Monday, December 31, 2018

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Vocatio Advent Bible Study- Week 3

Week 3-December 16, 2018
Theme- The vocation of the baptized
Vocatio Chapter: 5, Detour Towards Principality
Scripture-Luke 3:7-18

In the Episcopal tradition, we are asked a series of questions at baptism that form The Baptismal Covenant. When we answer, we are committing to living a life that continues the work the apostles began and answering God’s call to create the community of shalom. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he writes that it is at the core of the church’s mission to care for the least and the lost. Early Christians understood that the primary focus of Jesus’s ministry was to care for the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the hungry and the needy. This was the work of the Gospel that would become the vocation of the baptized. Jesus begins his ministry after being baptized and so too should we.

Activity: During this third week of Advent, recommit yourself to the vocation of the baptized by choosing a promise of the Baptismal Covenant and make a personal commitment to live it out. 

Discussion Questions: 1) How might it be challenging to live out your chosen promise of the Baptismal Covenant? 2) What do you see getting in the way of fulfilling that promise?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Vocatio Advent Bible Study- Week 2

Week 2- December 9, 2018
Vocatio Chapter: 3, Disciples of Peace
Scripture- Malachi 3:1-4

The work of Jesus’s ministry is foretold several times throughout the Old Testament. The book of Isaiah talks about how Jesus has been anointed by God to “bring good news to the poor... recover the sight of the blind, to let the captives go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:16-21). The ministry that Jesus goes on to develop with the disciples would parallel what Isaiah foretold, creating a community for the least and the lost. 

In Sunday’s reading of Malachi, we are reminded that a messenger is being sent to “prepare the way.” The creation of this community was part of Jesus’ vocation. In this way, Christ acted as a messenger on God’s behalf. We as a Church are called to do the same. If vocation is about being invited to be peacemakers, then how do we embody that in our own lives? 

Activity:Think about your communities- your church, your family, your gym, your school etc. During the time of Advent, how can you live out the Church’s vocation of being a messenger? How can you bring God’s message of love to the least and the lost in your communities?

Discussion Questions: 1)Think of a time when you have received God’s message of love from a member of your community. What did that feel like? 2) How did continue to share that message of love?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Christ the King Sunday and the Prince of Peace

Trinity, Houston

November 25, 2018

Christ the King Sunday

Last Sunday after Pentecost 

Check out this episode!

God Tears Down Our Temples and Walls and Moves Us towards the Reign of God

St. John the Divine, Houston

November 18, 2018

The 25th Sunday after Pentecost

Check out this episode!

Open the Door and Let the Thief In

Retreat for Potential Bishop Suffragan Nominees

November 15, 2018


Check out this episode!

Dios y communitarian de amor

December 2, 2018

The First Week in Advent

Christ Church Cathedral, Houston

Check out this episode!

That's what makes us the Gospel and Keith Richards

December 2, 2018

The First Week in Advent

Christ Church Cathedral, Houston

Check out this episode!

Funeral Service for the Rev. Betty Masquelette

December 8, 2018

St. Francis Episcopal Church, Houston

Check out this episode!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Messenger- Vocatio Advent Bible Study Week 2

Week 2- December 9, 2018
Vocatio Chapter: 3, The Prince of Peace
Scripture- Malachi 3:1-4

The work of Jesus’s ministry is foretold several times throughout the Old Testament. The book of Isaiah talks about how Jesus has been anointed by God to “bring good news to the poor... recover the sight of the blind, to let the captives go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:16-21). The ministry that Jesus goes on to develop with the disciples would parallel what Isaiah foretold, creating a community for the least and the lost. 

In Sunday’s reading of Malachi, we are reminded that a messenger is being sent to “prepare the way.” The creation of this community was part of Jesus’ vocation. In this way, Christ acted as a messenger on God’s behalf. We as a Church are called to do the same. If vocation is about being invited to be peacemakers, then how do we embody that in our own lives? 

Activity:Think about your communities- your church, your family, your gym, your school etc. During the time of Advent, how can you live out the Church’s vocation of being a messenger? How can you bring God’s message of love to the least and the lost in your communities?

