November 21st, 2018

This Sunday we’re going to walk up to the altar and pledge. We pledge our time, our talent, and our treasure as part of our piety, but that message comes on Sunday—not today.

I want to take a moment to say thank you. The faithful giving of this church throughout the last year has been remarkable; we have been able to address multiple areas of the building wherein new spaces have been transformed. Instead of wasted or unused space we now have portals: there’s a space for young people to run around the room and play games; there’s a space for all people to go and sit quietly with a book; there’s a space for groups to meet and discern the next step in their faith or in the life of this church; the halls breathe warmth and the floors echo the returned joy and laughter of days’ past. So the giving of which I speak is not just financial, but spiritual and heartfelt. It’s a giving of entirety, a handing over of self that is transformative and life-giving. And how sweet it is…

This year I’m thankful for our community. Not because I am supposed to say it, but because every morning I look forward to going to church. I eagerly anticipate being with you all throughout the week, whether that be in joy, sorrow, business or shenanigans. You’ve become an integral piece of me, and of Nicole. And of each other. I see it in the way you interact with folks, new and known. I witness it during moments of vulnerability in classrooms and in thin spaces during worship. The heartbeat of resurrection beats within us all, because we are its bearers. In truth we don’t go to church; we are the church.

 As we head into a spiritual season of Advent, Christmastide, and Epiphany I simply desire to give you thanks, especially considering tomorrow’s feast day. Thank you for bringing us here, and thank you for being part of this beloved and now-thriving community. You make this ‘work’ beautiful, worthy, and fulfilling.

Tomorrow, look forward to food, fellowship, football and family. And know that wherever I am, there you will also be. I pray for each of you to have a restful and wonderful holiday, and I look forward to our Thanksgiving feast on Sunday wherein we’ll eat the bread of life and drink the cup of salvation, giving thanks to God for the innumerable benefits of His present kingdom at Episcopal Church of the Resurrection.

Faithfully and Thankfully,

 Fr. Sean+

November 7, 2018

Watching the talking heads on Tuesday was borderline entertaining at the onset. Then, it became somewhat troubling. And then completely exhausting. It was the same scene every hour: people would get introduced by the anchor(s), smiles would be exchanged, and then everyone started talking at once. Literally. One person would begin by stating their opinion and then the rest of the panel would chime in uninvited, creating a cacophony resembling schoolyard recess at elementary schools.

 This is what we’ve become. We’re increasingly unable to hear others, simply shouting down our neighbors in the name of being right, in the desire to be authoritative, and in the hope that our opinions will be valued over others. I’m guilty of it, too. Try as I might, sometimes I just lack the willpower to listen, to allow others their say and respect the space between us. I wonder how we could be better equipped to do this? Better yet, I wonder if—once equipped—we would have the courage to begin the movement, ourselves? So much discourse today is predicated upon whether or not we agree. It shouldn’t be. Differences of opinion shouldn’t be answered with footsteps leading the other direction; at least not always. When did we lose the ability to hear one another? Did we ever have it?

 Listening is hard. But we must. We have to be able to treat one another with dignity, with respect, and with a modicum of self-awareness that ours are not the only opinions worthy of being heard. Whether it’s the small stuff or the great debates, we have to reclaim our ability to listen past the anger to hear the hurt; see past the masks of superiority to view the naked insecurity in our neighbor. People are inherently good, for the most part. We want desperately to belong with one another, we want what’s best for each other. But this world doesn’t set us up for that. Society tells us to dig in, prepare for the onslaught, and use our words and actions as weapons rather than salves. We. Must. Stop. Hurting. Each. Other. 

We. Must. Start. Listening.

 Christ compels us to turn the other cheek, to take the tree out of our own eye, to abstain from arguing about who is the greatest and to engage in raising up the ‘least of these’. In our current climate, we would do well do tune back in to that message. People are hurting. What can we do to alleviate that? People are feeling forgotten. How can we help them to feel beloved? People are walking away. How can we divert their path and bring them back home?

