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

SERMONS

______________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

 

MAY 31, 2020

The Day of Pentecost

A Sermon by Bishop Phoebe Roaf

Please click on the youtube link


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhcD5Z8CFDo


MAY 24, 2020

Constant Prayer                                                                                  

Acts 1:6-14, John 17:1-11

The Seventh Sunday of Easter                                                                                

 

 

         Last Sunday, when the Zoom platform (that has been bringing us together each week) shut down all over the world, I sent a text message to those whose name I saw on my screen and to some I knew were listening by telephone. My message: “I keep pressing ‘admit.’ It keeps saying you are ‘joining,’ but nothing happens. I am SO sorry. I'll e-mail my sermon soon.”

 

         Normally I e-mail my Sunday sermons on Tuesdays, but this week, it slipped my mind until Thursday. My mind has been focused this week mostly on the conversations Ty Legge and I are having with two leaders at All Saints’ Church, our nearby Episcopal neighbors. We have been talking with All Saints’ leaders about the possibility of joining them for worship.

 

         Let’s be sure you know: Bishop Phoebe has given permission to all the Episcopal churches in the Diocese of West Tennessee to resume in-person worship, no earlier than June 1st. That’s just two weeks from tomorrow. The first Sunday of next month, June 7th, is Trinity Sunday, our congregation’s feast day. That could be a fitting time to come together - in one place, for the first time since March 8th, as guests of All Saints’.

 

         Now, this is not yet a “done deal.” The Vestries of both Holy Trinity and All Saints’ need to agree on details of such a temporary arrangement. Those details will include all the new necessary and essential health and safety practices which are now part of our common life in this COVID-19 pandemic era. The details of our plan for worship will be submitted in writing and approved by Bishop Phoebe before we even begin. This means we may not start worshipping together again until the second half of June.

 

         As I said, this arrangement with All Saints’ will not be permanent. St. George’s School campuses are closed until the Fall, so we don’t have access to our buildings or campus until they reopen. But it looks like we may well have a temporary place to come together, worship together, pray together.

 

         Last Sunday, when we could not worship together, I went online to the Washington National Cathedral’s service. As you might imagine, the music was quite wonderful - and diverse. Each month the National Cathedral recognizes all those in military service, so the preacher last Sunday was Retired Navy Rear Adm. Barry C. Black. He’s the 62nd chaplain of the U.S. Senate.   Chaplain Black is the first African-American elected to hold that position. His sermon title last Sunday was “Defending Our Hope.”

 

         I want to tell you my sermon title this morning. It’s in the last verse of our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Each year, for the seven Sundays of the Easter season, we hear a passage from the book of Acts. Today’s story from Acts prepares us for next Sunday: the feast of Pentecost.

         On the day of Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus were assembled, all together in one room. We heard about this today (1:13). Next Sunday, we’ll hear what happened in that upper room. But today, we hear these words: “All...were constantly devoting themselves to prayer” (1:14). Constantly praying. Constant prayer. That’s what I want to talk with you about today.

 

         Before the Gospel reading, we heard one of my favorite groups, Sweet Honey in the Rock, sing “Somebody Prayed for Me.” Along the way, one woman sings in the background, “Just a little bit of time, every day...” This is what constant prayer is like.

 

         Pray constantly - or, as it’s put in another familiar Bible passage about prayer, “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). This does not mean that you can never, ever stop to do something else. Constant prayer does not need to be continuous. Constant, unceasing prayer is something else.

 

         Senate chaplain Barry Black once said this about constant prayer: “Did Jesus pray nonstop? The Bible says (Luke 2) that he was a carpenter for (a long time) before being baptized by John in the Jordan River. Surely this work prevented Jesus him from continuous prayer.” He continues:

 

         “The Greek word for ‘without ceasing’ is adialeiptos, which doesn’t mean nonstop...(It) means constantly recurring. In other words, we can punctuate (our) moments (of life) with intervals of recurring prayer” (The Washington Times, 11/29/15). Constant prayer keeps recurring. I have come to believe that every attempt to pray is to pray. To desire to pray is to pray. Keep trying to pray, over and over, and you will be praying.

 

         Prayer is not just on the mind of the disciples in that upper room and the mind of Senate Chaplain Black. Prayer is also on the mind of the President of the United States. On Friday, President Trump said, “In America, we need more prayer, not less.”