Discussion Questions: 1)Think of a time when you have received God’s message of love from a member of your community. What did that feel like? 2) How did continue to share that message of love?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Vocatio Advent Bible Study- Week 1

Week 1-December 2, 2018
Theme- “Keep Awake”
Vocatio Chapter: Chapter 1, A Shalom Making God
Scripture-Luke 21:25-36 

In the gospel reading for the first week of Advent, Jesus tells us to be alert as the time of redemption is drawing near. Have we fallen asleep? Have we begun to “hit snooze” on our relationship with Jesus? With the Church as a whole? Why is this reminder needed?
Advent is a time to prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus. As we ready our homes with Christmas decorations and finalize our travel plans, we must also remember to keep awake during this season of Advent as we await the coming of Christ.

Keeping awake means being ready to go where God calls. Being receptive to God’s command to go can feel uncertain. The prophets of the Hebrew scriptures show us what a faithful response looks like. Isaiah responded “I will go! Send me!” (Isaiah 6:6-8) And this invitation “overwhelmed misgivings about worthiness, personal plans for the future, or bodily safety.” (p. 31) What does it look like to “keep awake” all the time while also living as people with uncertainty?

Activity:During this first week of Advent, write down what makes you feel uncertain and then create a reminder (on your phone, in your planner, your email calendar) to pray about it. We often worry about the uncertain and about what we cannot change, but how often do we pray about such things?

Discussion Question: 1) When you feel uncertain, how do you move through that difficult time? Are there certain activities you do or certain people you turn to in your life?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Flavorful Life/Una vida con mucho sabor

St. Mary Magdalene, Manor

September 30, 2018

The 19th Sunday after Pentecost 

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Itchy Twitchy Gospel

St. Matthew's, Austin

September 23, 2018

The 18th Sunday After Pentecost

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

At the Crossroads

September 16, 2018

The 17th Sunday after Pentecost

Christ Church, San Augustine 

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

T-Shirts and Religious Particularity

St. Geroge's, Austin 

September 9, 2018

The 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 18

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Harry Potter and Christian Friendship

Christ Church, Eagle Lake

September 2, 2018

The 17th Sunday after Pentecost

Check out this episode!

The Deep Theology of Heaven and Earth

St. Martin's, Copperas Cove

August 26, 2018

The 16th Sunday after Pentecost

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Chain of Fools

St. Mary's, Belleville

The Feast of Saint Mary, the 13th Sunday after Pentecost

August 19, 2018

Check out this episode!

Friday, July 20, 2018

A Note of Thanks

A Note of Thanks from Bishop Doyle

Dear Members of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas,

I write today to give special thanks to Bishop Jeff Fisher, Halley Ortiz, Anthony Chappel and Scott Madison for leading our work at General Convention. I am grateful to the many hours that each of them gave to this project. I am grateful to their spouses, friends and family who also helped. I am grateful to Susan Fisher, JoAnne Doyle and Rob Montgomery who helped to organize and support the Bishops’ Spouses and Partners events. And, I am of course thankful to your diocesan staff who did not flinch at the challenge, but gave extra during a time when we were responding to the Hurricane, regular church business/ministry and all the rest to ensure we put our best foot forward.

I am thankful for you. You volunteered, served, helped and showed the rest of the Episcopal Church why I love you so much. You were amazing hosts! More than 1,000 of you joined our deputies and bishops and gave your time and gifts to this project. The churches in the Austin area and their leadership did extra work to support our efforts.

So, as each of us is resting, recovering and relaxing, I stop today to give thanks for the Diocese of Texas. I give thanks for you. Truly, each of you, are part of a great missionary diocese – a great and delightful family of faith. I am so proud to be your bishop. I am so grateful to be your bishop. We are glad that we get to call you our family and Texas our home. So, I pray:

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love. Especially for your Episcopal
Church and the Diocese of Texas.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

Thank you,


The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle, D.D.
Episcopal Bishop Diocesan of Texas

Monday, July 2, 2018

Have a Little Faith in Me

St. John's, Center

July 1, 2018

6th Sunday after Pentecost, year B

Check out this episode!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Riders on the Storm

