Monday, December 20, 2010

Sermon: Joseph Has a Problem

Sermon on the Gospel for Advent 4, Year A delivered at Grace Church December 19, 2010 by Ken Lyon.

Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.


It’s the last Sunday of Advent. The Advent season of preparation for Christ’s arrival ends this Friday. Friday, Christmas Eve, we’ll begin to celebrate Christmas.

At our house this week, we’ll go shopping for a tree and we’ll start putting up Christmas decorations. Among the things we’ll be putting out is our crèche.

In our crèche, as in most other crèches, Mary and the baby Jesus are front & center and Joseph is in the background, almost hidden amongst the wise men & shepherds, the sheep & the cows.

But that’s not how Matthew tells it! Matthew’s birth account, which we read today, brings Joseph to the front of the stage. In today’s Gospel, Joseph is the hero. And what Joseph does provides us with an example well worth emulating in our own day. Let’s review:


Joseph has a problem. The woman he’s engaged to has turned up pregnant--and it’s not his! This is a big enough problem today, but in Joseph’s time and place, this is a really big problem.

In those times, being engaged was the legal equivalent of being married in every way except that the couple wasn’t living together. Joseph’s family and Mary’s family would have contracted for the marriage of their children. A public announcement would have been made and a big party held for everyone in the community. At some point in the future, Joseph and Mary would begin living together.

But now, before they began to live together, Mary is found to be pregnant by someone other than Joseph. She’s obviously guilty of adultery and-- if she lives to bear the child--it will be a bastard.

In that society, as in some societies today, being found an adulterer brings shame on all the families involved. In that society, as in some today, an accepted way to remove that shame from the families was to put the guilty parties to death by stoning them. That’s what Joseph’s scriptures call for. An adulterer is to be stoned. And we know, from the Gospel story of the woman caught in adultery, stoning was a real possibility in Joseph’s time.

But in those times, the commonly accepted practice was to find a way to get around the letter of the law--to dismiss the guilty party quietly instead of stoning them. That would save Joseph and the families further shame. Maybe Joseph discussed what to do with his parents and his friends, or maybe he already knew what was called for. In any case, Joseph, being a righteous man, decided to divorce Mary quietly, rather than having her stoned. That was the right thing to do.

So Joseph goes to bed satisfied that he’s doing the right thing.

But Joseph didn’t sleep very well. Matthew gives us some hints about what was going through Joseph’s mind during those long, half-awake, half-asleep hours in the dark.

A messenger of God appears to him in his dreams and gives him God’s perspective on his situation.

Joseph knew his genealogy well, all the way back to Abraham. Matthew has already recounted Joseph’s genealogy—42 generations of fathers from Abraham through King David and then on down to Joseph. But among them, Joseph recalls, are four women, and they are all scandalous mothers.

· There’s Tamar. She disguises herself as a prostitute in order to get pregnant by Judah. Perez, one of King David’s and Joseph’s ancestors, is their child.

· There’s Rahab, mother of Boaz, a prostitute living in Jericho who hid Israelite spies.

· There’s Ruth, a Moabite woman (Moabite women were known to be especially promiscuous) who seduced Boaz by coming into his bed and lying at his feet.

· And finally, there’s Bathsheba, King David’s wife and the mother of King Solomon. She was sunbathing on her roof where King David saw her. David had her husband killed so he could have her.

Interesting, thinks Joseph. Apparently, these women’s scandalous behavior didn’t matter as much to God as it did to people. They played essential roles in God’s plan for his nation’s history.

To Joseph, that perspective shed a different light on his fiancé and her coming child.

Names came to him for this child-to-be; names indicative of the role he was to play: One name was Emmanuel, meaning “God is with us.” Another name was Jesus, meaning “Savior.”

In those dark hours between sleeping and waking, Joseph got the message: this child-to-be was God’s work.

So Joseph, who went to bed satisfied, woke up a radical. He shocked everyone by taking Mary into his home to be his wife! And when the child was born, Joseph adopted him and named him Jesus--Savior!

Joseph looked at things through God’s eyes, ignoring the common wisdom in favor of God’s wisdom--and the rest is history.

So did Joseph now live happily ever after? Probably not. I’m sure their families and friends and neighbors were shamed and shocked at Joseph’s violation of law and custom. I can imagine that Mary and Joseph and Jesus were the subjects of gossip for years to come.