 

         There were several responses to the President’s call to prayer. One response came from the Rt. Rev. Marian Budde, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C. “You needn't worry, Mr. President,” she said. “People of faith have never stopped praying. You are welcome to join us in any Episcopal Church (in D.C.) on Sunday, from the safety of your home.”

 

         In our Gospel reading today from John’s seventeenth chapter, Jesus begins what scholars call his High Priestly Prayer. On the evening we know as Maundy Thursday - after Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and told them to love one another as he loved them, before saying goodbye to them - prayer was on Jesus’ mind and heart. The last words in today’s Gospel are Jesus’ constant prayer: “That that they may be one, as we are one” (17:11).

 

         Today, we cannot all be one - we cannot realize this constant prayer of Jesus for his disciples, including us - all who seek to follow him - unless we believe, through our own constant prayer, that all people - even all creatures, great and small - all God’s creation matters to God. One pastor invites us to imagine what our own, constant prayer might produce: “Imagine a world in which we live this way all the time....What if we took this kind of...view in every season, not just in a time of (a coronavirus) crisis? What if we looked at one another and saw all people (and all creatures of God) as valuable, as part of the oneness Jesus desires)....?

 

       “Then,” that pastor says, “then, we might inhabit the kind of (world) for which Jesus prays...We must believe God (is waiting) for us to respond to this call to action” (Martha Spong, Christian Century, 5/20/20).

 

         Here are some questions: How will we respond to this call to action? What is our response to these stories of faith? How will we respond to the constant prayer of Jesus and to the constant prayer of Jesus’ disciples, as they wait in that upper room for “power when the Holy Spirit...(comes) upon (them)” (Acts 1:8)? In the new season that the feast of Pentecost will bring next Sunday, how is God’s Spirit preparing to empower us?

 

         Meanwhile, what is your constant prayer? Spiritual writer Anne Lamont says there are really only three kinds of prayer: Help me, help me, help me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Wow. Wow. WOW!

 

         So, who will you be taking time to pray for this week? My constant prayer is for the people of All Saints and the people of Holy Trinity, as we consider what our temporary, shared worship might look like and become. My constant prayer is also for Bishop Phoebe, as she guides our congregations in all seasons of our common life.

 

         And let us give thanks today, because somebody is constantly praying for us.

 

 

 

~ The Rev. Thomas A. Momberg

Vicar

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

3745 Kimball Avenue

Memphis, TN 38111

holytrinityec.org

 

fathermom1949@gmail.com

301.825.2846 mobile







Another Friend                                                      

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

John 14:15-21                                                                      May 17, 2020

 

         Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, and the other gold.

 

         During these trying times in which we all now live, I believe friends are more important than ever. There are some amazing new ways in which people are trying to stay connected with their friends. Our Sunday morning Zoom Worship is one way that has been helping us, if I may borrow an old telephone advertisement from the 1980s, to reach out and touch someone.

 

         The someone or someones we touch may be newer friends, people we have met in recent months or years. You, the good people of Holy Trinity, are some of my newer friends, and today, once again, I’m grateful for our friendship, which, officially, will be one year old at the end of this month.

 

         Today I’m also grateful for my not-new friends, friends I’ve known for years. Recently one of my old friends reached out to me, wanting to make a “phone date.” She’s a good-as-gold old friend. Other than my siblings, I’ve stayed in regular touch with her longer than any other person on the planet.

 

         On Friday I talked with yet another now-long-time friend. Each week we’ve been getting together online, for spiritual support. As that old song puts it, I want to keep the old. I want to hold on to my golden-oldie friends. They’re like sisters and brothers by another mother. I believe we can’t have too many sisters and brothers, especially our sisters and brothers in Christ.

 

         Recently we’ve been given parts of the fourteenth chapter of John’s Gospel account on Sundays. We hear how Jesus, knowing his earthly life is coming to an end, is saying goodbye to his followers, his disciples. His “Farewell Discourse,” as it is called, began in chapter thirteen with the words, “Little children, I am with you only a little longer” (13:33). That farewell goes on, in John’s telling, for more than three chapters.

