Mr. Brandon Smee
St. Mary's Episcopal Church
O send out thy light and thy truth that they may lead us and bring us to thy holy hill and to thy dwelling, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
With just a word, a glance, a fumble, or a gesture, any moment can quickly become awkward. Like many people, I try to avoid awkwardness, making sure I say the right thing and offer as little offense as possible. So it strikes me when some willingly sail straight into discomfort and say the awkward word that has to be said. There are moments when there is no other way to bring out the truth but through awkwardness. Jesus, it seems, knew this. In our Gospel passage today, Our Lord embraces the awkward to reveal the true humility of God and to reveal the Son who comes down from heaven for us.
Our passage in Luke starts with Jesus in the house of a leader of the Pharisees. It’s the sabbath meal, and all eyes are on him. Things quickly become awkward. As people are taking their seats around the table, Jesus begins to criticize them for where they choose to sit. In a parable, he warns them that those who take seats of honor will be brought low when someone higher comes. On the other hand, the host will recognize those who take the lowest seats and put them in places of honor for all to see. Then, Jesus turns to his host and blasts his choice of guests. In a second parable he charges the one throwing a feast not to invite friends, relatives, or rich neighbors who can offer repayment. Instead, he admonishes them to invite the poor and disabled, who in the economic realities of the first century can offer nothing in return. For inviting the poor, he says, one will be repaid at the “resurrection of the righteous.”
So Christ in parables chastises the guests for where they choose to sit and the host for whom he chooses to invite. Is Christ too proud not to steal the spotlight at the table? I don’t think so. Instead this awkward encounter reveals something of Christ’s humility. In the discomfort, Jesus entrusts himself to the host and his guests. The parables he tells them are more than practical advice about how to attend and host dinners, and they are also more than proverbs showing us how to perform humility. They reveal who Christ is, the very humility of God. Because of this they are deeper than their surface suggests.
But if we do read the parables at surface level, we might get a false sense of what humility is. On its face, the first parable could seem to teach us to lower ourselves artificially to seek validation from others. And taking the second at face value, we see an invitation to enter into relationship with the poor not for their inherent dignity but for the sake of a reward. There’s nothing artificial in true humility. In fact, true humility comes from God. Jesus' awkward interruption to the feast does not call attention to the false humility that comes from human striving, but the humility that comes from above.
The point of these parables isn’t to pressure us to work harder to be better people, but that we might see who Jesus is. In these parables, Christ himself is the dinner guest who comes down from the right hand of God, and instead of taking the seat of kings takes the place of a laborer. God in Christ shows us the definition of true humility: for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven. Jesus does not pretend at lowliness but truly takes his place among the poor and dispossessed. When the Father, the host that presides over all creation, beholds the humility of the Son, the One and Holy God lifts him up to the highest place. This Christ is not just a humble man, instead he embodies the very humility of God, and in him the Father sees divinity reflected and draws it heavenward.
The second parable also reveals divine humility. We see Jesus as the host of the great feast of the ages who refuses to invite those who can offer him anything in return. Instead, he invites the poor and those who cannot repay. Who are these poor ones whom Christ invites but us? We have nothing to offer that God does not possess. There is nothing we could do for the Almighty that would rise above our weakness. Yet Christ delights to invite us in. He has come down for us and for our salvation. He counts as his reward not only his own resurrection, but our rising to life with him. His reward is the resurrection of each person he calls. Christ is the humility of God that extends welcome to the lowest. He is the humility that breaks down the sinful dominion of pride with the power of a gracious invitation. He is God for us, God among us.
And his invitation remains to the poor and lowly. We find ourselves at the threshold of God’s supper in God’s house. Beyond the three meals in this story – the dinner with the Pharisees, and the two feasts in the parables – there is another from which all meals derive their name. It is the Holy Eucharist which overshadows Luke’s account and to which the Holy Spirit invites us today. Like the sabbath meal in our reading, this meal reveals Jesus in awkwardness. For in this house we find no seats of honor; those with much kneel beside those with little. At this table are none who can offer anything in return. And before this feast, we hunger and thirst alongside both friends and strangers, all whose lives run crosswise to ours. In the eucharist, the low become high and the high become low for all become one in Christ. In this awkward, intervening moment, Christ puts himself at the mercy of his body, the fellowship of the baptized. And in the presence of Christ we behold his humility: here is God come down for us.
