Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
3745 Kimball Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38111
901 743 6421
holytrinitymemphis@yahoo.com

SERMONS & SERVICES

______________SERMONSA NEW/OLD NORMAL
A Sermon for the Third Sunday of Lent
Almighty God,
you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves:
Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls,
that we may be defended from all adversities
which may happen to the body,
and from all evil thoughts
which may assault and hurt the soul;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
AMEN.
~ The Collect for the Third Sunday of Lent
Soon after I began to serve as the rector of an historic downtown church in
another state, the husband of one of the parish matriarchs died. He was a retired
military officer, someone well-known in those parts. The Bishop, whom I had
met during my interview process just a few months earlier, was asked to preside
and preach at his funeral. My only job was to be a pastor to his widow.
As has often been my experience, she was a pastor to me. She had come to
grips fairly quickly with the untimely death of her husband. My sense was that
she was someone from whom I, still relatively new as a priest, might learn some
lessons. Before the funeral she told me she had been considering what life
without her husband might be like. She declared, “This is my new normal.”
On that day, a grieving wife gave me some wisdom for the ages. Since then,
I’ve often heard and used the phrase “new normal.” I don’t know about you, but
I’ve had several seasons in my life during which a new normal began. I’ve also
learned there’s something my new normal moments and seasons have in
common: for me, they always seem to have something to do with grief and loss.
We may be shocked at the arrival and presence of this novel Coronavirus
called COVID-19. We may be looking forward to things getting back to “normal,”
whatever that normal was or is for us. A local columnist recently came to a
different conclusion: “Just because we’re...using sanitizer and bumping elbows
doesn’t mean we won’t be affected in the Mid-South....This is the new normal for
now” (Bruce VanWyngarden, Memphis Flyer, 3/12/20).
Whatever this season of our common life becomes, I believe it is our new
normal, at least for now. It feels hard, if not impossible - borrowing words from
the Serenity Prayer - to accept this thing we cannot change. So many of our old
behaviors have been turned into new warnings (“Don’t touch your face! Keep
your distance!”). At least for now, we have lost the ways we’ve been used to, ways
in which we have lived, moved, and had our being in the world.
I believe that as a church, a nation, a world, we are in grief, and in the days
to come, we do not know what else we may need to grieve. We do know we don’t
have to go it alone. We can and we must care for one another in our grief. (I’ll
have more to say about grief in the April Tract newsletter.)
Throughout the New Testament, people misunderstand Jesus when they
first encounter him. The story of the woman at the well in John’s Gospel (4:5-42)
is not unlike the stories about the disciples when they met Jesus. His friends had
a certain belief, a theological understanding of who their Jewish Messiah would
be and what he would do. The Samaritan woman also thought she knew how this
strange, Jewish man would behave - until he says, “Give me a drink” (4:7).
She replies, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of
Samaria?” By the way, John says that “Jews do not share things in common with
Samaritans” (4:9). But Jesus is not your normal Jew. He explains that he can
give her a new kind of water, living water, that “will become...a spring...gushing
up into eternal life” (4:14). His water is also not “normal.”
The Samaritan woman asks Jesus for that living water, and he does give it to
her. But here’s the catch: First, he tells her everything she’s ever done - including
the fact that she has been married five times. And the fact that the man she’s
with currently is not her husband. No fake news here.
Now, she knows Jesus is a prophet, and yet, once again, Jesus is not offering
normal prophecy. He is also the Christ, the One who heals in God’s name.
Suddenly, the disciples appear, astonished to find him speaking to a woman. She
returns to the city, and exclaims, “Come and see a man who told me everything I
have ever done!” Then she asks, “He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”
Once the woman’s Samaritan friends hear her share this Good News, they
start catching what she caught. “Many Samaritans from that city believed in him
because of the woman’s testimony” (4:39). Jesus is not a virus. But Jesus is
definitely contagious. Fear is also contagious, but God’s highly contagious love
casts out fear. When we encounter Jesus, he invites us to let go of our losses, so
we can catch something liberating and life-giving: a new/old normal called love.
In these trying times, how does Jesus want to be caught now? How is he
inviting us to follow him into a new/old normal? What if this season of Lent is
about those old practices - prayer, fasting, and self-denial - done in a new way?
Poet and minister Lynn Ungar wrote a piece about COVID-19 last week.
Perhaps her words have some answers for us:
PANDEMIC
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love--
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
~ The Rev. Thomas A. Momberg
March 14, 2020

 

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

The 16th Sunday after Pentecost

Debbie McCanless, Preacher

Good morning my friends.

It has been my honor and privilege to be with you these past several months. Now, I share my final homily with you.

 

Two of our lectionary readings are about fairness. First Jonah. When I think about Jonah, I automatically go to my childhood Sunday School days and Jonah’s under sea voyage as he is swallowed into the belly of the whale, (although scripture say it is a large fish). And truthfully, this is an image of what I feel like we’re going through today, being in the belly of the whale and I am hoping to be spit back on the shore someday.

 

But there is ‘the rest of the story’ of Jonah. Our lesson is about the conversion of Nineveh and God’s mercy. In the verses preceding our reading we find that Jonah finally does what God has been telling him to do. He goes to Nineveh calling on the people to repent. And they do – the people donned sackcloth and fasted. When the king heard this, he declared that “all shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands.” Jonah was not expecting this. When God saw their penitence, God changed his mind and did not bring disaster to the city.

 

And Jonah was not happy. It wasn’t fair that God just forgave these sinners. Jonah was furious, filled with self-righteous indignation, “I’m so angry, I’d rather die than live” he said. Jonah wanted retribution for the people of Nineveh. He wanted them to get what they deserved for all the sins they’ve committed. God then asks Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry?

 

How many times have I been filled with self-righteous indignation over a wrong committed against me? I can understand Jonah’s want for retribution. How dare God offer forgiveness and grace instead? As the writer Debi Thomas says, “Isn’t it right to be angry that God’s grace is so reckless and wasteful, it challenges our most cherished assumptions about justice? Theologian Richard Rohr calls this type of forgiveness “restorative justice” as opposed to retribution and the penal system that we are so used to today.