June 24, 2018

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7

St. Luke's, Lindale

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is a holiday that commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in June 1865, and more generally the emancipation of African-American slaves throughout the Confederate South. Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth is recognized as a state holiday or special day of observance in most states. In practice, the Emancipation Proclamation only freed persons held in Confederate States who were either behind the Union lines or close enough to take advantage of the Union advance. Therefore, the news and practice of freeing enslaved people moved slowly. The date marks the moment when the news of the end of the Civil War and the complete emancipation of all slaves was announced in Galveston, TX on June 19, 1865, over two months after the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia and Two Years after President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation and published it on January 1, 1863. We mark this moment as a Church not only as the end of the institution of American slavery, but also in the spirit of reconciliation and new life as we journey together towards togetherness and community.
Litanist: O Lord, we celebrate your strong hand of deliverance. We have seen your grace in the midst of life’s burdens.

**Lord God of Hosts, on the anniversary of our freedom from slavery, we know that we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us. (see Phil. 4:13)
Litanist: The Emancipation Proclamation freed African slaves in the United States on New Year’s Day in 1863. But actual freedom for the last slaves did not come until a June day two and a half years later, This Juneteenth milestone reminds us of the triumph of the human spirit.

**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Harriet Tubman.The Constitution once defined African Americans as three- fifths human. But we have labored and died as whole men and women.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Frederick Douglas.The Thirteenth Amendment abolished the heinous institution of slavery, but we still struggle against the chains of racial discrimination.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Vernon Johns.
The Fourteenth Amendment made us citizens by legislation because our blood, sweat, and tears helped to build this nation.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Thurgood Marshall.
The Fifteenth Amendment said we could not be denied the right to vote because of our color; yet we have faced systematic exclusion from the political process, and we continue to struggle for full inclusion.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Barbara Jordan.
The Twenty-fourth Amendment abolished poll taxes, voting tests, and other restrictions upon our right to vote; but these soon were replaced by gerrymandering and political apathy.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Benjamin Quarles.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 translated into law most of the goals of the Civil Rights Movement, protecting all citizens from racial segregation and discrimination. Let us remain ever vigilant in our commitment to proactive citizenship.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you were with Stokely Carmichael.
Our hopes soar to heights of joy when we remember the emancipation of Nelson Mandela in 1990, and his ascendancy to President of South Africa after twenty-six long years in prison. Blessed are the righteous.
**Lord God of Hosts, be with us always, as you are with Desmond Tutu.
Let us leave behind those sins that pulled us down in the old year, and answer the high calling of your will for our lives in the new year.
**Lord God of Hosts, on the anniversary of our freedom from slavery, we know that we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.

Let us ALL pray together: (From the Book of Common Prayer)
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Pleasant Valley Sunday

Pleasant Valley Sunday

A sermon given by C. Andrew Doyle on June 17, 2018 at St. Francis, College Station. You can listen to the sermon here. 

If we opened up the Gospel of Mark and began in the beginning and made our way forward, we would see clearly that Jesus is in the mode of confrontation. He has been confronting both the religious and political leaders of His day. He has been doing works of power casting out demons and He has been casting a vision for the kingdom of God. As we reach Chapter 4, our gospel today, one would not be surprised as He launches into His teaching that those in authority are not happy. They are displeased. And Jesus's own message whether, it'd be subtle or in your face is wearing on them. 

So to them and those who gather around He says, "People look, but they don't see. They listen, but they don't understand. This is the moment for seeing. This is the moment for understanding." There is an urgency in Jesus's words and in Mark's gospel.  There is a literal urgency. Jesus speaks urgently the Words follow, come here, go there, do this, listen, see, hear, and do. Everything is in the present tense and it is urgent. There is an immediacy to the situation in which Jesus and His followers find themselves. 

Jesus gives the story first about the sower that we normally recognize, and the seeds, as well as the story about the light, the lamp, and the basket. These are the ones that come right before our gospel today. If you have eyes to see and hear, then you will hear this differently. Jesus did not enter the world to be hidden like a lamp under the bushel basket. He is the light of the world and all are to see Him. The world is like a seed taking root, like the sower it has been planted. Jesus is present. It is growing. 

