Tuesday, March 24

Holy Week and Easter Sunday 2015

Holy Week and Easter Sunday at the Oratory:
Palm Sunday:
Liturgy of Palms/triumphal Entry and Contemplation of the Cross with Eucharist.
5 pm hosted b y Tom and Rachel , 7033 N. Glenwood Ave 3N, 

Maundy Thursday
7 pm for Foot washing  and Eucharist
Our liturgy will begin with the rite of confession and absolution and foot washing, followed by a meal during the liturgy of the word concluding the meal with the Eucharist. Join us for this worship as we remember the institution of the Eucharist in the Upper room and the new commandment of love.
A soup will be provided, please bring a side or appetizer to share. 
Alan Cooper host, 1263 W Pratt #806

Good Friday
All are invited to worship with members of the Community of the Holy Trinity at St. John’s Episcopal Church 3857 N Kostner Ave.  7:30 pm

Holy Saturday Easter Vigil
We will be at Church of the Atonement for their Vigil
5749 N Kenmore, 8 PM

Easter Sunday members of the Oratory will be found at various congregations Easter Sunday services, UCRP, Atonement and St Johns.
We will then be hosted by Alan Cooper , 1263 W. Pratt #806 for an Easter Feast 1 pm.  If you plan to attend and haven’t let Alan or Pastor Larry or Pastor Jubi know please do so ASAP, $15 per person and people are invited to bring something to drink and/or an appetizer or desert to share.

