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.
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
Proper 19, Year C – Luke 15:1-10
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
September 11, 2022
When I was a kid, my music and television habits were heavily influenced by my parents. I grew up listening to Chicago, Led Zepplin, the Doors, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, and the like. And I grew up watching movies like Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and Arthur, and TV series like Married with Children, and my favorite, Cheers. This show is about a bar in Boston called Cheers where folks gather to unwind and interact with friends. Its theme song is famous not only because of the catchy tune, but because it names a longing that every person has:
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. You want to be where you can see our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name.
That’s the kind of place Cheers was in this show. A place where people could be real and share food and drink with others, no matter their station in life. In today’s gospel reading, it’s not difficult to imagine Jesus in such a place, eating and drinking with anyone, much to the chagrin of the proper and pure. St. Luke tells us that that Jesus is eating and drinking with “tax collectors and sinners” while the “Pharisees and scribes” are grumbling about the fact that he welcomes – that he even seeks out these sinners. In response to their grumbling, he tells the Pharisees and scribes three parables, two of which we heard today.
The first is the parable of the lost sheep. He asks these religious leaders, “Which of you would leave the ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” I’m a city boy and have no experience with sheep, but this shepherd doesn’t sound very responsible to me. What about the 99 sheep left in the wilderness? Who will take care of them? These are questions I’m sure the Pharisees asked themselves upon hearing this parable, but perhaps like the Pharisees, I was initially as dense as they were. The utter ridiculousness of what the shepherd does is an important part of the story. He is so focused on the lost sheep that he not only throws caution to the wind, he risks his livelihood by leaving his flock unattended. And when he finds the lost sheep, he lays it on his shoulders and comes home rejoicing and calling in all the neighbors and friends to throw a huge party to celebrate the one who was lost and is now found. He ends by telling them, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
The second parable is similar. Instead of a shepherd, Jesus talks of a woman with 10 silver coins. What woman, were she to lose one of them, doesn’t light a lamp, or sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And then once she finds it, what woman wouldn’t call her friends and neighbors together and have a party in celebration for find it? He ends this story like the first by saying, “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
I’ve often heard this passage preached like this: you and I are sinners, and Jesus cares so much for sinners that he relentlessly seeks us and rejoices when we are finally found. We should therefore repent and return to the Lord. While that’s not a bad sermon for another day, Jesus didn’t direct these parables to the sinners and tax collectors. These parables were addressed to the religious leaders of the day – the Pharisees and scribes. Jesus isn’t trying to get them to identify themselves as one who is lost and needs to be found. Jesus is trying to get them to learn to rejoice! Both of these parables end by calling friends and neighbors together to rejoice and celebrate. Jesus’s focus isn’t on the lost that are found by God, it’s on the rejoicing that happens when the lost one is found!
When the religious people of the day grumble about Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners – when they grumble about Jesus’s radical hospitality – he responds by telling them that they should celebrate when God goes after the sinner who is lost and rescues them. Yes, salvation is about being rescued, but it’s even more about being drawn into the eternal party. When you see Jesus seeking the lost, when you see him dining with the worst of the worst, the appropriate response isn’t grumbling or jealousy or judging – it’s rejoicing! That’s what repentance looks like for the Pharisees and scribes as well as for you and me: when we see God seeking someone who doesn’t wear the right clothes, or hold the same political views as we do, or that causes us in any way to label them as an “other” – as someone over in “that group” when God seeks them out and finds them, we are called to turn from judgement and grumbling to radical hospitality at a fabulous party!
