Tuesday, October 20

Oratory Worship and Sermon on the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The texts for Sunday October 18th 29th Sunday in Ordinary time is a portion of Isaiah 53 (the Suffering Servant) Hebrews 5:1-10 Christ as High Priest and of the order of Melchizedek, and Mark 10 James and John ask to sit on Jesus' right and left.  The Gospel passage ends with "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many."

Taking the end of the Gospel portion and the theme of Christ as High Priest and Isiah suffering servant, I found myself drawn to reflect on the crucifixion.  I've been reading James Cone over the last year or so and am at the moment reading The Cross and the Lynching Tree, and am convicted by Cones claim and challenge that American theology can't fully comprehend the cross without relating it to the lynching tree.. One of the presentations at the NPTS Symposium this year argued for an interpretation of Isaiah 53 as the lynching of the suffering servant, as a means of taking up James Cone's challenge and exhortation.

In my sermon I drew out an implication of making this connection, especially in light of Jesus' replay to James and John's blustery assertion that they could be baptized with the baptism Christ was to be baptized and drink his cup. Jesus' says they indeed would.  The Apostles all, except John died martyr deaths, they indeed drank the cup Jesus drank.  The Martyrs and Saints of the early centuries of the Church drank that cup. The martyrs of the faith, were lynched as Christ was. It dawned on me and I said this in the sermon, that those who were lynched in this country, Blacks and other minorities who were lynched by whites are martyrs, who were baptized and drank the same cup as Jesus Christ.

I said a good bit more but I didn't write a manuscript and there isn't a recording and I can't quite reconstruct my meditation on these passages and lynching in the United States by whites of black and other people o color.  But by speaking of those who were lynched as martyrs, something of the reality of martyrdom opened up to me that hadn't been in touch with before.

As I prayed the Eucharistic prayers and lifted up the bread and wine, there was an added dimension of depth, and horror, and beauty. I had a deepening sense of Christ presence as I named the presence of those who have been lynched as martyrs of the faith. And I sensed that through Christ and this bread and wine, I was joined with those who were lynched and all the martyrs and saints . Taking into myself the body and blood of Christ suddenly had a reality to it that it had never had before. 

Monday, August 17

Link to Mother Jubi's Latest Sermon


Tuesday, April 21

New aspect of our worship gathering: Oratory Dinner Church

On Maundy Thursday in figuring out how to work all the elements of the liturgy of Maundy Thursday into a house church setting we settled on two things:
1) we created  a a liturgy like unto the liturgy of the Palms of Palm Passion Sunday, that  included the confession and absolution ending Lent and entering the Three Days along with Foot washing at two different stations that occurred simultaneously.  This portion of the liturgy was opened by a portion of the psalm for Maundy Thursday and the foot washing portion of the Gospel .  I suppose all that could be construed as part of the Gathering portion of the liturgy.
2) We decided to have a meal during the liturgy of the word.  Our Maundy Thursday worship service was a dinner church. The communion elements were on the table for the duration of the liturgy of the word, and the liturgy of the Eucharist concluded the meal and service at the table where we ate and had the liturgy of the word.

For the liturgy of the Word we interspersed our eating with the readings and singing of the psalm with conversation and after the Gospel I gave a brief meditation on the the scriptures.

All those at the service not only found this meaningful for a Maundy Thursday service but expressed a desire to have this adaptation of the liturgy on an occasional basis.

So from time to time when the Oratory gathers for worship we will have dinner church.

Our first regular dinner church will be Sunday May 1 and we will have another on the Feast of Pentecost. Look for the details on our Facebook page.