Wednesday, March 18

The Love of God and Wrath

The Numbers passage is an odd and difficult passage.  There are levels of interpretation and meaning.  If we stop or identify any one of those interpretations and meanings as The meaning, we will miss what God is saying to us in our scriptures.  To hear what God is saying we must hear all the levels of meaning in light of God’s ultimate revelation of Love, that God so Loved the World.”  But we can’t understand that revelation without understanding how the meaning of this story in Numbers is enfolded into that revelation of God in Jesus Christ. We’ll take some time with various possible interpretations of our Scriptures.
At first read and most obvious read God sends deadly poisonous snakes into the Israelite encampment because the Israelites are questioning and complaining. Then when the Israelites admit it was wrong to question and come groveling to Moses in order to get God to take the snakes away.  But, God doesn't remove the snakes but invents this odd ritual object and ritual.  A bronze serpent is made and put on a pole and if an Israelite gets bitten by a snake all they need to do is look at the Bronze snake and they will be healed of the snake bite.  Even after the Israelites confess God doesn't remove the punishment God sent but merely offers a way to not die from the punishment.  This interpretation isolates this episode from the larger story of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and their liberation from slavery.  If you string together these stories as stories of complaint and punishment this story could be read as saying God really, really dislikes people questioning God, and pointing out what is wrong with the world.
n the story of the Exodus of the Israelites and travels in the desert.  This is just one moment of what is nearly constant complaint of the Israelites even though they have seen God’s consistent mighty acts and signs of God’s care for them as a people.  The complaints begin when Moses first came to the Israelites as slaves even after God brings plagues to convince Pharaoh that he should let the slaves go, they first complain which is understandable that Moses is stirring up trouble and making life more difficult than it was before he showed up and began to demand the Israelites freedom. Then once Pharaoh Then changes his mind and sends the Egyptian army to to prevent their leaving Egypt.  God then both provides a way of escape and resounding defeat of the oppressors.  God Even gives a sign of God’s presence with the Israelites through an epiphany of a cloud by day and hovering fire at night.  Once in the desert without food and water Israelites legitimately complain about lack of food and water, and God provides water and Manna (what in our scripture text for today, the Israelites in their complaint call “miserable food.”)  In this larger context the passage given that this is just an episode in a long line of God does amazing and astounding things for the Israelites, gives them food and water, is leading them to the “promised Land” where they will be able to be free, and at every step of the way as if God has done nothing before, they complain and accuse this God that has done truly astounding things and freed them from slavery. From a human perspective God has some reason to be a bit peeved and somewhat justified in sending a plague of serpents upon the Israelites, not for questioning but seemingly assuming God really never intended anything any good but has only intended death, so God sends them what they think God is giving them, death in the form of poisonous serpents. The Israelites get what they expect, imagined God giving them. This interpretation like the first one though still leaves the same question as the first, why doesn’t God s end the snakes away if God sent them in the first place. The creation of a ritual object that needs to be gazed upon to be healed of a snake bite isn’t completely accounted for here..
If however, we continue to reflect on the larger context of this episode and see it as much about God as the Israelites, we can begin to interpret it as a story of God’s steadfast love in the face of continual rejection.  God can’t do enough for the Israelites.  The Israelites have a profound lack of trust.  In fact the Israelites continually expect death from God. We could interpret “God sent venomous Serpents” as the Israelites interpretation.  It’s makes sense God sent plagues of frogs and locust upon Egypt when Pharaoh upset God, so they say we've clear upset God so God must have sent the serpents.  Yet, God’s solution calls into question whether God actually sent the serpents.  The presence of the serpents and a direct act of God is more in line with the Israelites perception based in their complaint that God was trying to kill them anyway.  If God sent the serpents as punishment for complaining and calling into question, then why wouldn't have God just removed the snakes once the Israelites have become obedient again and contrite.  The plague worked, and if they get out of line again God could just send another plague.  But God’s response shows a different concern, not obedience but trust and being in relationship.  The presence of the poisonous snakes offers the Israelites a chance to yet again trust God.  God’s wrath, the presence of the serpents coincides with the attitude of the Israelites about and towards their God.  They see themselves in an adversarial relationship with God.. However, the coming of the serpents as being the act of God, is bound up in that the coming of the serpents providing an opportunity for God to once again show God’s patience and love and longing for relationship with God’s people.  God doesn't send the snakes away because the snakes aren’t sent like the plagues of Egypt, rather they are sent in that their presence with a people turning to God in their time of need, is an opportunity for God to show his love and care and for the Israelites to show their faith and trust in the one who has liberated them.  They can begin to associate God, not with death, but life.
We could perhaps feel pretty good about this interpretation and leave it there, we resolved the abusive and petty tyrant charge that could be laid at God ( and kind of was what the Israelites keep accusing God of being.) but then Jesus seems to find in this story something that has larger significance, and prefigures the Crucifixion , and God’s overall solution for the separation between us and God and each other.  All we need to do is look upon Christ have faith that God is and was at work in Jesus of Nazareth and we will be whole.   We all, all humanity, have a deadly venom running through our veins.  Paul puts it that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. We were or are dead the way someone is dead when they have the venom of a poisonous snake in their veins without access to an antidote.  Your heart may still be beating but with each beat the inevitable death is drawing closer.  We were dead in this sense, in that before Christ we were we to remain in our separation form God and each other no antidote for the human condition existed, no way out.  In a sense before Christ, the Psalmist is correct to say that the dead don’t praise god from the grave.  Our physical death without Jesus Christ renders our separation, from each other, from God’s good creation and from God’s own self, permanent.
We can get a little hung up on Paul’s lists here and elsewhere, about what constitutes actions that show or indicate that we have poison coursing through our veins, the poison of distrust and self-seeking protection of what is ours, the signs that we are dead and separated from God.  The Israelites showed they lived with the reality of the poisonous serpents before the serpents ever came.   They were convinced that death was the most real thing there was, and no matter what sings God provided no matter what God gave them they trusted the reality of death as more sure than the love of God. Paul says we are all like that, we are all dead in our trespasses and sins.  We are, all of humanity are, the Israelites grumbling in the desert unwilling and unable to trust in the reality of love and God’s faithfulness.  As Paul says elsewhere even our good deeds apart from faith and trust, that is relationship with God, are bound up in this logic of death.  That is the lists of what we once were are simply systems of what is true for all no matter what we do apart from Christ.  In fact being caught up in ensuring that we aren’t doing Paul’s lists shows that we are trusting in our ability to avoid the serpents rather than God’s solution which is faith.
The antidote is Christ hung on the cross lifted up, the antidote is to trust God’s weakness and foolishness in becoming human and accepting a horrible and humiliating death of a criminal, as the power and strength of God.

