Sean C. Kim
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
27 November 2022
Today, we begin the Season of Advent, the period when we wait and prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus as a baby born in Bethlehem and in the Second Coming in all his glory at the end of time. As part of this preparation, one of the traditions in the Church is to reflect on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. So, during this Advent, we will have a sermon series based on the Four Last Things, beginning with the one today on Death. And, for our book study this Advent, we are reading C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, which is an allegory about a bus ride from hell to heaven. So, while you may be shopping in the stores to Christmas carols on Muzak, here at St. Mary’s, you’re going to get a heavy dose of Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.
We often hear about how American society avoids the subject of death. For instance, we use the euphemism, “passed away” or “passed on,” instead of “died.” And these days we prefer the term “celebration of life” rather than “funeral.” It’s not just contemporary American society that is reluctant to confront death. In China, Japan, and Korea, there is an old tradition of avoiding the number 4 because it is a homophone for the word “death.” So, just as we treat 13 as an unlucky number and try to avoid it, many East Asians will go to elaborate lengths to avoid the number 4, such as not having a floor in a building marked the fourth floor. The psychological term for this fear and avoidance of the number 4 is tetraphobia.
In contrast to the world, our Christian faith does not allow us to avoid the subject of death. We have constant reminders of death. Just look around you. The columbarium, where the ashes of our beloved dead are interred. The relics, which are usually on our altar, but they’re not there today because it’s Advent. They’re bone fragments from the bodies of St. Cecelia and St. Theresa. And the crucifix, on which hangs the dead body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If these visual reminders are not enough, we have constant references to death in our liturgy. At every Mass, we pray for the dead in the Prayers of the People, and we remember Jesus’ death when we receive the Blessed Sacrament. And soon we will hold a Requiem Mass for our beloved parishioner and friend, Kristina Krueger, who died yesterday.
In our daily devotions, the service of Compline, the fourth and last prayer of the Daily Office, which we pray before lying down to sleep, is filled with references to death. It begins with the line: “The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end” (Book of Common Prayer, p.127). The earlier version used to say, “a perfect death.” And later on, we find the prayer: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit” (Book of Common Prayer, p.132). These are the last words that Jesus spoke as he died on the cross (Luke 23:46). And Compline ends as it begins, with a reference to death.
Lord, you now have set your servant free
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel (Book of Common Prayer, p.135).
This is the Nunc Dimittis, the beautiful prayer that the aged Simeon prays when he encounters the baby Jesus, brought to the Temple by Mary and Joseph. Now that he has achieved his life goal, he can die in peace (Luke 2:25-35). Compline is, in short, a gentle reminder of the sleep of death that will come to us all.
But our Christian faith doesn’t just end with reminders of death. It tells the story of how death has been vanquished by Our Lord Jesus and gives us hope of eternal life in him. The reason why we are not reluctant to confront death is because it no longer has power over us. We need not fear death because of Our Lord’s work of redemption on the cross.
I've recently been coming across the phrase “holy death.” We don’t hear this too often in Protestant contexts; it seems to be more a part of Roman Catholic piety. There are prayers to die a holy death, and, in Mexico, there is even a saint named “Holy Death” or Santa Muerte, venerated by the faithful and whose image is a skeleton clad in a hooded robe and carrying a scythe and a globe.
When I first came across the phrase holy death, what first came to mind was a scene of a quiet and peaceful death, a faithful Christian who has lived a long and good life and is surrounded by family and friends on her deathbed. But not all faithful Christians die this way. What about those who perish in natural disasters or tragic accidents? And when we think about the martyrs of the Church, they died anything but serene deaths – mauled by wild animals, burned alive, decapitated.
Clearly, a holy death does not depend on the circumstances in which we die. We have no control over the state in which we will find ourselves at the moment of death. Nor is a holy death a kind of psychological state that we attain through our own efforts. Some of you may be familiar with the Tibetan Book of the Dead, a Buddhist manual for guiding your mind through the process of death. Other than Last Rites and individual prayers, I’m not aware of any counterpart in our Christian faith to such a guide for a holy death.
For the Christian, our death is made holy by the presence of Our Lord and Savior Jesus. As we read in the Letter to the Romans, “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8). In life and in death, we belong to the Lord Jesus, and we are made holy by this relationship, cleansed of our sins and saved from hell unto eternal life.
For me, one of the most beautiful parts of our Prayer Book is the Commendation in the Burial Rite or funeral service: “Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend they servant. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold, a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of thy mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light” (Book of Common Prayer, p.483). In life and in death, we belong to Jesus. In life and in death, we are made holy by his presence.
Advent is a season when we reflect on the coming of Jesus in many forms. We think of his coming primarily as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem and in the Second Coming at the end of time. But Jesus comes to us in many other ways – in the hearing of his Word, in the receiving of the Blessed Sacrament, and in the presence of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. And, in the end, Jesus will come to us at the moment of death. He will be there, granting us a holy death. We will fall asleep in the arms of his mercy and awaken to new life with him.
