Song of Songs

“Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away…the winter is past…the time of singing has come!”  (Song of Songs 2:10-12)

Tomorrow, Ashley and I leave for Virginia, where we will commence our Honeymoon Road Trip through Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York. We will be visiting friends and family in the area as well as St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Whitemarsh PA, where I will be guest preaching. I love the fact that the lectionary readings for this Sunday include a portion of the great love poem, the Song of Songs, the same portion that was read at our wedding more than a year ago. I was initially hoping to preach on this biblical love poem myself, but when I realized that I would be away, I asked the Rev. Dr. Arthur Holder to preach in my stead. He has taught graduate-level courses and translated ancient commentaries on this mystical text, so you are all in for a real treat. The biblical poem has been a major source of inspiration for artists and mystics over the centuries, including my favorite artist Marc Chagall, who painted a series of pieces on the Song of Songs (including the one above). I encourage you to read it before Sunday – it’s only 8 short chapters. Perhaps the Song of Songs will inspire you to create something new, holy and beautiful.

The Binding of Isaac

My favorite artist is the 20th century Russian Jewish artist Marc Chagall; and I’m grateful that I have had the opportunity to visit the Musée Marc Chagall in Nice, France twice. The last time I visited, I asked Ashley to take a picture of me by one of his works, partly to show how enormous his paintings are. This painting, which is from a series called Message Biblique, portrays the Binding of Isaac or the Akedah (which is Hebrew for “Binding”). It is one of the most powerful, challenging and disturbing stories in the entire Bible and perhaps in all of Western literature in which Abraham is called by God to sacrifice his beloved son Issac. And I get to preach on it this Sunday! Yipee! Marc Chagall’s painting has been helping me ruminate prayerfully on this text for a while and I’m looking forward to hearing what the Spirit will speak through me about the Akedah this Sunday (:

After this Sunday, you will get to hear the Rev. Dr. Arthur Holder preach on the Song of Songs (the great love poem of the Bible that also inspired several Chagall paintings) and then a sermon from Br. Jude from the Society of St. Francis while I’m away on vacation for the next two Sundays, traveling through New York, where I will hopefully be able to view some more Chagall paintings at the Met.

Moving into Ordinary Time

After basking in the glory of the Resurrected Son during the seven weeks of Easter and then teeming with the creative power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and then most recently laughing and dancing with the Triune God during Pentecost tide, we now move into what is called “Ordinary Time.” This is a time when we are invited to see the presence of God in our everyday, ordinary lives; and I can’t imagine a better way to move into this time together than by discussing something as ordinary as bread. This Sunday, the Rev. Elizabeth DeRuff will be our guest preacher and she will talk to us about the holiness inherent in growing wheat and making ordinary bread, which we together make sacred every Sunday at the altar, through the power of the Spirit. The question for us to consider is: would we like to grow wheat on the property of Redeemer, wheat which we could then give to our excellent bread bakers (Joan and Carol Ann) to make into our Communion Bread? How amazing and wonderful would that be? Think about it. Pray about it. And just as God asked us Sarah in our reading from last Sunday, so I ask us, “Is anything too wonderful for the LORD?” (Genesis  18:14).

Upcoming Guests

Upcoming Guests

As a sacred space for sharing diverse views, it makes sense for Redeemer to routinely host guest speakers and preachers; and summer is a perfect time for this! Mark your calendars so that you don’t miss the following brilliant guests!

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The Rev. Elizabeth DeRuff

On Sunday June 25, Elizabeth will be our guest preacher. She is the President and Chair of Honoré Farm and Mill, a public charity focused on restoring vitality to wheat and the land upon which it grows. She also works as an Agricultural Chaplain, launching The Farm to Altar Table Project and Staff of Life Flour. If you are interested in baking Communion Bread and/or in growing wheat for Communion Bread (perhaps even at Redeemer), then come hear her preach and get to know her!

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The Rev. Dr. Arthur Holder

On Sunday July 9, Arthur Holder will preside and preach on the world’s first great love poem: the Song of Songs. Dr. Holder served on the faculty at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific and then served as the Dean of the Graduate Theological Union. He is a medieval scholar, a professor of Christian Spirituality, and one of my favorite priests. My only regret is that I won’t be here to hear him preach, so I’m hoping someone can record him.

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Br. Jude Hill

On Sunday July 16, Franciscan friar Jude Hill will preside and preach. Br. Jude is a Jungian Analyst who also works for the San Francisco Night Ministry as a Night Minister on the streets from 10pm – 4am. He is also an associate priest at the Church of the Advent of Christ the King in San Francisco and in his spare time repairs and restores old clocks. When I asked him to visit, he said, “I’d love to come. Probably a few of us will. We travel as a pack!  One of us will preach and I’m happy to celebrate. Love the people at Redeemer.”

Perichoresis?

Perichoresis?