Signs and wonders don’t help us trust.  If they did there wouldn't be  story after story of our human belief that god wants our death, in the story of the Israelites Exodus from Egypt.  That story is the story of our humanity not just a people in a particular time. Thus, if we are honest with ourselves, we can identify with the feelings and view point of the Israelites.  But what God asked then and asks now is the same, faith. And this is Paul’s consistent claim.  God of the Torah asks the same thing of us as the God of Jesus Christ, that we trust in God and God’s ways, so that we may be restored to relationship with God and each other, and in that restoration be freed from the logic of fear and death.

Monday, March 16

Palm/Passion Sunday Worship Gathering

Our next Worship service will be Palm/Passion Sunday, March 29th 5 pm.
See the  Facebook Event page for all the location details

Tuesday, February 10

Lenten Fast and weekly Lenten Suppers

Our Lenten Fast of course begins on Ash Wednesday February 18th.

As last year we will have Lenten potluck suppers. 

When  gather each week in lent and have a potluck of foods prepared according to the guidelines of the Orthodox practice for the Lenten fast:  Meat, animal products (cheese, milk, butter, eggs, lard),fish (meaning fish with backbones), olive oil and wine (all alcoholic drinks) are not consumed during the weekdays of Great Lent. Octopus and shell-fish are allowed. On weekends ( Since, Sunday is always a feast day and Saturday is still marked among the orthodox as the Sabbath also a day of celebration), ol­ive oil and wine are permitted. We are fasting in this way together, mainly when we come together for meals during lent.  Some of us may choose to follow the fast throughout lent or on certain days (Wednesday and Fridays are traditional fast days)
Here are some links about fasting for Orthodox Christians for how Orthodox seeing fasting in General and the fast of Lent (Great Lent): http://www.antiochian.org/fasting-great-lent , http://www.abbamoses.com/fasting.html , 

If you have followed the Lenten fast and/or have vegan recipes that fit the fasting guidelines please send out those recipes by replying to this e-mail.
Here’s some more resources and a recipe:
As we've said the fast is mainly vegan, so if you have on hand a vegan cookbook, most of those recipes should do for the fast.  And if you have any questions consult the fasting guidelines we sent out last week.
First here is an orthodox vegan blog:http://orthovegan.blogspot.com/

And a Serbian recipe:
Ajvar is a Croatian / Serbian roasted eggplant-sweet-pepper mixture, sometimes referred to as vegetarian caviar. It can be mashed or left chunky, depending on personal taste, and served as a relish, vegetable or spread on country-style white bread likepogacha as an appetizer. Its smoky flavor is a great match for grilled or roasted meats, especially lamb.
You can vary this recipe by adding chopped hot red chiles and onion, and substituting red wine or red wine vinegar for the lemon juice. Bulgarian kiopooluis similar but it uses green peppers instead of red and tomatoes are added.
Makes 6 servings of Ajvar

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplants, about 3 pounds
  • 6 large red bell peppers
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup good-quality olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Heat oven to 475 degrees. Place washed eggplants and peppers on a baking sheet with a lip to catch any juices, and roast until their skins blister and turn black, about 30 minutes.
  2. Place roasted vegetables in a heatproof bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let them steam for 10 minutes.
  3. Peel off and discard blackened skins, stems and seeds. In a large bowl, mash or chop vegetables, depending on how smooth or chunky you like your ajvar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add garlic and lemon juice, and drizzle in oil, stirring constantly.
  4. Transfer to a glass dish and sprinkle with chopped parsley for garnish, if desired. Store covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Monday, January 19

Sermon for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Second Sunday After the Epiphany.