Sunday, April 19

Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter

As I read these texts and prepared for our worship this evening, I was struck that after the resurrection we are presented with a new reality, but one that doesn't displace the old reality.   One can live in the light of the reality of the Resurrection or not.  But the resurrection only has meaning if we in reality are already raised with Christ, that is the Resurrection only has meaning if our humanity is now one with God through Jesus Christ and that really (whether we believe it or not) has changed our humanity. Yet, we can’t fully appropriate this other reality of our humanity if we don’t recognize it for what it is.  Faith is that appropriation of the new reality of the incarnation completed in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnation of God the Word/Son.
In Lent we were called to contemplate the mystery of Christ’s passion and resurrection through self-reflection and spiritual disciplines.  In the joy and awe of Christ’s Resurrection we continue in this contemplation in joy and celebration.
John invites us into the ecstatic contemplation of the meaning that we are called Children (or Sons) of God.  This naming is tied to our union with God the Son, Jesus Christ.
This union is in part due to our acceptance and seeking to be united to what God has done in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.  Yet the union is also simply the case.  And we lose some of this aspect of John’s proclamation in the Epistle with the translation of “Sons” as children.  God the Son or the Child, becomes human and becomes rejected, suffers death and injustice, becomes sin, in that sense.  Through this God is united with the depths of the human condition, even descending to the dead.  The incarnation passion and death is God’s complete union with humanity.  This provides hope, because you can’t keep the Lord of Life dead, or if you could, death and not life would have the last word on what it means to be human.
Now in the light of the resurrection we can come to see our humanity as best defined as Son or Child of God, that is, God the Son is human.  Our humanity in Jesus Christ is united with God, and as such is perfected and purified.
A way to talk about this is to talk about our divination or theosis.  Saint Athanasius is said to have summed this up by saying “ God became human that we may become divine.”  The truth of our humanity is summed up in the union of God and human through the incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth.
In the light of this reality we can come to see sin and righteousness not as violation and conformity to a law external to us, but as separation and union .what we now find in our very being because God is united to us and we are united to God in Jesus Christ, is that to be one with Christ is to not sin because of Jesus’ righteousness and to live apart from Christ is to be in sin separated not only from God but our own selves.
Thus we can come to identity things like what Paul calls the flesh, those desires which hide or divinity from ourselves.  If we live according to these desires we fall into a reality in which we aren't one with God in our humanity.  The Christian tradition of contemplation and meditation is to open ourselves up to seeing and knowing this dual reality in our bodies and selves.  Contemplation and meditation can then keep us open to our union with God in the human Jesus of Nazareth.
We don’t need to work at being righteous nor work at avoiding sin.  As Paul says it isn't by works but by grace through faith that we are saved.  The grace is that what we are called to be, is already in us.    Faith is our being open and accepting what God has done in Jesus of Nazareth.  Seeing and accepting that “The Kingdom of God is in you.”
We may though, mistake this claim.  The kingdom of God isn't in us as humanity and creature separate from God, rather this truth is only found in the union of God in Jesus Christ.  Because God became human, we are united to God, divinized in our humanity united to God in Jesus of Nazareth.
And so we are Sons, Children, of God because of the Child, The Son, of God incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth, who because of this union is the Messiah the Christ.
Salvation is union and reconciliation.  Liberation comes in recognizing this reality.
This is a reality that requires new sight.  It requires seeing everything and ourselves through the lens of Jesus of Nazareth.  Or it is to accept this amazing gift that God accomplished for us what God desires for us, to be Like God.  If we accept this we will find that we are already who we are called to be.
Yet, there is still sin, and we deceive ourselves if we say we do not sin, and we deceive ourselves that one who is righteous does what is righteous.  This may remain a puzzling set of exhortations. This is an exhortation to remember that this isn't a distinction between reality and what isn't real, but that there are two realities that we continue to live in and need to distinguish from each other.  We sin, we are part of a reality that is separate from God and avoids union with God, each other and creation, and thus we aren't righteous. But we are also part of the reality of God come in human flesh, Jesus Christ the Son of God.  In this reality we are freed from the need to overcome sin to do works to make us righteous rather we can live in the knowledge that we are united with the one who does righteousness and thus is righteous.
This is the best way to understand Martin Luther’s simultaneously sinner and saint, but contrary to Luther this isn't merely as a legal pronouncement by God that though we are guilty that guilt is no longer imputed to us.  Rather such a statement should mean that we in fact live in two worlds, one that is separated from God and dominated by sin and death and one in which we are (all humanity and Creation) united with God through the incarnation: the life, passion, death, Resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, God the Son.  Our struggle then is to live with the consciousness of Christ, rather than our former selves.  One of these is only more real in the sense that God is victorious over the reality of the world dominated by sin death and the devil.  Christ descends to the dead and raises up Adam and Eve our humanity that separated itself from the knowledge and love of God. 

Then while works don’t save us, what we do matters. We betray our Baptism when we live as if Christ isn't resurrected as if we aren't being transformed, as if we aren't the son of God Jesus Christ.  We are all God’s son, God’s child.  All of us.  Through Baptism we are initiated into this sonship, we are made one with Christ.  This is the awe of the Resurrection, we are now all God’s Child, God’s Son.  That is without any effort we are righteous by God’s action.  Yet, and this is the paradox and mystery, we must choose and act according to that choice, because this is an alternate reality as real as the reality to which it is an alternative.  The truth is that in the end one way or another we will act as if one or the other reality is true and the other false.  We must then do the truth, we must act as though we are in this new reality of truly being the child of God, the Son of God, God the Son.  Our awe at all of this should propel us away from sin and death into life and righteousness of God the Son, in which we are already, and is the reality in which we have been initiated into through Baptism.

Thursday, April 9

Next Worship Gathering will be April 19th

Our next worship service will be Sunday April 19th, the third Sunday of Easter.  Yes Easter is a season of 50 days not just one Sunday.  If  you'd like to join us follow the links to our Google +  event page or Facebook event page, for the details and location.

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.