Monthly Archives: December 2014

First Sunday after Christmas — Rev. Karen Barfield

Luke 2:22-40

In the name of the one, holy and living God:
creator, redeemer and sanctifying spirit. Amen.

One day Saint Francis and Brother Leo were walking down the road. Noticing that Leo was depressed, Francis turned and asked: ‘Leo, do you know what it means to be pure of heart?’

‘Of course. It means to have no sins, faults or weaknesses to reproach myself for.’

‘Ah,’ said Francis, ‘now I understand why you’re sad. We will always have something to reproach ourselves for.’

‘Right,’ said Leo. ‘That’s why I despair of ever arriving at purity of heart.’

‘Leo, listen carefully to me. Don’t be so preoccupied with the purity of your heart. Turn and look at Jesus. Admire him. Rejoice that he is what he is – your Brother, your Friend, your Lord and Savior. That, little brother, is what it means to be pure of heart. And once you’ve turned to Jesus, don’t turn back and look at yourself. Don’t wonder where you stand with him.

‘The sadness of not being perfect, the discovery that you really are sinful, is a feeling much too human, even borders on idolatry. Focus your vision outside yourself on the beauty, graciousness and compassion of Jesus Christ. The pure of heart praise him from sunrise to sundown. Even when they feel broken, feeble, distracted, insecure and uncertain, they are able to release it into his peace. A heart like that is stripped and filled – stripped of self and filled with the fullness of God. It is enough that Jesus is Lord.’

After a long pause, Leo said, ‘Still, Francis, the Lord demands our effort and fidelity.’

‘No doubt about that,’ replied Francis. ‘But holiness is not a personal achievement. It’s an emptiness you discover in yourself. Instead of resenting it, you accept it and it becomes the free space where the Lord can create anew. To cry out, ‘You alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,’ that is what it means to be pure of heart. And it doesn’t come by your Herculean efforts and threadbare resolutions.’

‘Then how?’ asked Leo.

‘Simply hoard nothing of yourself; sweep the house clean. Sweep out even the attic, even the nagging painful consciousness of your past. Accept being shipwrecked. Renounce everything that is heavy, even the weight of your sins. See only the compassion, the infinite patience, and the tender love of Christ. Jesus is Lord. That suffices. Your guilt and reproach disappear into the nothingness of non-attention. You are no longer aware of yourself, like the sparrow aloft and free in the azure sky. Even the desire for holiness is transformed into a pure and simple desire for Jesus.’” (Brennan Manning, “Shipwreck at the Stable” in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, pp 196–198.)

A pure and simple desire for Jesus… the Messiah… such was the desire of Simeon. Continue reading

Christmas Eve — Rev. Karen Barfield

Isaiah 9:2-7
Luke 2:1-20

In the name of the one, holy and living God:
who was, and is, and is to come. Amen.

Tonight we gather to celebrate that things heavenly
and things earthly
are joined together.

In the midst of the hubbub surrounding the registration of “all the world,” in the town of Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to deliver her child.

Since the inn was full already and (there’s no stopping labor once it begins), Mary and Joseph found a home for their newborn baby in a stable…a cave really.

A place out of the elements
but nevertheless desolate…
a bit dark and dank, smelling quite distinctly of animal.

Next we hear there are shepherds out in the fields, trying to get a little shut-eye under the twinkling of the stars, when suddenly they mistake an angel of the Lord for a flash of lightning.

They are frozen in the grip of sheer terror.

“Do not be afraid….
I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day…a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”

And suddenly the whole sky fills with the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

On this night things heavenly
and things earthly
have joined together. Continue reading

Second Sunday of Advent — Tyler Hambley

“E267”

OT: Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm: 85:1-2, 8-13
Epistle: 2 Peter 3:8-15a
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8

I. Introduction – It’s an E267 kind of life.

“E267 at window number 3…”

“E267 at window number 3…”

“Last call for E267.”

Now at this point, I was growing a little impatient. “Should I call it out myself,” I asked? “No one’s gonna hear their number in this god-forsaken place.” My wife, Crystal, and I were sitting with some friends of ours in Durham’s social security office. We serve as our friends’ representative payees, and together we’d all sat in this same waiting room on numerous occasions usually to iron out some lost piece of information.

Now, if you’ve ever been to the Social Security office, you’ll know that waiting in line there makes a trip to the DMV seem like a visit to the amusement park. The woman we were with, one of our friends, said it best, “Watching water boil would be better than sitting here all day.”

Indeed, 40-50 people pack the tiny room waiting patiently for their number to be called from one of the five service windows. Usually, that number appears on a large monitor at the front of the room just in case someone didn’t hear the last announcement. On this particular occasion, however, the number being called – E267 – was not showing up on screen.

“That’s it! I’m calling out numbers myself,” I said.

“Shhh,” Crystal replied. “You need to be more patient! It’s Advent after all; this is the season for learning how to wait.”

“Yes dear,” I said, “but somebody’s got to ‘cry out in the wilderness.’” Continue reading