Sermon Texts: Isiaah 55:1-5; 1 Corinthians6:12-20 ; John 1:43-51

Today we have heard texts about God coming to us illuminating us and our union with God in Jesus Christ. Paul says to be in relationship with God in Jesus Christ, is to be freed from the law (all things are lawful), but this doesn’t lead to nihilism or an amorality, (not all things are beneficial).  What this freedom should lead to is seeking to judge oneself and others according to relationship communion and union between oneself, God, and others.

Today is also the beginning of the Week of prayer for Christian Unity.  Divisions among Christians often are not much more than divisions between what to eat or not to eat, some Christians fast and some don’t, some mark out and strictly follow patterns of celebration and penance and fasting others do not.  As Christians come to differing conclusions about human sexuality our divisions are also about the law, or morality.  We are divided over what are Christians allowed to do or not do with their bodies and their sexuality.  Such divisions show we often miss the point, or rather miss what is the true basis and or binding agent and unity of the Church.  If what Paul says here, that all is Lawful but not all is beneficial then the basis of our unity cannot be what we conclude about what is truly beneficial.  Rules, morality, ethics aren’t what bind Christians together.

Our Gospel today gives us a glimpse of how some of the 12 Apostles came to be within the inner Circle of Jesus’s followers.   It’s the story of Philip and Nathaniel.  Jesus comes to Philip and as a good Rabbi calls him to be a disciple, come follow me.  Philip seeks out his friend Nathaniel to tell him of this Rabbi who had called Philip to be his disciple, this Rabbi though is no ordinary rabbi this is the one Israel has been waiting for.  Nathaniel isn’t convinced of the character and respectability of a person from Nazareth.  Interestingly Philip isn’t said to have argued with Nathaniel about how it is possible, that someone from Nazareth could be the Messiah, rather he tells him to just check it, out. Meet this Jesus.  Philip perhaps had the inkling that attempting to convince Nathaniel of the goodness of someone from Nazareth wasn’t the means of Nathaniel and Philp coming into agreement about the Messiah and who he was, he might be or where who his people might be.  Rather, Nathaniel had to meet and encounter this Jesus of Nazareth.  Nathaniel’s agreement with Philip wouldn’t come through argument about the standing of people from Nazareth but through Jesus Christ himself.

The basis of Paul’s radical statement all things are lawful,  as well as his radical teaching of Grace and that is Faith in Christ not works that justifies or makes us righteous, is also the basis of the unity of the Church, namely Jesus Christ.  The basis of human community, of a righteous and just world, then isn’t in the moral or ethical sphere, it isn’t in the Law, it isn’t how good you are, but rather the basis of all this is union with Christ.  To put it another way the source of our unity is our willingness to come and see how God is transforming the world even when we can’t match that up with our moral and ethical prejudices.

Paul’s claim, Philips claim to Nathaniel, and my assertion to us this evening, is that if you want to know about Justice and righteousness , if you want to know how God is transforming and reconciling us and the world and returning it to wholeness, one needs look no further than Jesus of Nazareth.  Admittedly, this is an astounding and wild claim.  How could one person, from one tiny insignificant village in 1st century Palestine, one Jewish Rabbi among countless Jewish Rabbi’s and teachers of his day, be all that?  A good question.  And to answer that question isn’t about arguments and certainty, rather  the answer comes in encounter. 

Of course, we, in 21st century Chicago, can’t meet in person Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, not at least  the way Nathaniel did.  However, we have the witness of what Nathaniel and Philip, Mary the mother of Jesus , Mary of Bethany, Martha,  Lazarus, Peter,  John (the author of our Gospel, ) James, Marry Magdalene, and Photini (the Samaritan woman at the well, and I could go on) encountered.   And to have the full answer one must walk with the Church through the seasons of its feast and fasts, starting with Advent and Christmas.  (we are still in the celebration of the nativity and incarnation).  The church recalls in this current feast cycl,  that God the second person of the Trinity, the logos and wisdom of God became human in Jesus of Nazareth, and is forever united with humanity and the entire universe through the incarnation of God in this one person.

