Monday, September 9, 2013

Sermon for September 8 by the Rev. Kate Ekrem

September 8 2013 Proper 18C
The Rev. Kate Ekrem

Once when I was in seminary, I signed up for a course that was oversubscribed. There were too many people who wanted to take it. So, instead of taking the first 20 students who signed up or something like that, the professor had us all show up to the first class. Then she started giving us an overview of the class. How much reading, how many papers, how complicated the material was going to be, how she wasn’t going to spoon feed us and on and on. About half the people dropped the class after hearing all that, and then we were down to the right size.  It was the best course I took in seminary, well worth all the work.
            It seems like Jesus is a little bit like that professor in today’s Gospel. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sermon for August 4, 2013 by Rev. Kate Ekrem

August 4 2013 Proper 13C
By Rev. Kate Ekrem
Church of Our Redeemer

This past weekend, Dave and I cleaned out the garage. We ended up with almost a carload of stuff to take to Goodwill – it always feels good and virtuous to purge stuff out of the house. But you know, we clean out the garage every couple of months, and it seems like every time we have a carload of stuff to take to Goodwill. I try to keep that in mind when praying on this parable of the rich fool. It’s one of those rare parables of Jesus that’s actually pretty darn clear and easy to understand. Stuff bad, God good. Jesus even gives a one sentence summary himself: one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. But you already know this, it’s not even worth a sermon. You wouldn't be sitting in a church on Sunday morning if you actually did think that life consists of the abundance of possessions.  You’d be at the mall instead, right?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sermon for July 14 by Andrew Goldhor

July 14, 2013, Proper 10C
The Rev. Andrew Goldhor

I was sitting at home last night finishing my sermon. Then I saw the Trayvon Martin verdict. George Zimmerman was found not guilty by six jurors in Florida. After a few minutes, as my Facebook feed filled with emotion, commentary, calls for action, fury and outrage and satisfaction, I knew I had to scrap my sermon.

I do not wish to preach on whether George Zimmerman should have been found guilty of murder, or if justice was served by the outcome of the trial. A young man is dead. Another in a heart rending list, too long to bear, of dead youth in our cities and towns. I do want to lift this up to God, and to call Holy all our efforts to find Jesus at work in us, in our pain and anger, in our frustration, sadness worry and confusion.

So I hope that we might use these minutes to let God take hold of our hearts and minds. For the family of Trayvon Martin I pray that they might be sustained in their faith, knowing Jesus abiding presence in their pain and grief. For George Zimmerman and his family I pray they too may know God's love. And for Trayvon, I pray that he continue to rest in peace, and rise in glory.

The defense of George Zimmerman, from what I heard of the trial coverage, was that he was acting out of fear for his life, or his safety. This fear drove him to kill Trayvon, and it seems to have been what his defense team used to justify this act in keeping with Florida's Stand your Ground laws. And it is this fear that brings me to Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke's Gospel.

In his final speech in Memphis, Dr. Martin Luther King recalled traveling to the Holy Land with his wife, and traveling the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, the setting for Jesus parable. Dr. King described the road as being well suited to an ambush. And it was that narrow, dangerous road that made him think of why that priest and that levite just kept moving when they saw the half dead man on the side of the road. They were afraid those bandits might still be nearby, or that the man could be faking, trying to lure them into a trap. 

Dr. King said, "And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?" The Samaritan might well have been afraid of those bandits too, but he did not let his fear make the choice for him. He instead saw the need of his neighbor, and was moved with pity, and he acted. 

Trayvon Martin was a victim of fear, at the least. A fear that made him look dangerous to George Zimmerman.

As we hold these families, and all those affected by violence in our prayers, let us continue to live into our baptismal covenant, always striving to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, to strive for Justice and peace among all people, and respecting the dignity of every human being. These vows are hard, and this case is only one example of why. But in our life of prayer together, and in the food we take from this table, we find strength for these great tasks.

Let us Pray:

Gracious God, you provide us with blessings of life and children and joy. We ask that you will send your Holy Spirit upon us in these difficult days, that we might not be overcome with fear, but might see one another as neighbors, and might use our hearts and souls and minds and strength in service of you, through your Son, our friend and savior, Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Farewell Sermon from Rev. Danielle Tumminio

Sermon for June 30 2013
Rev. Danielle Tumminio

So after I read this week’s Gospel reading, I thought, “Shoot, really?  These are challenging readings for my final Sunday at Redeemer—leave your family; don’t bury your father if you want to follow Jesus….”

