Sunday, November 27, 2016

Spiritual Cataracts

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
November 27, 2016

Year A: The First Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

Spiritual Cataracts
            A couple of weeks ago one of our parishioners asked me to pray with him because he was about to have surgery to remove cataracts from his eye.
            As soon as he said the word “cataracts” I was taken back to my childhood. I remembered hearing my grandparents and others of that generation talk in hushed tones about “cataracts,” using the same serious voices they used when they talked about “cancer.”
            Of course, as a little kid, I had no idea what “cataracts” were. It sounded to me like “Cadillacs,” but I knew that couldn’t be right!
            Although I didn’t know what cataracts were I could tell from the way my family talked about it that they were something terrible, something to be feared, dreaded.
            Later, I did learn what cataracts were and I understood why they were so scary: they led to the dimming of vision and perhaps even blindness. There were surgeries available back then but they were dangerous and required a very long recovery time.
            I remembered all of that when our parishioner mentioned his cataract surgery, but, of course, today it’s a whole different story.
            As many of you know, though it’s never a joke to have eye surgery, now, thanks to lasers, the procedure has become pretty much routine with only a very brief recovery time and nearly miraculous results.
            I’ve known people for whom the hardest part of the experience was getting used to not wearing glasses!
            Cataract surgery is just one of the many examples of how our lives are incredibly better than they were even just a generation or two ago.
            So many diseases that were terrifying killers have now been tamed. Some of us here today are still alive thanks to relatively new medicines and treatments.
            We know so much more about the body, about the importance of diet and exercise and the role of genetics in shaping our destinies.
            We’ve made progress in cleaning up some of the mess we’ve made of the earth. Thanks to improved technology and stricter regulations, the air is so much cleaner than it was when I was a kid – and the water, too. Just this past week a humpback whale took a swim up the Hudson, not because it was sick or lost but because the cleaned up water is now teeming with fish, lots of tasty snacks for a hungry leviathan!
            Or, just think about the technologies that are at our fingertips now – tools that were the stuff of science fiction just a few decades ago.
            As a kid I had pen pals around the world. I can remember the anticipation as I waited for my letters to get overseas and for the replies to reach Jersey City. Today that seems downright quaint when we can just exchange emails or Skype in an instant.
             I could pull out my cellphone right now (but won’t since I’m in church!), and look up just about any piece of information, or I could text or call someone living across the country or around the world.
            For all our present-day troubles, we live in an age of wonders.
            But, there’s always a cost.
            For many of us, the cost has been that the pace of life has increased so much. So many of us have to work harder and longer and be ever more efficient, just to make ends meet.
            For many of us, the cost has been we’re on call twenty-four hours a day.
            For many of us, the cost has been that our relationships have become shallower and more superficial. We text each other or keep up on Facebook, poor substitutes for carefully written letters or long face-to-face conversations.
            For many of us, the cost has been that our eyes are so focused on our screens that we miss out on what’s going on around us. We spend so much time on our smartphones and our computers, so much time watching TV, that we have trouble seeing God at work in our lives, God at work in the world around us.
            We’ve developed “spiritual cataracts.”
            Well, today is the First Sunday of Advent, the start of a new church year.
            Out there, the focus is on what the world calls “Christmas,” but here in church during these four Advent Sundays, yes, we keep one eye on the upcoming celebration of Jesus’ birth but we keep the other eye on the end of time, the unknown day and hour when Jesus will return in glory.
            The main Advent message, though, is to keep awake, to watch, to look, to pay attention, to see God at work in our lives, in the world around us, to see God building God’s kingdom of peace, where nations “shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
            But, to see all of that and more, we’re going to need to get our spiritual cataracts taken care of – which, unfortunately, won’t be quite as easy as getting our eyes zapped by a laser.
            So, as we begin Advent, I suggest we cut back even just a little on the smartphone, on Facebook, on the computer, on TV.
            I suggest we make even just a little bit more time, time for prayer, time for reflection, time for rest, time to pay attention to what’s going on around us, time to see God at work.
            And, if we work on our spiritual cataracts what might we see?
            We might see a beautiful interfaith Thanksgiving service with people of goodwill who believe some different things about God, coming together to give thanks for our life together, to make beautiful music, to embrace each other in love and friendship.
            We might see a small army of parishioners, neighbors, and friends – people of faith and people of no particular faith – rallying together to prepare a mountain of delicious food – a Thanksgiving feast for people with no place else to go and people wouldn’t want to be anyplace else.
            We might see this beautiful place – this beautiful place that has been handed down to us by those who have come before – this beautiful place with its walls bathed in prayer – this beautiful place where we hear God’s Word, where we take the Body and Blood of Christ into our bodies and souls, and where we see the glory of God in all of these gorgeous faces.
            We live in an age of wonders, when once-terrifying maladies like cataracts can be zapped away.
            Yes, we live in an age of wonders, but it comes at a cost.
            We’ve developed spiritual cataracts – and Advent, the start of a new church year, is the perfect time to zap them away by turning off our machines and paying attention, so we can see the glory of God in Jesus, see the glory of God in the world, and see the glory of God in one another.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