This is interpreted as a Radical act of Love, especially by the Apostle John, “God so loved the world”, You may have heard, but perhaps in  a way that has leached away for you the earth shattering nature of those words.
God didn’t come to make us all agree, but to transform the world to infuse it with divinity, to allow us to meet and encounter God, not through our own efforts but because God came to us.

The way to find the moment of the world’s transformation and of being reconciled to one another, is to hear and act upon Philips words to Nathaniel: “Come and see.”  Yet, that is most difficult in its simplicity, there’s no argument nor proofs, no getting it right or getting it wrong, no means to justify oneself to oneself and or to others, just a simple invitation, to get beyond our moral and ethical prejudices and look beyond how disappointing human beings can be and are, and how awful Christians can be and are, and instead see God, come to us in a Jew who lived over 2000 years ago.  To take a moment and hear Philips, and Photini’s and Mary Magdalen and Mary of Bethany’s witness, that God has dwelt, made a temple, in our midst and is forever human, flesh and blood, now united with the universe. That which is most other than we are, who has no commonality with anything we know or can see or can discover. That one, we often give the name God to, this God creator and origin of all that is or can exist, beyond understanding, comprehension or knowledge comes to us and unites God’s self to God’s creation out of love, and it happened in one person Jesus of Nazareth. From that one person the transforming rejuvenating love and life of God moves out into the whole universe, from person to person, united to Christ. 


This is our unity, this is why all is lawful, but not all is beneficial, this is why to fully know this reconciliation achieved by God in Jesus of Nazareth, we must come and see, to encounter this love, this community of love in Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday, December 1