 Charles Pope, “The Night Prayer of the Church as a ‘Rehearsal for Death,’” https://blog.adw.org/2019/09/night-prayer-church-rehearsal-death/
Click here to download the bulletin for this service.
Christ the King
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
November 20, 2022
It’s a joy to celebrate this great feast of Christ the King with all of you, a feast which, unlike many of the things we do here at St. Mary’s, is a relatively modern development in the life of the church created by Piux XI, Bishop of Rome, in 1925. From the 8th century until the year 1870, the bishops of Rome not only had a leadership role in the Church with respect to other bishops, they held temporal power over territories of land of various sizes throughout the centuries. In other words, they were both bishops and kings. In 1870, after decades of increasing nationalism, King Victor Emmanuel of Italy annexed the last vestiges of the Papal States, and just like that, the Bishop of Rome lost his earthly kingdom. The Italian king quickly took up residence in Quirinal Palace, the papal residence where Pius IX had been elected in conclave and which many Roman citizens viewed as the ultimate sign of authority in the city. When asked for the keys to Quirinal Palace, the old pope reportedly asked, "Whom do these thieves think they are kidding asking for the keys to open the door? Let them knock it down if they, like Bonaparte's soldiers, when they wanted to seize Pius VI, came through the window, but even they did not have the effrontery to ask for the keys." Ultimately, a locksmith had to be hired. This bitter sting and horror at losing his earthly, temporal power certainly contributed to the proclamation of papal infallibility later in 1870, as well as his successor’s proclamation of this feast, “The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe” a few decades later in 1925.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus at least appears to be more self-aware than the pope was – he acknowledges that his kingship is “not of this world.” He said, “’For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.” Jesu] is, as he says here, from another world. The church calls this the incarnation: the descent of God from the eternal realm of uncreated light into the violence, darkness, sickness, and death of this world.”
Jesus is indeed King of the Universe, but he’s a king unlike any earthly king. He rules over a kingdom where the King came not to be served, but to serve. In God’s kingdom, those who are first are last of all and servant of all. This kingdom has an entirely different value system than this world does. The kingdom of God is the reality of existence brought about by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in which the poor have been chosen to be rich in faith – in which the last shall be first and the first shall be last. The most important in the kingdom of heaven are the worthless rags of earth. In God’s kingdom, the rich are sent away empty and the hungry are fed, the mighty are cast down from their thrones, and the lowly are lifted up.
You and I were made citizens of God’s kingdom not by swearing an oath to a Republic or earthly king, but rather in the waters of baptism. After making promises, or having promises made on our behalf at baptism, we are made citizens of God’s kingdom and adopt the value system of this kingdom that is in utter and complete opposition to the values of this world. It is through baptism that we submit ourselves, as sons and daughters, to a father who loves us without condition. It is in our baptism that we first bend the knee to a king who has no temporal power, but reigns in the hearts of the men and women who trust not in their own righteousness, but in the King’s manifold and great mercies. Our civic duty in God’s kingdom is to deny ourselves daily and take up our cross and follow Him. To put others before ourselves and put God’s ways before the ways of the world. Peace reigns over war; unity conquers division; love overcomes evil and hate.
We experience this kingdom partially now, but, and I state the obvious here, the powers of this world are not yet vanquished. War and racism and poverty and division abound. When will we get to realize the kingdom in its entirety? When will we realize the fulfillment of God’s promises to us to create a new heaven and a new earth where there is no more pain nor death, neither sorrow nor crying, but the fulness of joy? When will we get to live as our true selves, without the awful effects of sin, the way God intended things to be?
I’m not going to try to attempt to answer this question today as the Church has set aside an entire season of the church year to contemplate the Last Things – the season of Advent which begins next Sunday. In the meantime, we live in this world which is God’s creation given to us for our joy and benefit. We are given this time – our earthly lives – to do our part to reconstruct and redeem the unjust power structures of this world so that they may begin to reflect the Creator’s original intent. By the power of the Holy Spirit, through the grace God continually pours upon us through the Sacraments of the Church, we are empowered to live out our baptismal promises to “seek and serve Christ in all people, loving our neighbor as ourselves; to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
As we begin this journey of Advent next week and live into the waiting and the wondering for Christ’s first coming in the manager, and his third coming at the Last Day, thanks be to God, we don’t have to wait for his second coming in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. As citizens of God’s kingdom, we can approach this altar at which we are transported to the altar in heaven before God’s throne to receive a foretaste of the great banquet of heaven – a banquet so fulfilling, so filled with rich conversation and joyful delight – that even a foretaste of it is powerful enough to bring about God’s restoration and wholeness and topple unjust power structures in our world today. On this great feast, the Church invites us to renew our allegiance to the King of King and the Lord of Lords not by offering our sword or by paying our taxes, but by receiving God’s manifold and great mercies at this altar, giving him the proverbial keys to our hearts to reign in us and through us.