"The Discipline of Gratitude"

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
November 24, 2016

Year C: Thanksgiving Day
Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Psalm 100
Philippians 4:4-9
John 6-25-35

“The Discipline of Gratitude”
            In the passage we just heard from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, the apostle writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything…”
            Well, that’s easier said than done, right?
            If you were at our beautiful Interfaith Thanksgiving Service on Tuesday night, you heard Rev. Gary preach a dynamite sermon which included the point that it’s pretty easy to be thankful when things are going your way, but a whole lot harder to be thankful during tough times. It’s tough to be thankful when it feels like our whole world is falling apart.
            It’s hard to be thankful when we face illness, or when a relationship has cracked and broken, or when we watch someone we love make terrible decisions, or when we’ve got a pile of bills that we just can’t pay, or, yes, when it looks like our country is heading down a very dangerous road.
            How can we be thankful when we understandably feel anything but thankful?
            Well, this past week I was poking around the Internet for quotes about gratitude and I came upon this from the 20th Century Roman Catholic priest and writer, Henri Nouwen, who wrote,
            “The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”
            I like that a lot, especially the phrase, “the discipline of gratitude.”
            The older I get, the more convinced I am of the importance of spiritual discipline, of doing our best to structure our lives so there is regular time for prayer, regular time for worship, regular time for service to others, and, yes, regular time for gratitude.
            The discipline of gratitude.
            Thanksgiving Day gives us a special opportunity to practice the discipline of gratitude since the whole day, the very name of the day, points us in the direction of being grateful.
            But, of course, one day a year isn’t really much of a discipline, is it?
            So, what might the discipline of gratitude look like during the rest of the year?
            Well, we practice the discipline of gratitude by being mindful, by being mindful that it is truly amazing that we are all here together, all here together on a rock sailing through the universe, all here together able to love and to laugh, to touch and to learn, to see and to hear such great beauty.
            The rest of the year we practice the discipline of gratitude by remembering – by remembering our own personal story and especially by remembering the story of God and us.
            In today’s Old Testament lesson from Deuteronomy, the people of Israel are called to remember their story, their story of God and them, their story of God leading them out of captivity in Egypt into freedom in the promised land.
            And, each time we come to church we remember – we remember the story of God and us – we remember the story of God loving us so much that God came and lived among us – we remember the story of God loving us so much that even when we did our worst, God still never gave up on us – and will never give up on us.
            Each time we gather around the altar we remember that God has fed us – and continues to feed us – with the Bread of Life.
            Finally, we practice the discipline of gratitude by giving to others, especially those who can’t pay us back.
            Each time we’ve gone over to the homeless drop-in center and served a delicious homemade hot lunch, I know I feel deep, deep gratitude – gratitude that I get to do such meaningful work with such wonderful people, gratitude that I’ve been given so much, and have the ability to share.
            And, when we are mindful, and when we remember, and when we serve – when we practice the discipline of gratitude during the good times, during the times when things are pretty much normal, then, with God’s help, we really will be disciplined enough to be grateful even when things aren’t going our way, when it feels like our world is falling apart.
            And, that gratitude will leave God just enough room to give us the grace we need to face those hard times – to really know and feel that, yes, indeed, no matter what, even when our world seems to be falling apart, the Lord is near.
            May we together practice the discipline of gratitude not just today, but each and every day of the year.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Crown

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
November 20, 2016

Year C, Proper 29: The Last Sunday after Pentecost – Christ the King
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Canticle 16
Colossians 1:11-20
Luke 23:33-43

The Crown
            It’s always good to be here together on a Sunday but it was especially good to be here last Sunday at our 10:00 service.
            I had the privilege of baptizing three beautiful babies – Martin, Louisa, and Aria – and the church was absolutely packed.
            It was packed with a lot of people who came for the baptisms and it was packed with a lot of or own parishioners and it was even packed with some people who picked an especially good Sunday to check out St. Paul’s for the first time – it was packed with over 200 people, which I’m guessing is some kind of record for a non-holiday Sunday.
            We weren’t expecting quite so many people so we ran out of bulletins pretty early on and the ushers asked for hardship pay - and I was so discombobulated that I forgot to carry my reading glasses with me during the gospel procession! Fortunately, I was still able to read the words, but just barely!
            It was quite the day. In fact, more than one person said to me that it felt like Easter. And so it did.
            Even on a day when a lot of people were still stunned by the election results, it really did feel like Easter – that holiest day, that day above all days, that day when we celebrate that God makes a way out of no way, that God turns death into new life, and the day when God reveals Jesus to be what he was all along and will be forever: Christ the King.
            And, now, here we are today on the last Sunday of the church year.
            It’s the Feast of Christ the King.
            And, you know, the church isn’t as crowded as last week but it still feels like Easter to me, so…
            Alleluia! Christ is risen!
            The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
            Last week, in addition to going to church a lot, I also binge-watched a new series on Netflix called, The Crown.
            Maybe some of you have seen it or heard about it?
            The Crown is about the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II, when as a young woman she succeeds her father and has to figure out how to be a monarch while at the same time still be a woman and a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a sister.
            It’s very well done and I enjoyed it very much but as I was watching I thought how the Queen has spent her long life surrounded by fabulous royal luxury, the jewel-encrusted crowns, the grand palaces, the servants always present to meet every need or whim, the elegant clothes, the people forever bowing and curtseying in her presence, the adoring crowds cheering and waving flags, and all the rest of it.
            She is surrounded by all that royal luxury but, in fact, has less control over her own life than we do over our lives.
            She is surrounded by all that royal luxury, but, in fact, has no real power at all.
            But, it’s just the opposite for Christ the King.
            Christ the King was a craftsman from a backwater town who we’re told didn’t even have a place to lay his head.
            Christ the King hung out with all the wrong kinds of people, shared God’s love with all the “losers,” shared God’s love with tax collectors, with a woman caught in adultery, with the Samaritan woman at the well, with the lepers and the blind and the possessed, with a bunch of fishermen and his other unimpressive followers.
            Christ the King shared a vision of God’s downside-up kingdom in which somehow it’s the poor and the hungry and the mournful who are truly blessed.
            Christ the King was rejected by just about everyone, was abandoned by his closest followers and friends, and left hanging on the cross, dying the death of a criminal.
            Christ the King died wearing not a jewel-encrusted crown but a crown of thorns, dying a shameful death under a sign mocking him as the “king.”
            And, that seemed to be the end of the story: Jesus seemed to be just another nobody, crushed by a brutal empire that cared only about power and wealth.
            In the eyes of the world, Jesus wearing his crown of thorns was a powerless loser.
            But, you know, we gathered around the font last week - and we come here and gather around the Table each week - because that’s wasn’t – that isn’t – the end of the story.
            God makes a way out of no way.
            God turns death into new life.
            And, on Easter, God reveals Jesus to be what he was all along and will be forever: Christ the King.
            Alleluia! Christ is risen!
            The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
            To the world, Christ the King seemed powerless but in fact the power of God was uniquely present in him.
            And, Christ the King didn’t use the power of God to amass great wealth or worldly power but instead he used the power of God to teach and to heal and to love.
            Christ the King gave away the power of God, gave it all away, gave away the last few drops hanging on the Cross.
            And now Christ the King reigns, and since we are the Body of Christ on earth, here’s the thing: that same power of God flows in and through us.
            I don’t know about you, but I feel God’s power each time we gather here and I especially felt it last week when so many of us were here and so open to God’s Spirit that was so obviously present, and is here right now.
            That same power of God flows in and through us, flows when we serve hot food to cold people, when we reach out in love to someone we don’t know and maybe even suspect, when we give to others so much that it actually hurts a little, when we stand up for those who are threatened, when we let it go and try to forgive.
            Now, you don’t need me to tell you that we live in a dangerous time with disrespect, hatred, greed, and fear on the loose. And, the powerful of the world in their jewel-encrusted mansions and towers no doubt look at us as they looked at Jesus, look at us as nobodies, as powerless losers.
            But, they’re quite wrong.
            Yes, we live in a dangerous time, but if we remember who we are and to whom we belong, life may not be easy, but, in the end, we’ll be OK.
            So, my prayer is that we’ll be faithful to Christ the King.
            My prayer is that during these difficult days we will continue to respect and love and give and hope. My prayer is that we will stay together and stick really close to the other “losers” of the world. My prayer is that we will try to live every day as if it really were Easter, that holiest day, that day above all days, that day when…
            God makes a way out of no way.
            God turns death into new life.
            And, God reveals Jesus to be what he was all along and will be forever: Christ the King.
            Alleluia! Christ is risen!
            The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!


Sunday, November 13, 2016

God Reassembles the Pieces

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
November 13, 2016

Year C, Proper 28: The Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Isaiah 65:17-25
Canticle 9
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

God Reassembles the Pieces
            Some of you know that I’ve spent almost my entire life here in New Jersey – almost, but not quite all.
            I say “almost” because for a year I served as the Episcopal chaplain at the University of Florida and rector of a small church in suburban Gainesville.
            Sue and I had made the move down there because we thought we were ready to take on a new adventure and wanted to do it while we were still young enough to make such a big move.
            In Florida we met and prayed alongside many wonderful and faithful people – and we made some very close friends.
            But, pretty quickly we realized that it was just too hard for us to be on our own so far away from all the people we loved, too far from our support system. It was disappointing and embarrassing to accept and admit that this bold adventure of ours wasn’t working out, but I began to look at possible job opportunities back here in New Jersey.
            Fortunately, it turned out there was a church here in our diocese that was looking for a new priest. The place seemed like a pretty good fit so I sent in my materials and hoped for the best.
            The search committee interviewed me via Skype and everything went really well. Committee members were saying things like I was the answer to their prayers.
            So, I was feeling really good about this.
            The church paid to fly Sue and me up for an interview which, honestly, felt more like a coronation, felt almost like a formality, something to be done because it was supposed to be done, but not really necessary.
            It felt like I had this job in the bag.
            As I was leaving the last interview, I remember one of the leaders of the church saying to me that they were going to interview someone else because they were supposed to, but, just between us, he believed that soon he’d have very good news for me.
            We flew back to Florida feeling really good. I remember thinking that I had done it – that I had managed to reassemble the pieces of our life back together again.
            Some weeks later Sue and I were on vacation when early in the morning my cell phone rang. It was one of the church wardens calling – calling with a very serious voice to tell me that they had decided to call someone else to be their next priest.
            I think I put up a brave front on the phone, but talk about the worst vacation ever! Here I had thought that I had managed to reassemble the pieces of my life back together again but instead I felt shattered.
            It was definitely a setback – and, at the time, it felt like a catastrophe.
            All of us who’ve been around for awhile have suffered similar setbacks: not getting a job we wanted or maybe even thought was in the bag, or losing a job we had, and very much needed.
            All of us who’ve been around for awhile have suffered our own catastrophes: piles of bills that we just don’t have the money to pay, broken relationships, a devastating diagnosis, the loss of one we love.
            Sometimes our lives shatter into pieces.
            In today’s gospel lesson, Jesus predicts that the beautiful Jerusalem Temple, one of the wonders of the ancient world, the center of Jewish life, the place where, in a sense, God was believed to live, would be shattered into pieces, “not one stone left upon the other, all will be thrown down.”
            The first readers and hearers of the gospel would have known that this is exactly what had happened. The beautiful Temple, the place where God lived, was indeed destroyed by the Romans in the year 70, as they sacked Israel’s capital.
            For most of the Jewish people it must have seemed like the end of the world. How could they go on without the Temple? For most of the Jewish people it must have felt like their whole world was, just like the Temple, shattered in pieces.
            But, of course, that catastrophe was not the end of the story.
            God makes a way out of no way.
            God turns death into new life.
            God reassembles the pieces.
            So, sure enough, God reassembled the Jewish people, now no longer centered in temple sacrifice but instead even more devoted to God’s Law and even more devoted to dwelling in God’s Word, strong enough to survive the hatred and the many catastrophes, the many “shatterings,” that lay ahead of them.
            And, at the same time God reassembled the Jewish people, God assembled the Body of Christ, assembling all different kinds of people who are able to know, and be transformed by, the God of Israel through Jesus Christ. God assembles the Body of Christ out of all these millions and millions of pieces, out of all of us, and now today out of Martin, Louisa, and Aria, and sends us into the world to love and to serve.
            God reassembles the pieces.
            And, sure enough, after that devastating phone call that ruined our vacation, it turned out that God made a way out of no way for me. I was able to return to my old job at Grace Church in Madison. To be honest, it was a little embarrassing to go back after the big goodbye party they had thrown me a year and a half earlier, but, without me really realizing it, even in the midst of my sadness and shame, God was reassembling the pieces of my life, and preparing for me the very large and important piece of my life that is this place.
            We all suffer setbacks and even catastrophes, but God is always at work reassembling the pieces.
            Our country and our world suffer setbacks and even catastrophes, but God is always at work reassembling the pieces.
             And God invites us to be part of the great reassembling, to be part of the great reassembling by rejecting disrespect, hatred, greed, and fear.
             God invites us to be part of the great reassembling, to be part of the great reassembling by keeping our baptismal promises, by choosing respect, love, generosity, and hope.
            Yes, we all suffer setbacks and even catastrophes, but God is always at work reassembling the pieces, reassembling the pieces of our lives and our world into a new creation.           
            The work is far from done, there are still plenty of cracks with light shining through, we’re not whole yet, so today God is inviting all of us - and especially today Martin, Louisa, and Aria - inviting us all to be part of the great reassembling.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

God Gets Us Unstuck

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
November 9, 2016

Titus 3:1-7
Psalm 91:9-16
Luke 17:11-19

God Gets Us Unstuck
            I admit that I’m exhausted and still trying to absorb the election results and the new political reality in which we are now living.
            The truth is that a few of us of us here at St. Paul’s are pleased by how things worked out, while many more are shocked, angry, and frightened.
            And, based on what we saw and heard during this campaign, people of color, women, immigrants, the disabled, gay and lesbian people, all have especially good reason to be concerned about what is yet to come.
            I know for many of us it feels like we’re stuck in a frightening place with no way to get unstuck.
            But, I also know that God specializes in making a way out of no way.
            God specializes in turning death into new life.
            God specializes in getting us unstuck.
            At one point during last night’s ordeal of watching the election results slowly come in, I thought I’d better take a look at the lessons appointed for this morning’s healing service.
            Now, when I was ordained I declared that I believe that the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God and contain everything necessary for salvation.
            And, I still believe that.
            But during the time I’ve been ordained I’ve become convinced that God also works through the lectionary – the schedule of readings that we hear in church.
            So often, the appointed lessons have somehow seemed just perfect for the day, for that particular moment.
            And, sure enough, that’s true for today.
            Last night when I looked at today’s lessons I both chuckled and groaned as I read the passage from a New Testament text we don’t often hear in church, the Letter to Titus:
            “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient…”
            And then the author of the letter continues about how we Christians are to behave: we are “…to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show courtesy to everyone.”
            We have a long way to go, right?
            And, as I thought about that passage I thought about how for the last eight years a whole lot of people in our country, including lots of Bible-believing Christians, have consistently disrespected President Obama's authority as our president, most recently with the Senate flat-out refusing to hold hearings for his Supreme Court nominee – and there are many, many other examples.
            I have no doubt these years of disrespect have had a corrosive effect on our politics, have done a lot of damage to our country – all of this disrespect has helped to get us stuck.
            And now it would be tempting for those on the other side to return the favor and disrespect our next president.
            But, as sorely tempting as that is, we know that kind of behavior will just leave us even more stuck - and the author of the Letter to Titus reminds us that we Christians are meant to be ready for every good work, we are meant to resist speaking evil of anyone, we are meant to be gentle and to show courtesy to everyone.
            Though, most of us are probably not ready for that just yet.
            But, as hard as all of that is, if we give it a shot, I believe God will use our good efforts to help get us unstuck.
            I know that many of us are still just beginning to wrap our minds around what has happened, still grieving, so what I’m talking about may seem nearly impossible. But, if we doubt that God can really get us unstuck tonight we heard a portion of Psalm 91 – a psalm of confidence – confidence that God is with us no matter what dangers we face – confidence that God is with us even as we face the lions and snakes of our lives.
            And, I know that most, if not all, of us have faced our own lions and snakes, and have felt God’s presence and support – and that’s definitely not going to change now!
            Finally, we heard the gospel lesson that I read for us: the familiar story of Jesus healing the ten lepers, but only one, a despised Samaritan, returns to say thank you.
            You know, it’s hard to imagine being more stuck than being a leper in ancient Israel.
            People were understandably afraid of leprosy so lepers were forced to live on the outskirts of towns begging from people in order to survive.
            Yet, these oh so very stuck lepers have enough faith and hope to call out to Jesus for mercy – and Jesus does the seemingly impossible, making a way out of no way, creating new life, getting ten lepers unstuck out of their miserable lives.
            And then there’s that one grateful leper.
            Most of all, I think God uses gratitude to really get us unstuck.
            We’re never more stuck than we focus on the half-empty glass, when we dwell on all that we’ve lost, when we’re paralyzed by fear of the future.
            But, when we’re grateful, when we focus on the half-full glass, when we dwell on all we have, when we step into the future confidently holding each other’s hands, then we begin to get unstuck.
            So, in my better moments today I’ve been trying to be grateful – trying to give thanks that I’m right here with all of you, that I’m loved and I love, that together we have so many opportunities to serve and to learn and to feast and to sing.
            And, though I’m still exhausted and still very worried, I’m feeling a little better.
            We certainly have our work cut out for us and there are plenty of dangers ahead, but through God’s Word and through our own experience we know that God specializes in making a way out of no way.
            God specializes in turning death into new life.
            God specializes in getting us unstuck.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Holy Place, Holy People

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
November 6, 2016

Year C: All Saints’ Sunday
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Psalm 149
Ephesians 1:11-23
Luke 6:20-31

Holy Place, Holy People
            So, the other day Althea Maynard and I signed a check to a contractor for over $8,000 so that he can begin work to repair the front steps that most of you climbed up (carefully, I hope) on your way into church today.
            I think Susan Den Herder gulped when she cut the check – and I know Althea and I gulped when we signed it.
            It’s a lot of money for us – and it’s just half of what this urgently needed project is going to cost.
            As I’ve thought about all that money – and all the other money that we spend to keep these beautiful old buildings standing and looking as good as possible, I’ve often envied those pastors who lead churches that don’t own their own buildings – you know, those churches that rent a movie theatre or a school auditorium on Sunday, freeing up so many resources to do ministry.
            In fact, sometimes when Vanessa Foster has presented me with the latest building expense, say the leaking roof or the colony of raccoons gnawing away at shingles, I’ve often said her, “My next church is going to be a movie theatre church!”
            But, while that’s tempting, I’m not really serious.
            I’m not serious because there’s something really important – there’s a basic human need – for holy places.
            There’s a basic need for what Celtic Christians call “thin places” – locations where, somehow, there’s only a very little distance between heaven and earth.
            There’s a basic human need for places that are set apart, where we do things we don’t do anyplace else, where some of us dress in ways we don’t at Shop Rite, where we say together the same prayers and sing special music, where we extend peace to friend and stranger and maybe even someone we can’t stand, where we line up to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, where we feast with people we’ve known forever and some we’ve just met.
            There’s a basic human need for holy places.
            And, though it can be expensive, we are so blessed to have this holy place.
            Sometimes when I’m in here with all of you and especially when I’m in here by myself and it’s so quiet, I often think of all the prayers that have been offered in here, silently or aloud, all the prayers that have been heard in heaven, all the prayers that for over 150 years have bathed these walls.
            And, when I’m at the baptismal font, I think of all my predecessors, from our first rector, Fernando Putnam, to my friends Frank Carr and David Hamilton, who have poured water over hundreds and hundreds of heads, welcoming new members into the Body of Christ.
            When I’m at the font, I sometimes think how it has been soaked with all that Holy Water, how it’s been made holy by all the hopes and joys that have surrounded it, how, in a way, it still contains traces of the Christian lives that began right there.
            And, what a joy that in just a little while, the font will become an even holier place when Malachi and Aislinn become the two newest members of the Body of Christ.
            Yes, there’s a basic need for holy places, for places set apart, places where we practice being holy people.
            Holy place, holy people.
            On this All Saints’ Sunday, we don’t just remember the saints of the past. We are also reminded that, with God’s help, we are meant to be saints, too.
            Just as this place is holy, you and I are meant to be holy, too – holy not just during the time we spend here but out there during the rest of our lives.
            We are meant to be holy at school or work or at home or on the bus or, yes, even at Shop Rite.
            In today’s lesson from the Gospel of Luke, we hear Jesus’ great vision of God’s kingdom, Jesus’ downside-up vision of a holy world where it’s the poor, and the hungry, and the mourners who are truly blessed.
            We hear Jesus’ downside-up vision of how his holy followers are supposed to behave, this always radical and oh-so-difficult call to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, to pray for those who abuse us, to give away to those who steal from us, to treat other people the way we ourselves would want to be treated.
            That’s all very hard, and only possible with God’s help, but the truth is that, just as this place is different from other places, we are meant to be different from the average person out in the world.
            We the baptized are given the holy task of making Jesus’ downside-up vision a reality, right here, right now, by loving, and by loving some more, by loving especially those who are so hard to love.
            We the baptized are meant to be saints. We the baptized are meant to be living, breathing thin places, with heaven and earth drawing near in and through us.
            Holy place, holy people.
            And, yes, we the baptized are meant to be holy on this Tuesday and during the difficult days and weeks ahead.
            We all know that this has been the ugliest and most discouraging presidential election campaign of our lives. And, like many of you, I admit being very anxious about the outcome and its aftermath.
            The country’s bitter divisions have revealed the racism and other forms of hatred that, for many of us anyway, usually live just beneath the surface of American life.
            As you know, there have been ominous warnings about a rigged election, about not recognizing the legitimacy of the winner, of continued political gridlock, and even threats of armed rebellion.
            This is terrible and frightening stuff – and it’s oh so tempting – it would be so easy and even, for a time, satisfying – to give in and just be like everybody else – to hurl insults at the people who disagree with us – to post on Facebook unsubstantiated, misleading, downright false and hurtful rumors from obviously fake and biased “news” sites – to “un-friend” people - to scapegoat certain people as the source of all our problems – to assume the worst about each other - to fear one another – to hate one another – to threaten one another - all very tempting, easy, and even, for a time, satisfying.
            But, that’s not the way of Jesus. So, that can’t be our way. We’re meant to be different. We’re meant to be holy. We’re meant to be saints.
            That’s why you’re invited to come here on Tuesday evening – to come to this holy place where the walls have been bathed in a century and a half’s worth of prayer – to come to this “thin place” – to come here where heaven and earth draw near – to come here and see the font that reminds us that in the water of Baptism we are all one, all members of the Body of Christ – to come here and be reminded that we are called not to hate, but always, always, to love and to love some more.
            No matter what happens, some of us will carefully climb up those soon to be repaired steps and gather here on Tuesday - and even more of us will gather here again next Sunday, when, yes, thanks be to God, in the water of Baptism we’ll welcome three more new members of the Body of Christ.
            No matter what happens, brothers and sisters, we will gather here again, to pray and to sing and to feast and to love, to practice being the saints we are meant to be: a holy people in a holy place.