 

         On May 21st, the Church will observe the Feast of the Ascension, the departure of Jesus. Before then, before Jesus ascends into heaven, he has more things to say. Jesus wants to tell his disciples about what is to come.

 

         If we were to read the next chapter of John’s Gospel, we’d hear Jesus say this to them, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (15:13-15).

 

           Back in the 14th chapter, Jesus prepares his friends for what is to come: ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever” (vv. 15-16). The word “Advocate” is a rendering of the Greek word parakletos, which meant “one who has been called to our side.”

 

         In addition to “advocate,” parakletos has also been translated down through the years as counselor, comforter, helper, and mediator. Of course, all those words describe Jesus. Regardless of translation, Jesus is leaving, while assuring his friends that God will send them another Advocate.

 

           Now, we may infer something from today’s first verse. There may seem to be an implication here that, if Jesus’ disciples, his friends, will keep his commandment - the command to love one another as Jesus loves and has loved - then, Jesus will ask God to send another Advocate. It can sound like tit for tat: If and only if you love like I do, then I’ll ask God to help you.

 

         This begs the question: “Are we out of luck if we don’t love like Jesus loves?” Which begs a bigger question: “Is that how God really works?” I don’t know about you and your understanding of God, but I don’t think so.

 

         This is why it can help to look at different translations or renderings of Holy Scripture. On more than one occasion you’ve heard me mention The Message. That’s a relatively recent rendering of the Bible that was completed over the years by Eugene Peterson, a pastor and biblical scholar.

 

         Here’s how Peterson puts the first two verses of today’s Gospel text: If you love me, show it by doing what I’ve told you. I will talk to the Father, and he will provide you with another Friend, so that you will always have someone with you. Now, that rendering sounds more like Jesus to me.

 

         Jesus will ask God to send spiritual “back-up,” another Friend - like Jesus, but different. This new Friend is “the Spirit of Truth,” a Spirit the world does not see or know, but a Spirit that will live in them, his good, old friends. The more they love like Jesus, the more the Spirit will live in them.

 

       Eugene Peterson does not use the word “advocate.” He says God will provide another Friend. And why not friend? Of all the words to describe the kind of help those first followers of Jesus need - the kind of help we need - why not think of the Holy Spirit as a new Friend? And why wouldn’t God send that very same Spirit to us, now, in each new friend we make?

 

         Recently I read a story in the Commercial Appeal about a man who died at the age of 86. I wish I had known this man, but the story Tonyaa Weathersbee wrote helped me learn about him. His name was Fred Davis.

 

         Fred Davis founded the Mid-South’s first black-owned insurance company. The year before the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Fred Davis became the first African-American to be elected to the Memphis City Council in a mostly White district. He was an advocate for striking sanitation workers and marched next to Dr. King.

 

       Years later Fred Davis won the Humanitarian Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Before he died, people who had vilified him ended up having dinners in honor of Mr. Davis. “Fred was a cutting- edge guy,” one of his old, White friends said about him. “He was so genuine, so approachable, that even though he might disagree with people, he wasn’t disagreeable.” Clearly, the Spirit of truth was alive and living in Fred Davis.

 

         That old, white friend, attorney James Jalenak, and the former sports editor for the old Memphis Press-Scimitar, George Lapides, saw the kind of discrimination Fred Davis faced in running for that election back in 1967. They were inspired by Fred, clearly the most qualified candidate, and they decided to do something about it. They went to Fred’s home in Orange Mound, knocked on his door, and said, “We want to campaign for you.”

 

         For the next two months James and George went to Coca Cola parties in people’s backyards and made speeches for Fred. Those two white guys spoke up on his behalf. You could say they were advocates for Fred Davis. George died some years ago, but James is still alive. “I’ve lost a very good friend,” he said last week. “As has Memphis,” Tonyaa Weathersbee wrote.

 

       My friends, there’s Good News! Next month, we are being given a chance to make new friends. This is an opportunity I believe the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, has placed smack dab in our path.