 Fleming Rutledge, Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018), 228-229 .
 James 2:5
 BCP 305.
Proper 28, Year C – Luke 21:5-19
The Rev. Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Church
November 13, 2022
As the scene opens in today’s gospel reading, Jesus engages with his disciples as they talked about the beautiful Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was the center of public life for the Hebrew people, in matters of religion, politics, and commerce. The original structure was built in the mid-10th Century BC and was destroyed in 586 BC by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar who forcibly deported the bulk of the Jewish people into exile. Seventy years later, the Temple was rebuilt, and it was this reconstructed Second Temple that existed in Jesus’s time. It was adorned with beautiful stones and lavish gems and lots and lots of gold.
Jesus delivers the shocking news that the Temple will be destroyed. This immediately brings to mind the old stories that everyone knew of the destruction of the first Temple, and the misery and despair that their ancestors experienced when they were forced to be slaves for the in Babylon. Jesus’s words invoke fear.
He goes on to predict even more dire conditions: wars, insurrections, nations rising against nations and kingdom against kingdom, great earthquakes, and famines and plagues. On a more personal note, he tells them that they will be persecuted, and that some of them will be put to death because of their allegiance to Him.
I’m not sure about you, but this doesn’t seem like good news to me. Surely, this message of doom and gloom evoked a similar type of fear that you and I experience at various times throughout our lives. The kind of fear that arises when we lose our job, or a family member dies unexpectedly, or divorce shatters a family, or sometimes, when we turn on the news.
Most scholars believe that St. Luke wrote his gospel around the year 85 AD, about 15 years after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. Meaning his readers would have heard this story as a reflection on something that had already happened rather than a prediction of future events. When the Romans sacked Jerusalem, they not only destroyed the Temple, but they killed hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Jews, and ended up sending the budding Christian movement underground into persecution. The folks who heard this story were living in a hellish world, and these words gave them hope for a brighter future: “But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance, you will gain your souls.”
In our baptismal liturgy, the candidate or the parents are asked, “Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” The candidate responds, “I will, with God’s help.” This promise to persevere in resisting evil is a bold promise that is not for the faint of heart. It’s much easier to succumb to fear, isolation, and the selfish acts of sin than it is to persevere in resisting evil. And thanks be to God, we aren’t expected to persevere in resisting evil on our own strength. It only makes sense in light of the previous question and answer in which the baptismal candidate promises to continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellow, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.”
This “endurance” that “will gain your souls” is not a strong-willed resistance to temptation, nor is it achieved by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Saving endurance does not rely on human strength, but trusts in God’s persistent and unfailing love. Paul says this in his letter to the Romans:
“We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
Saving endurance is found in trusting in God’s love. Think of the Christians you know who have endured amid terrible suffering. When confronted with admiration for their persistence, they don’t say, “Yeah, I worked really hard and was able to win the battle and came out unscathed.” No, you hear something like, “It was only by God’s grace that I was able to make it through to the end.” They view their terrible ordeal as what Jesus calls “an opportunity to testify” not of their own strength, but of God’s persistent and unfailing love.
Dear friends, when your life seems to be falling apart, when you hear of the horrors of what’s happening to innocent civilians in Ukraine, when the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, when you are faced with doom and gloom, do not be afraid. Look to Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him endured the suffering and shame of being tortured to death on a cross. When you’re suffering, silently or before all the world to see, lean in to sacramental life of the church – what the baptismal life calls “the prayers and the breaking of the bread” – by which God will give you the strength you need to persevere to the end. Lean into the opportunity to testify to the hope he has given you – hope that unlike the beautiful stones and lavish gems that made up the earthly Temple in Jerusalem, you have been made a living stone built into a spiritual house that no one can destroy.
 Romans 5:3-5, NRSV.
Sermon for All Saints Sunday
November 6th, 2022
Given at St. Mary’s Church, Kansas City
Mr. David Wilcox
Believe it or not contrary to popular perception seminary doesn’t give you much time to think. As nice as it would be to be sitting on a mountain doing nothing but thinking about God they keep us pretty busy going from one thing to another. So, as I look back on my almost three years at the seminary the most moving experiences that I’ve had have been the times set aside for intentional prayer and quiet reflection where we are invited to look at our lives and take stock of where we are, where we’ve been and where we hope to go. On the last occasion the speaker asked us to think about how we live into baptism by loving God and loving our neighbor. Where were the places in our lives that we were already living out that great commandment? where were the areas where we were failing? The places we could strive to do better. When she challenged us to do that, it caught my attention because we rarely have time to just sit and reflect in our busy lives. So, I set aside some time to think and really take stock.) and when I did, I realized I’m not doing so hot. The places I fail are honestly a lot more in number than the places where I succeed, and as I sat with that, I have to admit I started to get a little discouraged. I got discouraged because, honestly, I’ve been trying my best, and my best isn’t cutting it. I mess up. I do the wrong thing. Even when I try to do the right thing, things don’t always go to plan.
The good news is that’s OK. I’m human, and I am going to mess up. We all are. We are going to fail in some places and get it right in others. God knows that. God knows that, and He doesn’t leave us all alone in this endeavor. We are not left to our own devices in learning how to follow Jesus. Today’s feast of All Saints reminds us that in following Christ, we are never alone because we are united to a great cloud of witnesses in baptism. Today’s feast reminds us that when we struggle to live up to the life Jesus calls us to, we can look back to the lives of Christians who persevered and were shining examples of what it looks like to live the great commandment.
Christians like Luke, the doctor who wrote down the story of Jesus and spread it throughout the world. Like Margaret the Queen, a wife and mother who loved her family and used her gifts to care for the sick and needy. Or Joan, the shepherdess who heard God’s call and fought for her people’s freedom. Like Martin the Solider, who risked his life to clothe a beggar and ended up clothing Christ. John the priest who was faithful in the care of his flock or Ignatius, slain by a fierce wild beast for refusing to put the emperor in place of God. The stories of these Saints and countless others known and unknown from every generation inspire us, give us something to strive for, and remind us what is possible with God’s grace. As we try time and time again to live into that grace, the Saints are right there with us, walking alongside us to cheer us on and to lift us up in prayer.
But we do not look back only to recount the lives the Saints lived on earth. We look back to be reminded of the lives they live now in the very place we also long to be: resting in the light of the One we strive to serve. We look back to remember the hope that beckons us forward: God’s promise of eternal life. Because as the hymn we just sang reminds us, the saints of God are just folk like us. Folk like us who united themselves to Christ in baptism. Folk like us who allowed the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. Folk like us who failed and kept trying followed the call to repent, return, and remember that those struggles do not define them. We, like them, are defined by something much greater: God’s grace.
God’s grace which does not depend on where we fail or where we get things right. God’s grace which does not depend on how often we fall. It is grace that calls us to strive after the great commandment and allows us to try. It is grace which unites us in one communion and fellowship with the Saints, and grace which is making us -and the world- new until one day we come to that heavenly city where there are no tears, no pain, or sighing, hunger or thirst and where the Home of God is among mortals. We are all intimately united in the eternal life God promises to those who love Him.
[In just a few minutes we will process to the font and through water and the Spirit little Marvin will die to sin and be raised to new life with Christ, he will be marked as Christ’s own forever and receive adoption as a Child of God entering the fellowship with the saints that we all share. In Baptism, what Christ achieved on the cross for our salvation will become part of him. Marvin will be immersed in this grace. Today we celebrate the new life that Marvin will receive but our work is not done when the service is over. Each and every one of you is about to make a promise to do all in your power to support Marvin in his life in Christ. So, pray for him, and in the years to come when his journey with the Lord is a struggle, and he falls and fails (and he will because he is human) lift him up and remind him that he does not and never will walk this journey alone for…]
My friends, the grace given to us in baptism is strengthened each time we come to this Altar to receive Holy Communion and feast on the Lord’s Body and Blood. And it is here at the Lord’s table that we unite our voices with angels and archangels and the whole company of heaven and where our bond with all the Saints who have gone before us known and unknown is the strongest on this side of eternity. So come, come to this table for the grace you need and to meet the Saints, the friends who are always with you cheering you on until one day, by God’s grace you are counted among their number.
Pentecost XXI – Proper 26, Year C
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
The Rev’d Charles Everson
October 30, 2022
In today’s familiar gospel lesson, Jesus encounters a wee tax collector named Zacchaeus in the city of Jericho. Tax collectors in the first century Roman Empire were, by definition, wealthy, and were seen as sleezy and immoral, as they got to keep any money they collected from the people above and beyond what was owed to the empire. Zacchaeus is “short in stature,” something I can relate to, and thus can’t he see Jesus through the crowds. He climbs a tree so that he might be able to see Jesus, even from a distance. When Jesus arrives there, he tells Zacchaeus to come down and then invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home. The onlookers aren’t too happy about this. They murmur because Jesus had gone to eat at the house of “a sinner.” Upon seeing Jesus, Zacchaeus declares that he will give half of his goods to the poor and restore back fourfold those whom he has defrauded. Jesus then tells Zacchaeus that salvation has come to him, for the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.
Traditionally, this passage is seen as a conversion story par excellence. The sinner repents and is saved and as a result behaves virtuously and gives of his wealth extravagantly. However, in verse 8, there is a Greek verb whose meaning is debated amongst scholars. The translation we just heard says “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Some of the newer translations change the verbs to “will give” and “will restore”, implying future actions, despite the use of verb forms indicating that Zacchaeus is already doing these things. The traditional interpretation certainly is congruent with other parts of Scripture and isn’t a bad thing. However, if these were things he was already doing, the focus isn’t on Zacchaeus’ conversion, but rather Jesus’s actions in welcoming yet another sinner from the margins of society. Yes, he is rich, but would have been automatically rejected outright by the establishment because of his occupation and close association with the Empire.
This crooked, untrustworthy Zacchaeus is desperate to see Jesus. So desperate that despite being a wealthy government official, he humiliates himself by climbing a tree like a child in order to catch a glimpse of Jesus over the crowd. When he finally sees him, Jesus greets him by name and asks him to come down, and Zacchaeaus “receives him joyfully.”
Joy is not something the world around us associates with Christianity. In fact, I think many non-Christians think of us as being like the members of the crowd who murmur because Jesus accepted an invitation to be the guest of a “sinner” who is not pure or holy enough for our tastes. That’s probably because many of us are. Many Christians, and it’s not only the fundamentalists and the Roman Catholics, murmur like the crowd for many reasons: the person receiving God’s grace before our eyes is more successful than us, or has committed more serious sins than we have, or has an occupation like the tax collector that we may view as incompatible with or at least incongruent with Christianity.
When I lived in France from 2002-2004, I was struck by the fact that members of the clergy (which, in the French mind, generally means Roman Catholic) were portrayed in television, movies, and the media in general as dullards who hate anyone on the margins of society and don’t have the brainpower needed to add two plus two. Twenty years later, this is not an uncommon view of Christianity in our own society. It’s easy for us enlightened liberal Protestants to judge police officers or wealthy investment bankers because of their profession while smugly forgiving and loving those whose professions put them out of favor with the fundamentalists like abortion providers. Let us not forget that we too have the same human tendency to lump people together and judge the hearts of human beings based on whatever category is most convenient to put them in.
I don’t think we should make this story into a conversion experience like St. Paul’s on the road to Damascus. Zacchaeus doesn’t confess his sins nor repent. Nor does Jesus commend his penitence, or his faith, or his change of heart. He merely pronounces blessing, blessing based not on anything Zacchaeus has done, but simply because he, like those murmuring around him, is a child of Abraham, a child of God.
Zacchaeus is an example for all of us. He desires to see Jesus and experiences joy in his presence. At first, he can’t see him because like me, he’s too short, perhaps both physically and morally. Yet he is desperate to see Jesus. So desperate that he humiliates himself by climbing a tree like a child in order to catch a glimpse of him over the crowd. When he finally sees him, Jesus calls him by name and asks him to come down, and Zacchaeus “receives him joyfully.”
The word used to describe Zacchaeus’ reaction to Jesus – joy, or rejoice – is the same word used a few chapters back in the three most famous parables. There is more joy in heaven when one lost sheep is found – when one sinner repents – than over 99 righteous persons who need no repentance. There is rejoicing in heaven when the woman finds the coin she has lost! The Father rejoices and throws an extravagant party when the prodigal son returns home.
The Good News of today’s gospel reading is that if you truly want to see Jesus, you will, no matter your occupation or shortcomings or past sins. And more than that, you will be seen and known by Jesus and experience his unconditional love given extravagantly. This is the Good News of Christianity, Good News that the world needs so desperately. In the words of the hymn we sang before the gospel, “not to oppress, but summon all their truest life to find, in love God sent his Son to save, not to condemn mankind.”
While his body is no longer here on this earth, we have an opportunity to see Jesus in a moment at the altar in the consecrated bread and wine. Not only see him, but receive him into our innermost being, all while kneeling at the altar rail alongside someone we may have judged negatively for some reason or another. Like Zacchaeus, let us receive our Lord joyfully, and let us carry that joy with us so that the world may see and know the Good News of God’s extravagant love.
Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
The Rev’d Charles Everson
October 23, 2022
Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, the original patron saint of this Church. Luke is traditionally believed to have been the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, which means that Luke is the author of more than one-fourth of the New Testament. He was likely a Gentile Christian – the only Gentile to write the books in the canon of the Bible. He is also the first Christian physician on record. Luke accompanied St. Paul on a significant part of his missionary journey, and he likely acted as Paul’s personal physician.
It’s no surprise that the church considers Luke to be the patron of physicians and more generally of health and healing, and thus, a tradition has been established wherein parish churches such as ours have a healing mass on his feast. In a few moments, I will those of you who are interested to exit your pew chairs and head to one of the four stations, and a priest will lay hands on you and pray with for healing, and will anoint you on the forehead with the oil of the infirm. Most people in today’s world go to a physician when they’re sick, not a priest, and there’s certainly some logic to that. But the Church gives us the opportunity to receive God’s grace in a special way in the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. By the laying on of hands and anointing with oil, the church’s intention is to bring healing in this life by joining the sufferings of the sick person to Christ. But it’s not only intended to bring physical healing, it also brings the forgiveness of sin, and the ultimate healing of the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. The priest, in this act, isn’t casting a magic spell, but is instead responding to the faith that the individual seeking God’s grace displays in seeking it – faith that the Lord can use ordinary creatures like a priest’s hands and olive oil to join his or her sufferings to Christ and begin to bring healing and wholeness and freedom.
In today’s gospel, Luke presents to us a sermon that Jesus preached that essentially involved him reading from the book of Isaiah. He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This short passage contains the essence – the heart of Jesus’s life and ministry. It’s all about healing and freedom and release. As you and I receive God’s healing and forgiveness today in both the Anointing of the Sick and in the Holy Eucharist, we are called to leave this place and take that reconciliation and wholeness to a broken and hurting world. To take this Good News to the poor. To proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. To let the opposed go free. To take the healing and wholeness of Jesus to everyone we encounter. Amen.
 Hans Boersma, Matthew Leverling, and R.W.L. Moberly, The Oxford Handbook of Sacramental Theology (Oxford University Press, 2015), 558-564.
Pentecost XVIII, Proper 24, Year C
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
October 16, 2022
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
There may not be another single verse in the Bible that is so often used to back up the type of Biblical “literalism” that I used to subscribe to back in my evangelical days. “The Bible is literally true,” I thought. “ALL scripture” is inspired by God, not just the parts of it that I like or agree with.
The terms “scripture” and “sacred writing” in this passage may or may not include the four gospels or other parts of the New Testament, but it is certain that they do include the Jewish scriptures that we commonly call the “Old Testament.” It is just as certain that neither term refers to the New Testament as we know it today as no matter the precise date 2nd Timothy was written, the New Testament had not been formally canonized.
The phrase “inspired by God” literally means “God-breathed.” In the creation story in Genesis, God breathes life into humankind, and in John chapter 20, Jesus breathes on his disciples and says to them “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Perhaps this verse isn’t a proof text for the acceptance of biblical inerrancy, but is rather indicative that God uses the Scriptures to breathe new life into us.
This verse is part of a wider passage in which Paul exhorts his young pastor friend Timothy to “continue in what you’ve learned and believed, know from whom you learned it, proclaim the message, be persistent in season or out of season, rebuke and encourage, be sober, do the work of an evangelist” – in other words, carry out your ministry fully. Paul is trying to tell Timothy that his job, and that of the pastor in general, isn’t to be innovative, but to be faithful, even in the midst of hardship.
Paul continues, “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine.” It’s easy to compare ourselves with others in trying to determine who really has the soundest doctrine, but the sound doctrine referred to here is the basic good news that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ is coming again. Paul reminds Timothy that from childhood, he has known the sacred writings that are able to instruct him for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Friends, being faithful and proclaiming the gospel isn’t always an easy or popular thing to do, especially given the misconceptions out there about the Biblical record. Just yesterday, I had a conversation with a lifelong devout Roman Catholic who believed that the Bible we have today is the result of monks copying pages from previous copies, leaving room for errors to creep in over the centuries despite the fact that those of us who study such things as our primary academic discipline know that isn’t the case at all.
I was a sophomore in college (a Biblical Studies major) when my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. She had been raised by a mother who was a convinced Christian Scientist, a member of a group that eschews some forms of modern medicine while claiming to “take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal life”. As she was struggling with how to proceed with treatment, she asked me, “Can one be a Christian and not go to church?” I don’t remember how I answered her question, but in retrospect, my response would now be something like this: Christians are grafted into Christ’s body, the Church, at baptism, and as part of the household of God, we live out our faith together. The Christian life was never intended to be lived in solitude, but rather in community. And it is in Christian community, gathered around God’s Word and Sacraments, that God breathes new life into his Church.
The catechism in our 1979 Book of Common Prayer puts it this way: Why do we call the Holy Scriptures the Word of God? We call them the Word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible. How do we understand the meaning of the Bible? We understand the meaning of the Bible by the help of the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in the true interpretation of the Scriptures.
Evangelicals love to say that we Episcopalians do not study the Bible, and then are shocked when they experience just how much Scripture is read at our services. And yet, there is something to be said about the stereotype that Episcopalians don’t do a lot of reading and studying of the Bible at home. Episcopalians sometimes act like they’re allergic to the Bible, and that is understandable given that many of us come from corners of Christianity who see it as a set of rules to follow rather than as the primary way the Holy Spirit breathes new life into the Church. It’s especially difficult given that in the year 2022, we are still dealing with folks like the guy who testified before the Conway Public School Board in Conway, Arkansas this past Tuesday, saying that LGBTQ people “deserve death” because “God gave them over to a depraved mind so that they do what they should not be doing”, a selective quoting Romans chapter 1.
“All scripture is inspired by God” used to say to me that the Bible as we know it is without error and literally true. But now, I’m hearing God’s Spirit say something different: just as God breathed over the water at creation, and just as Jesus breathed on his disciples to empower them for ministry, God breathes new life into his Church through the Scriptures today. Paul’s high-direct instructions to young pastor Timothy are not only for those of us called to ordained ministry, but apply to the household of God more broadly: we are to continue in what we’ve learned and believed, know from whom we learned it, proclaim the message, be persistent in season or out of season, rebuke and encourage, be sober, do the work of an evangelist – in other words, carry out our ministry fully, and be faithful in living out and proclaiming that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
We Episcopalians do not subscribe to Biblical inerrancy, but rather that God inspired the human authors of the Biblical books and that God still speaks to us through the Bible today. We’ve got the communal reading and listening of Scripture down – on Sundays and major feasts, three readings plus a portion of the psalter. But I think we are missing out on something important by leaving our Bibles on the shelves at home. If it has been a long time since you’ve picked up the Bible, I encourage you to dust it off and at least begin to imagine a world in which the reading and meditating on the Scriptures is a regular part of your life not only at church but at home (and if you don’t have a Bible and want one, come see me). I’m not asking you to daydream about being a monk or a nun, nor am I asking you to do the hard work of interpreting difficult Biblical passages on your own. Our catechism says that we understand the meaning of the Bible by the help of the Holy Spirit who guides the Church in the true interpretation of the Scriptures. Clearly, different Christian communities have different interpretations of any number of Biblical passages, but together, we have some hope of hearing God’s voice collectively, and nourished by the power of the Holy Spirit in Word and Sacrament, we are given strength and courage to faithfully and fully carry out our ministry as ambassadors of the Word made flesh, even Jesus Christ our Lord.
 David Lyon Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds., Feasting on the Word. Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 185.
 BCP 854.
 BCP 854.
Year C, Proper 21
1 Tim. 6:6-19, Luke 16:19-31
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
September 25, 2022
Throughout its over 2,000-year history, the Church has often been very concerned about how its members behave in the bedroom. That’s an understatement, of course. Far more often, in the Scriptures anyway, do we hear concern about how Christians should approach their relationship with material possessions.
“Money is the root of all evil”. Sounds like what we heard in our second lesson today, right? Not quite. “The love of money is the root of all evil?” Still not right. The text actually says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” There are plenty of roots of evil out there, and it isn’t money itself that is problematic. Evils abound from loving money.  Paul is urging Timothy to be content, to pursue godliness, and beware of things that may stand in the way of that goal, whether it be money or sex or something else.
While 1 Timothy 6:10 is perhaps one of the most misquoted passages of scripture, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is misrepresented frequently as well. It is often said that the rich man was the villain in this story simply for being rich. This isn’t actually true.
In this story, the rich man dresses and feasts lavishly while a poor hungry man is suffering horribly at the gate of his home. Lazarus, the poor man, is sick and hungry and hopes to catch scraps of food fallen from the rich man’s table. Both men die as we all do, no matter our station in life. As Paul said, “we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham in heaven. The rich man also died and was buried, unlike the poor man, as he had the means to pay for a proper burial. The rich man is damned, apparently for letting Lazarus starve.
Neither of these passages is saying that being rich means you’ll go to hell. In fact, in the epistle this is explicit. Paul says, “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”
From a purely economic perspective, I don’t think I’m “rich” according to the standards of the society in which we live, but if I’m honest, I’ve more identified with the rich man in this story than the poor man throughout my life. For example, I was privileged enough to have never purchased a car on my own until the age of 31. One cold, winter Sunday morning, as I was driving to Mass, I got t-boned by someone who inadvertently ran a red light on the south side of the Plaza, and my car was slammed into what was then Crate and Barrel. Needless to say, I needed a new car, and as I began to car shop, I quickly began to feel uncomfortable with the types of car that were catching my eye. I had moved up in the ranks at the bank and could afford a nicer car than the simple, basic models I’d driven up to then. How nice is too nice? The rich man’s purple clothing was extremely expensive as it was necessary to crush 10,000 shellfish to produce a single gram of the purple dye needed to make them. Beyond asking the question of what I felt like I could afford, at what point would I cross the line and buy a car that was as extravagant as the rich man’s purple robes?
I ended up buy the more expensive car. I didn’t need that fancy of a car, but it wasn’t terribly more expensive than a more sensible choice would have been. In hindsight, I don’t think that God was nearly as concerned with which car I purchased as I was. Rather than trying to determine the line between simple enjoyment and decadence, perhaps we should ask ourselves, “In what way am I doing good? How am I being rich in good works, generous, and ready to share? Am I trying to store up treasures for myself treasures here on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, or am I being generous and sharing and thus storing up the treasure of a good foundation for the future so that I can take hold of the life that really is life? How can I be increasingly generous with the riches with which God has entrusted me?”
A second way in which this parable is misinterpreted is when it is depicted as being about the afterlife. Despite the fact that nearly all of the hymns I chose for today’s liturgy are about heaven, I don’t think this parable is primarily about the afterlife. It’s about how we act here and now. The love of money is tempting, but be content. No, beyond content, be generous. Love your neighbor as yourself, but more than that, love your enemy!
Maybe, after all, my instinct to choose hymns about heaven wasn’t so off base. Maybe the imagery and the tunes of the hope of heaven will energize us, and through them God will give us the strength to build the heavenly city the Church holds as almost a dream, whose laws are love, whose crown is servanthood, and where the sun that shines is God’s grace for human good. In its dazzling beauty, the heavenly city’s splendor bids us seize the whole of life and build its glory here.
Dear friends, fight the good fight of the faith! Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called! Set your hopes not on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment!
 1 Timothy 6:7
 Keener, Craig, ed. New Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019, 1799.
 Much of this paragraph is a paraphrase of the last two verses of hymn 583 in the Hymnal 1982, “O holy city, seen of John,” by Walter Russell Bowie.
Requiem for Queen Elizabeth II
1 Corinthians 15:19-26, 53-58
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
September 24, 2022
Last Monday morning, along with many of you, and indeed much of the world, I woke up early to watch the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Much has been said of the glorious Anglican liturgy, the music, the pageantry, the transcendence of it all. As someone who is privileged to experience all of that here in this place, albeit on a smaller scale, that’s not what struck me. It was the normality of it all. Normal, in the sense that it was a Christian funeral in a Christian church for a Christian soul.
Last Monday, she was referred to as “our sister” four times. In the funeral of a queen, watched by more people around the world than any other event in human history, we are reminded that in Christ, no matter our station in life, we are sisters and brothers, one of another. We all share one mortal fate, and one eternal hope: the death and resurrection of our Lord, and our Brother, Jesus Christ.
Today, we pray for the repose of the soul of a baptized Christian, a member of the household of God. Baptism is the great leveler of human equality. In the waters of baptism, the rich man is born again, just as the poor man. He who has sinned greatly throughout an entire lifetime is welcomed into the family, just as the baby who doesn’t yet know right from wrong. In the waters of baptism, the future bishop is forgiven of her sins and reborn in the Holy Spirit in precisely the same way the future sanitation worker is.
Likewise, all of us leave this world in the same way. Death awaits us all. When we die, the Church commends each of us to Almighty God as a brother or sister, and and commits his or her body to their final resting place; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
In the epistle lesson, St. Paul says that this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. Indeed, that is what we do at our baptism, and each and everyday thereafter as we “put on” our baptism anew in private prayer, and in the confession and absolution of our sins, and the reception of the body and blood of Our Lord at Holy Communion again and again.
This was the pattern of life our sister Elizabeth lived, something so beautifully seen in her annual Christmas broadcasts. During a moment of grief this week, it hit me that Christmas morning will not ever be the same. For the past five years, after the mystery and glory of the Midnight Mass in this space and a few hours of sleep, I so look forward to arriving here in the wee hours to join Fr. Sean in preparing for the simple Low Mass of Christmas morning. We arrive in time to prepare and then settle into the sacristy at 9:00 sharp to watch the Queen’s Christmas message on my phone. And we inevitably encounter the Christian paradox – that, at the last day, the last shall be first and the first last – the humble and meek shall be exalted and the rich shall be sent away empty - an anointed monarch – arguably the most recognized person in the world - proclaims her faith in One who, quote, “lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them,” she said, “because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.”
Christmas morn may not be the same again, but we do not grieve as others do who have no hope. With our sister Elizabeth, we are all heirs, through hope, of God’s everlasting kingdom. In Christ’s resurrection, we, too, have hope that at the last, when all things are gathered up in Christ, we may with her, enjoy the fulness of God’s promises and be given new bodies, free of blemish and the effects of age, and full of life and immortality.
When the Queen died, the first words the new king heard were, “The Queen is dead. Long live the King.” This Christmas morn, rest assured that Fr. Sean and I will be watching the King’s Christmas message in the sacristy at 9:00 sharp. Two ordinary priests from Kansas City will be looking to an anointed monarch in a far off land whose lineage stretches back 1,000 years to be reminded that God’s throne shall never, like earth’s proud empires, pass away, and God’s kingdom stands and grows forever until all his creatures proclaim, “To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever.” Amen.
 Mark Broadway’s Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/mark.broadway.182/posts/pfbid02CxHW9KbYVAaUjZsrYxjzb5Y88SM8J1x4NSVWDSEx6gHCgPaWLYPLzE9M8coorNSKl
 1 Corinthians 15:53
 1 Thess 4:13
 Hymn 24, The Hymnal 1982, John Ellerton (1826-1893)
 Revelation 5:13
The sermons preached at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, are posted here!