 The masters of this world would have us believe that it is spiraling out of control. I refuse to believe that. I hold hope that we can keep carrying the light of Christ into our communities, that we can keep holding that light for each other, and that we can shine. I believe in God. I believe in us. I believe we can make a difference. Listen to one another; take a moment to have a conversation about what REALLY matters rather than prognosticating the decline of humanity. We’re going to be alright if we open our ears, eyes and hearts to each other and share the love we were so perfectly created to share in our own imperfect ways.

 

October 31st, 2018

This coming weekend, we’ll be celebrating All Saints’ Day. Every year, All Saint’s is a moveable feast (we can celebrate it the Sunday that follows its actual day) so we won’t be hearing the planned gospel of Mark. It’s a shame, really, because this weekend we would have heard about the two great commandments: Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus actually says the following words, “There is no other commandment greater than these.” But some folks—well, actually, quite a few folks—have a difficult time putting this into practice.

 I know that it may seem like I talk about this a lot. Well, that’s because I do. Of all the commandments given to us, all the instructions left by the disciples and Christ himself, God desires for us to love him and then to love each other. But what does that mean, in practice? Do these two rules mean that we are supposed to make peace with our enemies and then go out for coffee? Does loving God with all our being entail never being frustrated, hurt or confused by that relationship?  

In a word: No.

If any of you (I imagine all of you) have experienced love in your lives, then you know that it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Love requires commitment, work, dedication, and no small amount of compromise. To be able to love is an inborn trait—humanity is created with the ABILITY to love, not necessarily the desire. Put quite simply, to love someone and to love God is a choice; unfortunately we make those choices predicated upon that which has been done for us by the other. That’s not love, that’s a transaction of two beings mutually benefitting one another ALL THE TIME.

That’s also not possible. Well, at least on our part. 

What if God said, “You know what, Sean? You didn’t pray this morning, you didn’t thank me for yesterday’s good weather, and you mailed-in  last week’s sermon. Since you didn’t do that, I don’t love you.” I’m fairly certain if God had that outlook on our relationship, we’d all be in deep trouble…and we’d all have one less being that loved us. Thankfully, God is perfect. God’s love for us isn’t transactional, it’s eternal. God’s love comes without strings, and with a grace that is abundant and free. Also, there’s that thing about God becoming incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ, only to be crucified painfully, mocked openly and punished endlessly by those with whom He tried to engage.

Then there’s us. We are over-the-top transactional with our love to God, AND to one another. Instead of asking, “How can I pray for you, pray with you today, or (to God) how can I thank you and be with you today?”, we find ourselves asking, “What have you done for me, lately?” But God can take that, because God is…well…GOD. It doesn’t make it okay, but God loves us anyway.

 Unfortunately, we lack the perfection to love unconditionally. When someone hurts us, we don’t want to love anyway—we want to grab the nearest stick and bash them over the head with it, or the nearest harsh word and fling it in their direction. That’s the human condition. And it’s sad. We don’t have to be this way. We don’t have to react in order to interact. Sometimes, if we were to take a page out of God’s book (pun intended), perhaps love could prevail and hurt could be dismissed. But don’t mistake me—love does NOT equal like. That’s where we get in the most trouble. We think that to always love someone is to always like them.

 Sometimes we just don’t like each other. And that’s okay, folks. It’s not what the ideal situation is, but again, we’re not perfect. This doesn’t give us license to take advantage of grace; we still owe it to our neighbors to TRY. Try and see their hurt through their words—even if those words hurt us. Most of the time the actions people take against us aren’t out of desire to inflict pain, they’re out of a place of pain, itself. (Note: This is not always the case; tragically, some people have refused to engage their inner created love, choosing instead to inflict senseless pain and violence on others. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about US).

 Loving your neighbor, loving God—these are the actions of Christians. Always liking each other and always understanding God? These are impossibilities that require us to have faith to see us through. I will never stop talking about the love God asks of us; it is the entire reason for our creation. Ever asked, “Why are we here? Why did God create us?” To love. We have to be better. We have to stop seeing the Jew, the Muslim, the businessman, the poor person, the homeless, the loud child, the grumpy elder; and we need to start seeing the created, beloved, fallible, and wonderful person created in the image of God.