The kingdom is taking root and growing quite frankly without your help. It is as if you went to sleep and you woke up the next day and the kingdom like a great field has grown up all around you and it is ready for harvest. This is a kingdom that will not be controlled by the powers, but when they wake it will be too late. The earth itself is responding to its creator's presence in their midst. The images of growth and harvest time are meant to conjure up in our own eyes and in our own ears this notion that it is a kingdom that is being brought forth because God speaks a word into it, and it is a good word. It is a word of hope and joy, of mercy and forgiveness. 

When the creator, and the light, the sower is present, the bridegroom, nothing can stop the kingdom. God is present. And just as the prophets told you, this kingdom will grow like a mustard seed, like a weed by the way, the bane of farmers. I mean, I love mustard. If you're a good German, you love mustard. But let me tell you, the mustard seed is a pain for anybody who finds it in their roses, where it is not to be. The kingdom is like this voracious weed, this bush. It is large enough for the birds of the air to nest in it, and it will not be like one tree in the middle of a valley sucking up everything around it so that it may live. No, it will thrive in the barest of circumstances and spread until your whole field will be filled with mustard which is bitter to the farmer or the powers that bees own taste. 

No, the kingdom will be like a massive infestation that will overcome whatever you have tried to control. And many who have not found a home in your society will find a home in this kingdom. I will tell you that in Jesus community there was a sense of immediacy, of urgency. The bridegroom was present. It was time, hope, and light, and love had come near, and people felt it. It was a movement because people were in that moment moved. This is something that continued in the first decades after Jesus's own resurrection. People felt God's presence in the spirit and had an own sense of urgency to share the good news.

Author and Pulitzer Price finalist Arthur Herman in his book "The Cave and the Light" characterizes this moment as a message that had resonated with the deepest needs of the citizens of Rome and their dissolving empire. They had a sense of belonging in the midst of disintegrating institutions. They found a moral purpose as their government had lost their way. It was a message of hope in an age of cynicism and pessimism. This gospel, this word, this light had a sense of abundance to it in a world filled with scarcity. 

There was a God in the midst of these words and images and this preaching of-- teaching of Paul and the apostles of a God who is close. Of a God who cared of the things of men. And a God who was not happy at the injustice. These first Christians felt this so much that in their time they translated this urgency into care and into good deeds where hope and love were of substance and made a difference in the world around them. They were people who acted on behalf of those who had been forgotten by the Romans. 

Now perhaps you and I, in our time hear these words. But perhaps we hear them in the midst of what The Monkees called a "Pleasant Valley Sunday." 

Here in the status symbol land, mothers complain about how hard life is and the kids just don't understand. For creature, comfort, goals, they only numb my soul and they make it hard for me to see. Or maybe you live in a world where your ears are numbed into passivity because of the cynicism and pessimism which is all around us. 

Either way, I fear we may have lost our sense of urgency. And that we may feel as though there is not much movement left in this movement. God and Christ Jesus come to us in Mark's gospel today in the midst of our service. Jesus invites us like the farmer in bed to wake up and see that in fact God is on the move. The seeds of this kingdom have been sown and the harvest is plentiful. Like a weed this kingdom will not be stopped and it is even now spreading. The light will not be hidden. And those that have no place to call a home, or lay their head, or dwell among loved ones are the ones who, like birds of the air, will find a home and nest in the arms of the true Jesus followers.

As it was in Jesus's time and Paul's, so it shall be in ours. The time is now. There is urgency for word and deed. We are being judged by our actions and our inactions. So hear, see, go, do, follow the way, follow, and like a weed you will grow. 


Pleasant Valley Sunday

St. Francis, College Station 

4th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 6B

June 17, 2018  

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Walk this Way

St. David's, Austin

Pentecost 4B

June 3, 2018 

Check out this episode!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Everyone Needs a Place

Sermon given by C. Andrew Doyle at Trinity, Galveston. Listen here. 

No matter who you are, where you have been, or where you are going…traveling in the wilderness is dangerous…it can be difficult, even painful… the best of times are short lived and the worst of times will bring you to the edge.

It is doubly so if you go it alone. 