 

         As you know, St. George’s Schools are officially closed until the Fall, and we will not have access to our buildings or campus until they reopen. Recently Bishop Phoebe gave all the churches in our Diocese permission to reopen next month, provided we abide by all the necessary and essential health and safety practices which are now part of our common life in this COVID-19 pandemic era. Here’s how I see the Friendly Spirit at work:

 

         The good people of All Saints’ Episcopal Church have invited us to join them in Sunday morning worship, in person, at Quince and White Station, starting three weeks from today. Our new friends and gracious hosts at All Saints’ have a mission statement: “To explore and celebrate God’s infinite grace, acceptance and love with all God’s children, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.” Soon, all these old and new friends in Christ will have a chance to explore and celebrate God’s infinite grace, acceptance, and love together.

 

         In the June “Tract” newsletter you’ll receive more information about how we plan for our combined worship to work next month. Meanwhile, please pray for the leaders of our two churches. Remember: we can’t have too many sisters and brothers, too many friends, both our old friends and our new friends in Christ. ~ Peace, Tom+

___________________________________________

MAY 3, 2020

 

Dear Holy Trinity Members and Friends:

 

Here’s my sermon from Sunday, focusing on Psalm 23.

Below is a YouTube weblink to a musical setting of the 23rd Psalm, recorded by the amazing Bobby McFerrin (who grew up singing in an Episcopal church choir).  

 

This setting is dedicated to Bobby’s mother, Sarah, a voice teacher.  (Allow me to wish all you mothers and grandmothers an early Happy Mother’s Day!)

 

Spoiler alert: If you’ve never heard this, it may be a bit unsettling.  (I love it.  It reminds me of my mother Betty, of blessed memory, also a singer of songs.)

 

https://youtu.be/FrIISwwK9Y0

 

SERMON for MAY 3, 2020

My Cup Overflows

Psalm 23

The Fourth Sunday after Easter May 3, 2020

In your lifetime, who have been your favorite teachers? What was it about those teachers that make you remember them as a woman or man who inspired you to learn - perhaps inspired you to teach? Of course, those of us who follow Jesus would say that he is one of our favorite teachers. So...besides Jesus, who would you choose as the teachers for your life?

 

I’ve had many great teachers. There have also been some I wanted to forget. I’m thinking of a man who had the undeniably hard job of calling his class together the day President Kennedy was assassinated. I was a freshman at White Station High School, and when class resumed that afternoon, everyone was abuzz about what had happened just a few hours earlier. Calling us to order, our teacher said, “Now, boys and girls, I know the President has been shot, but I have a Civics class to teach.” I don’t remember learning anything that day, except how NOT to teach a class.

 

What I’ve learned from another teacher, whose student I have been for quite some time, is this: We teach who we are in times, of darkness as well as light. Parker Palmer began his academic career as a community organizer in the 60’s. Since then, he has been a teacher and spiritual guide for thousands. At the turn of the century, Palmer founded a non-profit, the Center for Courage and Renewal, which first nourished public school teachers and students, then clergy and congregational leaders, and now, leaders from all walks of life. In his early eighties, he still teaches who he is.

 

The first book Parker published, forty years ago, was The Promise of Paradox: A Celebration of Contradictions in the Christian Life. His most well-known book and a must-read for all considering their own life’s call, is Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. Parker’s newest book is On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old.

 

It was yet another book that helped create the center Parker Palmer founded. It was a book called The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. In it, Parker wrote something that, for me, connects with what is happening in our world and in our scriptures today: We become teachers for reasons of the heart. But many of us lose heart as time goes by. How can we take heart, alone and together, so we can give heart to our students and our world (which is what good teachers do)?

 

Take heart. Regain your courage, one dictionary says. Of course, the word courage has at its core, its root, the Latin word for heart. Regain the courageous part of your heart. Another dictionary says to “take heart” is to “feel encouraged,” to feel brave and courageous again - or for the first time.

 

Take, for example, those encouraged souls in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Those Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” and, “day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts” (2:42, 46). Glad and generous. That’s the kind of heart I want to have, today and every day.

 

More than half a century ago, my high school Civics teacher may have lost heart and could only teach who he was and where he was that day. It is indeed hard to have a glad heart every day, especially these days, when so much sadness, so much suffering, so much death is all around us. It is, I believe, the time and season for another of today’s lessons: the 23rd Psalm.

 

Psalm 23 is that world-famous and most-beloved prayer, in all times and seasons. The 23rd Psalm is appointed for Christians around the world to hear, each and every Fourth Sunday of Eastertide, each and every year. This year, especially in light of all we are facing, I believe the 23rd Psalm has the Good News of God in Christ we all need to take to heart, so we can both take heart and give heart to others, on any given day.