 This week, love well, and like whenever is humanly possible. In most cases, the first will lead to the second. But remember: To love is not always to like. So love God, love your neighbor, hang out with your friends, and pray for your enemies. The rest will fall into place.

 

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+

 

October 24, 2018

Have you been to a Wednesday evening meal? Throughout the past month, we’ve had a great crowd on Wednesdays and everyone seems to enjoy the fellowship. If you haven’t been able to come, no worries—you’re missed but we can’t all make it to everything offered. But if you’re not coming because there isn’t a class or activity in which you’re interested, I hope you know that we still want to enjoy a meal with you. You don’t have to stay for the whole evening; just being with you for a half an hour is a blessing in and of itself.

 

Having said that, I also want to ask for some help. The last five meals have been prepared by just a few folks, and the cleanup has been done by even fewer. We really do need some folks to offer themselves to this effort. If we have six or eight people offer to join in on the dinner prep and cleanup, everyone would only be tasked once every six weeks. As it is, now, June has been overseeing the majority of the cleanup. While I’m grateful for that, I’d like to see some more folks jumping in and helping out. The Wednesday night fellowship meal is a fantastic way in which to come together mid-week, and I’d like to see it be sustainable. Please consider helping out if you can!

 

Next, I want to remind everyone of the Trunk or Treat that’s occurring on Sunday evening. PLEASE call the office if you are planning on bringing your vehicle down on Sunday to help out; I’d like to know that we have enough cars! The evening begins at 6pm and ends at 8pm, so I’d love to see the volunteers arrive around five or five thirty to setup.

 

As always, I appreciate all that you do; this place is amazing because of your faith, your contribution of time, and your generosity. I’ll see you tonight, and if not, then I’ll see you Sunday. Take care of yourselves and know that you are beloved.

 

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+

 

October 17th, 2018

A sealed ‘Thank You’ letter rests idly on my desk. Its stamped, addressed and ready to be sent, but the recipient can no longer be reached. Anywhere. So, there it remains, staring up at me as I painfully stare back through tears. I don’t have the courage to open it and re-read the message intended for my newly sainted friend; and I certainly can’t seem to discard it. If I hold it up to the light, I can make out the last line through the somewhat transparent envelope, which reads, “…I couldn’t imagine doing this as well without you.” The message was intended to thank my friend, Greg Huston, for his role in the cook-off at St. Crispin’s last month. I meant what I wrote—that I couldn’t imagine the cook-off and all the other things we do so well, without his help—and I have no idea how long it will take to quell the storm in my heart as I think about his untimely death; the devastation it wreaks on his wife and young daughter; and the chasm left in its wake. Ministry within the Diocese will seem lesser for a little while without Greg, and I never thought I’d have to say goodbye to someone my age, someone to whom I looked for levity and advice, AND someone so integral to the life of our Diocesan community. To someone who was taken too soon.

 

And now I’ll have to try.

 

The sudden loss of a loved one makes no sense. Initial shock and denial wanes in the first couple of days, giving way to unparalleled confusion, anger, and biting pain; yet, those are not the replacements for which we hope. I’d much rather remain in denial than deal with the fact that a little girl’s father and a good friend’s husband met an accidental end. That my own friend will no longer make me laugh or send inappropriate text messages when my college football team beats his.

 

But I cannot do that. And I know it.

 

My mind tells me that understanding isn’t necessary; those are the mysteries for greater beings to unravel in their due course, and perhaps they will be revealed to me when I come face to face with God. My heart tells me that this pain will not remain as potent as it is now, as it beats the following words in an inward Morse code, “Love your friends, love yourself, God loves you,” over and over again like a rhythmic reminder of hope for days to come. My soul wanders, wondering about what might have been if only ‘this’ or ‘that’ would’ve happened, then my friend would still be here.