And then I thought, “Actually, maybe not so challenging after all.”

You see, during my time with you all this year, I have come to see that the Redeemer family is one that lives out Jesus’ teachings in personal and profound ways—some of you drive folks to church who otherwise couldn't attend on their own.  Some of you spearhead mission initiatives like organizing the food pantry or the El Hogar trip.  Some of you give up weeknights to rehearse with the choir and others of you get here early on Sunday morning to set up the church for worship or to acolyte.  Some of you stay after church to teach Sunday School and others return on Sunday night to lead the Youth Group.  I have watched our youth organize a gaggle of children from our

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sermon for June 9 2013

June 9 2013, Proper 5C
The Rev. Kate Ekrem

Recently I saw a very useful top 10 list, top 10 things not to say to someone who’s lost a loved one. It was great, because often are very uncomfortable talking with someone who is grieving, they don’t know what to do or say, so they worst things come out of people’s mouths sometimes, and this article listed what to avoid saying, like “God just needed another angel in heaven” or what have you. On the lsit were things like “I know just how you feel” – no you don’t. And “he’s in a better place now” – actually, with me is the place where I want my loved one to be. Also on that list, was “don’t cry.” I mean, can you imagine, saying that to someone, for example a widow who has just lost her only son? But that’s exactly what Jesus does say. I mean, who let this guy on the pastoral care team?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Audio of Sermon from June 2, 2013 by the Rev. Kate Ekrem

Sermon for June 2, 2013

Sermon by the Rev. Kate Ekrem

Let me read again from the Letter of Paul to the Galatians:
Dear Galatians, ARE YOU NUTS? Didn’t you listen to a word I said?
Ok, Paul didn’t say those exact words, but pretty close. He wrote: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is a different gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Chris. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed!”

He is really upset. What is he so upset about? What is the big argument about? Paul founded this church in Galatia, and apparently after he left, some other Christian missionaries came and said, what Paul said, was not quite correct, here’s the real deal. And now Paul is writing to say, they are wrong and I am right! And he’s really really upset about it. Because the argument goes right to the heart of what Paul believes the Gospel is all about, right to the heart of who Jesus is and what his death and resurrection mean.

The gospel Paul is preaching is merely this: salvation is through Jesus Christ. Full stop. There is nothing you need to do, nothing you need to say, nothing you need to even believe, no paper to sign, no oath to swear, no law to follow, Jesus has done it all, 100% of whatever needs to be done to save your soul and reconcile you to God, has been done. It’s totally completely done.

These other Christian missionaries who came to Galatia after Paul said, yes, sure, but you know Jesus was Jewish, and we have this ancient tradition which is very meaningful and the 10 Commandments are pretty darn important, and if you really want to follow Jesus, you need to follow those commandments, keep kosher laws, get circumcised, that’s a fuller and richer understanding of this tradition we’ve been given. To give up those traditions, this rich heritage with all its ethical teachings, to say they didn’t matter anymore, would mean throwing overboard customs that had kept the Jewish people together for centuries through many trials and tribulations. This made sense to the people in Galatia, so they started following those laws and customs, and this is what got Paul so upset.

Now, let me be clear. These Jewish Christians did not think that they could earn salvation through works. That was a later idea that was read back into this time, but it’s not correct. And Paul was definitely not saying that Jewish Christians should betray their history, heritage, and customs. Paul was just saying that gentile Christians shouldn’t have to take on those practices. He was making an important but subtle point. As one theologian has put it “Christ is a doorway through which anyone can enter at any time.” (Feasting on the Word)

That may seem pretty self evident, we may be saying, yeah, Paul was right and those other missionaries were wrong, but think of it this way, when people come to our community we tend to say, welcome, hey, let us tell you about our church, here’s the Book of Common Prayer, it’s really great, and have you been baptized, do your kids need to be confirmed? And the Eucharist, that’s really important, but you can’t receive it until you’ve been baptized, these are our traditions, please join us. That’s the kind of thing to which Paul is saying, no, no, no. There’s actually nothing, nothing, you have to do to become a member of our community because, Jesus already did it, he already made us a community. That’s it, that’s all.  Full stop.  No footnotes or asterisk.

Love makes a person a Christian.  And not our love, but God’s love for us, the love is something that God begins, not us. The life and death and resurrection of Jesus are what proves this to be true. Paul is so desperately trying to say that if we don’t’ get this key point, we’ve missed the whole thing.

You know, this is tricky stuff. I mean, really, then, what is it that makes Christianity distinctive as a religion. According to Paul, there really isn’t any belief or creed or tradition or practice except the unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ equally given to every human being. The end. Apparently that’s so hard to accept, so hard for us to wrap our minds around that we have to do all this (church, worship, etc.) to mediate the incomprehensible and unquenchable, the overwhelming and unending love of God. If Christianity is anything, a way, a practice, then it is just responding to that love.

Paul an amazing character because he was completely uncompromising about the Gospel as he received it: that nothing, nothing, stands between us and God’s love. God’s love was not an abstract concept to him, but a concrete experience that he literally devoted every waking hour to sharing with others. And the Gospel he is sharing is not a soft or watered down Gospel. It’s straight up and hard work. When Paul talks about “this evil age” he means the world around us that is so fascinated with and caught up in having wealth or power or prestige or status. The revelation of God’s love through Jesus breaks all this. All people are loved equally unconditionally by God, there is no status at all. No one is better than anyone else in God’s eyes, we’re all sinners and fully justified. What’s so hard and uncompromising about this is that it turns out there is no authority or tradition or social organization that we can make a foundation for our lives with. The only foundation is Christ.

No wonder many of Paul’s contemporaries in the early church thought he was the one that was nuts. He spend this whole letter to the Galatians just trying to convince them of that one thing. There’s only one thing, God’s love, the end. And now I’ve spend this whole sermon doing the same. I hope you’ll continue to remind me of this truth as I continue to remind you, because reminding each other that God loves every human creature unstoppably and unendingly, is one thing this place, this community, is good at and good for. Perhaps we have that much in common with that small church long ago in Galatia.


Works consulted included Essay on Galatians by Wendy Farley in “Feasting on the Word” and “Introduction to the New Testament” by Raymond Brown

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sermon for third Sunday of Easter

Sermon by the Rev. Kate Ekrem for April 14 2013
Acts 9:1-19a

Many years ago, I met a woman, a new member of the Episcopal Church, who said that what she loved about our church was that people were not continually asking her the date and time of her conversion to Christ. She came from a tradition – I can’t even remember what it was – where that was the norm, and in many churches it still is. My friend found the fact that we weren't so interested in her conversion hard to get used to, but refreshing, but I wonder if conversion isn't something we should think more about.
            This morning we read the famous story of Saul, who was later of course called Paul, the author of most of the letters in the back of the New Testament. We read the famous story of how he turned from unbelief to belief in an instant that was like a flash of light.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Text version of Sermon for April 7 by Father Richard Viladesau

Sermon by Father Richard Viladesau
Second Sunday of Easter 2013 at the Church of Our Redeemer

In a recent conversation with a graduate student, I parenthetically mentioned the statement of the late English novelist Iris Murdoch: some Xian teachings “have become so celebrated and beautified in great pictures that it almost seems as if the painters were the final authorities on the matter,” rather than the scriptures or the theologians. The student was struck by this, and asked for examples. It is easy to think of instances where the common Christian conception comes from the way things are portrayed in art: we assume there were three Magi, although Matthew gives no number; that they were Kings, while for the gospel they were “astrologers.” People imagine the two disciples journeying to Emmaus as two men; but from text more it is more likely they were man and wife. The whole scene of the pietà is an invention of art. And today’s gospel is another prime example. Paintings of the Thomas scene almost invariably show Thomas putting his fingers into Jesus’ side, as he is invited to do. [Examples: Caravaggio, “Incredulity of St. Thomas” shows Thomas actually putting his finger into Christ’s side, his hand guided by Christ; Romanesque cloister of Santo Domingo de Silos; Duccio, “Maestà”; Hendrick ter Brugghen; Verocchio; Guercino; Signorelli]. If you ask people what happened, this is what they think. But it is not what the gospel says. Thomas does not touch the resurrected Jesus: he believes when he sees. “When Jesus appears and somewhat sarcastically offers Thomas the crass demonstration of the miraculous that he demanded, Thomas comes to belief without probing Jesus’ wounds.”[i] If he had accepted the invitation, would have been like those who are condemned for demanding signs and wonders before believing (Jn. IV:28).

Thomas believes when he sees; but what he sees is an appearance of Christ. He still has to believe that this vision is of a reality. The Apostles who saw Christ still had to have faith; we are told by Matthew that even after these visions, some doubted (Mt. 28:17). Seeing is not believing. External signs are still signs. What faith is about cannot  be proven or shown physically, because it is about something more than a physical reality: it is about a relationship of trust in God’s goodness and triumph over evil and death.

"Blest are they who have not seen and have believed." If we exclude from consideration the "epilogue" or second ending added by an early redactor (Jn. 21), these words are not only the last to be spoken by Jesus in John's gospel, but are the concluding words of the entire work; the final thought that the original gospel writer wished to leave us with.
            While most of the sayings of Jesus in the gospels have to be carefully considered in their lived situation and in the context of their original addressees before we can discern any relevance to our contemporary situation, these words are obviously meant by the author for us: we are the original addressees; we are those who believe without having seen, and who are called "blest" for that reason.
            It is clear that the intent of this saying is to indicate the superiority of faith over vision. But why should this be so? Is it somehow more meritorious to believe "blindly" on the testimony of others? Is faith ultimately an irrational act of submission or of wishful thinking?

If not, then what can be the basis of such belief?
Obviously, our Christian belief is based on the testimony of others, beginning with the first disciples. But we don’t believe simply on others’ testimony. How could we take the word of people or writings 2,000 years old? Here we meet Lessing’s problem of the “foul wide ditch” of the impossibility of certain historical knowledge. We believe in that testimony not simply as testimony from past, but as lived out in community of faith. Combined with.
And that testimony from the past cannot stand alone. It must be joined to the “testimony” of God. In today’s first reading, Peter says, “we are witnesses, and the Holy Spirit is witness.” The exterior testimony is believable insofar as it corresponds to our interior experience of God: something interior and of its very nature invisible: the “testimony” of God that is experienced and lived in our hearts. This is a testimony of experience: the “outward” testimony of others is believable insofar as it corresponds to the rest of our experience, and gives us a meaningful way of interpreting it.
This “experience of God” is not a separate mystical kind of experience: it is found in our experience of ourselves and the world. It is found in experiences of goodness, beauty, generosity, value; in love that sacrifices self, in hope in face of death. It is the “pointing beyond” or transcendence that is implicit in all positive experience. It is also found indirectly in experiences of evil that call out for a reversal: a reversal that is impossible within our human history, however hard we strive. Even where we do reverse evil and improve our world, we cannot reverse the evils and injustices of the past, and we cannot avoid the inevitability of randomness and death.

In these combined witnesses we can find reasons for belief in resurrection, in the triumph of God’s life over sin and death. But there is a condition: belief is not forced on us; it is not merely intellectual. It is a commitment and a way of life. It is believable if - (and this is why the blessing appears) we are ready to receive and live it.

[i] Brown, Gospel according to John XIII-XXI, 1046.

Sermon for April 7 from Fr. Richard Viladesau

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Sermon for Easter Sunday

Easter 2013

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
--(1Cor 15:25-26)

One of the interesting things I get to do is to go behind-the-scenes, so to speak, in our local funeral home. I really enjoy all the guys who work over there, and  I notice how much they kind of try to shield the loved ones of someone who’s died from the nitty gritty details. For example, sometimes I’ll do a service for a family without a church home over at the funeral home, and typically it’s an open casket, and the person has been made to look so nice and there might be sentimental objects placed in their hands or what have you. After the service they’ll shoo all the family out of the room and very matter-of-factly close the casket, a process that has a few steps. The first thing they do is crank down the pillow that’s keeping the dead person’s head elevated, the put a little crank into the casket, and wind down the thing so the person’s lying flat. Then they take the little blanket that’s tucked around the person and pull it over their face, and then they close the lid. I don’t mind telling you the first time I saw them do that I was pretty freaked out.  It really

Sermon for Good Friday

Good Friday 2013
by Rev. Kate Ekrem

This happens every day. On some level this is a very ordinary story. Someone who’s been preaching about human rights and dignity gets arrested and tortured and killed by an oppressive regime. Really it’s not so different from so many other arrests, so many other people who've been made to disappear by those in power. We can name Oscar Romero, Janani Luwum, DietrichBonheoffer, but also so many whose names we don’t know, those in Argentina in the 1970’s, Germany of the 1930’s, or in our own country in the lynch mobs of the 1960’s, and those in  Syria or Tibet even today, this very day, right now.  This story is not so different from all those stories. But this is the one we know by heart.