Right after Joseph’s decision to take in Mary and the baby, they had to flee their home in Bethlehem and go to Egypt to keep their baby safe from King Herod. And when he returned to Israel, he couldn’t go back home to Bethlehem, but instead had to settle his family in a backwater town by the name of Nazareth way up in Galilee.

Joseph almost certainly didn’t live to see his decision vindicated. That doesn’t mean that he died unhappy; as a Jew he knew well the problems that being one of God’s chosen people can bring and he was able to take the longer view.


Matthew’s account of Joseph’s decision to marry Mary and adopt Jesus is just one example of stories that we can read over and over in both Hebrew scripture and Christian testament—stories of how God’s perspective overturns conventional human wisdom in ways that are often shocking.

Jesus shocked people’s sensibilities regularly--so often, in fact, that the keepers of the conventional wisdom finally had him killed. But that didn’t stop God. God continued to inspire people to upset conventional wisdom in favor of God’s wisdom. And he continues to do so today.


So how might we apply today what we learn from Matthew’s story about Joseph?

What comes to mind to me are a few stories of times when I think God’s point of view was taken seriously right here at Grace Church in College Hill, Cincinnati, Ohio.

In the early 1970’s, at one of the first Annual Meetings my wife and I attended, the congregation was inspired to pass a motion that required that half the members elected to Vestry be women and half be men. At the time, that was a rather shocking departure from the conventional wisdom that had men as Wardens and Vestrymen and relegated women to the Episcopal Church Women and the Sunday School. A few years later, the motion was rescinded. It was no longer needed—what had been unconventional wisdom in the early 70’s had become the new conventional wisdom at Grace.

About 20 years ago, while Grace was a mostly white parish, we were inspired to call a black priest. We had expected Fr. Melton to be charismatic, activist and rather, uh, edgy; we later discovered that he was gay as well. Grace Church has never been an almost-white congregation since. Neither is it all Black. Being a congregation of many colors is now the conventional wisdom at Grace.

About ten years ago, Grace was inspired to call an acknowledged gay priest with partner. Fr. Farrell and Dale were forced out by the then bishop, who abruptly changed his mind about wanting him here. But the conventional wisdom at Grace now includes people of all sexual orientations.

A few years ago, Vicar Ernestein came to us: a woman, an African-American, a Liberian immigrant. She introduced healing services with African drumming that drew some kinds of healers that I know had never been welcomed inside a church before. I, for one, found this discomforting at first, but now we’re seeing ways to make healing an integral part of everything we do. We’re learning that healing is not only about in individual’s body and soul; it’s about community—about healing the divisions that separate people.

Most recently, we become a congregation without a resident clergyperson. The idea of being a church and congregation without a clergy person in charge was certainly disconcerting--cause for some sleepless nights. Like Joseph’s problem with his pregnant fiancé, this wasn’t something we asked for or thought we wanted. But, like Joseph, we’re discerning where God’s call to us is in this situation. For one, I do know that the people of this congregation have learned a lot what it takes to be a church. I do think we are on our way to a state of mind where we can have an adult-adult relationship with a resident priest, if and when one is in the cards for us.


So now God’s got us where he wants us. And day by day, we’re expressing more clearly to ourselves and to others where taking God’s perspective seriously has brought us.

We’ve put up flags on the front of our church where everyone coming up the hill into our community can see them. We have a US Flag, a flag of one of the nations represented by our members, an Episcopal Church flag, an African-American Flag and a Rainbow Flag. What had been once our little secret we now proclaim publically.

For another way we express where God has brought us, take a look at the front of this Sunday’s bulletin. There you’ll read:

“A spiritual home where all are welcome; a healing place in a broken world.”

And there you’ll see the goals that we’re working on now to better realize what we believe to be God’s vision for us.

“We are working to:

· Increase participation and inclusion of those seeking God within the ministries of Grace church.

· Develop and practice ways of bringing deeper spirituality and healing into the lives of our parishioners and our neighbors.”

So now that we’ve become who we are and have proclaimed it, will we live happily ever after? Will sweetness and light and a full church and overflowing budget follow? Apparently not! Joseph’s upsetting decisions weren’t immediately vindicated, and neither have Grace’s.

God has led us to a place that is outside many people’s comfort zone. But I do hope to live to see the day when inclusion becomes mainstream, not marginal. I hope to see the day when people will give up segregating themselves. I hope to live to see the end of the name-calling and pigeon-holing that separation can lead to.