 

The truth is that even the people of Nineveh are God’s children, they are made in the image of God just as Jonah. Just as we are, you and me as well as our enemies. Like Jonah, sometimes it is difficult for me, dare I say us, to see our sins and that we are living wholly by the mercy of God. Jonah does not understand the mystery of God’s mercy and if I’m honest, neither do I. Just as God asked Jonah, I have to ask myself, “Is it right for you, Debbie, to be angry?”

 

Speaking of anger and grumbling, we move to the New Testament reading which offers another understanding of fairness. The familiar parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.

 

The landowner goes out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. There is an agreement between them for the usual daily wage, a denarius. Later, about 9:00 he goes out and finds others and tells them to go into the vineyard and he will pay them what is right, no agreement, no haggling over pay. Several more times, (about every three hours), he goes out and does the same, sending more workers into the vineyard. Finely, around 5:00 he went out and found others standing around. “Why are you standing here idle all day? They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He too sent them to the vineyard to work. Mind you, they did not say they did not want to work, but that no one has hired them.

 

At the end of the workday, the landowner has his manager bring the laborers in to pay them. Herein lies the rub. Those whom he hired last are brought forward first and paid the usual daily wage, a denarius; remember they were told they would be paid what is right, no set amount. Lastly the early laborers are brought forth and having seen what has gone on with the late comers are thinking, oh boy, I’m going to get extra, I showed up early and have been here all day. But they do not. They get the denarius that was agreed upon that morning. And they were not happy. It was not fair! But the landowner says, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

 

Several scholars see this parable as the right to work and an economic truth. It was the custom for the laborer to come into the village looking for work. Notice the workers who were hired last did not say, ‘we do not want to work’, they said, “no one has hired us”. Why is that? Maybe they had to walk farther, were not as skilled, didn’t speak the language and had greater challenges that those who could arrive early. They did not haggle over the pay, they just wanted to work. I think landowner knew that. He also knew that a denarius was a just wage for a day’s work at the time. Obtaining work and earning a fair wage meant the difference between feeding your family or going home to a hungry family.

 

Remember, Jesus, the carpenter, was a working man. I imagine him going into the village of Nazareth seeking work. He had a mother and younger siblings to support. He knew the difficulties and realities of making a living.

 

 

The writer, William Barclay, offers another point; it could also be a lesson about timing. It could be that those who come to God early in their life are no more loved than those who become a Christian “till the shadows are falling on his life.” God’s love makes no distinction, whether you come at the beginning of your life, or the end, or somewhere in between. The unbounding and unmerited gift of God’s generous love is there.

 

Unfortunately, I can see a little of myself in this vineyard story. I follow the rules, show up on time and do my work. It is fair that I get my full share. But as I have gotten older, I know there is more to the story and things are not always as they appear. Not everyone has the same privilege as I have had and continue to have in order to have make a decent living.

 

As Debi Thomas states, “I’ll be blunt: these two stories about fairness and justice are for us. Stories for right now. Stories for the times we live in.” and I agree. I am, we are, the beneficiary of God’s abundant justice – of God’s generous love and grace. Why are some of us, especially those in power and power comes in many forms, so willing to deny it to others; the “other” that we want to ostracize, those different from us whether based on skin color, ethnicity or nationality; to vilify and lock up instead of rehabilitate; to mock and scorn anyone who is different; unwilling to care for our earth and her resources; unwilling to care for each other in this pandemic?

 

We are on this planet together. We need each other. We are dependent on each other. But what if what is “fair” for me is not good for you or others? We must re-examine our narrow notion of fairness and realize everyone - everyone has worth and is worthy of dignity and has a place at the table. We need to be building longer tables, not higher walls. How will I, how will we, work to create a more just and fair society for all. How will we show God’s generosity to others?

 

We cannot talk about justice without remembering Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I leave you with the Facebook post by Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry

11 hrs  · 

He starts with a quote, “The late John Fitzgerald Kennedy once said, “while on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”

 

The he goes on to say “The sacred cause of liberty and justice, dignity and equality decreed by God and meant for all has been advanced because while on earth Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made God’s work her own. Because of her the ancient words of the prophet Micah to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God have found fulfillment. May we follow in her footprints. May she rest in the arms of the God who is love and the author of true justice.

 

Rest In Peace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Shalom.”

 

I reiterate how will we advance the cause of liberty and justice, dignity and equality for all?

 

Amen.









SEPTEMBER 6, 2020

The 14th Sunday after Pentecost

Father Thomas Momberg, Preacher

Church Sins                                                                          

Matthew 18:15-20                                                                                            

 

           “If another member of the church sins against you...” Nearly twenty-five years ago I spent time with today’s Gospel text from Matthew. This week, while reflecting on this Biblical process for restoring broken church relationships, I remembered what a New Testament professor called “joining the conversation.” She invited us to talk with Jesus, asking questions. So, I invite you to join a conversation with Jesus and me today.

 

             Let’s begin. My first question: Jesus, did you really say this about your church? It sounds like you, but it’s only found in Matthew’s version of your Gospel. In fact, the word “church” is found just twice in the Gospels, both in Matthew. Did you say this?

 

               Holy Trinity sisters and brothers, let me bring you into the loop. A large church I served as Rector had experienced problems for many, many years. Today we’d say they were in “generational conflict.” When I joined them, I became a participant in that church’s conflict, simply because of who I am and what I did. Eventually, we decided to get some professional help to work through things, and we hired a consultant.   In other words, we were a church family that needed counseling - and went and got it.

 

             At one session, the consultant, an Episcopal priest trained in conflict resolution, printed something for us to sign. It was a very large copy of today’s Gospel text, those six verses from Matthew 18. He said that, if we were truly serious about resolving our issues and moving forward together, we could use Matthew 18:15-20, sign that big copy of it, and post it in the parish hall. He also suggested we reduce and reprint the signed copy in every Sunday bulletin. I still have one of those Bulletin inserts.

 

               Now, as you know, it’s one thing to agree and sign on to some kind of a pledge, an oath, a covenant of behavior, whether it’s for Christians or for some other group. It’s another thing to live it out, day by day. Matthew 18 says the church member who has been offended or hurt by another church member is the one to take the first step in resolving things. In other words, the one who was offended confronts the offender.

 

               But Jesus, in Matthew’s day, only men were real members of a church. What was healing supposed to be like back then for women against whom men sinned?

