The Heart of our Liturgical Work

In today’s daily office reading, we read these words from Isaiah:

” He will become a sanctuary, a stone one strikes against; for both houses of Israel he will become a rock one stumbles over—a trap and a snare for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (8:14)

This is a very puzzling, intriguing juxtaposition–God as both sanctuary and stumbling stone. To me it speaks of the dual purpose of liturgy–to celebrate God’s triumph of love over fear and to issue forth a prophetic challenge to the ways we fall short of honoring this triumph with our own acts of love in a dispirited world. I’ve found this passage from William Stringfellow recently which I think captures the heart of the matter–and helps me understand why the church’s corporate worship is crucial in the world we live in today:

Worship is the celebration of life in its totality. Worship is the sacramental appropriation of all of life in celebration. Worship is the festival of creation. Organized public corporate worship is a theatrical restoration of creation in which each and all of the participants symbolically and ritually enjoy their own selves and one another and all things. Liturgical worship, which is inherently a communal event, whether formal or spontaneous, whether traditional or extemporaneous, is an esoteric portrayal of the reconciliation of the whole world.

Worship is the celebration of life in its ultimate expectancy. Sacramental worship is always, hence, profoundly ethical and specifically and selfconsciously eschatological in its ethics, exposing contemporary society-whatever its current estate, whenever it is, wherever it happens to be-to the Gospel’s eagerness for the end and fulfillment of history in God. In turn, that means that worship is explicitly a political and social happening of the most radical dimensions, illuminating every flaw and injustice, every falsity and offense, every vanity and need of the prevailing social order while notoriously, passionately, incessantly calling for the over- turning-or, more literally, the transfiguring-of the incumbent order in society.

On not fleeing from the wrath to come

Preached on Second Advent at The Episcopal Church at Cornell, 2016. Its quite a bit longer than usual so be forewarned! One sweet parishioner re-assured me by saying, regarding sermon length,  sometimes its a ditty, sometimes its Mozart’s Requiem!


Is it the Apocalypse? William Stringfellow on the need for vigilance and consolation

From his remarkable book An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land, a commentary on the Book of Revelation:

“The excited imagery in Revelation of the Second Coming of the Lord, with midair apparitions and other marvels, may have caused some to dwell upon the texts literalistically-to fix upon the wonders rather than upon the excitement of hope. But we can be saved from so demeaning the Second Coming of Christ if we see that, for all its mystery, the Second Advent is faithful to the mission of the First Advent, and is no disjuncture or disruption. On the contrary, it is the consummation of all that has transpired in Christ’s ministry in this world, from the homage of Creation rendered to the Christmas child, through the undoing of death’s temptations in the desert, to the ‘secret of every parable and the authority of every healing and exorcism, unto the day alone on the Cross condemned by the principalities and powers, abandoned by everyone, consigned to death, until the Resurrection. Biblical living is watchful for that consummation but does not strive to undo the power of death, knowing that death is already undone and is in no way whatever to be feared and worshiped. Biblical living originates in this consolation.”

Jesus at the cross is our hope: sermon for Proper 28C

Preached at Anabel Taylor Hall chapel on Sunday, November 14 a few days after the U.S. presidential election. I may have gotten a few of the details of the chaplains meeting I describe incorrect, but I believe I capture the tenor of the discussion.


Sermon on Zacchaeus

Preached at the Episcopal Church at Cornell 10/30/16



Prayer for an interfaith and inter-species community of love. Praying by Mary Oliver


It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Falling in Love with God

Pedro Arrupe, S.J, was the Superior General of the Jesuit order from 1965-1983 when he resigned due to a debilitating stroke.

A survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima, he was deeply committed to the work of social justice even when it came at great personal cost. Here is a poem Arrupe wrote found in the marvelous book The Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O’Brien S.J.:

Nothing is more practical than finding God,

that is, falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with,

What seizes your imagination,

will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,

what you will do with your evenings,

how you will spend your weekends,

what you read,

whom you know,

what breaks your heart,

and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love,

stay in love,

and it will decide everything.


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