In point of fact, while many do, walking our broken road alone is not how we work.

We are made to be in community. We are wired, we are created, naturally so, to be in community with people. We are created to be in community with the other - with human others and with God who is other. God has made us so.

There is a story in the bible that illustrates this well.  You can find it early on, in the book of Genesis, chapter 18. 

By the oaks of Mamre Abraham has pitched his tent. He is resting. God speaks to Abraham. Abraham sees three men. Abraham invites the men to stay and offers them hospitality. God continues to speak to God and the men. In the tangle of verb tenses what we see is that God is present and Abraham is serving his visitors a feast of lamb. 

The great Hassidic wisdom teacher Degel Machaneh Ephraim said of this roadside community of God and man, “When Abraham first saw his visitors they were ‘standing above him’. They were angels; he was a human being. When he served them with food and drink, however, he “stood above them”. Kindness to strangers lifts us higher even than the angels.

Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of England, reflected that this expresses, “one of [the Jewish community’s] most majestic ideas. There is G-d as we meet Him in a vision, an epiphany, a mystical encounter in the depths of the soul. But there is also G-d as we see His trace in another person, even a stranger, a passer-by; in Abraham’s case, three travelers in the heat of the day. Someone else might have given them no further thought, but Abraham ran to meet them and bring them rest, shelter, food and drink. Greater is the person who sees G-d in the face of a stranger than one who sees G-d as G-d in a vision of transcendence, for the Jewish task since the days of Abraham is not to ascend to heaven but to bring heaven down to earth in simple deeds of kindness and hospitality.[i]

One of the greatest icon painters Andrei Rublev, a 15thcentury monk, wrote an icon, painted an icon, on this very story. It is called the “Visitation of Abraham.” It portrays the three men, three angels, the trinity, with authoritative staffs and ethereal garments. 

The father is on the left, his tunic reflects the light. He is the creator. He raises his right hand to bless the person to his left. His head is lifted high.

That is the son in the middle and God appears pleased with him. He will set a table before all people. He wears blue with reddish purple of his priesthood. His hand blesses the lamb for he is the shepherd, he is the lamb. His eyes are gazing towards the father.

The Spirit is on the right. He wears a cloak of green, of life. He gazes at both. 

They sit at a table with the lamb feast before them. There is an open space for pilgrim brother Abraham and pilgrim sister Sarah. There is space there for you. There is space there for me. 

Abraham at once serves and is invited to sit. He is, as we are, welcome to join in the intimate conversation. 

We are made to be in community. We are wired, naturally so, created, to be in community with people. 

Henri Nouwen, was a Dutch Roman Catholic priest, professor and theologian. After teaching at Yale, Harvard, and Notre Dame he would walk away and spend the rest of his life living with individuals who had intellectual and developmental disabilities at the L'Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario. 

Nouwen wrote a mediation on the icon the Visitation of Abraham, he wrote, “We come to see with our inner eyes that all engagements in this world can bear fruit only when they take place within this divine circle…”[ii]

I wonder when Nicodemus comes to sit with Jesus what is he up to? In the dark night of one’s soul does he come to invite Jesus to bless his goodness, his spiritual score keeping, his piety, his actions, his just work for the poor, his right living? What does he come in the dark to invite Jesus to curse? Another, someone who was unjust to him perhaps? Jesus does not give him any of those things.

Or does he come because he is tired, hungry for a good word, afraid, looking for a bit of light, a bit of spirit?

In other words, did Nicodemus simply come to the table? Because he needed to enjoy, to rest, to be refreshed by sitting at the table with God? He needed some of Abraham’s hospitality? 

A table of faith set down before us, from before time, to sit and rest for a while.

You see there is deep theology here. God is not at work patching up creation here and there. God as Trinity, as incarnation, as spirit is not mucking about in creation because of sin. (The Franciscan and Scottish theologians taught us that back in the middle ages.) God is in fact from whom…and through whom…all things are made. The very fabric of our lives is God’s table. And, God sits there with us.

When the table is set a plenty and when it has crumbs. 

We are not meant to be isolated individual objects bumping around the cosmos. We are not to be placed in categories, removed from our contexts. We are not oddities for scientists to study as if we were found uniquely on an island home. 