                              

               If someone hurts you, this code of conduct says, you are to go to them and tell them so, privately. The problem, as you know, is that the one who hurts may end up hurting the one who hurt them - or someone else. Hurt people hurt people.   Jesus, sometimes someone is so hurt, so victimized, so oppressed, they just can’t see how to confront their oppressor. Sometimes, the one oppressed rises up in anger against their oppressor. What should they do then?

 

         My sisters and brothers in Christ, we say we believe sin hurts people. “If another member of the church sins against you....” The question here, if we are willing to answer it, is: What is sin? Sin, our Prayer Book Catechism tells us, is “the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God”   (BCP, p. 848). That means when we sin, we are essentially saying, “MY will, not Thy will, be done.”

 

         And what are the consequences of sinful behavior? Our Catechism says it “distort(s) our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.” In other words, when I try to get MY way, to do MY will, it messes up all my relationships, even those relationships I’m not even thinking about.

 

             There are many ways to sin, ways to make a mess with the people, places, and things in our lives, not to mention with God. But this Gospel text is about a particular kind of sin. In chapter 18, Matthew has Jesus talking about the kind of sin that happens in church. If one church member sins against another church member - actually, it’s “if a church member sins against YOU....” if and when that happens, what do you do?

 

               I’d probably ask myself, “How well do I know this person who sinned against me, who hurt me?” Then, I might wonder, “What’s really going on? What happened to this person?” And then, “How big is this sin, really? How much does it hurt?” I wouldn’t automatically go and “point out that fault” directly to the church member. I might go and talk to them privately, speaking my truth in love. I might not. It depends.

 

             Jesus, is “it depends” an acceptable response?   Friends, this is the first big problem I have with this conflict resolution process. Steps two three, and four - take one or two others along, then tell the whole church, and then, if nothing else works, let them go - all those make sense to me. But I think confronting sin and sinners, including the sin in ourselves, is a whole lot more complicated than we hear about in this kind of “if this, then that” process. If it were simple, why would we be in the messes we’ve been in?

 

             Here’s what I think is simple. When people get hurt in the Episcopal Church, when one Episcopalian gets hurt by another one, and then, gets angry, here’s what usually happens. They leave. They leave and do one of two things. One thing Episcopalians do is: stay home, for months, years, even decades. Of course, in COVID-19 days, staying home is what we do to stay well. However, it may be that staying home can become a good excuse for losing contact with sisters and brothers.

 

         In any event, when a hurt, angry Episcopalian stays home, they will, hopefully, some day, find their way back to their church home or a new one. Hopefully, when they return to church, it’s because enough time has passed for their wounds to heal, at least heal enough to come home.   It all depends. Right, Jesus?

 

           And yet there will always be folks who get so hurt and angry with their church - their priest, or their vestry, or their fellow member - they just stay home and never come back. Until, perhaps, their own funeral. It is a great sadness for me when I, the current priest, have never heard of a person or of their family’s woes, until the word comes of their loved one’s death and a desire to bury them from their church home. This is just a reminder: if you know of someone who needs pastoral care, please let me or one of your Vestry members know, before it’s too late for us to offer it.

             There’s another question that emerges when we consider sins in the church: What is the mission of the church? It should go without saying that the church is in the forgiveness business. We’ll hear what Jesus has to say about forgiveness next Sunday. Churches, like all organizations, spend time crafting mission statements. Episcopalians already have one. “The mission of the church,” our Prayer Book Catechism says, “is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ” (p. 855).

 

         The word we hear more often in the church than “restore” or “restoration” is reconciliation. As Episcopal Christians, our mission, should we wish to accept it, is to be reconciled with those who sin against us. That sounds lovely, doesn’t it, Jesus? I just love our Prayer Book! What some people now say is that, before we can have any kind of reconciliation, we need to start with conciliation. Especially when there may be no real relationship to begin with. Especially when it comes to things like...race.

 

         The other problem I now have with this method in Matthew of resolving church conflicts is far larger than “it depends.” It has to do with a much bigger sin than one member might commit against another, even if that individual sinner is someone like a bishop or a priest. The bigger sin is the sin a church commits. In other words, what if Jesus took this teaching to the next level? What if the Gospel text went on to say, “If the church sins against you...”? Jesus, what would you like to say to us about church sins?

 

           There’s a new book about church sin that’s getting a lot of positive press lately. It’s called White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity. Robert P. Jones, the author, who grew up Southern Baptist and now runs the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), uses all kinds of data to suggest that, over time, deeply racist attitudes have become embedded in the DNA of White Christian identity.

 

               Jones writes: It is time - indeed well beyond time - for white Christians in the United States to reckon with the racism of our past and the willful amnesia of our present....White Christians churches have not just been complacent; they have not only been complicit; rather, as the dominant cultural power in America, (White churches) have been responsible for constructing and sustaining a project to protect white supremacy and resist black equality....Christian theology and institutions have been the central tent pole holding up the very idea of white supremacy (p. 6).

 

             If this is true, and you are an American Christian who is not White, and a White American Christian sins against you, what do you do? If the predominantly White Christian Church sins against you, a Christian of Color, what do you do? What about if you are a woman or an LGBTQ Christian, and a mostly straight White male church sins against you? Might all of this have something to do with the fact that more and more younger adults who would or could be Christians say they are done with the Church?

 

               Dear friends in Christ, I’m not done with the church. I may be wrong, but I think that today, the church as I know it and love it, the church where, as a Christian song from the 60’s put it, you’ll know they are Christians by their love - these days, I think we Episcopal Christians, imperfect as we are - we are trying to live and love more and more like Jesus would have us do - together. I’m talking about that relatively big denomination of American churches called Episcopal, and our smaller collection of churches called the Diocese of West Tennessee, and this little church called Holy Trinity, where two or three, or twelve or thirteen, or even more gather in Jesus’ name.

 

       Whether it’s Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s initiative called “Becoming Beloved Community,” or the efforts our own Bishop Phoebe Roaf is making to create, encourage, and restore healthy community among us, or our own Wednesday Bible study or Sunday worship - I do not see church sins happening the way I have in the past. I see us taking steps toward healing hurts, resolving conflicts, and restoring unity along dividing lines.