 

These moments are the thin places that I desperately need. The ticks of the clock that echo like footsteps in my ears, reminding me that God is closer to me now than ever before, that all I need to do is be still and allow myself to be wrapped up in God’s hopeful arms. It is an easy thing to love God when life is beautiful; it is an altogether different sensation to allow love to seep through the brokenness of despair and direct it toward the one being that could’ve prevented all of this. Yet I find myself beginning to hope for grace and not for what might have been; I remind myself that I believe that God’s love is greater than death, a champion capable of defeating pain and grief. I hear whispers from the Holy Spirit reminding me that I am beloved; that Kate, Brigid, Jeff and the rest of his family are beloved. And even in death, Greg is beloved and has been raised to join the saints in glory, even if too soon.

 

I want you all to know how deeply I care for each of you. Time doesn’t permit me to be with you as much as I’d like; but you are all prayerfully considered each night, whether by individual name or as my church family. The letter sitting on my desk serves me now as a reminder that words of appreciation can never be said too often; and that we don’t always have the time we think we do to say them or to write them. If you are experiencing pain of loss, pain of loneliness, or pain of despair, I want to encourage you to reach out and speak that pain as I have done here. Together, and with God’s help, we can overcome anything. Together, we are strong. And when one of us is raised to God’s glory, the rest of us can find hope in each other’s eyes. I love you, dear ones; let it never be said that I didn’t remind you of that. Time is precious, let’s make ours worthy of being spent, just as Greg did. Love God, love each other, and while you’re at it, love yourselves.

 

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+

October 10, 2018

I want to talk about theodicy, not to be confused with The Odyssey. Theodicy is the vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil. Understand that? I didn’t either, at first. Theodicy in layman’s terms usually comes in the form of a question: If God exists, then why is there so much evil in the world? OR If God exists, then why does God allow so many bad things to happen to so many good people?

I’m going to be honest, here; I struggled with this question for a long time, and far too often for my liking. Every time a school shooting happened, I’d say, “Where are you, God?” Every time someone close to me would die, even after I prayed, I’d ask, “How could you do that to me?” Every time someone with questionable intentions came into power, I’d look up and say, “Are you even paying attention?” And, if I’m being honest, sometimes I still get frustrated with the state of things and repeat these questions, just not nearly as often or as angrily. 

I don’t want to be flippant either. I understand that many of you still struggle with the concept of a loving God who can control everything versus his seeming absence within our current context. (For that matter, I still wonder why God stopped talking to us, physically, like he did with Moses and the other prophets.) I think, “You know, it’d be a lot easier if you’d show up; life would be fuller if you’d just make your presence known and answer my prayers in a timely manner and suitable to my cause.” But then I realize my personal mistake (which I will not project onto you, but offer to you as a different perspective): God created each of us with free will; unfortunately, like children with a stick, it is up to us whether we whack away at our neighbor with our free will, or we use it as a walking stick to guide us ‘along right pathways for His name’s sake’ (Psalm 23). 

Free will is quite possibly the most frustrating answer we can get, too. We don’t want to hear that. We want God to DO something; we want God to step in and, much like a parent, separate us into our corners until we learn how to act right. But that isn’t the case. For God to refuse our free will and to over-write it would be counter-intuitive to our creation. We weren’t made so that God could control us and MAKE us do his bidding. We were created with the option to love and serve him and each other OR to go on about our selfish business and just look out for number one. 

So many folks in our world choose the second option. It’s so much easier to just look out for our own interests so that we can lose the least. But that’s the challenge of faith, isn’t it? Without faith, we reduce ourselves to autonomous creatures, doing our own bidding and forsaking those around us. 

I want us to realize that we’re defined by how we interact with one another, and by how we continue in relationship with God, especially now. As the world becomes more fractured, it is up to us to continue being the bridge, the map and the bandage that connects, leads, and heals people of differing views to one another. If you’re struggling with anything God-related, reach out. Some of you have done so in the past, but I encourage all of us to rely upon one another in our darkest hours. It takes great courage to admit when faith seems at its lowest. I am always here as a listener, first; but then, if asked, a willing partner to help you discern solutions to your struggles—just as I hope you would be for me in mine. Pain will always be a factor in our lives, but it doesn’t have to have the final say. God loves you, and so do I.

Faithfully,
Fr. Sean+

October 3, 2018

Greetings from clergy conference, currently being held at St. Crispin’s Conference Center + Camp. 

Our theme this week is, “How to have difficult conversations; and how to begin conversations of which we are afraid.” It seems easy to say that we don’t have that issue at Resurrection, that we don’t have the problem of miscommunication experienced by other churches; yet, I know there are things that weigh on each of us, things we wish we could discuss but don’t do out of fear. We fear judgement, we fear the possibility of not belonging, we fear that the ‘other’ won’t be able to hear us…the part of us that is truly speaking rather than just the words we’re using.

I want desperately to change this narrative. My hope for our church is that it can be a beloved community in which people have the sense of safety to say that which confuses them, angers them, or plagues their hearts and minds. Conversation does not automatically have to lead to conflict; in fact, it shouldn’t lead to conflict the majority of the time. For some reason we’ve lost the ability to feel secure enough to allow our inner thoughts to escape and be set free, and we’ve lost that ability in the name of comfortability. But church shouldn’t always be comfortable. Jesus certainly didn’t make that his life’s work—to provide a sense of comfort—rather, he made it his life’s mission to proclaim the Word of God, regardless of the difficulties that others would have in hearing his message.

What bothers you? What conversations are we not having concerning church that you’d like to have? What conversations are we avoiding entirely just to ensure peace and stability? I think we’ve come a long way together, thus far, and I’d like to see us be genuine with one another and able to speak our truths without fear. Perhaps we can learn to do that, again. We are real people with real problems and issues; let’s use one another as sounding boards and as sources of perspective that might differ from our own. I think that if we can do that and do it lovingly, we will have a sense of the holy that breaks through our own insecurities and that will move us into deeper relationship with one another and into a deeper relationship with God. And if you’re not struggling with conversations, then perhaps you’re being called to be a holy listener to someone who is. Think on that, this week, and be blessed. See you Sunday.

Faithfully,
Fr. Sean+

September 26, 2018

So many good things abound within our midst! We have quite a few ministries supporting our daily life: Altar Guild, Choir, Mobile Meals, Youth, Adult Education, The Chad, Dion, Dr. Whitesell and Eric, Lay Ministers, Acolytes, and on and on! During the summer, we’ve had record attendance, as well. We’ve averaged around seventy people per Sunday—something that is phenomenal for this time of year, given our congregation size. Even more exciting is the amount of new people coming to church every Sunday.

But along with growth, along with a sense of the ‘good’ things happening at resurrection, comes financial need. Summer is notorious for witnessing a drop in giving—people are away, busy, and sometimes financial support suffers out of distraction. Let me be clear: This congregation has been extremely faithful with support during my first year, and throughout the last forty years. However, with the numerous new ministries and existing ones, we have a need to ensure that our time, talent and treasure are all equally committed to supporting our new-found growth. All of our recent upgrades have been fully funded by extra giving, a fantastic and miraculous endeavor by each of you. In terms of the day to day budget, we still have work to do.

Simply put, I’m writing to you all as a gentle reminder that, although things are going well, we need to remain faithful in our giving. Please consider this as we move toward the Fall and Winter months. In November, we’ll be entering stewardship season—a time in which we approach the altar and make financial commitments to the church. But the need is here, now, as well. Please continue giving to the ongoing life and ministry of this place, every gift is just that—a gift—and they all impact this place for the better. As I’ve said before, it takes all of us. Together, we can maintain the budget for 2018 and walk into 2019 with confidence that all our ministries, all our staff, and all our outreach will be accomplished.

I appreciate your generosity more than I can ever express via the written word. Thank you for your faithful pledge to this holy place, and to God whom it serves. And thank you for being the mighty resurrected congregation of Episcopal Church of the Resurrection.