That is truly what today is about…. baptisms and all the rest of it. 

It is about remembering that no matter who we are, where we have been, or where we are going…traveling in the wilderness can be dangerous…it may be difficult, or even painful… 

And, that the traveling is a lot better when we do it together. 

We are made to be in community we baptize into community and we confirm and receive…reminding ourselves that we are already made members at God’s family table. And, there is a seat for all of us here…always.

After all, is this not the God who says, “Come unto me all you who travail and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”?

We as a particular kind of table fellowship exist to support one another, to care for one another, and to love one another. We exist to serve those who find us in here. And, we exist to go out into the world to set up a table there too. Like Abraham at the oak, by the side of the road, to make a place where a passerby might rest for a while and sit with God for a spell. Where the hungry may be fed good things…the hurting may find healing….and, the shackled might be released.

We are wired, naturally to see angels and humans as the same. And, to entertain both at God’s table. When we do this, we do it for God. The gospel tells us so.

We are created to be in community with others. With human others and with God who is other. God has made us so.

[i]Jonathan Sacks, Arguments for the Sake of Heaven,
[ii]Henri Nouwen, Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons, p. 20-22.

Displacing God of the Displaced

Emmanuel, Houston

May 20, 2018, Pentecost

Check out this episode!

Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday

May 13, 2018, Easter 7B

Christ Church, Tyler

Check out this episode!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Celebration of New Ministry- The Rev. John Newton

This sermon was preached by the Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle on Ascension Day 2018 (May 10) at the Celebration of New Ministry for the Rev. John Newton at St. Michael’s, Austin, TX. Listen to it here. 

The 1855, Leaves of Grass, is one of the most important collections of American poetry. In it Walt Whitman wrote these inaugural words: “This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, 
have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men — go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers of families — re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.”

John and St. Michaels, oh that you should become such a great poem.

God invites, has invited us since the time of Abram and Sarai, to abide in God’s love. Specifically, in John's Gospel chapter 15, Jesus invites those who wish to follow him to steer their natural affections, their gut reactions, beyond what seems reasonable, beyond reason itself, towards a life of higher practice. 

Jesus's words to His disciples are: "God loves me, I love you. You love God… love neighbor… keep my commandant." So “we love the ones we are with”, sings Stephen Stills. We love our family. We love our children. We love our friends. We've got the commandment checked off. Easy. Done. Boom.

And why not? It is natural. I mean it actually turns out to be human nature. This is how humans work. Psychologist, researcher, and author, Brené Brown writes, "We have a irreducible need for love and belonging. We are,"she writes, "biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired. It is our makeup to love, to be loved, and to belong."

Moral psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, points out that our affections rule us, our reason merely guides us. Our affections are wired to be sensitive to those who will be good partners for collaboration and reciprocity. We look for those who will do good things for us and with us when we do good things for them. We are wired to be sensitive to those who will be a good team player - who will join in and work with us on our team, on our tribe. Who will be one like us. 

And we reward these relationships naturally. We naturally build community. We surround ourselves with people, naturally. We work for and with them. In fact, we move into neighborhoods that are filled with people who are just like us. Loving God and neighbor is what we're wired to do. It is filial love, an affection – one to another. This makes us a strong tribe, a strong family, a strong church, a strong city, and a strong nation. 

Our emotions take us here; and our reason, our minds, help us to defend such choices. So, we love the ones that we are with and in so doing can make a natural case for why. 

The church has for a season been at work doing just this…what comes natural. To build a tribal faith, a strong faith, rooted in our reasonable defense of that which binds us. And, 
the church has written systematic theologies, apologetics, and colonized a world based upon a mission to bring into the fold, those who are of different cultures, but who will become like us, think like us, believe like us. And, if they are willing to join our tribe they will belong like us. 

But that is not the Gospel. That is not what the Gospel says. God in Christ Jesus invites and offers us, unfortunately, a much harder discipleship. A practice that is unnatural. One, that I promise is categorically uncomfortable and discomforting to the tribe. And it, in fact, causes us to pause and think a bit longer about our assumed reasonable first thoughts. 

