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As I write this blog I am keenly aware that today is my father's birthday. Being a father myself (both to my son, and, more broadly to my parishioners) I have spent no small amount of time appreciating the influence of my dad. This is also the week leading up to Father's Day on Sunday. I'm sure I'm not the only one with thoughts about the Pater Familias-- the father of the family.

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them a new way to speak to God and about God-- God the Father. "Pray then in this way: Our Father who art in heaven...(Matt. 6:9)" Every time Episcopalians (and many other Christians) gather we pray this prayer. Perhaps reminding ourselves, in no uncertain terms, that we are all sisters and brothers of one another and children of our heavenly parent. However, I wonder how often we forget that notion even as we leave the church? The words of my own father often come to mind. He used to say to me and my brothers, "Remember, as you leave our home, you are a Baker and you represent our family when you leave these doors." Of course, the implication being, "Behave yourselves and conduct yourselves in a respectful and honorable manner." Jesus said very much the same thing in Matthew's gospel, "God is holy so too are you to be holy." It is a tall order indeed but it is also the mission of Christians everywhere to not only represent the Kingdom of God as citizens of that Kingdom but also to behave as children of the Most High by loving our neighbor as ourselves and loving our heavenly Father. Thanks be to God it is a process and by God's grace one that goes on throughout our life times. When we have lived that life, hopefully when we reach our heavenly mansion we will hear those blessed words, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34). I will close this blog with one of my favorite writes, Fredrick Buechner who wrote the following thoughts on the word "Father".

     "When a child is born, a father is born. A mother is born too, of course, but at least for her it’s a gradual process. Body and soul, she has nine months to get used to what’s happening. She becomes what’s happening. But for even the best-prepared father, it happens all at once. On the other side of the plate-glass window, a nurse is holding up something roughly the size of a loaf of bread for him to see for the first time. Even if he should decide to abandon it forever ten minutes later, the memory will nag him to the grave. He has seen the creation of the world. It has his mark on it. He has its mark upon him. Both marks are, for better or worse, indelible.

     All sons, like all daughters, are prodigals if they are smart. Assuming the Old Man doesn’t run out on them first, they will run out on him if they are to survive, and if he’s smart he won’t put up too much of a fuss. A wise father, sees all this coming, and maybe that’s why he keeps his distance from the start. He must survive too. Whether they ever find their way home again, none can say for sure, but it’s the risk he must take if they’re to find their way at all. In the meantime, the world tends to have a soft spot in its heart for lost children. Lost fathers have to fend for themselves.

     Even as the father lays down the law, he knows that someday his children will break it as they need to break it if ever they’re to find something better than the law to replace it. Until and unless that happens, there’s no telling the scrapes they will get into trying to lose him and find themselves. Terrible blunders will be made—disappointments and failures, hurts and losses of every kind. And they’ll keep making them even after they’ve found themselves too, of course, because growing up is a process that goes on and on. And every hard knock they ever gets knocks the father even harder still if that’s possible, and if and when they finally come through more or less in one piece at the end, there’s maybe no rejoicing greater than his in all creation.

     It has become so commonplace to speak of God as “our Father” that we forget what an extraordinary metaphor it once was."

From Fredrick Buechner’s Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter’s Dictionary. ©1993