This is the one whose facets and contours are so familiar to us, the high priest’s slave’s ear, the rooster crowing, the seamless garment, the sour wine. We know every detail of the story of Jesus’ suffering and death; it’s compelling as well as horrifying.

Sermon for Maundy Thursday by Bill Fortier

Maundy Thursday
Bill Fortier

Jesus, feed your hungry and hurting sheep, dear shepherd of souls. Amen
So let's start with two stories about hand-me-downs, one from my mother and one from my beloved wife, Barbara.

First story: I'm just about to start the police academy and doing what every unmarried Catholic boy does: I'm living with my mother and father. My mother is so proud of me. This is, for her, the blue collar Irish version of Yale, a patrolman!

My mother is also really proud of herself here: She has made my bedroom look all grown up, painted it. It still had the grotesque crucifix of Jesus with multiple red wounds, all over it, dead center over the headboard, like a scarecrow. The crucifix is placed there to ensure that the only two things I'd ever, ever think about in bed were sleep and an awful death. Thanks mom.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

For Christ's Sake, Love, Love, Love: Sermon by Bill Fortier

Sermon for February 3, 2012

Bill Fortier

 Jesus: Maybe if we pray this sermon all together, everyone can overlook my terrible credentials when it comes to love. Help these cherished friends to see past my half heart, to hear your music, singing love songs in their beloved ears. Amen.

Because I cant help myself, lets start with some science: In the late nineties, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons conducted their first run of their, now famous, invisible gorilla experiment. These two young scientists wanted to build on the science of attention. By this time, scientists had figured out that our visual attention and visual perception wasn't all that sharp. Our glossy big bubbles keep getting popped by these guys.

So these two young dudes set up an experiment where folks are told to watch a basketball game. A guy in a gorilla costume walks right through the players. Now here's the thing: an astonishing number, half to three quarters of the viewers (!), don't see the gorilla! This experiment has been conducted tons of times now and the scenarios have been changed, again and again, just to make sure it isn't some kind of innate basketball deficiency. The experiment and it's numbers stand. We're Mr and Ms Magoo when it comes to seeing stuff that's right in front of us. We see what we expect and want to see: road hog!

Chapter 13 in Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians is an invisible gorilla right in the middle of the New Testament. It hides in plain sight, mostly in weddings. We just hear the word love, love, love echoing in the

Monday, January 28, 2013

Annual Meeting Wardens' Report

Wardens’ Report
2013 Annual Meeting
 George Murnaghan, Senior Warden

As I began to prepare this report, I went back to Connie Parrish’s message from last year: that 2011 and the prior few years were about putting important pieces in place:  bringing Kate Ekrem in as our Priest-in-Charge in 2009, creating a Strategic Plan, and laying the groundwork to live into it, including calling Kate to be our Rector at the end of 2011.  Connie exhorted us that 2012 and beyond were times of opportunity for Redeemer, that we were ready to move forward together with the pieces in place.

As your incoming Senior Warden, I admit to feeling a sense of trepidation.  Could we take

Annual Meeting Rector's Address

January 27, 2013
The Rev. Kate Ekrem

In my last parish, the rector’s address at annual meeting was called “The State of the Parish Address” as parallel, of course, to the president’s State of the Union address that he delivers about this time of year when he’s not getting inaugurated. The president always says, “the state of the union is strong” and I can definitely say, the state of the parish is strong!

In fact, Frank our treasurer was saying at vestry last week, there’s never been a better time to invest your time and energy in Redeemer. Although come to think of it I think Frank was talking about investing money, he is the treasurer after all. But whatever it is you have to invest, Frank was making the point that we are in a good position, now to give many returns on whatever investment you make. Because of the strength and energy and love in this community, whatever you put in, you are going to get out many times over. And whatever we put in this year, we are going to get back twentyfold and a hundredfold.

You’ve probably heard many times by now that our vestry goals for this year were around building up the