 

There’s an old joke about how there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who like Neil Diamond - or, to be more contemporary and culturally relevant - those who like Kanye West - and those who don’t. Those jokes are pretty dualistic, a little too either-or. (I like some music by each artist.)

 

There’s another saying about there being just two kinds of people in this world: those who approach life as if it were a glass-half-full and those who are more glass-half-empty folks. The Psalmist, the one who wrote the 23rd Psalm, sees life as a glass, a cup that overflows. No matter what.

 

When I first looked at today’s lessons, I remembered all the Sundays I’ve preached on Good Shepherd Sunday. We hear Psalm 23 every year on this Sunday because we also hear part of the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel, in which Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd. Jesus lays down his life for his sheep, who hear and who know his voice, and follow him.

 

The last Gospel verse we heard today was, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Not just life, but abundant life. Not just a glass or cup that is full. A cup, a life that overflows, no matter what. Jesus taught who he was, in darkness and light, living his life abundantly.

 

One Bible teacher says this about Psalm 23: “This...Psalm is not merely for moments of death. It needs to be read, heard, and understood...as a psalm about living...it puts daily activities, such as eating, drinking, and seeking security, in a...God-centered perspective that challenges our usual ways of thinking” (John White, Feasting on the Word, p. 451).

 

When I realized the 23rd Psalm was appointed for this Sunday, this year, the first part of another verse grabbed my throat, and then, my heart: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...(v.4).” It took me a few moments, amidst our coronavirus crisis, to remember the next part of that fourth verse: “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” The verse continues, of course, with, “The rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”

 

Parker Palmer has walked through his own valley of a different kind of deadly shadow. He has survived what he calls “three deep dives,” three profound experiences of clinical depression. He says “depression is not so much like being lost in the dark as it is like becoming the dark.”

 

He goes on to say: After my first depression, which was in my mid-forties, it took me ten years to...begin to write and speak about it. Only then did I have the ability to say, “Yes, I am all of the above. I am my darkness, and I am my light. I am a guy who spent months cowering in a corner with the shades pulled down, as well as a guy who can get on stage in front of several thousand physicians and deliver some challenging messages. I am all of that, and I don’t need to hide any of it.” It’s my way of saying to myself, “Parker, welcome to the human race!” Dear friends in Christ, welcome to the human race!

 

My prayer is that we learn how to teach who we are, like Jesus, in times of darkness and light, distance and closeness, scarcity and abundance, emptiness and fullness. When we lose heart, may we take heart in the words of the 23rd Psalm. God will keep filling our cup to overflowing. No matter what. I invite you to join me this week in praying this part of the Bible, Psalm 23.

 

I invite you to pray as if your abundant life in Christ depends on it. Because it does.

The Rev. Thomas A. Momberg Vicar,

Holy TrinityEpiscopal Church

3745 Kimball Avenue

Memphis, TN 38111 holytrinityec.org

fathermom1949@gmail.com

301.825.2846 



__________________________________________________________________________________________________

SUNDAY - APRIL 26, 2020


Holy Trinity Members and Friends:

 

How is your “new normal” going?  Part of my new normal is to send y’all my sermon from the previous Sunday every Tuesday.

 

Some of you heard or saw me preach it on Sunday (we had 17 folks on Zoom together that day, a new high for our online worship!).  

 

Whether you join us on Sunday mornings at 10 or not, I want you to know what I have to say about the Gospel for the day.  So, I’ve attached my sermon below.

 

Also in this e-mail is one of the three music videos I wanted to share Sunday morning, which, unfortunately, didn’t happen.  (I’m still learning...).

 

Here’s one of those music videos.  It’s my favorite of the three:

 

https://youtu.be/QOPLLOrcugI

 

And here’s my sermon:

 

 

Making Jesus Known Again                                                                      Luke 24:13-35

The Third Sunday of Easter                                                                       April 26, 2020

 

     This weekend, one of the headlines from a major news outlet reads, “Reopening has begun. No one is sure what happens next” (The New York Times). Some states are reopening, others are not. Each state that is reopening is doing things differently. Urban areas and rural areas will be reopening differently. To all of this, our response might be: “Things were already confusing and uncertain enough!”