This past week, after over seventy-years on the throne, the Queen died. I am intentionally resisting my natural urge to spend more time on how that has affected me and saving it for the Solemn Requiem for her, the date and time of which will be announced soon. But as she was literally one of the most recognizable person in the world, you know that she was had a deep, Christian faith, and embodied duty, steadfastness, and dignity. Friday, I received news that a fellow priest, Adam Ngyren, died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 35. You all met then-Deacon Adam as he was deacon of the Mass for David Wilcox’s wedding this past May, and then served as deacon at this service the next morning. He was ordained priest just a few weeks later. In fact, Adam was David roommate for two years at seminary – please keep David and Zach in your prayers, if you would. Adam was always open about the fact that he was in recovery and regularly attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and if you think I have a potty mouth, you didn’t spend more than 30 seconds with Adam. He was quirky and rough around the edges. Many in Adam’s situation would consider the Queen as a notorious sinner due to her wealth, privilege, and connections with empire and colonialism. Many in the upper crusts of society would view someone like Adam from a blue-collar background who struggles with addiction as a notorious sinner, writing them off as the Pharisees did the tax collectors in Jesus’ day. While both deaths have affected me in very different ways, I am greatly consoled by the thought of Adam lining up on his way to heaven alongside Elizabeth, a foulmouthed vegan-electrician-turned-priest alongside the Defender of the Faith, both sheep of God’s old fold, lambs of his own flock, notorious sinners of his own redeeming, both headed to the party of all parties, the heavenly banquet.
Throughout his life, Jesus was repeatedly criticized for spending time with notorious sinners and outcasts. He’s inviting us today to join him by spending time doing the same. To eat and drink with those around us in our lives, perhaps in a context like Cheers. We have a deep longing to spend time with others who know us…a place where everybody knows our name. A place where we feel welcome. Nowhere in this text or elsewhere in Luke’s gospel do we see Jesus commenting on the sinners’ behavior. He eats and celebrates with them. He identifies with them and genuinely cares for them. Yes, he rejoices all the more when the sinner repents, but his love and care for them doesn’t depend on them repenting.
For the Pharisees and for all of us, the question is, “Who are you ready to party with?” If the answer is “I don’t party,” or “I don’t party with those people,” then we’ve missed the point entirely. Friends, God is inviting us today to join in the eternal party…to practice generous hospitality with people from every walk of life both here at St. Mary’s and beyond, whether they be prince or pauper or somewhere in between. And he’s inviting us to rejoice with the angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven every time he finds someone who is lost.
 David Lyon Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds., Feasting on the Word. Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 68.
 Ibid 72.
Proper 18, Year C – Philemon 1-21
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
September 4, 2022
In Matthew chapter 17, Jesus says, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. And nothing will be impossible for you.” Some take this to mean that if God doesn’t answer your prayers, you don’t have enough faith.
In Luke 12, Jesus says, "And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven." Does this mean that if you “blaspheme against the Holy Spirit,” whatever that means, you have no chance of being reconciled to God?
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul says, "Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers-- none of these will inherit the kingdom of God." I remember stealing a rubber stamp off of my teacher’s desk in kindergarten. This passage must mean that I won’t make it to heaven. And those who get drunk – it’s obvious what this means for them.
Lastly, hear these words from Paul in 1 Cor. 14: "The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says." Sorry to break it to you, Bishop Diane…
It has been common throughout history for believers to use passages of Scripture, usually taken out of context, to support their own belief system. Some even use Scripture to reinforce their own power over an entire group of people as a way of excluding others from being able to receive the love and the grace of God. The second lesson this morning is from the book of Philemon, a passage of Scripture that was commonly used to justify slavery.
Paul writes this letter from prison where he encounters a slave by the name of Onesimus who had, at this point, converted to the Christian faith under his influence while in prison. The traditional interpretation of this text is that Paul is asking his friend Philemon to receive Onesimus back as a slave, and forgive him whatever transgressions he had committed. And this interpretation was used throughout the centuries to justify slavery.
Paul addresses this letter not only to Philemon, Apphia (A-phia) and Archippus, but to the entire congregation of the church that meets in one of their homes. He uses plural pronouns when he greets everyone at the beginning of the letter, but switches to singular pronouns for the majority of the letter and appears to be speaking directly to Philemon. He says, “Though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet, I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love...I am appealing to you for my child Onesimus.” Paul speaks diplomatically in order to try to persuade Philemon to come to his own conclusion, rather than Paul forcing him to do it, even though he had the authority to do so.