Faithfully,
Fr. Sean+

September 26, 2018

Resurrectionists!

 

So many good things abound within our midst! We have quite a few ministries supporting our daily life: Altar Guild, Choir, Mobile Meals, Youth, Adult Education, The Chad, Dion, Dr. Whitesell and Eric, Lay Ministers, Acolytes, and on and on! During the summer, we’ve had record attendance, as well. We’ve averaged around seventy people per Sunday—something that is phenomenal for this time of year, given our congregation size. Even more exciting is the amount of new people coming to church every Sunday.

 

But along with growth, along with a sense of the ‘good’ things happening at resurrection, comes financial need. Summer is notorious for witnessing a drop in giving—people are away, busy, and sometimes financial support suffers out of distraction. Let me be clear: This congregation has been extremely faithful with support during my first year, and throughout the last forty years. However, with the numerous new ministries and existing ones, we have a need to ensure that our time, talent and treasure are all equally committed to supporting our new-found growth. All of our recent upgrades have been fully funded by extra giving, a fantastic and miraculous endeavor by each of you. In terms of the day to day budget, we still have work to do.

 

Simply put, I’m writing to you all as a gentle reminder that, although things are going well, we need to remain faithful in our giving. Please consider this as we move toward the Fall and Winter months. In November, we’ll be entering stewardship season—a time in which we approach the altar and make financial commitments to the church. But the need is here, now, as well. Please continue giving to the ongoing life and ministry of this place, every gift is just that—a gift—and they all impact this place for the better. As I’ve said before, it takes all of us. Together, we can maintain the budget for 2018 and walk into 2019 with confidence that all our ministries, all our staff, and all our outreach will be accomplished.

 

I appreciate your generosity more than I can ever express via the written word. Thank you for your faithful pledge to this holy place, and to God whom it serves. And thank you for being the mighty resurrected congregation of Episcopal Church of the Resurrection.

 

Faithfully,

 

Fr. Sean+

September 19, 2018

What a great weekend! First and foremost, I want to draw attention to Brooke Calhoun and give her the praise she deserves for organizing church retreat 2018—Brooke, I think I can speak for most of us when I say IT WAS AWESOME. Some people hiked, some took naps, some people played board games and some folks just sat and read a book. No matter what was going on, I think what I loved witnessing the most was the fellowship between friends, old and new; I watched a couple of new relationships come to life and more than a few old relationships get strengthened, and it was beautiful.
 
And then there were those that stayed home and made sure the church was populated on Sunday…thank YOU, too! Even though thirty of us went to St. Crispin’s, there were still forty in attendance on Sunday—that’s pretty awesome. I missed seeing you all during worship, so I’m excited to reconnect, Sunday.
 
Some housekeeping right quick…
 
If you need a key to the church and have not already received one, please call Chad at the office and we can accommodate you—I apologize for any inconvenience that this process has caused. Next, there’s going to be a meal at 6:30 tonight, followed by youth (Tonight’s leader is Jason Pierce, thanks Jason!), choir, and adult study. I am still looking for a fourth group leader to tackle doing a bible study (the gospels) so if you’re interested, please let me know. At 8:15, everyone will gather in the Nave for Compline, to end the night.
 
There’s going to be a playground workday on October 13th from 9am-(whenever we finish) and we’ll also be working a little out in the shed if we have enough people. June was interested in painting the sacristy, too, so it looks as though we need a small army to come and commit some time. Please join if you can, the priority of the day will be the playground but I’d really love to see enough folks present to do other things, as well.
 
HR continues to progress. He’s walking twice a day, and his spirits are high. Please continue to pray for him and his family!
 
Jeanne Mowdy is recovering well from her surgery; I get updates from Mike frequently and he ensures that everything is moving along as it should. Please continue to pray for them, as well.
 
Enjoy the rest of your week, beloved. I’ll see you soon. Until then, be at peace and #practiceresurrection!
 
Faithfully,
Fr. Sean+