 

         There’s some old wisdom about how bad news is bad, but it’s better than any kind of news about uncertainty. The problem is, these days, we have news that is both bad and uncertain. One economist, Elizabeth Ananat, put it this way: “In some ways, I’m even more anxious about the reopening than I am about the shutdown.”

 

         And there’s this bad news fact: as a country, we have now passed a milestone no one thought possible three months ago: more than 50,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. More than any other country. More than the era of the Vietnam War. More men than women, more older folks than younger folks, more black, indigenous, and people of color than white.

 

         Robert Jones, the CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) wrote this in a recent article called “Flattening the Curve of Xenophobia” (https://sojo.net/articles/flattening-curve-xenophobia):

 

         If history has a lesson for us here, it is this: where there is a massive wave of suffering and death, a second wave of racism and xenophobia is typically not far behind. Do I need to state the obvious? This is bad news. And yet, it is not news of uncertainty. Robert Jones continues: Experiences of mass grief and economic stress easily generate a desire for someone to blame. This is especially true of events that defy logic, such as the randomness of illness. Amidst any truth or certainty, there are questions:

 

         Why is one person infected and not another? Why did this person die while another experienced only mild symptoms? Why have I lost my job while others have not? And most importantly, how can we restore a sense of order and safety in the wake of such devastating losses? These are all good questions, but I have some additional questions. Maybe you do, too.

 

       The questions for us Christians might also include these: In all this fear, anxiety, and death, where is Jesus? Has anyone seen Jesus lately? And if we have seen Jesus, or when we do see Jesus, how will we know it?

           Those first disciples, before they knew Jesus had risen from the dead - whether at the empty tomb, or in the upper room, or, as in today’s Gospel story, in the breaking of bread - those first disciples were definitely filled with fear and anxiety. If you had been following Jesus as closely as they had, wouldn’t you be afraid and anxious, too?

 

         Cleopas and the other, unnamed disciple may not have expressed or felt any anxiety or fear when they met this stranger on the road to Emmaus, a good seven-mile walk from Jerusalem. They were too busy “talking with each other about all these things that had happened” (Luke 24:14). In the midst of that discussion, Jesus joins them. And what does Luke’s story tell us happened next? “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (24:16).

 

         Recognition. That’s a “re-” word, like re(-)opening. It’s also a word that tells us they had seen, they had been cognizant of Jesus, right up until now, right after his resurrection. Until now, their eyes have not yet been re-opened. They cannot see - quite yet, once again, who this fellow traveler is.

 

         Dictionary definitions tell us that to “recognize” is to not just to see again, but also to learn again, to know again. Let me repeat: To recognize” is to see again, to learn again, to know again. For Christians, recognizing Jesus is to see him again. And again. Recognizing Jesus, for Christians, is to know Jesus, again and again, and then, to make Jesus known, again and again. Being Christian, following Jesus, is never a one-and-done affair.

 

         Even the two disciples in today’s much-loved story - those two who finally “got it” again about Jesus, whose eyes were (re)opened (24:31) - even they had to keep learning about Jesus and keep knowing him, in order to make him known, in their new world. In our new world, we, the followers of Jesus who showed up today, online - we need to keep seeing and learning about Jesus, knowing Jesus. Again. We need to make Jesus known. Again.

 

         So what might all of that look like? We cannot make Jesus known if we do not know Jesus. And even if we have known Jesus in the past, what does it mean to know Jesus again, right now? It probably means we need to learn more about Jesus, perhaps as if we were learning for the first time.

 

         A week from this Wednesday, on May 6th, we will offer Bible study. (Again!) And yet, this particular Bible study may feel like it’s being offered for the first time. Why? Because it will be, like our Sunday worship today, online. Our new Bible study, using this same Zoom technology, will be called “Praying the Bible.” We’ll start with the Gospel of Matthew and pray our way through the Gospels. We’ll try to see, and to learn about, and to know Jesus. Again.   Perhaps this Bible study experience will be as if we are coming to know Jesus for the first time, so we can make him known. Again.

 

         These days, we may wonder if we will recognize each other when we finally come together again at 3745 Kimball Avenue.   For example, some of us may worry a bit that our new, more freely-flowing hairdos will keep even our dearest friends from seeing the real us. “Tom, is that you?”

