The Third Sunday of Easter
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
Fr. Charles Everson
April 23, 2023
I’m not sure about you, but my social life isn’t what it was before March 2020. Before most people knew what a coronavirus is, back when pandemics were mostly talked about in horror movies, Jay and I were in the practice of entertaining at our home several times per month, breaking bread with friends and family alike. Fast forward three years, and we seem to share a meal with friends less frequently than before. I was talking with one of our parishioners the other day, and she too commented on this phenomenon and how isolating and lonely it is. It seems to be a common experience for single and married people alike.
Of course all of this began with an abrupt and sudden upheaval of the world that resulted in not only the isolation and loneliness that has lingered so long, but despair. But even the darkest despair we may have felt during that first year of the pandemic can’t have been as deep as the despair felt by the two disciples in the gospel lesson we heard today.
On the afternoon of the first Easter Day, these two disciples are walking on the road to Emmaus from Jerusalem, the place where they witnessed the torture and execution of Jesus, the one they hoped would redeem Israel from all of her troubles. They heard that some women had claimed that an angel told them he was alive, but these two aren’t buying it. They are sad, confused, and full of despair.
As they are talking and discussing the fateful events they witnessed, Jesus shows up, but for some reason, their eyes are kept from recognizing him. He asks what they’re talking about, and they respond by telling him about their shattered expectations. Jesus then begins to teach the two travelers and explain to them how the crazy events they had experienced were the fulfillment of the scriptures of old.
They still aren’t convinced, but when Jesus tries to leave and head another direction, the two disciples urge him strongly to stay with them. Even though they still don’t recognize him, his preaching and teaching from the scriptures apparently have had enough impact on them that they want to spend more time with him. When they sit down at the table, he takes bread, blesses and breaks it, and gives it to them, and suddenly their eyes are opened! They realize that the man standing before them is the one in whom they placed all their hope. The women who experienced the vision with the angel weren’t insane after all. He is risen indeed! Jesus finally makes himself known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Now don’t mishear me. As a priest, my duties include preaching and teaching the scriptures as I’m doing right now, and that certainly has its place. But preaching and teaching only reach so far into the depths of one’s being.
From about age 11 to age 24, I was Southern Baptist, and was taught that the normal way to commune intimately with God is by having what is called “a quiet time,” time by yourself in a room with a Bible, praying and studying the scriptures. Also important was being in corporate worship and listening to sermons much lengthier than the one you’re enduring right. For me, anyway, there was something missing that I couldn’t quite put my finger on…
…until one day that when walked into an historic church Paris, France. I was living in Paris and working as a Baptist missionary, and I sang in a university choir that allowed anyone to try out and join. My first concert with them was in the 13th century church called St. Etienne du Mont, St. Stephen of the Mount. We sang a choral Mass setting – I forget the composer – in this amazingly gorgeous and historic church that was served by Maurice and Marie-Madeline Durufle as staff musicians for many years, and it dawned on me that we were singing a Mass setting in a church in which the Mass had been celebrated daily for at least 475 years (with a slight pause at the French Revolution). I had seen their service times on the way in, and decided to attend their simple daily Mass the next morning at 8:30 a.m., and it was at that service that I literally recognized the Lord in the breaking of the bread. When Fr. Stéphane elevated the consecrated communion bread for all to behold, my eyes were opened, and I recognized Jesus and knew what it was I had been missing.
Part of what hit me that day is that salvation isn’t merely a spiritual redemption of our hearts, it’s almost a physical redemption of our bodies. God’s grace is more than a feeling, and thank God, because sometimes I wondered whether the funny feeling right here is the voice of God or indigestion. God’s grace is more than a feeling, and God sent Jesus to redeem our whole selves – heart, soul, mind, and body. He doesn’t only share his love grace with us by intangible means like quiet prayer and reflection, but perhaps even more importantly by tangible fruit of the earth and work of human hands, the simple creatures of bread and wine. God didn’t send his son to redeem us as a disembodied spirit, but as a human being with flesh and blood and bones. He doesn’t send his Holy Spirit to us and leave us wondering whether the voice we’re hearing is the voice of God or a ghost; he has given us the sacraments of the church – especially Baptism and Communion – as “a sure and certain means” by which we receive God’s inward and spiritual grace.
As soon as their eyes were opened, the first thing the disciples did – the same hour, they got up and found their friends to joyfully tell them that the Lord has risen indeed and that he has been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
This sharing of the faith, sometimes called evangelism, conjures up images of street preachers with megaphones and door-to-door missionaries in foreign countries. But evangelism at its best is the natural sharing of the faith with those you already know and have a relationship with. While it should be intentional, evangelism should not be judg-y or pushy or disrespectful. When we encounter God in our lives – through prayer, through the hug of a friend, through the scriptures preached and taught, and through the bread and wine of Holy Communion – it’s natural to want to share the joy of that encounter with others in word and deed.
And this leads us to the blessing of the new shrine of St. Luke “the Evangelist.” When this parish church began in 1854, we were called St. Luke's. The Vestry voted to change out name to St. Mary's nearly twenty years later to avail itself of the provision in Mary Ann Troost's will that a plot of land at 13th and Holmes be given to an Episcopal parish called St. Mary's. If you've ever been here on St. Luke's Day in October, you've heard me do my best to keep the stories of our forbears alive - the key people, some of the events, and the spirit of reckless abandon in which the clergy and people spread the gospel in the fledgling "Town of Kansas" (now Kansas City) following the example of St. Luke the Evangelist.
