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





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