 

         There is something different about these “virtual” meetings, these new ways we have come to see, to learn about, to know each other, without all of us being in the same physical space. This difference can be disappointing and even off-putting. We cannot now, for example, actually break bread together or exchange the Peace of the Lord with one another by shaking hands or exchanging hugs. So, how can we be the peace, be the hope, be the love we want and need to see? Well,...I think we’re doing it, right now.

 

         When I was preparing this sermon, the words in that little spiritual song we heard just before the Gospel came back to me. I first heard them about forty years ago, before I went to seminary. It’s a song popular in the renewal movement called Cursillo, a word that means a little course - in Christianity. The lyrics move from an endless ocean, to a fiery sunset, to Jesus’ eyes of love while on the cross. Finally, there are these words:

 

��

 

Have you ever stood in the family / with the Lord there in your midst?

Seen the face of Christ in each other? Then I say:

You’ve seen, Jesus, my Lord / He's here in plain view.

Take a look, open your eyes / He'll show life to you.        

        

 

         Take a good look, everyone. Jesus is here in plain view, in the midst of this little family of God. Yes, Jesus wants to show life to us, so we can make him known again, and make life known again, in our own, new world.

 

 

~ The Rev. Thomas A. Momberg, Vicar

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

3745 Kimball Avenue

Memphis, TN 38111

holytrinityec.org



____________________________________________

APRIL 19, 2020

PEACE BE WITH YOU

A Sermon for “Thomas Sunday” 

John 20:19-31                                                                                                    (The Sunday after Easter)

 

         So, here we are again, both together and apart, as we begin another week. How was your week? How is your practice - to be as safe and as well as you can - going for you? Have you got it “down” yet, that practice? No? Contrary to what we may have been taught, practice does not make perfect. Church historian Diana Butler Bass says that practice makes pilgrims.

 

          I don’t know about you, but these days, I’m trying to learn how to enjoy this different way of living and moving in my world. I’m also aware of how incredibly privileged I am, with a sufficient income, a lovely house, and an amazing partner who shares a home and a life with me. My health has its challenges, but I’m grateful again this morning to have put both my feet on the floor - and to have taken a few more steps on my journey with Jesus.

 

         You and I are definitely on a journey, a pilgrimage, a new way of life, and death, and resurrection. Today is the Sunday after Easter, the second Sunday of the fifty-day long Easter season. It’s also the Sunday church folk get to hear about Thomas, the disciple known for doubting. Each and every year, this story about Jesus and Thomas is told in churches worldwide.

 

         Now, allow me to state the obvious. This beloved little church called Holy Trinity has more than its share of Toms, Tommies, and Thomases. Might Holy Trinity be a church that could also be called...Holy Thomas!

 

         I wonder: was the Thomas who encountered Jesus...holy? He was, I’d guess, wholly unhappy. He was absent when Jesus appeared to all his other disciples on that first Easter Monday, the first day of the week. Thomas was usually right there with Jesus, smack dab in the middle of the action.

 

           For example, when Jesus’s friend Lazarus died, and Jesus left to be with Mary and Martha, the apostles didn’t want to go back to Judea, where some had attempted to kill Jesus. But Thomas says: "Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

 

         Later in John’s Gospel, when Jesus explained how he was leaving to prepare a heavenly home for his followers, and that one day, they’d all join him there, Thomas said, "Lord, we do not know not where you are going. How can we know the way?" (14:5)

 

         “The Way” was the first name given to these pilgrims, these people who decided to follow Jesus. The name “Christian” came later, but it has always been “The Way.” It is the Way of Life, and Death, and Resurrection. And at this moment in time, at the beginning of this story, when Jesus appears to his friends after his resurrection, Thomas is the only one. He is the only disciple who is stuck in time, several days behind his friends, still back at that terrible moment of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. That Easter Monday, when all the other disciples have seen the risen Lord, Thomas is still a pilgrim on the Way of the Cross.

 

         Sometimes, when I gather with folks to talk about faith and life, I ask the question, “What season are you in?” For example, spring may have sprung, and it may be the Easter season, but Lent may not have officially come to an end in my life. I may still be in Holy Week. For me, these days, it may still feel more like Good Friday than Easter Monday.