And, I would argue, without this expansion of thought on Jesus’ Gospel invitation, our very theology of mission, our missiology, is at its worst nothing more than a convoluted club-ish Christianity.

After all, Haidt points out, we are wired for belonging and connectivity, but there is a shadow side too. We are just as sensitive and disinclined as human beings to do good for those who cannot return the favor. We are wired to ostracize those who aren't on our team. In a flash of a second, we are told, genetically, biologically, by our gut, by our emotions, by our affections who to love and who to cast out. 

We are bound yes, and we are blinded.

Jesus invites us to live beyond our natural affections, beyond our gut intuition, beyond affection, beyond the reasonable defense of our insular focus. 

Jesus invites us to live a life of practice that is more than loving the one that we are with. He does this primarily by redefining the word "neighbor." Jesus redefines neighbor in the story of the Good Samaritan, and I would offer that he does so in his own life, and ministry. 

He challenges the disciples to do the same… ultimately revealing his new definition of neighbor to the world through their mission. 

In the Gospel, the Good Samaritan, the neighbor, is more than family, more than kin, more than tribe. Neighbor is more than the people of our small community or our church. Neighbor is more than those who think like us. Neighbor is more than those whose faith is the same as ours. 

When Jesus is talking about the love we are bound by (God’s love), the commandment love, it is of a particular nature. It is more than a love that is given to those who can return love. It is not an exchange love or reciprocity kind of love. It is uncaused. There is no reason for it. 

In other words, a person does not get it by somehow deserving it. This love that Jesus is talking about, sometimes called agape, is indifferent to merit. It is not earned. It flows beyond our tribal identities, our political, religious, and national identities.

It makes something new. 

This love makes something new rather than being dependent upon relationship ties that presently exist or have possibility for mutual benefit. It makes new relationship ties between others by being freely given. It builds connections by grace. It creates, and forms, and molds new and different kind of communities. 

This Gospel love is based upon God's love of creation and for all people. A love which is given on the cross, though we deserve it not. You cannot earn God's love. God freely saves sinners like you and me. We are the beneficiaries of such redemptive love. We experience a God who loves us, no matter the broken road that has gotten me, or you, or us thus far on the way. God's love for us is unearned, unmerited, and undeserved.

As John Calvin wrote, "The love of the Father towards the Son, and of the Son towards us, and us towards God and our neighbor are joined together with an inseparable knot.”

Love is the sinew, from the ancient word sin, the knot, the tree, the cross. We are intertwined as cordons and canes on a grape vine, as branches of a tree, as the arms of a cross. Jesus calls you and I to a higher love than what comes naturally. He is raising the bar beyond our creaturely way of doing things. 

Jesus is inviting us to a higher commandment, a higher practice, a difficult rule of life outside our comfort zone. Jesus invites us, you and me, to rise above the natural limits, boundaries, we place on love and community and to love as God loves. Christ invites us beyond our definition of kin, of family, of neighbor, and tribe. 

This is important because I want to make clear your relationship – John and St. Michaels – is not about your friendship or your filial love, the affection type love alone. Your love, the love that binds you together in this community, is more than what comes naturally, a liking, or reciprocal kind of love. It is not about agreement… or if you can become one family. These are all good things indeed. And, after having worked with John Newton over these many years, I do believe you shall have this affection for one another. 

But this is not what binds you together as a church and makes you different from other communities and tribes. That which binds you is about loving beyond your natural inclinations to do so. Your missional success will hinge upon: loving as God loves. By abiding in this love, in this way, you will, as a community have some hope to love the other, to stand up with others in solidarity and reconciliation, to devote yourself to them, to have a patience and indulgence of others, to go freely with those who are not part of your tribe and those society looks not upon, to re-examine and question all you think you know about this strange Gospel of Jesus, to rise above petty arguments about God and injuries to your soul, and to bear the marks of the cross. 

Only in understanding that you are called out beyond your return, to venture a life, to gamble and risk courageously a love that may not be repaid, will you become the mission vessel God intends the church to incarnate. 

In this way your life together, in mission, in community,shall ring out like a poem God’s love.


  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball