Monday, April 30, 2018

The True Vine Sermon- San Romero, Houston

Jesus is the true vine
God is the vine grower
He prunes me
Burns me
And invites my growth
God, I am yours
You are mine
Help me bear fruit that is good
I want, I desire
A life well lived in Christ.

Last week the church explored in scripture and sermons Jesus as the Good Shepherd. This week we are offered a reflection on God as vine grower and Jesus as the vine. God in Christ Jesus is the source of living water, He is the bread of heaven that gives life, and He is also the vine and we are His branches.

Our passage today comes in John’s Gospel 
after Jesus has prophesied his suffering, death and resurrection. He has promised to return and to not leave his followers alone.  

Our passage, like the good shepherd passage, is a teaching about what it means to live life abiding in God.

God the vine grower and the gardener. 
Jesus is the vine and we are branches bearing fruit.  

The vine is trimmed from time to time. But this is not the true focus of the passage; this passage is about abiding and remainingOne scholar, Raymond Brown says that this passage is about the disciples and their community remaining connected to Christ. We as families, we as Church communities, we must remain connected to Christ.

 We abide in God in Christ Jesus. Unless that is, we are abiding in something else. What is our ultimate concern in life? What is the most important part of our life?

Is it Christ?
Is it Christ’s community?
Is it our connection to one another?

We love to put other things in the place of the vine. We like to think that sex, alcohol, or money, or power, or some other something will work just as well as the True Vine. 

The truth is, they don't. We know it too.

It doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying to make these false gods work for us

But false gods are not interested in us. False gods are not interested in our well being, or the wellbeing of our families. The false gods want you to serve them- you give them your money, your time, your energy, your focus...your life. And the false gods take all of this and they consume it with no return on your investment.

Or…are there other things at the center of our life?

Abiding or remaining in Christ is love and it is life in tune with the commandments of God. What do we see as a life well lived? A life abiding in Christ?

The abiding life is one where:

We trust our lives in God, 
and others come to know Jesus Christ by our life. When they see us, they see the life of Jesus. Nothing is put in the place of God, God is respected in our words, and God is respected in our actions. Life is lived out in an ever flowing experience of worship, prayer and study.  

As we abide in God , we abide in our true selves and in the thin space between heaven and our bodies.

Abiding in Christ, m
eans we abide in others-we love others, we love our families, and Jesus says we love our enemies. We treat neighbors with love, just as we experience God's love for us.

When we abide in Christ, we love, honor, and help our parents and family; those in authority are honored, and we meet their just demands.  

We as Episcopalians believe that life that abides in Christ is a life that shows forth respect for the life God gives us; we work and pray for peace. Malice, prejudice, and hatred are not born in our hearts; and kindness is shared with all the creatures of God.

Life abiding in Christ is a life where 
we build up of the family of God. We live lives that are honest, we live lives that are fair in our dealings; we seek justice, freedom, and that all people have what it takes to live life. We speak truth, and do not mislead others by our silence, just as we do not mislead people with our words.

Life abiding in Christ resists temptations like envy, greed, and jealousy; w
e rejoice in other people's gifts and graces.  

Abiding in Christ is accepting our true nature as sinful creatures 
and then 
living in, remaining in, abiding in Christ; being Christ's own forever - as our baptismal liturgy tells us.  

Accepting our chosen nature-God has chosen us, Christ has chosen us (despite our devotion to false gods) and abiding in God’s love for us, creates a life where we are able to truly abide with others.

In giving up our desires, we discover the life of abiding in God’s vine; a life that is well lived in Christ. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Reflecting on Barbara Bush and The Episcopal Church

Photo: Marie D. de Jesus, Houston Chronicle
The passage today, from John's gospel, has that one sentence that has been with me all week long, "I know my sheep, and my own know me." Yesterday I had the privilege of serving and giving the blessing at the funeral for Barbara Bush. The procession of Presidents, First Ladies, dignitaries, and national leaders was grand to be sure. The music was transcendent. The eulogies from people that I know, some of them well, were all touching in their own way. As the Rector said, it was indeed a good day for the Episcopal Church. There were many moments, as I thought about this last night, to be remembered. There was a lot of laughter and there were tears. There were moments that were funny and odd and there were some mistakes. There were some moments that were sad and there were some moments that were joyous. 
And then there were tender moments. The body was received into the church, as it always is, when a body is present, and I sat there with my pastoral shepherd's crook, and watched as the ladies gathered around the coffin - some of whom were Barbara's friends; some were members of her church needlepoint group; some were Altar Guild - and they draped the funeral pall over the casket. And then I watched, as I have watched at many funerals before, as those Altar Guild ladies fussed over that funeral pall to get it just right, just as they always do. Like Altar Guilds all over the Episcopal Church, they did what we do for both First Ladies and for the least of our members, those who will go unknown. We do what we do for Barbara Bush, just as we have done for Carol Watson, Paulie Israel, or Don Morris, here in this congregation (All Saints’, Crockett).  It is what we do because we know our sheep and our sheep know us. 
I thought about the stories in the newspapers that followed Barbara Bush's death, and reflected on the moment where Russ, the rector, said he knelt at her bedside in the last moments of her life and prayed the prayers with the family, and then again privately with the president. Just as countless priests and deacons in our Episcopal Church have done for all those who have invited us into their lives at one of the most sacred times. Why? Because the clergy of this church know their sheep, they say prayers for them and they call them by name.
The service itself, I think, certainly was spectacular. It was for one of our nation's most beloved First Ladies, so there were cameras and dignitaries there, and Secret Service. My wife, Joanne, commented that, "The truth is it was unique only by those who sat in the pews in that moment.”  As I watched and bore witness, I saw the cross carried by acolytes, the torches and banners before a simple member of our church who had died. Before me, when I looked and saw with my clergy eyes, I saw friends who lost one of their own. And at the end of the day, regardless of the offices that each one has held, I saw a husband, children, and grandchildren mourn the loss of their grandmother, their mother, and their wife. I saw a church gather around one of our own, to love on them, and to care for them, and to support them. And to speak a word of hope to everyone who gathered there no matter who they were, or what their background was. Why? Because Jesus said, "I know my sheep, and my sheep know me." Regardless of who she had been, regardless of who they were, death is the great equalizer for us all. For while Barbara Bush was a good Episcopalian who helped by taking advantage of her situation to help children read, and to help homeless find places to live, she was a faithful church attendee. 

What I know is that she entered the Heavenly Gates just like everybody else, the least and the lost. Completely dependent not upon what she had accomplished in that moment, but instead upon the fact that the Good Shepherd, who knows us and who loves us, knew her all the same and did not flee from her at the hour of her death. But having laid down His life for each of us, called her by name. 
Scholar and Episcopalian Robert Farrar Capon wrote, "Jesus's death is the operative device by which the reconciling judgment of God works." That, "The crucifixion is God's last word on the subject of sin. The final sentence that will make the world one flock under gracious Shepherd." I know my own and my own know me. Barbara Bush had faith, and believed Jesus was her Shepherd and her gate into eternal life. And He was. John Meacham, Susan Baker, Jeb Bush, The Rev. Russell Levenson each spoke of the importance of her family, of her friends, of her work, of her ministry, and of her faith. Because she knew her Shepherd and she knew her Shepherd's name. I am grateful as a bishop, not because I was able to be present at the funeral of Barbara Bush - and give the blessing to all who were there (though that was an amazing moment of grace for me), but to be invited into their lives and bear witness to the hope that is in me. 
I am grateful on this morning because there are Altar Guild men and women, there are acolytes of every age, there are ushers and greeters and there are priests and deacons who do the Good Shepherd's work every day and every week. It is true that the nation and world witnessed yesterday the beauty that is our church. What they saw is what I see as your bishop and what I see throughout my ministry - from the smallest of churches to the largest, for the most important members and for the least known. Serving, shepherding, knowing, loving, naming and caring for the Great Shepherd's sheep who find their way into our communities. This is the Episcopal Church at its best. The body of Christ. One that acts out the Shepherd's words, "Come unto me all you that travail and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." A church that treats each the same: presidents, First Ladies, and the homeless. And how at the end of the life, are willing to do the sacred, and profound and hopeful work of guiding one another to the gate of God's sheepfold. Led by the cross, led by a quiet Episcopal procession, but yet making our Easter psalm to the very end. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia. Our Shepherd knows our name. 
Adapted from the sermon “I Know My Own”, All Saints’, Crockett, April 22, 2018 

Monday, April 23, 2018

I Know My Own

All Saints', Crockett

April 22, 2018

Easter 4B

Check out this episode!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


  • "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