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Most Christians are aware of the three cardinal virtues of faith, hope, and love. It is the triad that Paul invokes at the end of the well know chapter in I Corinthians extoling the supremacy of love. Yet there are a number of things that we break down into three simple things. In addition to the three cardinal virtues there's mind, body, spirit; in regard to money-- 80-10-10-- Give 10%, save 10%, and live off of 80% just to cite two. When I was in seminary we had a professor trying to convey the cornerstones of what it means to be a good priest in the church. He too invoked the rule of threee: family life, prayer life, and physical life. His follow-up comment was that whenever priests let just one of these slip, their whole ministry suffers. He said to take care of your family because they are your support system. Take care of your prayer life because from it you get guidance, centeredness, and power. And take  care of your body because a sick priest is an absent or deficient priest. I've attempted over the years to be very intuned to these. Some seasons of my life I attend to them better than others. What I have come to realize is that this rule of three a.k.a. triad of health isn't just for priests. In fact they are the pathway to what it means to be good stewards of our lives. All of us can reap the benefits of the triad of health to be better members of our family, healthier in the world, and more deeply rooted in God's life through prayer. Here we are at St. Stephen's and in the throes of our stewardship campaign and it is the perfect opportunity to attend more closely to the triad of health of family life, prayer life, and physical life. All too often attending to the simple things in our lives helps us to enter into a greater understanding of stewardship. Or in the words of our Lord, "Well done good and trustworthy servant, you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.(Matt. 25:21)"  What I have found to be both challenging and grounding at the same time is simple time management and spending quality time attending to each of these in turn.  The Triad of Health-- It does a body good in every sense of that word. Give it a try for two weeks and see the benefits for yourself. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

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Ordinarily my blogs are ramblings and musings that are knocking about in my head. But not this blog. I am brimming over with joy because St. Stephen's seems to have been infused with the Holy Spirit and I had to tell as many as I could about my joy. A new energy is happening here and I could not be happier. We had a Christian formation ministry meeting last night and we had a dozen people in the room. Yes, you read that correctly-- A DOZEN!!! All of those gathered were excited and utterly committed to seeing that this vital ministry start to happen in our parish. We went from a struggling and limping along sort of existence in regard to formation/education to one of possibilities and excitement about how we can live into what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ (remember disciple means student). Not only does it seem that our Christian formation is on fire it doesn't end there. Our Pastoral care ministry met on Sunday with all but one in attendance, with new leadership, renewed committement, and new ideas of how we can serve and care for one another. St. Stephen's already does really well in liturgy, fellowship, and mission but with these two added components of our life falling into place I truly believe God is working his mighty works right here and right now. I could not be more proud or more please with these wonderful people whom I have the pleasure and honor of serving. Over the last several weeks I have ended two of my last three sermons with the words similar to "just sit back and wait and see what God can do." Truth be told, I believe I was saying the words as much for me as for the congregation. I am so awed and humbled by the fact that they seem to be coming true in our very midst. As the days and weeks of summer pass, I believe I have a new mantra to say over and over to myself-- "Just sit back and see what God can do!"

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Here we are just a few days away from The Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and I'm put in mind of one of my favorite theologians, Paul Tillich. In his book The New Being, Tillich writes about the three re's-- re-union, re-conciliation, and re-surrection. That prefix "re" implies doing something over, or again, or better. Looking at the creation around me here in Southern Virginia each yard and park and green space screams rebirth with the advent of spring and warm temperatures. Somehow or another the "re" puts me in a do-over, a mulligan, or a second chance. And as much as I like those notions, what Easter tells us is that what comes about in the resurrection is not rebirth, or restoration, but rather a whole new thing. God says in Isaiah, "Behold, I am about to do a new thing..." When Jesus was raised from the dead, it was something that was so out of anything that anyone had ever seen or experienced. N.T. Wright, in his book Suprised by Hope he writes that what happened on that first Easter was so unprecedented that the world didn't even have a word for it. As in our digital age where words are invented all the time like Twitter, Wikipedia and the like, the fledgling Christian community had to invent a new word for a whole new thing-- that word was Resurrection. Through faith in Jesus Christ, the first one risen from the dead, they realized that his promise that we would be raised too, put a whole new slant on how they lived their lives. Yes resurrection meant, rebirth, restoration, reunion, and reconciliation but it also meant life that was supercharged; or in the words of our Lord, abundant life. With such assurance in the power and grace of God the Christians set out with a blaze to tell everyone they met that they too could have this supercharged, abundant life empowered by the Holy Spirit. And just as Jesus had left an empty tomb and grave clothes, so too would all who joined their lives with his resurrection left behind their old selfs as dead as doornails. This is what it means to live as Easter people. To live as Easter people means to live as people of the resurrection-- people of the cross and empty grave. Eastertide has just begun. We have forty-six days left to get used to this new way of living. Perhaps it is fitting for Eastertide to be 10 whole days longer than Lent, we need that extra time to learn what it means to live as "re" people-- renewed, reborn, reconciled, reunited, and yes, resurrected with Christ. Alleluia!