And in our midst God does come down: Christ takes the most humble place, the holy food and drink to be consumed. He disrupts the rules of this present world and confronts us in such simple things as bread and wine. Here, where human beings experience suffering and sadness, he invites us to the feast. His body broken for us becomes by reversal the body exalted, raising the whole eucharistic fellowship with it. The cup of salvation poured out for us seeps into the low places of the earth, welling into waterfalls of grace. In these simple elements the glory of God touches our lives.
And in touching God’s glory we touch divine humility: the eucharist turns our gaze to the great feast being prepared in heaven for all creation, whose host and honored guest is God’s begotten Son, the Son who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven. For us he leaves majesty on high to take his place on earth below. For us he befriends the poor, giving, to those who can give him nothing, the very life of God. For us he lives, works, and intercedes so at the last, great feast we might rise from our graves with him. And when we draw near to his humility, it seeps into us, making us for the world as he is. In him we invite the migrant and the poor to the abundance of God’s table. In him we take our place with those who hunger for justice and long for rest from pain. In him we find fellowship with ones whose lives and bodies are cut off from bonds of family and ties of belonging. In all our life, Christ confronts us with the humility of God: God for us at table with the broken, at table with us.
This is the meal to which the Holy Spirit calls us, at which Christ takes the lowest seat for our sake, to lift up all humanity. It is Christ who gives the invitation to those who can in no way repay. And by this one gracious invitation given to us, we come. Amen.
St. Mary the Virgin
August 21, 2022
The Rev’d Charles W. Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
The summer of 2006, I walked into St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Mission, Kansas for the first time. I was 26 years old, and quickly joined a group that Mother Lisa Senuta had started for young people called “God and Guinness.” We did something similar here before the pandemic that we called “Spirituality untapped.” Not long after I arrived, I learned that she was planning a short retreat for the group at Conception Abbey, a Benedictine monastery about an hour-and-a-half north of here. Once you pass St. Joe and get off of the interstate, it’s all farmland and rolling hills. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the old abbey church. You’re driving along, see the beginnings of a small village, and come to the top of a hill and it is as if someone has taken a medieval cathedral from Europe and dropped it in a field in the middle-of-nowhere Missouri. It is breathtakingly beautiful, but it looks just as out of place there now as it did in 1873 when the monks came over from Switzerland.
I think that many people have a similar experience the first time they visit St. Mary’s, especially on a feast day like this one with the intense choral singing and unfamiliar hymns and lots of Latin. Everything about this building and the music and the rich words of the liturgy exude beauty and wonder and awe, but when you’re not used to it, it seems just as out of place in 2022 as that old abbey church did when I rounded the top of the hill in rural Missouri.
Perhaps the most poignant way we see this phenomenon at St. Mary’s is in our devotion to our Blessed Mother, seen in its fulness for all to behold on today’s great feast! But let me be clear. We do not worship Mary. In fact, no Christian group on the planet believes that Mary should be worshipped – not the Roman Catholics, nor the Eastern Orthodox, nor us. We worship God alone, and we honor the saints. From at least the 5th century, the language the Church has used about this is latria, the worship due God alone, and dulia, the honor given to the saints. Theologians insist that the difference between the two is not about degree, but rather of kind, with dulia and latria being as far apart as are the creature and the Creator. We adore God, and we venerate the heroes of the faith who have gone before.
A third term used to describe the veneration of Mary is hyperdulia, which just means lots and lots of dulia. As we heard from Luke’s gospel, all Christians for all time will honor and venerate the Virgin Mary, for she prophesied that “all generations will call me blessed.” And that is what we are doing today, proclaiming with her cousin Elizabeth, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” We call her blessed not because she’s somehow inherently worthy of being honored in this way, but because when confronted with the preposterous news, received by the message of an angel, that she will conceive in her womb the Son of God who will reign over the house of Jacob forever, she said yes. Despite the way she’s often depicted in Christian art, her “yes” wasn’t meek and mild. She bravely said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”
And then she sings the song we heard in today’s gospel reading, the Magnificat, and it is clear that this young, teenage woman whom the angel greets with “Hail, full of grace”…she knows that everything that is happening to her is by God’s grace alone. In the face of this news that will change her life forever, she sings a song of praise in which she announces that God’s kingdom will begin to be fulfilled with its upside-down value system where the mighty are cast down from their thrones and the lowly are exalted.
This kingdom of God, into which Christians are baptized, feels foreign to us, just as a newcomer to St. Mary’s might feel with all of the signs of the cross and sitting and kneeling and genuflecting, and it will not stop feeling off somehow on this side of the veil. And that’s how it is supposed to be. Until the Last Day, it is never going to feel 100% normal to think that God exalts the humble and meek and casts down the mighty from their thrones, as everything about the value system of this world screams the opposite.
It all feels less foreign to me than it did when I first started the journey. When I round the top of the hill and see the old abbey church, I’m still struck by its beauty, but it no longer feels out of place. It feels as if it is exactly where it is supposed to be, with the monks working and praying as God has called them to do. Likewise, Marian devotion doesn’t feel as foreign to me as it did back in my Southern Baptist days. I feel like I’ve gotten to know Mary as my mother, in a sense, and it no longer feels strange to ask for her prayers, or to venerate her as “more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious without compare than the Seraphim.” And in terms of the wider kingdom of God and its crazy value system, this Johnson County boy no longer dreads working with our houseless guests who knock on the office door day in and day out, but rather feel grateful that I have the opportunity to give them something to eat and drink.
Last Sunday, after the reception in the parish hall, a remnant group of folks went out to lunch. There were 14 of us at Harry’s Country Club at the Rivermarket, and as Mary Day was the following week, it came up in conversation. Two parishioners – one next to me, and the other across the table – said that Mary Day was the anniversary of their first visit to St. Mary’s, and that they’ve been here ever since. I thought about it, and remembered that my first day at St. Mary’s as a priest was this day five years ago. [I don’t mean to frighten those of you who are visiting for the first time!] As this is the fifth time I’ve given a sermon on this day, I went to see where the bodies were buried and re-read the first four. The first was about how I came to be Mamma’s boy (Mamma, as in the Blessed Mother). The second was about how Mary’s assumption into heaven is a foretaste of the promise of the resurrection of our bodies. The third, just days after Dcn. Gerry died from COVID, was about identifying with Mary’s sorrows, and last year’s was essentially a rework of an old Advent sermon I preached somewhere else because at that point in the pandemic, I was depressed and could hardly bear coming up with a new sermon.
This year, I am energized. Over the past few months, my calendar has been peppered with coffee and lunch appointments with both newcomers to St. Mary’s and existing parishioners who want to get more involved, and I can’t tell you how overjoyed I was to walk into complete mayhem in the parish hall the other day to see Dcn. Lynda and three of our dedicated parishioners putting together blessing bags with food and hygiene items for our houseless friends. If you are new to St. Mary’s, I ask you to consider coming back again soon and often! It is not an exaggeration or cliché to say that all are welcome in this place, no matter your station in life. If you have been absent more than present as of late and are home for the feast, please consider reengaging with your community of faith. And if you’ve been here every Sunday, or even 5-times-per-week for daily Mass, I ask you to commit to praying for those who are new and reengaging and do what you can to love and support them and all who have come to call St. Mary’s our spiritual home.
At the Offertory, we will sing an old, Anglo-Catholic hymn from the Victorian era that we don’t sing often enough – “Ye who claim the faith of Jesus.” For better or for worse, the compilers of the Hymnal 1982 replaced a few of the verses with deep and rich Marian theology with a paraphrase of Mary’s song from today’s gospel reading. When I discovered the missing verses and their content, I was annoyed at the change, but the new final verse has grown on me. In it we join Mary in her hymn of praise, including her prophecy of the inbreaking of God’s kingdom where the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Frankly, I can’t think of a more fitting thing for a community of faith under the patronage of the Blessed Mother to sing.
As we join Mary in magnifying the Lord and rejoicing in God our Savior, let us renew our commitment to this community of faith as we seek to spread the good news of God’s kingdom in both word and action. Let us join with all generations in calling Mary blessed, rejoicing that through her, God fulfilled the promise he made to our ancestors in faith and sent a Savior. And let us give thanks that that Savior came to save the lowly, the outcast, the sinner, even you and me. Amen.
 The English word worship has been used for both latria and dulia, making the difference important in English, but in modern-day time, the word worship is used almost exclusively for latria.
 Luke 1:42 using the traditional translation of the “Hail Mary.”
 V. 33.
 From the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.
Pentecost X – Proper 15 – Year C
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
The Rev’d Charles Everson
August 14, 2022
You don’t see it as often these days, but my grandmother Trula Everson kept photo albums scattered throughout her house. Until she died when I was 20, it was not uncommon to see an occasional new photo album appear, but you would never see one go away. As a child, I remember sitting in her lap, asking questions about who is who. She’d point out the various family members and how I was related to them, adding in commentary about what she remembered about their profession, family life, what she knew about their character, pointing out if someone was super rich, poor, and so on.
This is sort of what the author of the book of Hebrews is doing in chapter 11. He helps us remember those in the family of faith who have gone before. Remember those who passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land. Remember Rahab the prostitute who welcomed the spies. Remember those who marched around Jericho, resulting in the walls falling. Remember Sampson and Daniel who shut the mouths of lions. Remember those who won strength out of weakness like Gideon and Ester. Remember those who were torched, mocked, scourged, and tormented. This photo album of our spiritual ancestors reveals something profound about faith, which he earlier describes as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not yet seen”.
Faith isn’t a guarantee that you’ll have what we think of as a “good life.” Some of our spiritual ancestors were tortured, suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. Those who have a deep faith are not more likely to have more money or things or power or good looks than those who have no faith. Faith does not give us a free ticket out of pain and suffering in this life. Said another way, the theology that wealth and prosperity and blessings come as a result of having enough faith or doing enough good things is simply not biblical. For some, faith results in victory, and for others, faith results in suffering.
“Yet all these”, says the author of Hebrews, “though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better….” Before the “something better” is revealed, we hear a verse that Baptist teenagers like I was taught to memorize in Sunday School. I’ll read it in its entirety, and then explain why it has always given me anxiety. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses… There’s so much good stuff there, but despite the fact that I enjoy jogging (as in light jogging), perseverance, in that context, is not my strong suit. At the age of 42, I have a long history of trying to run longer distances, not persevering, then feeling guilty about my inadequacy and lack of endurance. Not a fun cycle to be reminded of.
Over the years, I’ve become convinced that this passage is not intended to evoke feelings of guilt. The witnesses might be referring to fans in a stadium at the beginning or end of a race, or they might be referring to early martyrs who had died for their faith. Either way, it’s a wonderfully encouraging vision of our fellow Christians supporting us and cheering us on, giving us courage and hope that we can indeed persevere in running the race that is set before us.
What is the end goal of the race? Where are we headed? The author of Hebrews finishes his photo album of our spiritual ancestors with a brilliant climax, the most important ancestor of all: Jesus Christ. In a moment, we will sing a paraphrase of this text in the Offertory hymn. “Behold, a Witness nobler still, who trod affliction’s path: Jesus, the author, finisher, rewarder of our faith.”
The message of this passage isn’t how my wounded psyche used to interpret it: “Have faith, do good, try not to screw up but feel guilty when you – and hopefully you’ll get to heaven one day.” The message is that whether we win the battle or suffer a defeating loss, no matter our lot, Jesus is the beginning and the end. He is indeed “something better” – the prize above all measure that we receive at the end of the race after having constantly fixed our gaze on him, and he accompanies us along the way, giving us his own self as food for the journey to persevere when we inevitably encounter both feast and famine. Jesus takes our woefully incomplete faith and makes it whole.
I no longer get anxious when I hear this passage, because rather than despair and guilt, I think we’re meant to be encouraged. But even more so with chapter 12, verse 3, which both the Baptist Sunday School teachers and the lectionary compilers unfortunately fail to include: “Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.”
Dear friends, consider Jesus, both when you have doubts, and when your faith is strong. Consider Jesus, when the whole world seems to be against you, and when you’ve won the greatest victory of your life. Consider Jesus, when your faith leads you through the Red Sea to dry land, and when you feel like you’re drowning and ready to throw in the towel. Consider Jesus, when your faith is in shambles and you have nothing left to hold on to, and when you experience the greatest spiritual high you’ve ever had. Consider Jesus, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. Amen.
 Heb. 11: 39-40, NRSV.
 Heb 12:1, NRSV.
 Working Preacher.
 Heb 12:3, NRSV
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Luke 12:32-40
Fr. Sean C. Kim
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
7 August 2022
Treasure-hunting is alive and well. I'm sure you've heard about the most recent Mega Millions lottery, worth $1.3 billion dollars. Countless Americans bought the tickets, hoping to be the lucky one with the winning numbers. I read that someone in the Chicago area had the ticket. That person's life will change overnight, soon to be propelled into the realm of the ultrarich. Yes, we hear about how most lottery winners are not really happy and how many of them squander away their wealth. But, to be honest, how many of us would not want a quick billion dollars? Think about the benefits and rewards that would come with that kind of money: the power, the status, the freedom to pursue whatever we wanted.
It is human nature to desire wealth and possessions. And our society celebrates the acquisition of money. The media hypnotizes us with icons of wealth and status, from multi-billionaires to celebrity athletes and movie stars.
In today's Gospel, we have a counter-intuitive and counter-cultural message about wealth. Jesus tells his disciples: "Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treaure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:33-40). In contrast to the message around us to accumulate wealth, Jesus tells us to give it away.
Why? For one, there is no enduring value in our material possessions. Wealth comes and goes. Jesus employs the colorful images of worn-out purses, plundering thieves, and moth-eaten valuables to illustrate the fleeting nature of earthly treasures. I heard somewhere that most family fortunes do not survive three generations. What usually happens is that the generations that come after the founder of the fortune usually lack the same kind of hunger for money and end up spending more than increasing the family wealth. In last week's Gospel, we read about the rich fool who makes all sorts of plans for what to do with his money only to die the next day (Luke 12:13-21). As the cliche goes, you can't take it with you when you go.
But there is another, more important reason for not placing our faith in material possessions. Jesus speaks of a different, far superior kind of wealth, "an unfailing treasure in heaven." Unlike the treasures of this world, this heavenly treasure has enduring value; indeed, it is eternal in nature. What is this heavenly treasure? It is none other than Christ himself. Jesus is our "unfailing treasure in heaven."
Jesus is the treasure of God's precious gift of his own Son to the world. Jesus is God Incarnate, God in the flesh. And as God Incarnate, Christ is the source of all creation, the source of all blessings. Everything that we have and enjoy comes from Christ. And through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, he has become our Savior and Lord. We have the promise of life with him in this world and in the next.
Hence, compared to the treasure that we have in Jesus, everything else pales in comparison. In the parable of the Pearl of Great Price in the Gospel of Matthew, we read of the pearl merchant who finds one pearl of great value (Matthew 13:45-46). He sells everything he has in order to buy the one pearl. For the Christian, Jesus is the Pearl of Great Price, the treasure above all treasures for which we should be willing to sacrifice everything else. As we read in today's Gospel: "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Throughout Christian history, many believers have done just that, given up everything for their faith. In the Gospels, we read of the disciples who left behind family and possessions to follow Jesus. And we have the long and rich monastic tradition of monks and nuns who have given up everything to take vows of poverty and service to the poor and needy. Yet, at the same time, we also have examples of wealthy believers in the early church who, though they did not give away everything they had, were generous patrons of the church and its ministries. And throughout Christian history as well as in the present, we have believers on all points of the socioeconomic spectrum. Based on the experience of the Church, the degree to which we sacrifice our material possessions for the sake of the faith seems to depend on our individual conscience, to what we believe God is calling us to do. Perhaps because of my very Protestant background (I don't know any monks or nuns), I personally am not aware of anyone who has taken the radical step of giving it all up.
But whatever sacrifices we make, even giving it all up, they are nothing compared to what we receive in return. From the treasure that is Christ flows a stream of spiritual riches that no money can buy. He is our Redeemer, who grants us the the promise of eternal life. He has conquered death and offers us unending life with him. And in this life, we have the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, sent by Jesus to provide us in our daily lives with wisdom and guidance, and comfort and strength in times of trial. And just as earthly wealth can provide the resources to do what we want, the spiritual riches that come from our relationship with Jesus also empower us, not to do what we want but to carry out God's will. Inspired and empowered by Christ, we do God's work in the world, feeding the poor, healing the sick, visiting the lonely, committing ourselves to peace and justice.