Longing and Anticipating a Just World

    • So much emotion, in these texts.  So much is at stake.  Where’s the focus, it is all bewildering.  I’m not only speaking of our scriptures this evening, but also the events in Ferguson Missouri, or rather what the killing of the unarmed Mike Brown by a police officer Darren Wilson and the decision of a grand Jury not to indict the police officer, has awakened.  If you've followed the events since the death of Mike Brown at the hands of the police, you know a movement has grown up around this because Mike Brown’s death is larger than his own death and larger than whether or not Mike Brown’s civil rights were violated in away the Federal Government could act upon, or even whether or not on these same criteria City and it’s police are consistently engaged in violation of the civil rights of its African American citizenry, as important as that reality is.  Rather, the movement has emerged because the killing of Mike Brown by a police officer, Darren Wilson isn't an isolated incident, as a number of similar incidents where police have shot African American men (and most recently a boy of 12) occurred at the same time and have continued to occur, since.  What we are awakened to is that   the U.S. Justice system and policing is unjust and racist.
      Many are awakening to these injustices. Most likely those of us here this evening weren't completely unaware, but if you are like me you have been further roused and more attuned, to the enduring racism that floats mostly unseen, hidden behind laws, and state sponsored violence. In the midst of all this Jesus tells us to stay awake, to be watchful.
      The anger, frustration and grief expressed on our streets in protest and rioting, isn’t far from Isaiah’s wrenching call, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence”, such deep longing and pain behind such a statement.  A longing and desire for justice and for God to act.  For God to act like God did in the past, when God delivered the Israelites at the Red Sea by the complete and total destruction of the structures of the Egyptian law and order that oppressed the Israelites
      If we pay careful attention to Isaiah, we hear a more complex story:  the people of God have moved from victims to being complicit in sinful systems.  There are two movements in this lament and prophesy, a deep longing for God to act and a confession that responsibility for the situation from which there is the need of deliverance is the people of God themselves.  For white Christians in this country that is certainly also true when it comes to systemic racism first as slavery followed by policies of segregation and oppression and Jim Crow, continued now in mass incarceration and policing.
      Isaiah cries out in longing and deep pain for God to act and for justice , echoing the cries from our streets since August  and Isaiah expresses the complicity with these systems of injustice, reflecting for us the place of White Christians in relations to racism in the United States.
      Isaiah though almost seems to throw up his hands, God isn't acting, and this lack of action seems to make matters worse.  In the end we are clay in the potter’s hand, and even what Isaiah sees on the horizon and even being experienced by God’s people is on some level God’s doing.  Our Isaiah text leaves us with deep longing and anguish and helpless in our own sin and failure.
      But our psalm points us toward the hope of being clay in God’s hands: the hope of restoration, or of a remolding.  The Psalmist holds out for us the the hope of God transforming us , renewing us and the whole world.
      And Paul expresses this hope as grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ
      Where might all this lead? 
      What conclusions if we take Ferguson also as our text, as revelatory of God at work in our midst?
      I want to draw attention to the language of shaking, and of tearing, the disruption of the fabric of what seems unalterable and just the way things are.  But also that this shaking is the shaking of governments, nations, powers.  In these images and if we reflect on the deliverance of the people of Israel from their oppression in Egypt, their liberation and justice doesn't come from the systems and the state, Egypt isn't the source of their liberation, nor even that which cooperates with that liberation.  And if we hear Isaiah well, not even the people, can be the source of justice, transformation, and liberation.  The people of God also fail at justice and righteousness.  The state and the powers can and will be forced to deal justly, but they aren't the source nor the guarantor of justice nor are we the people the source or guarantor of justice.
      Justice comes from beyond, our hope is in that we don’t create justice rather we submit to it.  But what we submit to is a caring and loving reality.  Justice isn’t abstract and cold and unmoving.  Rather the source of justice is a shepherd, an artist, and a lover.
      Lastly Jesus says that when you see systems and the powerful sun and moon and stars shaken and upended, darkened blood red showing their violence, these are simply signs of something else.  That is if we are waiting for the United States to become a place devoid of all injustice and racism we are looking for the wrong thing. We have misinterpreting the signs.  Human government and systems of justice are just that human, mortal, limited and passing away, and fallible.  Our human systems will fail us.
      Our hope is in a more lasting and radical transformation of the world in which the world once again shows forth completely the love and justice of God who is the very source the very life blood of our existence.
      And Tonight I proclaim to you that God did tear open the heavens and come down, and is now forever bound to the physical created universe.  The systems of the world were shaken to their knees, and then went on their merry way because it was just a Jewish Galilean peasant wonder-worker easily dispatched through human justice and state sponsored violence.  But in that the governments and powers exposed themselves for what they were and are systems of violence set against the very source of life.  The good news is we can turn to this one and find God at work transforming us into citizens of a more just and loving world.  Since God became incarnate in the Virgin Mary, God has been at work in matter and the physical world, in our very bodies transforming the world into what it should be. Are you ready for that world? Are you awake to that world?  Wake up stay awake. Be a citizen of the world that is coming in which racism and all forms of oppression and injustice are shaken from the earth.
      Stay awake and watch for that world is coming, the signs of its coming are in the protests even the riots in Ferguson, but also right here in our midst. Right here as we take in each week the justice of God in human flesh, who awakens you to this transformed and transfigured world, slowly making you, in your very body, into a person of love and justice, a citizen of the present and coming reign of God.

Tuesday, October 7

A Sermon for the Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost - Year A

"I was [initially] sympathetic to the tenant framers because I saw the landowner though their lens; a lens of greed and violence. That’s not the kind of landowner God is. God doesn’t put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants. God keeps sending messages through prophets and the Son, trying to get the tenant framers to repent, to change their mind." 

http://theuac.org/2014/10/07/on-the-folly-of-ownership-a-sermon-for-the-seventeenth-sunday-after-pentecost-year-a/