 

               Today, my sisters and brothers, I see the church as I suspect Jesus envisioned it - all things considered, we are alive, well, and preparing to go where Jesus calls us next. The question on this 2020 Labor Day weekend is: What does the work of healing, the work of restoration, the work of reconciliation look like for Holy Trinity, for the Diocese of West Tennessee, for the Episcopal Church in the days ahead?

 

             So, Jesus, what do you have to say about all that? What would you have us do next, in your name? What would you do - through us?

 

 

~ The Rev. Thomas A. Momberg

Vicar, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

3745 Kimball Ave.

Memphis, TN 38111

holytrinityec.org

fathermom1949@gmail.com




AUGUST 30, 2020

The 13th Sunday after Pentecost

Father Thomas Momberg

Losing Our Lives for Jesus’ Sake                           

Matthew 16:21-28                                                                                                 

         My two week “stay-cation” came to an end last Sunday night, so I decided to pick up my phone on Monday and see how some of you were doing. I called Brenda Harris to thank her for last Sunday’s sermon. I called Jim Gholson to ask how it went for him to be last Sunday’s officiant for your Zoom service of worship. And I called Ruth Irick, who hasn’t been able to come to church since I came to be with you fifteen months ago.

 

         Ruth said she and Chuck are doing just fine, all things considered. However, she told me that Angela, her daughter, had a traumatic experience recently. A dog attacked Angela, taking a bite out of her leg. Ruth said Angela is on some antibiotics, and they are hopeful she’ll be just fine, too. “I wish it would have been me,” she added. And I thought, yes, there’s nothing like a mother’s love for her children.

 

         If we skipped ahead in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, seven chapters past today’s lesson, we would find Jesus has gotten totally fed up with the religious leaders. Six times in a row, he denounces them. Six times in chapter 23, Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees!”   Here’s how he really lets them have it:

 

         Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees!...you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make (that) new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves!....Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees! You tithe...(but) have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith....Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees! You are like white-washed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of bones of the dead and all kinds of filth.

 

         We never hear that passage in our Sunday lectionary. But the stage is set in today’s Gospel story for Jesus to speak that kind of truth in love, in the admonition we did hear Jesus utter candidly to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!” The difference, of course, is that Peter is neither a scribe nor a Pharisee.

 

         I’ll come back to Peter and today’s Gospel lesson, but before I do, let’s return for a moment to chapter 23. At the very end of that chapter, Jesus’ tone shifts and his emotions deepen. He moves from an angry denunciation of the religious leaders to the sadness of lament. He cries out: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings...” (23:37).

 

         As a hen gathers her brood. As a mother loves her children. And, may I add, as a follower of Jesus is called to love others. But these days, how do we love others like a mother hen, like a human mother - especially those of us who are not mothers? How might we learn to love more like Jesus loves? What does Jesus-love actually look like?

 

         Here’s a clue: listen again with me to those most familiar words of Jesus in today’s Gospel story: “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” (16:24-25).

 

         For Jesus, journeying to Jerusalem means to “undergo great suffering,” not to mention death. There’s no other way for Jesus. And if anyone is to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus, then or now, there’s no other way for them, Jesus says. There’s no other way for us, either. When I comes to following Jesus, there are no alternative facts.

 

       Right now, you may be thinking something like: What does Jesus mean by “suffering”? Or you may be thinking: Is he saying I have to look for suffering if I want to be a Christian?   Or: Who does this white guy think he is, to tell me I have to suffer?

 

         You would be right, you would be totally justified, if you’re thinking any or even all of those things. Suffering - real, honest, painful suffering is hard to consider, let alone embrace. Even if it’s what is called redemptive suffering. Especially if you’ve suffered enough. Especially in a time of multiple pandemics. And then, there’s that thing Jesus suggests, the kind of suffering that may feel insufferable: to lose your life for his sake.

 

           Difficult as that is to consider - losing our lives for Jesus’ sake - people do it. A Christian will do it in her or his own way. For some, to lose their life for the sake of Jesus will mean, literally, to lay down their mortal body. For most of us, however, losing our earthly life for Jesus will not be literal. For most, perhaps all of us here in our Zoom worship today, as well as for those reading this sermon later - for us, laying down our lives for Jesus’ sake will be something we keep learning how to do, as long as we live. Spiritual guide Richard Rohr says we need to keep learning how to die before we die.

 

         In other words, we need to keep discovering how to die to some of our old, familiar ways of living. Who has not had to do some of that since COVID-19 arrived? But even before that, even before changing how we will live right now, we will need to keep dying to some of our, old familiar, comfortable ways of thinking. Take Peter, for instance.

 

         Like Jesus’ other faithful Jewish followers, Peter was sure that Jesus would be the kind of Messiah who would never have to suffer or even die. Now Jesus, as you may remember from last Sunday’s Gospel story, had declared Peter to be the rock on which the church would be built. Jesus had proclaimed that, with Peter in charge, hell would not prevail. Jesus had promised he would give Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. But that was last week’s chapter of the story.

 

         This week, we hear Jesus say Peter is no longer the rock, but a stumbling block - IF he keeps thinking the way he’s been thinking, IF he does not let his old way of thinking about Jesus die. Of course, Peter will stumble many more times before Jesus dies, rises again, and ascends to heaven, and ever after. Peter keeps stumbling over Jesus. And Jesus keeps loving him, like a mother hen.

 

         I believe one place where we 21st century people keep stumbling - one situation in which we as a country, as cities, even as the church are being invited to let our thinking die these days is in our understanding of policing. Ever since George Floyd was terribly murdered on Memorial Day, countless protests against police brutality have continued all summer long. And yet, to defund or to abolish the police departments of this country is, from both a practical and a political standpoint, probably not going to happen.

 

          But what if we were to reform policing? What if we were to re-imagine it - to realize that the old thinking that created slave patrols is still alive today, to realize the police are also victims of our racist society, to realize that, as one theologian recently put it, we Americans need to reimagine Black and Brown bodies? What if this might be one way God is inviting those of us who seek to follow Jesus to actually save our own lives?

 

         This week, at Bishop Phoebe’s invitation, I participated in an online Episcopal Church “teach in” called “To Serve and Protect: Bridging the Gap Between Race and Policing.” The Rev. Dr. Gayle Fisher Stewart, a retired police officer who is now a priest, asked us to think differently. What if we thought of police as guardians, not warriors?