Earthly treasures, like the lottery jackpot, derive their value from being rare and limited to the few. But the heavenly treasure that is Christ is available to all of us. It is God's free gift. And it is available to us now. We claim this treasure every time we come to the altar for Holy Eucharist. As we receive the host and chalice, we receive the precious Body and Blood of Jesus into our own bodies. We thus become bearers of the treasure that is above all treasures: Jesus, God-Incarnate. Dear sisters and brothers, let us now join together and come to the altar to receive our divine treasure, the source of all blessings. And bearing this treasure in us, let us go forth to be Christ to one another in love and service. Amen.
Joseph of Arimathea
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
August 1, 2022
Today, we commemorate Joseph of Arimathea. All that we know of him comes from the narratives of the burial of Jesus in the Gospels. Though John speaks of Joseph as a secret disciple of our Lord, and associates him with Nicodemus, another member of the Jewish Sanhedrin who was drawn to Jesus, we know nothing of any further activity of these men in the early Christian community.
Later, however, legends developed about their leadership in the Church. One of the more enduring is the story of Joseph’s coming to the ancient Church of Glastonbury in southwest England and bringing with him the Holy Grail, the cup used at the Last Supper which Joseph had used to catch some of Christ’s blood at his crucifixion. According to the Arthurian legends dating to the 13th century, Joseph died in England, and his eldest son Josephus became the island’s spiritual leader while his younger son Galahad took charge of secular duties. Before he died, Josephus passed the Grail to his nephew Alan and his descendants. Galahad’s grandson, named Galahad after him, is the one we know as Sir Galahad the Chaste.
Galahad was said to be the greatest knight ever, and his virginity is often seen to be the key to his perfection. In other words, he’s the perfect knight because he’s a virgin. Galahad can defeat any enemy who comes before him, and even at an extremely young age, surpasses his father, in terms of strength, chivalry, and ability. Galahad receives the Perilous Seat at the Round Table, which is destined to belong to the greatest knight, who would be the one to end the Grail quests; if anyone else tried to sit there, they would find themselves in peril. Galahad is the only knight who can draw the Sword in the Stone as he is the only knight worthy enough.
Let’s be clear. This is a lovely story, but it is lore, and we have no written documentation of it before the 13th century. But it is holy lore. One of the more recent scholarly works on the Holy Grail, written by Richard Barber, argues that the Grail legend is connected to the introduction of "more ceremony and mysticism" surrounding the sacrament of the Eucharist in the High Middle Ages, proposing that the first Grail stories may have been connected to the "renewal in this traditional sacrament".
That leads us to this stained-glass window right over here of the likely fictional figure of St. Galahad the Chaste. If you haven’t seen it, please come up and take a peek after Mass. It was given by Fr. Edwin Merrill in 1921 and dedicated to a Ralph Albert Parker, and “old college chum”. Fr. Merrill was rector of St. Mary’s from 1918-1953 (35 years!), and his portrait at a much later age is right back there. After completing his first year of seminary at the age of 27, like many young people do, he and Mr. Parker traveled on foot throughout Western Europe for about five months. Mr. Parker later married and Merrill of course finished seminary and was ordained priest. In 1919, the year after Fr. Merrill arrived here, Mr. Parker died of typhoid fever at the age of 32, leaving a widow and one-year-old daughter.
Fr. Merrill was the last “bachelor priest” of St. Mary’s. A story has developed over the years that Fr. Merrill and Mr. Parker were lovers, but let’s be clear. This is a lovely story, but it is lore. But I think it is holy lore. What we know is that they went to college together and were friends, and that they were so close that Parker’s death in 1919 spurred Fr. Merrill to commission this window, with Sir Galahad gazing at the enter of the altar where I will elevate the chalice in a moment. The inscription at the bottom says, “I, Galahad, have seen the Holy Grail. Let us press forward.”
Joseph of Arimathea probably never visited England during his lifetime. But the holy lore that developed over a thousand years after his death is ever present here at St. Mary’s. As we receive communion today, consecrated upon the same altar where Fr. Edwin Merrill celebrated Mass literally thousands of times, let us give thanks for his friendship with Ralph Albert Parker, no matter the precise nature of their relationship. For the fruits of that relationship continue to remind all who see this window that the bravest knight in all of Christendom has found the true Grail, the prize beyond all measure. That prize is nothing other than Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Amen.
 Barber, Richard. The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief. Harvard University Press, 2004.
The sermons preached at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, are posted here!