January 29, 2012

This Sunday, Sister Judy Donovan will join us in worship, and afterwards to share about community organizing. She is calling together the ministers and non-profit leaders of Vallejo to explore coordinated possibilities for a better community. “On earth, as it is in heaven,” as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, and for us, that begins right here in Vallejo and our surrounding communities. For the sermon, Ron will give a brief introduction and Judy will share words of inspiration.

January 22, 2012

Jonah had quite an adventure. His story is not about being swallowed by a whale; that is incidental to the story. Jonah is about a call, resistance to the call, and a change of heart. Even after Jonah’s change of heart, God challenged him to grow even further. Jonah represents the struggle we all have with “repentance,” which means having a change of heart, only to change it even more. Always a challenge to our stubbornness, spirituality is the willingness to change.

In Greek, “repentance” is “metanoia.” “Meta-” means “beyond” or “change.” “Noia” is a from of “nous” which means, “mind.” “Metanoia” means going beyond or changing one’s mind set. Christianity invites us to change, to become a new creation, to rise above ourselves and become something more. Sometimes this change can be dramatic and occur in a moment (like Jonah’s whale event). Sometimes, it is a continual renewing or rebirth, every day (like Jonah sitting under the bush).

“Repentance” is at the heart of evangelism. Both John the Baptist and Jesus set about their ministries asking people to “repent,” or “change their mind sets.” The benefits of such became know as the “gospel,” or the “good news,” “euangelion” or “evangelism.”

January 15, 2012

According to the lectionary, Epiphany (The Bible’s “A-ha!” experiences) takes place in the context of the Creation story of Genesis. Why? “Creation” gives us that wide, expansive feeling. The Wise Men, from an eastern religion, looked up at the sky and saw the star.

All people, the world over, in their own language and religion, can experience this. That sky-blue awe and open inclusive feeling was the heartbeat of the early church. We feel this expansive inclusiveness in the hymn of the early church (recorded in the 2nd chapter of Philippians). It pictures “Christ” as that reality before whom all knees bow, on earth, above the earth, below the earth. John’s gospel opens with the idea that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God.” All things where created through the Word, and the Word became flesh. “Word” or “Logos” is “Sophia,” the “Wisdom” with which the universe is being created. “Christ” represents something Cosmic. Matthew Fox, former Dominican silenced by the church and now Episcopal priest, suggests that Christianity needs to expand its focus from the “Historical Jesus” to the “Cosmic Christ.”

Epiphany, one of the oldest celebrations in Christianity, recognizes the Wise Men as the first time Christianity reached out beyond Judaism, the culture and religion of its birth. The Wise Men recognized the significance of Jesus in the context of their own eastern religion; they came and offered homage, and returned to the practice of their own faith.

This may be hard to grasp, theologically, but it is the underlying basis for a church being “inclusive.” Biblical research suggests that early churches were progressive synagogues that welcomed Gentiles into their midst. Pentecost, in Acts, represents people from many countries speaking many languages, and they understood each other. This Sunday, we will explore why churches need to be open to people, regardless of race, sexual preference, social status … and faith orientations. The love that binds our communion is universal, catholic, all-inclusive.

January 8, 2012

This Sunday begins the season of “Epiphany.” An “epiphany” is an “A-ha” moment. It is an “oh-yes-now-I-get it” experience. It is the realization in our everyday life of Emanuel; God living with us, in us, and around us. An epiphany is our personal “dove-come-down” event (as the dove descended on Jesus when he was baptized and the voice of God blessed him). These “light-bulb” moments are times in our lives when something stops us in our tracks, and the Divine reaches into our hearts and touches us, and we feel the “Wow!” of the Holy Spirit.

Such moments are beyond words, and we’ve all had them—when a mother holds her newborn for the first time, when meaning breaks through in the midst of suffering, when a quiet still dawn brings the first rays of a sunrise. Ever seen a Hawaiian sunset? Ever had a problem resolve itself with a power or strength beyond your own? Ever felt a prayer answered. To taste the depth and richness of our epiphanies, we need to awaken, to remember our journey through our Advents and Christmases, and to be open to those special moments that pass too quickly.

Epiphany is the next chapter in our ongoing life-experience represented by the church year. Symbolically, our epiphanies are the extensions and culminations of our Advents and Christmases. The seasons of the church year, as with our personal narratives, take their significance from their sequence. They are acts in a play, each leading to the next. Both ancient and contemporary, they are our story.

This year, the season of Epiphany has seven Sundays, beginning this Sunday as we are reminded of the “A-ha” of the Wise Men (and the dove at the baptism of Jesus). This year, Epiphany will end on Sunday, February 19th when we journey up the mountain with Peter, James and John and experience their “A-ha” moment with Jesus at the “Mount of Transfiguration.” They wanted to enshrine the moment; can’t do that! Epiphanies are too fleeting. Tuning into our epiphanies and experiencing our “transfigurations” is an art.