Think back through your life, and think about who your favorite boss or teacher or priest was. The one you respected the most – the one you wanted to be like. The person you’re thinking of was probably like Paul: he or she didn’t lead by issuing edicts from on high, but instead, encouraged you and taught you and gave you the freedom to make your own decisions, even if that resulted in failure. Paul could have ordered Philemon to do what he wanted him to do, but he instead showered Philemon and the others with thanksgiving and blessings and encouragement, and then made his argument to try to persuade Philemon to make the right choice.
What exactly is Paul asking Philemon to do? In verse 13, he says, “I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced. Perhaps this is the reason that he was separated from you for awhile, so that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother.” Perhaps Paul is asking Philemon not to receive Onesimus back as a slave, but to receive him as a Christian brother, free from the bonds of slavery.
Although he’s asking Philemon to voluntarily commit this good deed, he isn’t shy in doing so. In verse 22, just after the last verse we heard in the reading, Paul says, “One more thing – prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you.” He’s hinting to Philemon, and to the entire congregation, that he will be following up to see how this ends up shaking out! Watch out, I’ll be checking in personally to see what you decide to do!
The letter to Philemon is more than a “diplomatic coup” on the part of St. Paul, it’s his attempt to use loving, thoughtful language to urge two individuals who fall under his pastoral charge and authority who are at serious odds not only to be reconciled to each other, but also to model the new life in Christ to which all baptized Christians are called.
Reconciliation between Onesimus and Philemon means that their entire relationship would change. The standards of the society of the day won’t cut it. Last week, we heard Jesus say, “Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” The Christian life is one in which the standards of society are completely turned upside down. The slave is set free and welcomed as a brother, a fellow member of the family.
The Gospel teaches us that through our baptism, we are all welcomed equally no matter our rank, or income level, race, sexual orientation, moral decisions, or legal status. At our baptism, when we are received into the household of God, we are no longer defined by any of those labels, but instead as brothers and sisters – equal members of the family. Our identity is no longer found in human labels and categories, but instead our identity is found in the love of Christ. In other words, we find our identity in the One who loves us and adopts us as beloved children. Paul says elsewhere, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of [us] are one in Christ Jesus.”
What good news of joy and liberation for you and me! And yet, as we heard in today’s gospel lesson, this Christian way of life doesn’t come without a cost. Jesus says that whoever comes to him without hating their family members cannot be his disciple, and the same with whoever does not take up his cross and follow him.
In this passage, there isn’t ambiguity or an opportunity for “alternate interpretations.” This particular passage is very clear in its question: are you in, or are you out? Jesus, in this passage, has no time for games or compromise. If you’re going to embark on seriously engaging with the Christian faith, be prepared to pay the price. Not only the price of an hour-and-a-half of your time on Sunday mornings or a sincere and generous financial pledge – that’s all challenging enough – but the price of wholehearted devotion to a cause so compelling that it will demand your whole life.
No matter how literally we take Jesus when he says to hate our family, carry our cross, and sell our possessions, God is calling us today to die to ourselves and live for Him. He’s calling us to make the choice that we made (or that was made on our behalf) at our baptism today and every day. Week after week, day after day, we put on our baptism anew, if you will, and as we do, we build spiritual habits over time that can break our perceived need to acquire more things, our petty jealousies, our demeaning stereotypes of each other, our prejudices and hatreds. Moment by moment, with each small choice to follow Christ, God transforms us little by little into Christ’s likeness…into the image of God seen fully in our forebears Adam and Eve before sin and death came into the world. And as that happens, we begin to see others the way Christ does. Rather than judging people by their rank, income level, skin color, sexual orientation, or even bad moral decisions, we begin to see them as brothers and sisters in the family of God that bear the same image and likeness of God as we do.
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of [us] are one in Christ Jesus.” Thanks be to God. Amen.
 David Lyon Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds., Feasting on the Word. Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 41.
 Galatians 3:28
 From a sermon preached by Richard B. Hays at Duke Divinity School on August 31, 2010. http://divinity.duke.edu/sites/divinity.duke.edu/files/documents/news/2010-09-02-hays-sermon.pdf
 Galatians 3:28
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.
The sermons preached at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, are posted here!