On Saturday, March 4, representatives from 43 congregations in the diocese spent a half day learning how to participate in a three month "Listening excursion," which would involve making space to listen to scripture, each other and to the local community. They will be invited back on Saturday, June 3 to reflect on what they learned and to discern next steps in this ongoing journey into a new way of living.
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I have been thinking a lot about the dynamics of listening, partly because we did a lot of listening at our Diocesan Convention. And partly because we are slated to more of it on Saturday, March 4, when people from across the diocese will gather for a morning to learn how they might design a three month “excursion of listening” in their congregation and community.
Sermon Preached on the Feast of Absalom Jones at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City (Episcopal Diocese of New York)
Good Morning Church!! First off, I want to thank the New York Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians, your Diocesan Anti-Racism Committee, the Diocesan Reparations Committee, and the Bishops, Clergy, and Lay Persons of the Diocese of New York for granting me the honor and privilege of preaching here this morning.
At our 2016 Diocesan Convention I named a reality that seems to have resonance across the diocese. I said that business as usual is no longer an option.
In that address I identified a core question: How do we go on a journey together, to discern what God is up to in our neighborhoods, and then join God there in that work?
I believe – we believe – that God is inviting us into a new way of living together and this core question guide us on the journey.
In the northern hemisphere, Advent coincided with the onset of winter. As the days grew shorter, the weather colder, and as the earth began its annual shedding of vegetative life, people brought evergreens into their homes, which provided a hope that the earth had not yet died. In the early weeks of Advent, not so many candles were needed on the wreath, because the nights were not yet so long. But by the time the solstice arrived, on the shortest day of the year, more candles were necessary to provide adequate light, but also to rekindle hope.
The outcome was unexpected. And for me, unwanted. I anticipated that a lot of people would feel hurt, confused and angry on November 9, but I didn’t figure I would be one of them.
That said, beneath all the swirling feelings, I feel called – in two distinct but related ways.
Anyone in a 12-step program knows the steps are vital to overcoming one’s addiction. If you follow them faithfully you will come to the twelfth step and hopefully a spiritual awakening. The first three steps are when you are on your knees and indeed a “slave to the law of sin.”
Step one- “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Step two- “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
When reading the passage from John today about the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, I’m called to reflect on the appearance of scarcity and find the abundance through faith. There are many aspects of our experiences within our congregations, that for many of us, seem to be calling to us from a place of scarcity. The tendency to dwell in this place removes us from being with God, because we are called by our faith to trust in God. God is with us.
This Sunday we turn to one of the miracles of Jesus, the giving of sight to a man while the Master was on the road to Jericho. According to John, the disciples and Jesus are ambling along the road when they are met by a blind man. He asks Jesus to heal him. Jesus makes a little potion, applies it to his eyes, and then, as the disabled man says, “I was blind but now I see.” The underlying lesson is that when we really seek out Jesus, we really get to see what he is about.
Meditation on the Feast of the Annunciation
What a surprising story greets us in the gospel from Luke. After all, we are in the midst of Lent, the most penitential season in our church calendar year. Why in a season intoned with the expectation of Holy Week triumph and tragedy just 15 days from now, are we confronted by a birth announcement that seems out of place?
Perhaps this narrative, also read during Advent, serves as a reminder of God’s wonderful and unpredictable in-breaking into our daily lives.