 

         She made it clear that this kind of change in our perceptions, this kind of letting our old ways of thinking die is very hard to do. That’s partly because adding things like body cameras and cultural sensitivity training, or eliminating things like choke holds and “no knock” entry - all those things are just the tip of the iceberg. What’s below our surface thinking, what is clearly the biggest part of the invisible iceberg of American policing is systemic racism, centuries of trying to control the bodies of people of color.

 

         My sisters and brothers, I do not know exactly where or how we are being led or called to follow Jesus in this work of reimagining policing. I do know I am encouraged by the words of Dr. Catherine Meeks, who directs the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing. When she hosted this week’s teach-in, she welcomed us by saying that how we do this work is like learning how to dance. None of us knows all the steps, she assured us. We’ll learn how to dance together. With God’s help, of course.

 

         In addition to what I learned this week, I am inspired by those people who are ready to literally lay down their lives for Jesus’ sake. I want to tell you a story about a man who did something a few weeks ago. He did something that helps me see what re-thinking and reimagining policing - what loving like Jesus loves - actually looks like.

 

           The story is about my son. John is a supermarket manager. A couple of weeks ago he was on duty when a 17-year-old Native American boy pulled a knife, grabbed a young woman, and held her hostage, right in the middle of the Gatorade. My 38-year-old son - wise beyond his years, trained, experienced, and skilled in the art of bartending and bouncing, tour managing and crisis surviving - John knew exactly what to do.

 

         He told that 17-year-old, who had applied for a job at the same supermarket days earlier but did not get it, that he understood how upset the boy might be, because, he told the boy, he’s been there. What John didn’t say was that he lost his very-well-paying L.A. job when the coronavirus also tried to kill the music business, bringing an end to my son’s working life as he had known it. Six months ago John and his wife Rica picked up and moved back to Oklahoma, to live near her family, to start their lives over again.

 

         He didn’t tell the boy any of his own story, but somehow, the boy knew John walks his talk. When nothing else worked, John offered to literally take the place of that young woman. Finally, the boy decided to let her go. That’s when the Tulsa city police arrived, arrested the boy and held him, until the tribal police came and took him away. As John finished telling me his story, I realized: this is what re-thinking, reimagining policing looks like. Not everyone can do what John did, but all of us can think differently.

 

         Years ago John was dubbed a “classroom lawyer” by his high school principal. He would win arguments with everyone, including his teachers. The day after he did that courageous thing in Tulsa, John posted a few words on Facebook. Allow me to quote:

        

         I am a passionate person who gets heated and uses colorful language when I feel strongly about something. But I’m not always right, nor am I always justified in some of the things I say. And I know that can hurt people. Friends. Family. People I love.....

 

     And I haven't given enough thought to the privilege I have in my words, how people take what I say. I need to be better about listening. This goes for my personal life, my work life, my "social" life....whatever that is at this point. Social media life, I guess....

 

         My point here is this. LOVE PEOPLE JUST AS HARD AS YOU ARGUE/DEBATE WITH THEM. Some people ONLY need to just be heard. They have no one in their life listening. We all need to be better. We don't have to agree. People just need to be heard.

 

           I remember John asking me, back when he was about the age of this young boy, if he could go to seminary and be a priest - not in a church, but on the streets. I remember thinking: that’s a great idea, but it’ll never happen. Now, my thinking has changed.

 

         John clearly has been commissioned, at the very least, as a streetwise, supermarket preacher, teacher, and pastor. We’ll see what God is up to next in his new life. And in mine. I wonder: what might God be up to in your reimagined, new life? In the days ahead, what new life might we find together as a community of faith, if we dare to lose our lives for the sake of Jesus?

 

~ The Rev. Thomas A. Momberg

Vicar, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

3745 Kimball Ave.

Memphis, TN 38111

holytrinityec.org

fathermom1949@gmail.com




AUGUST 23, 2020

The 12th Sunday after Pentecost

Proper 16 (Yr A)      

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

Brenda Harris, Preacher, Worship Leader

Title: I KNOW A SECRET!

 

 

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer”. Amen. (Ps 19:14)

 

 

Good morning! Do you remember ever trying to keep a good secret, but could hardly do it? What about when you were a kid? It was a lot harder to keep a secret then, wasn’t it? Back before the electronic era we had good imaginations and lots of fun games to play that didn’t cost anything! Remember Red Rover, Mother May I, Simon Says, Riddle Marie? That was my indoor favorite for rainy days! It was a game about a secret item, out in plain view, that you, the “it” person were thinking of! You’d call out, “Riddle Me, Riddle Me, Riddle Marie, I see something you don’t see, and the color of it is {pause} and here you’d name the color of the secret item, and everyone else would try to guess what it was.

          Remember how long it seemed that George Lucas, author of the Star Wars’ series kept the secret of the real identity of Darth Vader? And it took even longer for us to find out who Luke Skywalker’s real father was, and what his real name was! George Lucas truly knew how to keep a secret!       

 

          There was a popular TV game Show when I was growing up called, “I’ve Got A Secret”. They would invite a guest with a secret to come on the show to let their panelists try to guess what the secret was. I recently saw an old episode of the show from (February 8th ) 1956. The guest was a 95 year old man named Samuel Seymour. His secret was that he was the last living eyewitness to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln! After the secret was revealed, I watched and listened spellbound as the man told what happened on April 14th, 1865. He also had full page news stories with photos about the event and about himself being present when it happened. He was a timid little five year old boy when family friends took him with them to see a play at the Ford Theater because they’d heard the president was going to be there. From his seat he could see the stage and the president’s box. He said he heard a shot first, then a lady’s scream. Then as he looked up toward Lincoln’s box, he saw the president slump forward. Next he heard a thud as John Wilkes Booth jumped onstage, got up, and ran off!         

          Four months after being on the show, Mr. Seymour died. Except for news accounts and recordings, the last verbal testimony from an eyewitness to Lincoln’s assassination was gone. And in 2020, through the magic of a video held in a cloud on a tiny handheld telephone, I was seeing and hearing an eyewitness account of the murder of the president who abolished slavery in the United States! Although this wasn’t real time, my life and that of many others has been positively affected because Lincoln had once lived! I felt a special feeling as Mr. Seymour told his firsthand account. I wonder what things Jesus would say to us today about President Lincoln’s life and death? I imagine he’d talk about it and encourage us to talk about it.  

 

I get special feelings too whenever I hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Mountaintop” speech given April 3, 1968 at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. He was assassinated the very next day. I didn’t hear his speech in real time but I do experience the significance and the historical specialness, the reality, and the sadness, of it every time I hear it. I can say that my life and the lives of probably everyone alive today has been positively affected because he lived! There are people living today who were present and witness to Dr. King’s most famous speech, and I’ve heard accounts of his assassination from the eyewitnesses present at the time. His life and his death are significant to our nations history. And, because he lived, some profound changes came that were good for all. I wonder what things Jesus would say to us today about Dr. King’s life and death? I believe he’d talk about it and he’d encourage us to talk about it.

 

Did you hear the big secret in today’s gospel? It came when Jesus asked the disciples, “who do you say that I am,” after they’d already told him who the people thought he was. Peter spoke for the group, saying that Jesus was the Messiah. Whoa!! What! What did he say? The secret was out! Peter knew! How could Peter know Jesus secret when no one else did? Jesus explained that Peter’s understanding couldn’t have been a revelation from man, but was a gift that could have only come to him from God. Then Jesus said something very confusing; he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone! So why did he want to keep this new information, this Messianic Secret, known only to themselves? And why did God entrust Peter with this special information before any others? He chose Peter probably because he was the spokesman for the group, but also as Jesus pointed out, because Peter was like a rock and would be the one upon whom Jesus would build his church. Prior to this, Peter was known by his birth name, Simon. But now he would be called Peter, which meant “rock”.

 

Knowing the Messianic Secret helped the disciples understand the fullness of who Jesus was and it helps us in todays world for the same reason, so that we can know the fullness of who Jesus Christ is! Jesus was sent as the savior, the anointed one, the Messiah! He wasnt sent to be a great king, a ruler, not a military leader, not a judge nor one to lead the people into battle against their enemies, and he wasn’t sent to be only an itinerant preacher, or a wise teacher, a rabbi, a healer, a performer of miracles. . . those things were important, yes, but nothing was as important as the one main job he‘d been sent to do. HE COULD NOT BE THE MESSIAH OUTSIDE OF HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION because if theyd heard it before having knowledge of those events, they would have completely misunderstood.  We know this because only in the shocking reality of those things could people realize the full and divine nature of who he was and why he was sent. HE WAS AND IS,THE MESSIAH WHO CAME TO SAVE US ALL FROM SIN!

 

The people living during Jesus’ time were certainly not without problems, they had many problems, hardship, and burdens, as do we. It seems as if little has changed. Modern times have given us modern technology and yet we still have mountains of problems. We have seen the ugliness of corruptness, and we’re still living through the killings of innocent people for various, and for nefarious reasons and most of us still seek fair play justice for all. We’ve lived with evil rulers such as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Robert Mugabe, and even others who affect our lives today. Just as the people of Jesus’ time did, we again wait for the coming savior while praying for God to right the things that are wrong.

 

We don’t know what he’ll be like. Will he be like another Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, Mother Teresa, or Nelson Mandela? What he’ll be like shouldn’t be a secret to us today. He’s told us and he’s shown us over and over who he is, and what he’s about. He suffered death and was buried and on the third day he rose again and ascended into heaven, and he will come again. He was God in flesh who came to save his people from sin and he will do it again.

 

So what kind of Messiah are you expecting? Someone who comes to judge the living and the dead? A strong authoritative figure, or an old softie like a grandfather who’ll go easy on you? These questions pop in and out of our thoughts from time to time. Now it’s time we put some real time and real thought into an answer. What kind of Messiah am I expecting when he comes again, and am I still keeping all that a secret, or am I talking about it and encouraging others to talk about it? Or does the late Marcus Borg still have me pondering if the return of Jesus has already been experienced as the risen Christ, and the spirit of Christ?

 

In the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the holy spirit, Amen.




AUGUST 2, 2020

The 9th Sunday after Pentecost

Preached by Fr. Tom Momberg

Struggling with God Together                                            

Genesis 32:22-31                                                                                                     

 

 

       I have never liked wrestling. Yes, I know hometown hero Jerry Lawler has held more recognized wrestling championships than anyone in history, not to mention his movie and TV career. Maybe it’s the emphasis on all that bodybuilding that I don’t understand. I’ve never been much of an athlete.

 

         So why, then, is the story of Jacob wrestling with God a story that just won’t let me go? Why did I decide to choose this story to preach on? Why not the Gospel story about the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21)?

 

         Our lesson from Genesis isn’t even in the current lectionary, lessons approved to be read in worship. The Episcopal Church replaced its Prayer Book lectionary with the Revised Common Lectionary in 2006. We can still use lessons from the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, from our old Episcopal lectionary. That’s what I decided to do early this week, so I could preach on this complicated story from Genesis today.  

 

         But why? Why do I keep struggling with this story? Why won’t it let me go?

 

     The story of Jacob wrestling with God is complicated, yes, and fascinating, which probably has something to do with the context. In a book filled with stories about the creation and flood; stories about Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Joseph and his technicolor dreamcoat - we find the story of Jacob and his brother Esau two-thirds of the way through the fifty chapters of Genesis.

 

     Before today’s story, halfway through Genesis, we find Isaac praying for his wife Rebekah, because she cannot have children. “The Lord granted his prayer,” Scripture says, and Rebekah conceived (25:20). Wonderful news!

 

       What was not so wonderful was the fact that Rebekah was pregnant with twin boys who “struggled together within her,” causing her to ask God, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” God replied, “Two nations are in your womb...two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger” (25:23). Right away, even before they are born, those two brothers are getting into it, big time.

 

     Esau, the first boy to be born, was covered with hair. Jacob was next, his hand holding on to Esau’s heel. In Hebrew, the name Jacob means “he grasps the heel,” which was a Hebrew figure of speech for deceptive behavior. Both in utero and in birth, a firm foundation had been laid for the twins’ future conflict.

 

       Esau grew up to be a skillful hunter, while Jacob was “a quiet man, living in tents.” Scripture says Isaac loved Esau, because “he was fond of game,” but Rebekah loved Jacob (25:27-28). By the time those two boys were fully grown, their brotherly conflict had come to a head.

 

       One day Jacob was cooking a stew. Esau came in from the field, starved. Esau said to Jacob, Give me some of that...stew!”.... Jacob said, Make me a trade: my stew for your rights as the firstborn.”

 

       Esau said, Im starving! What good is a birthright if Im dead?” Jacob said, First, swear to me.” And he did it. On oath, Esau traded away his rights as the firstborn (25:29-33, The Message).

 

         I guess we could say Esau was in a stew of his own making, but so was Jacob, even more so. Jacob was stewing in his own juices. He had deceived Esau in a way that would last a long, long time. In their day, the oldest, birthright-holding son always received all of the father’s inheritance. Unless, of course, he traded it away.

 

       It’s not surprising that Esau gets angry enough to want to kill his brother. Jacob gets a heads-up about that threat from their mother Rebekah. She tells him to hightail it to her brother’s home and hide out there. That’s when Jacob’s struggle begins with God.

 

         While spending the night outdoors on the way to his uncle’s, Jacob has a dream. He dreams of a ladder, “reaching to heaven, and the angels of God...ascending and descending on it” (28:12). In Bible times, that dream would have been nothing less than a message from God.

 

         In the dream, God assures Jacob, “I will not leave you until I have done what I promised.” God tells Jacob what his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham had heard, long before him. Their descendants will indeed receive the promised land.

 

         When Jacob woke up, the dream did not frighten him. Despite his fear of what might happen, Jacob knew God was with him in that place. What Jacob didn’t know was that God was preparing him for a contest unlike anything he could have imagined.

 

         Which brings us to the verses just before the story we heard today. Twenty years after he left, Jacob is on his way back home, ready to find favor and make good with Esau. The word is that Esau is coming to meet him, along with four hundred men.

 

         “Then Jacob was greatly afraid and sorely distressed,” Scripture says (32:7). He divides up his flocks and herds, so that if Esau attacks, some will survive. Jacob prays to be delivered from death. Then, he prepares a present for Esau: some of those flocks and herds. He thinks, “I may (be able to) appease him with (this) present...and afterwards, I shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me” (32:20).

 

         This was no dream, but it probably felt like a nightmare. Somehow Jacob manages to fall asleep. Then, he gets up in the middle of the night, gathers up his wives, maids, and eleven children, and sends them and everything he has across a fork in the river.  

         Now, finally, Jacob is truly all alone, terribly afraid, and quite vulnerable. He is in real need of divine help. That’s when that man - or is it an angel, or is it God? - that’s when the wrestling, the biggest struggle of Jacob’s life, begins.        

 

         Why do I keep struggling with this story? Why has this story never let me go? Maybe it’s because I’m a firstborn, like Esau. Maybe it’s because I essentially ran away from home for decades, like Jacob. Maybe it’s because I’ve had my share of dreams and nightmares. All those maybes!

 

       But maybe, just maybe, it’s because it is God who won’t let me - or you - go. And maybe, just maybe, we won’t let God go until God blesses us. Maybe that’s because we know God is the One who starts the wrestling match, God is the One who initiates the struggle. And God keeps on wrestling and struggling with us, until we’re ready to be blessed in some new, totally unexpected, unimaginable way.

 

         As Episcopalians, we promise in our Baptismal Covenant to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to love them, while we strive for justice and peace among all of our sisters and brothers. That’s a tall order. Like Jacob, we may feel alone, afraid, vulnerable.  

.

         Maybe our struggle to be blessed by God is literally with another member of our family in whom we are having a really hard time seeing Christ, Jesus with flesh on. Or maybe our struggle to be blessed by God is about the work we try to do - haltingly, imperfectly - in helping to heal our own little corner of the world from fear and despair.

 

         Take racism, for example. I wonder: what does this story have to say about the centuries of deception we White brothers - younger than our Black brothers, historians and anthropologists tell us - deception we’ve denied...until, perhaps, now? By the way, check out the front page of today’s Commercial Appeal. The headline: “We Must Face Our History: Let’s acknowledge wrongs, dismantle racism, one monument at a time.”

 

         Today’s ten verses do not tell the end of this Genesis story. There’s good news at the end of our lesson, and in the verses that follow - long before Jesus walks the earth. As we heard, Jacob gets a new name: Israel, which means the one who struggles with God. And he receives that blessing, as he moves into the future with God.

 

         So...when Jacob finally meets his brother, “Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept” (33:4). Clearly enough time had passed to heal the wounds inflicted by one brother on another. Jacob says to Esau, “Truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God” (33:10). Who says there is no grace, no forgiveness, no Good News in the Old Testament? There is Good News whenever anyone does the work they need to do to get right with God.

 

         Yes, there is Good News for us today. That Good News grabbed me this week and would not let me go. As was true for Jacob, the work we all need to do, wrestling, struggling with God, may leave us limping a bit. But dare we imagine the blessing?

 

 

~ The Rev. Thomas A. Momberg

Vicar, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

3745 Kimball Ave.

Memphis, TN 38111

holytrinityec.org

fathermom1949@gmail.com



     


FROM THE DESK OF FATHER MOMBERG-VICAR OF HTEC
        This article is taken from THE TRACT
SEPTEMBER 2020

 

 