St. Luke, the apostle who is traditionally known to have written the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, was a companion of St. Paul on some of his missionary journeys, and he was also a physician who used his medical skills to heal people’s bodies as well as their souls. As you’ll see in the details of the icon itself, Luke is also honored as patron of artists. According to tradition, he was the first person to paint an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary which he is holding. We return to our roots today by dedicating this new shrine which invites us to connect with the apostolic witness of St. Luke and his writings, inspires us by his example of evangelism and healing and artistic beauty, and invites us to ask for his prayers and protection.
Dear friends, as we break bread together in a moment, let us ask the Lord to open the eyes of our faith. You may have heard the scriptures preached and taught throughout your life and you mentally assent to belief in Jesus, and yet something seems missing. You may recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread as you have for the past several decades of your life. You may think the whole resurrection of Jesus is a load of hogwash. No matter how isolated or lonely or full of despair you may feel, no matter how your hopes may have been crushed, like the two travelers on the road to Emmaus, you are invited to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. We break bread not in isolation, but in community with one another. And here at St. Mary’s Church, we affirm that God meets you where you are, no matter where you are in your journey, no matter your station in life.
At St. Mary’s, we have services every day, and I end up celebrating the Eucharist 2-3 times a week. Twenty years later, it is quite common for me to elevate the consecrated bread and be taken back to that time when I was a Baptist missionary in Paris at the age of 23…when I first recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. As we break bread together today, may you and I behold Jesus in all his redeeming work. Amen.
Matthew 28:1-10, Acts 10:34-43
Fr. Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
April 9, 2023
On many Sundays throughout the year, it would be commonplace for the average person to come to church not knowing what the theme of the liturgy will be. Today is not one of those days. On Easter Day, we know what to expect.
On this day, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – body, blood, soul and divinity. We hear the story of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary at the tomb of Jesus. An angel appears dramatically like lightning, rolls away the stone, and proclaims that Jesus has been raised from the day as he said. Faced with the angel and the revealing of the empty tomb, the guards were terrified. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid.” Then, Jesus greets them– body, blood, soul and divinity. The two women take hold of his feet with their hands and worship him. He says, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers and sisters to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary didn’t show up at the tomb and encounter what they expected to see, nor were they anticipating what would happen on their way to tell the others what they had seen.
In the epistle lesson from the book of Acts, we heard a post-resurrection sermon preached by St. Peter just after the dramatic conversion of the Roman centurion Cornelius. (Cornelius is a Gentile but worships the God of the Hebrews.) As he is saying his evening prayers, he experiences something he certainly wasn’t expecting to experience. Cornelius has a vision in which an angel instructs him to go and call for Peter, who is an observant Jew. While Cornelius’ men are on their way to him, Peter has a bizarre vision in which a voice tells him to kill and eat animals considered profane under Jewish dietary law. He is shocked and doesn’t know what to make of this. Cornelius’ men show up, and Peter accompanies them to meet Cornelius who had gathered his family and friends. Peter acknowledges to the group that as a Jew, he isn’t lawfully permitted to mingle with Gentiles, but because God has shown him that he shouldn’t call anyone profane or unclean, he agrees to come to see him. He asks Cornelius, “Now may I ask why you sent for me?” Peter is beginning to get the message but isn’t quite there yet. Cornelius describes his vision, and as we heard in verse 34, the light finally clicks with Peter and he understands what God is trying to say to him. He says, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
This past week, on social media, I came across a meme which consists of images of Jesus washing various peoples’ feet, including Joe Biden, Donald Trump, a gay man, a prisoner, a Ukrainian mother and child, a young black man, an exhausted nurse, an orphaned toddler, a police officer, Pope Francis, and a young woman ignoring Jesus and focusing on her phone. It is a grouping of images that is designed to trigger each of us in some way or another. While the message seems easy enough to understand – Jesus shows no impartiality and is the servant of all – I began to see people saving and reposting the images but having first deleted the images of Jesus washing the feet of those they don’t like. Oh, the irony.
Like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, Peter was stubborn, and it took more than God’s still, soft voice in his ear to cause the scales to fall from his eyes and realize that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead truly means that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Fearing God and doing right echo the ancient Jewish summary of the law: the first and greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. In the resurrected Christ, the old law has been fulfilled. The old boundaries that separated ancient Israel and her neighbors that once were important were destroyed when Christ was raised from the dead.
We are often like Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Peter. When we perceive that God is leading us somewhere that is unexpected and uncomfortable, we are terrified, and because of our fear, we cannot hear the message God wants us to hear. Despite God’s impartiality being a part of the DNA of the Christian faith from the very beginning, we Christians, as a whole, are not known for freely and authentically accepting those who are different than we are into our faith communities primarily, in my opinion, because of fear. Fear of impurity, fear of how we’ll be perceived by others, fear of the hard work that is required to be in relationship with someone who makes us uncomfortable.
At Easter, we hear the Scripture readings and sing the hymns and see the beautiful flowers we expect to see. We celebrate Christ’s resurrection with all the joy we can muster in the beauty of holiness, with the finest music, with all of the expected things. But of all the things we do this morning, the most awesome and terrifying is coming face to face with our resurrected Lord in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. The same Jesus who rose from the dead on that first Easter Day is the same Jesus - body, blood, soul and divinity – who meets us at this altar in the simple creatures of bread and wine. We kneel at the altar rail next to someone who looks and dresses and perhaps smells differently than we do; someone who, no matter their station in life, God loves with no partiality. We all kneel at the same rail and encounter the same risen Christ, and we all eat and drink that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood.
Dear friends, as we encounter our risen Lord at this altar, let us heed the words of the angels: do not be afraid. And as we come face to face with those who are different than we are in the most triggering way, here in church and out in the world, let us remember that “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all are one in Christ Jesus.” Thanks be to God, we have nothing to fear – even death itself – for Christ is risen! Alleluia!
 Prayer of Humble Access, 1928 BCP.
 Galatians 3:28, NRSV.