 

         Thomas sees all his friends so excited, full of resurrection joy, but he simply cannot go there or be there with them. “We have seen the Lord,” they tell him. That’s easy for them to say. But that’s hard - actually, it’s impossible - for Thomas. At least, right now.

 

         I wonder: When have you been in that kind of place, the place Thomas was in, a place the word “doubt” doesn’t begin to describe. Thomas was clearly devoted to Jesus, ready to die with him, if need be, and then, suddenly, Jesus is gone. Surely Thomas’ grief over losing Jesus was as great as anyone’s, and now, today, his pain is palpable. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,” Thomas demands, “(unless I can) put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

 

       Jesus appeared to all the other disciples in a moment that Thomas, for one reason or another, simply missed, Now, the good news those disciples shared, this miraculous return of their risen Lord, all of it may well have felt like even more bad news to Thomas. Was Thomas’ pain in part because he had been left out of their celebration? Why would Thomas NOT need and deserve physical proof, when all the others had it? Why should Thomas be denied the very thing all the others had been freely given?

 

         Was Thomas simply mad about this? Was he still sad? Was he, like all the others, afraid? Remember that first verse of today’s Gospel text? “The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear...”      

         John’s Gospel account, which has in recent years been described as being relatively anti-Semitic in its portrayal of the children of Israel, tells us that it was fear “of the Jews.” No matter who the disciples were afraid of, their fear was real. I’m guessing Thomas was also afraid.

 

         So...is doubting holy? Was Thomas holy? Were the other disciples? We who seek to follow Jesus need to remember how Jesus appeared to them that day. We need to remember how Jesus was holy. There were holes, wounds, the mark of the nails in Jesus’ hands and in his side.

 

         Once again, Debie Thomas, an Indian-American student of the Bible, gives us some insight. Here’s what she says about Jesus’ wounds: This year - more than ever - I cherish the wounds in Jesuss post-resurrection life.  On this first Sunday after Easter, even though we are a resurrection people, we are still hurting.  The world is still wounded. Regardless of where on the planet we live, we are still anticipating grief on a scale most of us have never experienced before.  This year especially, Jesuss scarred body speaks with great power, tenderness, mercy, and truth. Allow (those scars, those wounds, those holes) to speak to you (today).

https://www.journeywithjesus.net/lectionary-essays

 

         Into that locked room, not once, but twice - both on the day after his resurrection and one week later - Jesus comes and stands among his friends and speaks four little words. They are the same four little words we followers of Jesus still speak to each other. “Peace. Be. With. You.

 

         No matter what season we are in. No matter whether we see the risen Lord for the first time, or the second, or we have yet to see him. No matter what our circumstance, no matter what we see or do not see, dare to believe this: Jesus will come and stand among us, speaking peace, even into our fear. No matter how scary this virus may be or may get, no matter how much pain and suffering there is, Jesus still speaks peace to those who are far off. Jesus is still speaking peace to us, who are near (Ephesians 2:17).

 

       Jesus came into that room in those first Eastertide days. He came and stood among his disciples, and he said, "Peace be with you." My sisters and brothers, Jesus has come into each of our rooms on this Second Sunday of Easter. He is standing among us, and he saying, "Peace be with you." The question is: How will we receive the peace Jesus has given us, once again, today? How might we dare to believe that his wounds bring us healing?

 

         Allow me to offer you a prayer, a simple sign of the peace of Christ, in a spiritual song I learned some time ago. If the words sound familiar to you, it’s because they are an adaptation of a prayer attributed to St. Patrick. As you will see, there are some motions - body movements - that go with this prayer. The movements ground this prayer more deeply within me.

 

         Let’s call this prayer a practice, a practice of health and wholeness and holiness, a practice of safety and protection, a practice of peace that, I hope and pray, will help you and help me to move a bit more fully into the next chapter of our pilgrimage, this chapter called the Second Week of Easter.

 

         Here are the words:

 

   Peace be with you, peace before you,

Peace to the right of you, peace behind you.

Peace to the left of you, peace above you.

Peace below you, peace within you.

~ Ruth Cunningham

 

~ The Rev. Thomas A. Momberg

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

April 19, 2020




     


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


 

 

From the Desk of Rev. Tom Momberg

 

 

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

 

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

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

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