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The transliterated Greek word of the title of this blog is a daunting word to translate. Basically it means the mutual love each person of the Holy Trinity has for each other. One writer described it as the "holy dance" which God invites us to join. Or as I learned in seminary, "The interpentetrating love that binds all persons of the Holy Trinity one to another." Regardless of how you translate it, the words of I John come to mind, "God is love" and "We love because God first loved us." As we approach Trinity Sunday many preachers (including yours truly) are daunted by the awesome responsibility/privilege of preaching on one of the only two Dogmas of our faith: The Holy Trinity(the other being Christology-- the Dogma of the dual nature of Christ). Perhaps if we just preach on love, and how God loves us so much and that because we are loved so much we in turn share that love with all those we meet we would do well. If we kept our words focused on the Love of God, we might come closer to the mark than trying to reference in our homilies the heavy hitters of our faith like Tertullian, Ireneaus, Augustine. Which, let's face it, when we invoke these folks eyes begin to gloss over and parishioners begin to nod off. And who could blame them? In the past I've used all sorts of gimicks to "explain" the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Everything from an egg (shell, yolk, white but one egg), to a tree (roots, trunk, and fruit but one tree) to my personal favorite of Ice/H20 (using a blowtorch and a piece of ice-- ice is H2O, steam is H2O, water is H2O but they are all water). They may be cute, maybe even effective in their own right, but how much do they really speak of love? If anything can help the Christian church in these days of shrinking attendance, dwindling programs, and the like, perhaps just going back to the true basics of loving God and loving neighbor is the best starting place. It isn't complicated. It isn't mind-blowing. It's just love and being loving. Notice I didn't say it was easy. Being loving to all is what it means to bear forth to the world the face of God. When we look back into the annals of church history and those whose names are remembered most, the one identifying characteristic shared amongst them all is their love for God and for neighbor. In our culture and in our times with an atmosphere of ranker and vitriol, perhaps this is the very best witness Christians could give to the world. By doing so we join God in his holy dance and we proclaim that we are children of the Most High God-- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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Rarely do I feel called to preach the Old Testament. I guess I'm a New Covenant sort of guy. Don't get me wrong, I love the Old Testament I just find the New Testament easier to preach on. Yet as more than one theologian has pointed out, "It is very hard to understand the magnitude of the New Testament without first knowing the Old." No where is this seen in more bold relief than in the fulfillment of the prophesies of the Old Testament in the New. The Gospel of Matthew comes to mind especially. This Sunday, although not my Sunday to preach, the Old Testament lesson from Isaiah points to just such a thing. In verse 18 of chapter 43 the prophet writes, "Thus says the Lord, Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." I have come to the realization God is always at work and much of what is wrought is "a new thing". Of course, as a Christian I believe the new thing God was about to do was bring about the New Creation in the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Yet I wonder if we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and most importantly, the faith to receive God's "new thing". I certainly realize that change can be difficult. I'll be the first to acknowledge that. But, it can also be exciting. A new horizon; new possibilities; new challenges that can bring about a whole new world and perspective. I believe God in Christ is calling us to embrace "the New". To step out in faith and trust that God really does know what God is doing. As Holy Week and Easter fast approach, I believe we are being called to embrace being apart of the New Creation inaugurated by God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This New Creation is a different from the old as day is from night, or water in the desert. Each new day we are invited to enter into the New: new day, new possibilities, new creation, a whole new way of being. God's "new thing" is everlastingly new and that's not only a good thing, it's worthy of being called the Gospel-- The Good News.