St. Mary’s Church
The Rev’d Charles Everson
Last night, we began the Sacred Triddum of Easter with the Mass of Maundy Thursday. The theme of yesterday’s celebration was Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. The setting of the Last Supper in Matthew, Mark, and Luke is during great Jewish festival of the Passover which celebrates the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt. In the synoptic gospels, the Passion and death of Christ happen after Passover. In the gospel of John, however, the Last Supper is not presented as a Passover meal, and the timeline is moved up a bit. The Last Supper happens on the night before he dies, and Christ’s passion and death are set during the Passover. Scholars debate the precise reason for this apparent chronological discrepancy, but in any case, in St. John’s gospel, Jesus dies during the sacrificing of the lambs in the temple.
As we heard in last night’s reading from the book of Exodus, at Passover, the Hebrews were to slaughter a lamb, smear some of its blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses, and then eat the lamb. When God passed through the land to slay the first-born sons of the Egyptians, he would pass by the Israelites’ houses and spare their first-born sons, delivering them from death by the blood of the lamb.
This sacrificing business was a bloody, gruesome affair. Last night, I had the privilege of singing in the choir, and during the reading of that passage from Exodus, when the stuff about the smearing of the blood and the way the lamb was to be roasted and eaten were described in gory detail, several of the choristers developed a slight look of disgust on their faces – well, disgust and maybe a little giggling.
And yet here we are on Good Friday, face to face with the bloody, gruesome death of Our Savior. In his passion narrative, John gives two connections between Jesus’ death and the Passover.
Right before his death on the cross, Our Lord says, “I am thirsty.” His friends put a sponge full of wine on a branch of hyssop and hold it to his mouth. The hyssop branch was readily available because hyssop was used at Passover to smear the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintel and doorposts of the Hebrews’ houses and was used ceremonially in the temple during Jesus’ day. And just after the passage we heard, the solders broke the legs of the other two men crucified next to Jesus to speed up their death. But by the time they got to Jesus, they saw he was already dead and saw no need to break his legs. John explains that this occurred “so that the Scripture might be filled, “None of his bones shall be broken,”” a reference back to the Passover instructions not to break any of the Paschal Lamb’s bones.
The parallel is poignant: Jesus hangs on the cross at the same time that the Paschal lambs are being slaughtered in the temple. Once a meal to connect the Hebrews to their covenant with God, Jesus made the Passover lamb into the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Jesus’ death on the cross would accomplish once and for all what the blood of thousands of lambs could never do. Jesus was the perfect Passover lamb who ended the need for animal sacrifices and changed the meaning of the Passover itself.
While the Passover lamb itself was not for the atoning of sins, the sacrificial system of Judaism included the sin offerings of goats and lambs and bulls and doves. In these rituals, the life of the animal was given as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people.
On that cross, by his blood, Jesus did away with the need for animal sacrifices. Jesus is truly the Lamb of God, the ultimate Passover sacrifice.
The Church talks about the Eucharist as a bloodless sacrifice. Yes, we believe the consecrated wine is Christ’s precious blood, but none of us believe that we are drinking human blood. I think tawny port has a more pleasant taste than blood. But the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross was a bloody, gruesome affair and involved real human flesh and blood.
Why did God send his own son to die for us? Why the need for all this blood? While there are many atonement theories and just as many criticisms of each of them, there is no getting around the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was a sacrificial atonement for our sins.
The first bit of Eucharistic Prayer 1 in our prayer book sums up the whole affair quite nicely. The Celebrant prays,
All glory be to thee, O Lord our God, for that thou didst create heaven and earth, and didst make us in thine own image; and, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to take our nature upon him, and to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption. He made there a full and perfect sacrifice for the whole world;
Just after Jesus received the wine on that branch of hyssop, recalling the blood of the Paschal Lamb on the lintel and doorposts at Passover, Jesus said, ““It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
Dear friend, Jesus is the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world. We sing or say these words at Mass to signify the end of the consecration of the elements and that Christ is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine. In other words, “It is finished.” At every Eucharist, we celebrate the Passover anew in our own day and time, renewing our covenant with God, and continuing a perpetual memory of Jesus’s death on the cross for our sins. As we receive his body and blood into our own bodies, we renew our commitment to Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, who, in the words of our post-communion hymn, “died that we might be forgiven, he died to make us good, that we might go at last to heaven, saved by his precious blood.” Amen.
 NRSV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, 1864.
 Ibid 1869.
 John 19:36.
Fifth Sunday in Lent – Year A
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Church
“I am the resurrection and the life,” saith the Lord. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”
Since before medieval times, these words have been said at the beginning of the burial rites of the English Church, and post-1789, of The Episcopal Church. And this is a meet and right thing so to do as these two verses encapsulate the Christian view of both life and death.
In today’s lengthy gospel reading, we hear the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. As the story begins, we hear that Lazarus, a close friend of Jesus, has fallen ill. His sisters, Mary and Martha, send word to Jesus, hoping that he will come and heal their brother. But Jesus delays, on purpose it seems, and by the time he arrives, Lazarus has already died and been buried four days. When Jesus arrives, he is greeted by Martha, who says to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus responds by saying, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha, responds by saying, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” But Jesus has something else in mind. He says to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
What does it mean for Jesus to be the resurrection and the life? For Jesus to be the resurrection means that physical death has no power over those who believe in Jesus. Our future is determined by our faith in Christ, not by our death. For Jesus to be the life means that all of our present reality is also transformed by Christ’s resurrection. In other words, at our baptism, we begin to experience eternal life here and now. 
Next, he asks Martha, “Do you believe this?” Martha responds with a powerful confession of faith: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
With these words, Martha affirms her faith in Jesus as the one who has power over death and the one who has come to bring new life. This new life we began to live at our baptism is not devoid of drama and high emotion as we see in Jesus’s encounter with Martha’s sister Mary. When he sees her weeping, he is “greatly disturbed in spirit and troubled” with the RSV’s translation being a bit tame. The text isn’t saying that Jesus is with in compassion with Mary in her grief. The Greek word translated as “greatly disturbed in spirit” connotates anger and indignation, and the word translated as troubled also can mean agitated. Later at Lazarus’s tomb, he is “deeply moved” or “disturbed” again. Jesus is angry at something, and Mary is beside herself with grief. While biblical scholars disagree on why he is angry, the Greek text is clear that Jesus is indeed angry. His weeping is in the midst of his anger. It’s painful to envision Jesus wailing and crying out in anger. Yes, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, but he doesn’t shy away from expressing the deepest of human emotions.
I think it might be helpful for us to remember this the next time our emotions get the best of us, and even more importantly the next time someone else’s emotions seem way over the top. Because we have chosen to follow Jesus, death no longer has ultimate hold over us. But we who are above ground breathing in this world – we who experience, like our Lord, the drama of everyday life with its highs and lows, the dark anger and ridiculous joy – we who live and believe in Him will never die. In the resurrected life we begin to experience in the here and now, our priorities are changed. 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. We try to live our lives focused on others, especially those most in need, but sometimes, unlike Jesus, our deepest emotions overcome us and we forget that we have died to sin and been raised to newness of life.
Thanks be to God, as we heard in the opening collect, God can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men (and women). Even those of us whose dark emotions sometimes get the best of us, and perhaps even those of us who judge those whose emotions don’t always stay within the neat and tidy confines of polite society.
As Lent grinds to a close, we continue to ask the Lord to order our unruly wills and affections. But five weeks in, we know full well that our wills and affections, marred by sin, aren’t easily ordered by anyone, God included. It won’t be until Resurrection at the Last Day that we will fully love “the thing that God commandest and desire that which he dost promise.” Like Martha, it’s easy for us to believe Jesus when he says he is the resurrection, but today he reminds us that he is also the life. For Lazarus, his newness of life begins not in his future, but his present. The point of this story is not that Lazarus was raised from the dead, for not long after this story, he dies again, and this time he stays dead. The real point is that Jesus is Lord of both the living and the dead and that his voice carries through even the walls of the grave. Even through our tears and emotional outbursts. Even when we fail at keeping our Lenten disciplines. Even when we are faced with the gruesome torture and execution of our Lord as we will be during Holy Week.
“I am the resurrection and the life,” saith the Lord. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” May these words of Our Lord sustain us through the gate of death at Calvary to the joy of the empty tomb at Easter.
 John 11:25-26
 New Interpreter’s Bible 585.
 NIB 586.
Fourth Sunday in Lent
The Rev’d Charles Everson
John 9:1-13, 28-38
March 19, 2023
Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? Are you saved?
This is a question many of us have been asked, and some of may have asked it of others. In certain corners of the Christian faith, it is taught that this is how you become a Christian: at the moment in time when you admit to yourself and to God that you are a sinner, and you ask Jesus to come into your heart, you are “saved” and then are guaranteed a spot in heaven.
When I was 11, my step-dad got transferred to Texas, and once we got settled there, some friends at school invited me to a youth group gathering at Trinity Oaks Baptist Church in Red Oak, Texas. It was there I had such an experience. And wow, was it an emotional experience! I felt closer to God than I had ever been – as if I had met him for the first time and all of my spiritual and emotional wounds were healed! I was convinced that what they were telling me was true. Finally, I knew I’d get to heaven!
The youth pastor and other, having heard about my experience, encouraged me to be baptized. For the Baptists, baptism is something you do in response to the purely inward and spiritual act of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. No grace is imparted in the waters of baptism. You get baptized only out of obedience as an outward sign of what has already happened in your heart.
In the passage we heard from the gospel of John, we see the conversion story of a man who was born blind. Jesus brought about healing and wholeness to the blind man not by teaching him what to pray or what to believe, but by spitting on the ground and making clay with the saliva and spreading it on the man’s eyes, then saying, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”. So he went and washed and came back able to see. This man’s conversion involved clay from the earth, Jesus’ saliva, the touch of his hands, and the words he spoke.
It wasn’t until years after my “conversion experience” at age 11 that I learned that this is exactly how the Sacraments of the Church work! By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus infuses and transforms the simple creatures of water, bread and wine, and oil in order to communicate his grace, his healing, his wholeness to us. Salvation isn’t just something that happens in the secret places of our hearts, it is also something that happens to the body. There really isn’t any room in Christianity for separating the two.
This passage also exposes another unhealthy dualism that was as common in Jesus’s time as it is in our own. As Jesus passed the blind man, his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Many of us get it in our heads that if things are going well for me, God must be happy with me. On the other hand, if my life is going to hell in a handbasket, God must be unhappy with me. I must have done something wrong.
Friends, that isn’t Christianity. God’s grace and favor toward us are by definition unearned and undeserved and not related to anything we may have done or left undone.
Rather than treating the human body and soul as separate things, from the earliest of times, the Church has taught that we are one, whole, fully integrated person that is, in a sense, born blind. We are all born with the tendency to sin, and once we’re old enough and have the ability to choose right from wrong, we often choose to engage in sin.
This past Friday night, Bishop Bruce was here and she baptized and confirmed a young woman named Jordan (Jordan works on Sundays, so she’s been coming during the week), and she confirmed eight others: Jami, Aaron, Kait, Monica, Abby, Matthew, Cat, and Minor. Using the tangible elements of water, and the bishop’s hands, God’s grace was bestowed on these nine persons. Each of them acknowledged in their heart and publicly before this faith community and the Almighty that he or she is a sinner. By water and the Holy Spirit, God bestowed the forgiveness of sins on Jordan. The others renewed the covenant they made at their baptism (or was made on their behalf when they were infants) and by the laying on of the bishop’s hands and the Holy Spirit, they were strengthened with God’s heavenly grace and empowered to do the ministry God has called them to do as mature Christians.