And now for something completely different.
~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus
Back in the 1970s, a ragtag group of young Englishmen created a surreal series of TV sketches. Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Terry Gilliam, dubbed Monty Python’s Flying Circus - or simply, "The Pythons” - totally changed the way comedy was done. Their work included absurd situations, outrageous innuendoes and sight gags, alternating with animation that merged with live action. Something completely different, indeed.
That comical phrase came to mind as I continue to reflect on what God might be up to in these, our own “completely different” days. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing requirements have forced all of us to engage in other kinds of meeting, newer ways of connecting, such as telecommuting, learning through distance education, and videoconferencing - not to mention making a good, old-fashioned telephone call!
When the coronavirus became a reality in this country, it was time for something completely different. Zoom, a communications technology company founded less than a decade ago, is now a leader with their own version of “something different.” Countless companies, all kinds of educational institutions - even churches have switched, at least for now, to online classes and “virtual” worship, using platforms like Zoom.
On Palm Sunday we began to offer online Zoom worship. Now, using your telephone or computer, you can go to a website link and join Holy Trinity friends on Sunday mornings at 10 am. Anyone can worship with us...from anywhere on the planet!
And starting May 6th, we’ll begin offering a new Zoom (audio-video) class called Praying the Bible. I will host this one-hour class at Noon on Wednesdays. If you prefer, you can participate simply using audio (just call in with any kind of phone). Or you can use a “smart” phone or any other kind of computer (desktop, laptop, or tablet) and join us in both audio and video. Each week, you choose how you want to connect.
As with our current Sunday morning worship at 10 am, anyone will be able to study the Bible and pray with us on Wednesdays, from wherever they - or you - may be. Anywhere in the world, that is. Talk about something completely different!
Changes can be hard. Differences may be challenging. I believe I am called to face into these hard, challenging times with you. I pray you will let me be your companion and guide on this spiritual journey. Of course, Jesus, our chief guide, is also with us.
In the merry month of May, I invite you to join us in this completely different way of praying, studying, and worshiping. Let us keep coming together, while we are apart.
In the peace of Christ,
Tom+
fathermom1949@gmail.com / 301.825.2846

 

The Fire THIS Time

 

Dan was the first person to ask me the question

I knew so many others had wanted to ask:

Why are you throwing yourself on this fire?...

Instead of an intellectual argument,

all I had to give was what my heart wanted to scream:

Because my friends are on that fire.

~ Mike Kinman, Preaching Black Lives (Matter)

 

 

           What a long, hot summer this has been. And, officially, it’s not quite over.

 

         On Memorial Day, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis. His death was, in a word, unconscionable. Who, being conscious, would not only put a knee to another human being’s neck long enough to kill him, but also look into the cameras, communicating his total, inhuman disdain for another human being? In that moment, a movement was reborn.

 

       In June, the Shelby County Commission declared racism a pandemic. In July, the Memphis City Council declared racism a public health crisis. At the end of July, a transgender Lakota pastor suggested that, in order for us to become what Dr. King named “the beloved community,” truth needs to be seen as the diagnosis, justice the prescription, and healing the cure.

 

         I’m remembering three August moments in the movement toward racial truth, justice, and healing. On August 28th, 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy, accused of whistling at a white woman, was brutally murdered and horribly disfigured. Justice for Emmett has been delayed to this day. And yet, Emmett’s story was part of the birth of the Civil Rights movement.

 

         On August 14th, 1965, a White seminarian named Jonathan Daniels, who was on study leave to work on voter registration in Selma, Alabama, was killed by a White man’s shotgun blast aimed for a Black teen-ager named Ruby Sales. (Ruby and her racial justice work are found at http://www.spirithouseproject.org). Jonathan, honored annually by a memorial pilgrimage, once wrote, “We are indelibly, unspeakably one.”

 

         And on August 9th we observed the sixth anniversary of the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. For me, the memory of this particular moment in time, has deep meaning. Having finished my full-time working life, then returning to Memphis in late July, I became a pensioner on August 1, 2014, eight days before Mike Brown’s murder. Soon afterward, I became aware of the ministry of Mike Kinman, then Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral in St. Louis, who had thrown himself on that fire. Six years later, I have several new friends who live in that fire.

 

         In the short course of those eight days, I had barely begun to consider what life as a “retiree” might look like. I had no part-time obligations, in ministry or otherwise, on the horizon. Borrowing a line from the refrain of the song Sixteen Tons, I was clear: I would no longer live a life where I would “owe my soul to (any one) company store.”

 

         I will, however, always owe my soul to the One who keeps setting me on fire and refining me. That happened to me again, as it had several times before, in the late, summer heat, six years ago. That’s also what has been happening to me again THIS summer. To borrow and update the title of that groundbreaking 1962 book by James Baldwin, it’s the fire THIS time. Again. And THIS time matters, big time.

 

~ Peace,

Tom+

And now for something completely different. 
~ Monty Python’s Flying Circus 

Back in the 1970s, a ragtag group of young Englishmen created a surreal series of TV sketches. Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Terry Gilliam, dubbed Monty Python’s Flying Circus - or simply, "The Pythons” - totally changed the way comedy was done. Their work included absurd situations, outrageous innuendoes and sight gags, alternating with animation that merged with live action. Something completely different, indeed. 

That comical phrase came to mind as I continue to reflect on what God might be up to in these, our own “completely different” days. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing requirements have forced all of us to engage in other kinds of meeting, newer ways of connecting, such as telecommuting, learning through distance education, and videoconferencing - not to mention making a good, old-fashioned telephone call! 

When the coronavirus became a reality in this country, it was time for something completely different. Zoom, a communications technology company founded less than a decade ago, is now a leader with their own version of “something different.” Countless companies, all kinds of educational institutions - even churches have switched, at least for now, to online classes and “virtual” worship, using platforms like Zoom. 

On Palm Sunday we began to offer online Zoom worship. Now, using your telephone or computer, you can go to a website link and join Holy Trinity friends on Sunday mornings at 10 am. Anyone can worship with us...from anywhere on the planet! 
And starting May 6th, we’ll begin offering a new Zoom (audio-video) class called Praying the Bible. I will host this one-hour class at Noon on Wednesdays. If you prefer, you can participate simply using audio (just call in with any kind of phone). Or you can use a “smart” phone or any other kind of computer (desktop, laptop, or tablet) and join us in both audio and video. Each week, you choose how you want to connect. 

As with our current Sunday morning worship at 10 am, anyone will be able to study the Bible and pray with us on Wednesdays, from wherever they - or you - may be. Anywhere in the world, that is. Talk about something completely different! 
Changes can be hard. Differences may be challenging. I believe I am called to face into these hard, challenging times with you. I pray you will let me be your companion and guide on this spiritual journey. Of course, Jesus, our chief guide, is also with us. 

In the merry month of May, I invite you to join us in this completely different way of praying, studying, and worshiping. Let us keep coming together, while we are apart. 

In the peace of Christ, 
Tom+ 
fathermom1949@gmail.com / 301.825.2846