posted here!