While I know some of them better than others, it is certain that they all came to God for his grace on Friday from very different upbringings, experiences, and having made very different moral choices throughout their lives. Jesus met each of them where they are, and using physical elements transformed by the Holy Spirit bestowed his grace on them, not because they were worthy because of their own merit or success, but because God lavishly bestows his grace and love to those who don’t deserve it at all.
That powerful moment at Trinity Oaks Baptist Church at the young age of 11 was certainly when I realized for the first time that I was a sinner and in need of redemption. But I had been baptized as a young child at Village Presbyterian Church in Mission, Kansas. While she may not have had the theological language to explain why, my mother knew that baptism was once and for all and did not want me to get baptized again. I was a persistent and unruly child and ended up wearing her down, so she relented, and I ultimately got dunked by the Baptists. But in hindsight, I don’t think that was the moment I became destined for heaven, nor was my baptism when I was a child for that matter. When asked now if I’m saved, I respond, “I was saved, I am being saved, I will be saved.” Salvation isn’t a one-time event, but rather the culmination of a continual cycle of death and resurrection – of falling to sin and repenting and returning to the Lord – that begins at baptism and ends at the resurrection of the body at the Last Day, peppered with spiritual highs and lows and everywhere in between, littered with good and bad choices, and continually nourished by God’s grace given to us freely and undeservedly in the Sacraments of the Church.
And now, as we do week after week, we come to the altar of God and ask the Lord to bless and sanctify, by his Word and Holy Spirit, the simple creatures of bread and wine, receiving God’s pardon and peace in our bodies and in our souls, and eating of that foretaste of the heavenly banquet, giving us hope that just as Christ was raised from the dead, so we will be raised at the last day. Dear friends, let us run with haste to this altar as the wise men did to Bethlehem to greet our Savior Jesus Christ who came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world, confident that he will evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him. Amen.
Wednesday, March 8, 2023
The Rev’d Charles Everson
1 Thess. 4:13-18
When I was 32-years-old, I began to discern a call to ordained ministry in The Episcopal Church. The call previously manifested itself in a Southern Baptist context, and it never really left during the time I was Roman Catholic and eventually Episcopalian. During the interview process with the Commission on Ministry in Kansas, I was asked the typical questions: “Why do you feel called to be a priest” and “What excites you most about the thought of leading a parish” and so on. One question I hadn’t thought about before then was, “What causes you the most fear and anxiety when you envision life as a priest?” The answer came to me immediately without any additional thought: “I am afraid of dealing with death. The thought of being pastoral with those who are dying, and with their families, is scary to me.”
Death is not something we deal with very well in our day and age. When this building was built in 1887, life expectancy in the United States was 41.1 years of age and by 2020, it had climbed to 78.81 years of age. When the average person dies at the age of 40, death is part of human existence from a very early age. I didn’t experience death of a close family member until my grandmother died when I was 20.
Not long after that Commission on Ministry interview, I was called on to officiate a funeral of the 17-year-old son of a co-worker at the bank who had hung himself from a tree. Two years later, the bank owner’s son died at the age of 20 of a drug overdose. My second funeral here at St. Mary’s was for now parishioners Erika and Bryan Atkins’ daughter who died tragically at the age of 18, and just this week, my step-dad’s best friend’s 33-year-old son named Tim died suddenly and I’ve been asked to officiate his funeral.
I no longer fear death. No matter when death occurs – tragically at a young age, or after a long and fruitful life full of love – fear is no longer part of my experience. But sadness and grief certainly are. As Paul says to the Church at Thessalonica, we Christians do not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. This isn’t an intangible hope that we just feel in our hearts, it is palpable and manifested perhaps most fully in the gritty elements of bread and wine. In the Eucharist, we are given a foretaste of the heavenly banquet when we will be united with Jesus and those in Heaven in a way we can’t even begin to fathom. When we receive the bread and wine, we are given a sure and certain hope that one day, we will be reunited with those we love but see no more.
Dear friends, as we celebrate this requiem mass, we grieve and mourn our beloved dead, but we do so without fear. For Christ has conquered death, and through these simple creatures of bread and wine, we have hope that we will feast with them in heaven where there is no death, neither sorrow nor crying, but the fulness of joy with all the saints.
First Sunday in Lent
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
February 25, 2023
As we begin our forty days and forty nights in the wilderness of Lent, we hear Matthew’s account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. But first is the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. They are in paradise, and all is well in the world. Along comes a serpent with cunning words, and the next thing you know, Adam and Eve fall for his lies and treachery and paradise is lost, seemingly forever.
Then we hear the story of Jesus’s temptation by the devil. While Adam and Eve are in garden with all of the sustenance they need and all the beautiful weather they could ask for, Jesus is famished in the wilderness left to struggle with his temptation alone.
In the first temptation, the tempter quotes Scripture and encourages Jesus to satisfy his physical hunger by turning stones into bread. He says, “If you are the Son of God,” but this doesn’t mean that he’s expressing doubt about who Jesus is. The word “if” could be translated from the Greek as “since” – “since you are the Son of God.” He’s rather trying to deceive Jesus into using his power to satisfy his own physical needs rather than trusting God the Father for them. Jesus responds not with his own words, but by quoting Scripture, affirming that life is sustained by more than physical food; it is sustained by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Jesus will not misuse his power to satisfy his own physical needs.
The second test focuses on the need for security and safety. The devil quotes Scripture again, and this time, he tempts Jesus to make himself safe from injury or even death. Jesus recognizes once again that the devil is taking Scripture out of context: the Hebrew Bible does not endorse testing God’s protective grace for the sake of self-protection. Jesus will not misuse his power to make himself safe and secure.
In the third temptation, the devil tries to seduce Jesus with prestige. He offers him control over all the kingdoms of the world, along with the glory and splendor that comes with that, if he will only swear allegiance to the devil. Jesus rejects the tempter’s deception and quotes Scripture again in context saying, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” Jesus will not misuse his power to gain earthly power and prestige.
Just as Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, so we will be this Lent. Jesus didn’t respond to temptation as Adam did by succumbing to it, or fleeing to another selfish vice to escape, or by complaining to God, or by wondering what he may have done wrong to deserve it. He responded by deepening his dependence on God. The very temptations he experienced – materialism, false security, and prestige – are not foreign to us. We experience them every day. Consumerism is ubiquitous in our culture, something I’m reminded of when I look at my Amazon purchase history. In the richest country in the world, we often misuse our vast resources to try to make ourselves safer at the expense of the vulnerable and marginalized. And as Fr. Sean mentioned last week, Christianity isn’t looked upon favorably by many in our culture. We are regularly subjected to temptations to compromise our faith or values in order to gain prestige before others. We learn from our Lord that the appropriate response in resisting these and all temptations is to turn to God for help instead of relying on our own power.
Unlike the other accounts of Jesus’ temptation in Mark and Luke, Matthew’s account tells us Jesus being tempted after having fasted for forty days and forty nights. For Matthew, Jesus’ time of fasting was a time of preparation for temptation, not the means by which it happens. It was his intentional forty days and forty nights of fasting that prepared him to endure and ultimately overcome these temptations by the devil.
Intentional self-denial is helpful in the spiritual life because it reveals the things that control us. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but by denying ourselves, the things that control us come to the surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed. Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear – if they are within us, they will surface during intentional periods of fasting and self-denial. When they surface, we will be tempted not only to stop denying ourselves, but also to sin. If we’re properly prepared and watching for these things to surface, we can then respond as Jesus did: we can turn to God for help and rely on his grace to strengthen our will to choose to overcome all assaults and temptations of the devil. Self-denial reminds us that we are sustained “by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (v. 4). Whatever it is that we’re giving up – that is not what sustains us; God sustains us. When we give something up during Lent, we are learning to rely on God to give us everything that we need and more. 
During the coming weeks, our fasting and self-denial will engage the dark places in our hearts, giving us an opportunity to come face to face with them, name them, understand them, and seek forgiveness for them. We will be tempted to rely on our own strength rather than the grace of God to overcome temptation. We will fall into sin and then be further tempted to allow the guilt we feel to hold us captive. Rather than being about guilt, Lent is about freedom from the control that our fears and insecurities have over us. It is about the amendment of life and new beginnings.
…new beginnings which are possible because as we will sing in our offertory hymn, in the “loving wisdom of our God, when all was sin and shame, a second Adam to the fight and to the rescue came.” Friends, paradise was not lost forever when Adam and Eve sinned. Human flesh and blood failed in Adam, but we strive afresh against that ancient foe, again and again, knowing that we will ultimately prevail not because of anything we’ve done, but because God’s free gift of grace redeems our flesh and blood through the one man Jesus Christ.
Dear friends, as we are tempted this Lent, let us ask the Lord to come quickly to help us, and as he knows the weaknesses of each of us, let each of us find him mighty to save. Amen.
 David Lyon Bartlett, and Barbara Brown Taylor. Feasting on the Word. Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009, 47-49.
 Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, pp. 54-55.
 Feasting 48.
 “Praise to the holiest in the height” by John Henry Newman.
The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
February 19, 2023
What are you giving up for Lent?
That was a question that I heard during my teenage years around this time of the year from my then Roman Catholic stepfather. I was a very uptight, self-righteous Southern Baptist kid, and let me tell you, Lent was one of the more irritating aspects of Roman Catholicism to me, perhaps partly because my stepfather always gave up something seemingly trite like chocolate or potato chips. How is that a sacrifice that leads you closer to Jesus? Lent represented everything about dead ritual that I thought needed to go.
Since then, I’ve experienced Lent twenty times over, and it has grown on me. A lot. The Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving have forced me to grow spiritually, but they are not easy. They are difficult – on purpose! – and usually bring with them some spiritual twists and turns in the wilderness.
As we prepare for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness of Lent, we hear Matthew’s account of the transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor as well as the much older story of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. These two glorious mountaintop experiences were essential in preparing those present for the arduous task ahead of them: for Moses and the Hebrew people, for their forty-year journey through the wilderness begins; and for Jesus and the disciples, for the painful journey of the terrible last days of Jesus’ earthly life. As we begin our Lenten journey to the Cross, we hear of these mountaintop experiences in all their glory and wonder if God will give us what we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross for these long forty days and forty nights.
The truth of the matter is that denying ourselves and taking up our cross isn’t just something we do during Lent. Just before this story in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, “‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Aaron, by choosing to be baptized, this is the life you’re choosing to willingly to take on. In a moment, amongst other things, you will promise to renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God, and to follow and obey Jesus as your Lord. In the waters of baptism, you will be buried with Christ in his death. Thanks be to God, you won’t stay dead. St. Paul says, “Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” To Moses, God appeared as a devouring fire. And before the sight of the disciples, Jesus was transfigured with his face shining as the sun and his garments white as light. Today, Aaron, you will encounter the very same God in the waters of baptism and be reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Beginning with baptism, the Sacraments of the Church are a continuation of God’s incarnation in the world in the baby in the manager at Bethlehem. In the Sacraments, God is made manifest to us, not as a devouring fire or transfigured in garments of white, but through water and oil. In bread and wine.
Aaron, when you join us at the altar and make your first communion, know that the same Christ who stood on Mount Tabor with his face shining as the sun is the same Christ who will enter the very depths of your body and soul. He who is at the right hand of God will manifest himself in this most Holy Sacrament as really and fully as if he were visibly here. We take and eat of his sacred Body and Blood as truly as St. Thomas touched Jesus’ hands and put his hand into his side. When he went up on the holy mount, his face shone as the sun and his garments were white as light. By faith, this is what we see in the consecrated bread and wine, despite everything looking as usual to the passerby. In the simple creatures of bread and wine, God conveys to our bodies and souls his own gracious self as food for the journey, giving us the grace we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow him.
While self-denial is a daily aspect of Christian life, it is intensified during Lent. Through intentional prayer, fasting, and giving to those in need, the Church invites us to we get back to the basics of our spiritual lives and in a sense retrain ourselves how to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. As I have for the past few year, I am giving up both chocolate and potato chips in thanksgiving for my stepdad who kept up many of the routine religious practices that have become so dear to me, and yes, I am also giving up something more substantive and sacrificial. If any of the last twenty years is an indication, I will fail at some point, and as we will all say in a moment, when I fall into sin, I will repent and return to the Lord with God’s help, especially through the strength and assurance of the Sacraments of the Church: through the grace I received at my baptism, and through the routine spiritual disciplines of frequent confession and absolution and frequent reception of Holy Communion.
Dear friends, let us celebrate with joy Aaron’s entrance into the household of God and the beginning of his new life of grace, and renew our own baptismal promises. And let us come to this altar with wonder and delight and awe, as if we were standing on Mount Tabor before the transfigured Christ. As we receive Our Lord into the depths of our being, let us hear anew the voice of the Father saying how much he loves us and that he has adopted us as his sons and daughters. And let us us begin our Lenten journey this Wednesday confident that God, in all of his dazzling glory, will sustain us with the love and grace we’ve received on this holy mount through the temptations of Lent, through the suffering of Holy Week and, and lead us to the glory of the resurrection at Easter. Amen.
 The italicized text is a paraphrase of language in John Henry Newman’s Sermon 9: https://www.newmanreader.org/works/parochial/volume4/sermon9.html
The Third Sunday after the Epiphany
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
January 22, 2023
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
When you hear this phrase out of context, it doesn’t sound like good news. Like me, many of you have been part of a Christian community that uses this phrase as a weapon. Hearing it read aloud may be disturbing, but it was indeed something our Lord said in this passage from the book of Matthew which announces the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry.
John the Baptist had just been arrested for his announcing of the kingdom of heaven and for criticizing King Herod, and in response, Jesus withdrew to Galilee. The Greek word translated here as “withdrew” connotates fleeing – it’s the same word used to describe Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fleeing to Egypt because of King Herod’s evil deeds toward the Jewish people. He flees from Nazareth to Capernaum which is on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee, “in the territory of Zebulun and Natphtali.” Zabulun and Natphtali were the old Assyrian names of the Israelite tribal territories in northwest Galilee from the 8th century BC when the Assyrian Empire annexed them and sent the Hebrews into exile. The use of these old names would have been striking to those in the first century – perhaps a bit like referring to Istanbul as Constantinople, or New York City as New Amsterdam. Matthew doesn’t use these old names for nostalgia’s sake, he uses them to reiterate that Jesus’s move to this part of Israel is a fulfillment of the prophecy we heard in Isaiah 9. The people who sat in darkness refers back to the Hebrews who had been exiled by the Assyrians so long ago in Isaiah’s time. They are the ones to whom God will bring the light. Now, the people who live in the same geographic area are again ruled by the Gentiles – this time, the Roman Empire. And Matthew proclaims that they are receiving that light promised so long ago in the person of Jesus.
This is the context of Jesus’s declaration, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” This is the same message that John the Baptist proclaimed to prepare the way of the Lord, but the difference is, Jesus himself is the inbreaking of the kingdom of heaven. John is the long-expected one who will save Israel from their enemies, he is the one who will bring the exiles home, he is the one who will give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, he is the one who will heal the sick, he is the one who will guide our feet into the way of peace.
And, even better news - this promise that the kingdom of heaven is at hand isn’t about how to escape from this world into another one, it’s about God’s reign coming “on earth as it is in heaven.” It’s not about the afterlife, it’s about the here and now.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Jesus then started walking by the Sea of Galilee and saw Simon Peter and Andrew as they were fishing. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The text says “immediately” they left their nets and followed him. The putting down of their nets meant that they left their livelihood to follow him. When their two other brothers, James and John, decided to follow him, they left not only their nets and their boat, but their father. These disciples gave up literally everything – their means of an income, even their families.
It is the conclusion of this passage where we see the inbreaking of the kingdom of heaven begin to be played out. Matthew says, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.” The area around Galilee it was inhabited primarily by Gentiles (those who are not Jewish), meaning Jesus was not only teaching God’s chosen people who were viewed as insiders, he was proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing those who were considered outsiders.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Friends, rather than spiritual weapon, this is a beautiful promise! The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. This is good news that so many in our world need to hear, whether it’s those who are the most marginalized those without housing, or those wrongfully imprisoned, or those who are told to repent of something that is innate to their very being – or even those of us who have plenty but are struggling with mental or physical illness. Jesus himself is that great light, and he continues to proclaim “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Like Peter and Andrew, he asks us to follow him, no matter the cost. Like Peter and Andrew, he makes us “fishers of men” – Jesus gives us everything we need to invite others to follow him.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
 Working Preacher: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=4366
 Michael David. Coogan, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version: with the Apocrypha: an Ecumenical Study Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 980.
 Feasting 287.
Epiphany 2 – John 1:29-41
The Rev’d Charles Everson
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church
January 15, 2023
Last week, we heard the story of the Baptism of Jesus from St. Matthew’s perspective, and today, we heard St. John’s retelling of what he saw. Matthew described Jesus’s actual baptism in detail, but in telling the same story, John is more interested in focusing on the signs that might lead others to believe in Jesus as the Son of God. Matthew, Mark, and Luke reveal Jesus’s identity as the Messiah gradually over time, but not so with John. Right out of the gate, he begins his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Just before today’s passage, John the Baptist enters the scene and identifies himself as the voice crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” quoting the prophet Isaiah. He says that he is not the Messiah, and that he is not worthy to untie the thong of the sandal of the one who is coming after him. The next day, John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him and responds, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” On other words, Look! This is the one I’ve been telling you about! John doesn’t describe Jesus as a royal conqueror or as a warrior – that would have made a lot of sense, as the Jews were expecting an earthly, political Messiah – he calls him the Lamb of God. Instead of an all-powerful being who would deliver God’s people in power and might, God chose to send the Messiah as a weak lamb like the one the Hebrews sacrificed each year at Passover.
From Exodus 12, we know that at the Passover, the Hebrews were to slaughter a lamb, smear some of its blood on the doorposts and lintels of their houses, and then eat the lamb. When God passed through the land to slay the first-born sons of the Egyptians, he would pass by the Israelites’ houses and spare their first-born sons, delivering them from death by the blood of the lamb. This is the first of several times that John links Jesus with the paschal lamb. And very early on, Christians reinterpreted Passover symbolism in light of the Eucharist. Paul says in First Corinthians, “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast,” a phrase that many of us know from the Rite II Eucharistic liturgy in our prayer book. We also are familiar with the Agnus Dei, the traditional fraction anthem: “O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.” There’s another moment in the historic Western liturgy where Jesus is referred to as a lamb, and that is just before the priest receives communion. You all are used to me turning around and showing you the consecrated bread and wine while saying, “The gifts of God for the people of God,” a phrase that the revisers our prayer book borrowed from the East. The traditional text when the Sacrament is shown to the faithful is John the Baptist’s joyful and exciting proclamation upon seeing Jesus: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sins of the world.”
John responds the same way when he sees Jesus the next day: “Behold the Lamb of God”, but this time, Andrew and Simon Peter heard him say this and decided to follow Jesus.
You’ve heard me refer to my time as a Baptist missionary in Paris, France, in my young twenties. My faith was young and fresh and full of vigor, and I felt called to say, proverbially or literally to anyone who would listen, “Behold the Lamb of God!” But I don’t recall anyone responding by choosing to follow Jesus as quickly as Andrew and Simon Peter did!
But perhaps the point isn’t looking for immediate results. After John the Baptist’s exciting proclamation, Jesus asks Simon Peter and Andrew, “What do you seek?” They ask him where he’s staying, and he says to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw and “stayed with him that day”, a Greek phrase that essentially means that they went to hang out with Jesus. It was this deep, intimate encounter with him that led Peter to confess, “We have found the Messiah.”
This is the pattern of evangelism that is an inherent and integral part of the Christian faith. In a moment, after the Eucharistic prayer, I will turn around and present to you the body and blood of Christ and say, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sins of the world.” Whether it be in a golden chalice or in the face of the poor, when we see Jesus, we are called to joyfully make him known to those around us in word and in deed. Thanks be to God, we aren’t responsible for how they respond. But we are called to be to them, in a sense, the “star of the east” that guided the Wise Men to where the infant redeemer was laid.
On Tuesday, I gave a tour of the church to a group of college students from Baker University taking a class called “Experiencing Sacred Spaces.” Like most tours I give, I had them walk in through the back of the parish hall. As they rounded that corner and beheld St. Mary’s in all its glory, I heard gasps and these comments “How beautiful!” “Wow – I don’t know what to say.” “I’ve never seen a Church so beautiful” and my favorite “This place is heavenly.” The arches in the architecture, the recurring fleur-de-lys symbolism, the saints depicted in the windows, the intricate vestments, the formalized ritual, the amazing gold and silver Eucharistic vessels, the heavenly music – everything here at St. Mary’s is designed to point us to the Lamb that was slain for us, the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, the Lamb that will be made manifest to us on this altar in the bread and wine of holy communion.
Upon seeing Jesus, John the Baptist responded, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him that taketh away the sins of the world!” When the celebrant shows the consecrated bread and wine to the people with the same proclamation, the people respond with the words of the Roman Centurion in Matthew chapter 8 when he replies to Jesus’s commitment to come and heal his paralyzed servant in his home: “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.” We respond to seeing Jesus by acknowledging our unworthiness and asking him to heal us. For we are about to receive him under the “roof” of our mouths and thus welcome him into the very depths of our bodies and souls. This intimate moment when we receive communion passes quickly, with or without an emotional response on our end, and then we are dismissed with the words “God in peace to love and serve the Lord.” And the cycle begins anew. Empowered by the grace we’ve been given in the Sacrament, we go out into the world and proclaim God’s love anew to those we encounter in word and in deed.
Dear friends, don’t be afraid to talk about your faith with others, not to attempt to convert them or get them to believe all the right things, but rather as a natural outpouring of your own encounter with the risen Christ. Keep the eyes and ears of your hearts open and be on the lookout for Jesus throughout your daily lives. As you encounter him, whether it’s in a golden chalice or the face of the poor, respond with joy and excitement and proclaim as John did, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”
 David Bartlett, and Barbara Brown. Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008, 263.
 Keck, Leander E. The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary. Abingdon Press, 2015, 451.
 1 Cor. 5:7b-8a.
The sermons preached at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, are posted here!