Do you remember what it means? It is the Greek word that I have referenced in my last three sermons. It is the word and image used by the Cappadocian (Cappa-doh-sh-ian) Fathers of the 4th century to describe the Trinity. It means “Circle Dance.” There is an Episcopal church in San Francisco that actually incorporates a circle dance into the Eucharistic liturgy. Appropriately, this church is named after one of the Cappadocian Fathers: St. Gregory of Nyssa. Perhaps someday we can perform a circle dance together on our outdoor prayer labyrinth. In the mean time, we will continue to form a circle around our indoor altar and participate in the Trinity through the power of the Holy Spirit, who makes us all sons and daughters of the Father. We will continue reflecting on the inexhuastible mystery of the Trinity this Sunday in the last of a series of sermons that I like to call the “Circle Dance Sermons.

The Trinitarian Flow

Last Sunday was such a joy! I particularly enjoyed the presence of so many children and even a doggy. I’ve been reading Richard Rohr’s new book on the Trinity and he talks about how naturally children and dogs exhibit what he calls the Trinitarian flow. He writes, “Children and dogs are filled with natural hope and expectation that their smile will be returned. They tend to make direct eye contact, looking right into you, just grinning away. This is pure being. This is uninhibited flow. Surely, this is why Jesus told us to be like children. There is nothing stopping the pure flow in a child or a dog, and that’s why any of us who have an ounce of eros, humanity or love in us are defenseless against such unguarded presence. You can only with great effort resist kissing a wide-eyed baby or petting an earnest dog. You want to pull them to yourself with love because they are, for a moment—forgive me—  “God”! (Rohr, The Divine Dance, 81). Learn more about the Trinitarian Flow this Sunday, which is Trinity Sunday.

Happy 1,984th Birthday to the Church!

This Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost with baptismal water, balloons, birthday cake, a bounce house and more. Be sure to wear lots of red as we commemorate the generous outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church, which will turn a whopping 1,984 years old! If you want to know what the word “Pentecost” means, scroll down to the bottom of this email. If you want to know what “Pentecost” means for you as a baptized (or soon-to-be baptized) member of the Church, come to Redeemer this Sunday!

What does the word “Pentecost” mean?

On May 30, 31 and June 1, many of our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrated the feast of Shavuot (pronounced “Sha Voo Oht”), a holiday that commemorates the giving of the Torah to the people of Israel, exactly seven weeks after God liberated them from slavery in Egypt. The name “Shavuot” is Hebrew for both “seven” and “week,” referring to the 49 days (the seven weeks) between the Passover and the receiving of the Torah. During Jesus’s day, the Jewish people often referred to the Feast of “Shavuot” by a Greek name that emphasized the Torah being given on the 50th day after the Passover. The Greek name they gave to Shavuot was “Pentecost,” which means “fiftieth day”; and it was while celebrating Shavuot (or Pentecost) that the Jewish disciples of Jesus received the Holy Spirit of God. Just as the people of Israel received divine wisdom in the form of the Torah 50 days after the Passover so too did the Jewish followers of Christ receive divine wisdom in the person of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Christ’s Resurrection (Easter).

Still Flying High…

In some ways, I’m still flying high from the graduation celebrations last week. It’s an appropriate feeling for me to have since yesterday (May 25) the Episcopal Church celebrated the Feast of the Ascension. If you look carefully, you can see Jesus ascending above Bishop Curry and me in the graduation picture to the left. This Sunday, we will learn about the spiritual meanings and implications of Jesus’s Ascension as we prepare for the powerful Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which we will celebrate next Sunday (June 4), with fire, water, barbecue, a bounce house, art (see Paula’s message below) and more. And since my graduation robe is red, I think I’ll be wearing my academic regalia as my religious vestments!

“Wow! I want to go to your church!”

“Wow! I want to go to your church!”

These were the words of the Most Rev. Michael Curry (the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church) after he met our Senior Warden, our Junior Warden and his wife at the Baccalaureate Eucharist on Thursday May 18th. He seemed to be impressed with Redeemer’s vitality, as represented by our leadership. I must say that is quite an endorsement! Maybe some Sunday, Bishop Curry’s desire can be fulfilled and he can join us for worship. However, if we have him preach, be prepared! He will bring the house down. Just ask Roy and Carol Ann.

Guest Preachers at Redeemer April 23, 30 and May 7

 

The Rev. Christopher Martin

On Sunday April 23, the Rev. Christopher Martin from St. Paul’s San Rafael will preach and preside at Redeemer while I preach and preside at Nativity. Among many other things, he is the founder of a nationwide movement called The Restoration Project and the author of an excellent book by the same name. He also helped spearhead the Marin Episcopal Youth Group, which now meets at Redeemer.

The Ven. David Stickley

On the Third Sunday of Easter (April 30), we will gather on the outdoor prayer labyrinth and listen to the preaching of the Venerable David Stickley, the Archdeacon of the Diocese. He serves as the Dean of the Chapel for the School for Deacons and has been a longtime friend of Redeemer’s. Please welcome him and ask him any questions you might have about the diaconate. 

Professor Paul Blankenship

On Good Shepherd Sunday (May 7), professor Paul Blankenship will preach and share his research on the spiritual lives of people experiencing homelessness. He is an adjunct professor at Seattle University and a PhD candidate at the Graduate Theological Union. He and I co-led a young adults worship service in Marin and the East Bay called Amare. Please welcome him and ask him what it means to be a “Good Shepherd of the Streets.”