In the meantime, we’ll keep on keepin’ on, trying our best to understand and act on God’s point of view—and let the rest be history.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Message from Jim Edgy at His Memorial Choral Evensong


WOW! Just look around you and then tell me that death doesn’t have great power. I was certainly never able to get so many of my wonderful agnostic and atheist friends in church when I was alive. So, I suppose it is death that got you here.

Anyway, I want to thank each of you for your part in enabling me to have a really wonderful life. Your love, your generosity, your understanding, your tolerance and your acceptance of me, even at those times when my actions weren’t very acceptable, have all amazed me that I could have been so lucky. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Especially, I want to thank my sister, Jane, who has always been there for me. Well, maybe not once. I remember we were having a big fight as children and I locked her out of the house. She yelled “Jimmy, if you don’t open the door, I’m going to kill you.” About that time, a busy body neighbor, Lucille Buckley, was passing by and in her high, nasally voice, she said “Now Jane, I wouldn’t do that if I were you”. Well, that made me mad and I unlocked the door and told Lucille Buckley that “Jane could kill me if she wanted to and to keep her nose out of it!” Well, maybe that is a slight exaggeration and this is my version of the story, not hers, but then I have never been one to let truth stand in the way of a good story. But Jane, I want you to know how much I have loved you, depended upon you and appreciated you all these years.

And Bob, the partner of my life, you have been my best friend, my companion, and the person who has brought so much beauty and richness to my life. Thank you. Even on those times when I would put something on the chest the night before needing to take it to work the next morning, leaving the next morning with only my keys, getting to where I was going without the papers because you had so carefully put them away, you were still the guy for me. And just so all of you know, all those hand written thank you notes, all those flowers that were sent to you, all those little niceties that were done that so many of you thanked me for, I learned early on not to looked surprised. That was all Bob. So how could I not love him?

One of my favorite poems is by Emily Dickinson.

THE BUSTLE in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth,—

The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

So as you sweep up the heart and put love away, I ask that you do three things for me.

1. Save just a tiny bit of the heart and love for me. Remember me—good, bad, contrary and stubborn.—and bring it out occasionally to laugh or cuss, since both will be appropriate at times.

2. Take a good portion of the heart and love and tell someone close to you how much they mean to you. For some of you, maybe this is your husband, wife, lover, parents or siblings that you assume knows it but that you seldom say it to. Maybe it is an old friend from your past. Maybe it is someone once loved that for some reason you need to forgive or ask forgiveness.

3. And the remainder of the heart and love, at I want you to give to someone you may or may not know but who really needs it. Maybe it is a homeless person, maybe a person who has been outcast, maybe a young person who is struggling with sexual orientation and needs to talk. When I was in college, I thought about being a priest and being in a very “high church” diocese, we had confession every week. So I decided I couldn’t go to seminary without first confessing that I was a—shhhhh—homosexual. The Priest was Fr. Leroy Lawson, a big man--6’10”, probably 275 lbs—with and even bigger intellect and heart. That Saturday, I went in and waited for everyone else to not only give their confession but to leave. Fr. Lawson sat inside the altar rail of the side chapel, and waited and waited until I was sure everyone had gotten at least miles away. I went up, went through the usual ritual, and Father waited an appropriate time and said “Is there anything else.” I sucked my gut in and said “I am a homosexual.” He waited the usual time and said “anything else.” I wanted to scream out, “My God, isn’t that enough,” but I just said. “No.” He gave me the same prayers and psalms that he always did, and left. I read the psalms, said the prayers and waited another 20 minutes to make sure that when I left, I would be alone. The church was separated from the parish hall by a small covered porch. When I opened the door, there was Fr. Lawson perched on the rail, waiting. He ran to me, grabbed me in a bear hug and said “God loves you and so do I.” Now in the South in the 1950s, a lot of families had “funny” uncles. From the ones I knew, I knew I didn’t want to be like them. So can you imagine the effect that having a Priest not just accept me but love me just as I was, had on me? He told Bishop Louitt who also accepted it and continued to love me which to me meant the Episcopal Church accepted and loved me. And that experience made me accept myself, warts and all. So do something for someone who really needs it. It will make a great difference.

Now, just one last thing.

I planned this funeral as a gift to you. I love Choral Evensong, especially when we have someone who chants as beautifully as Tom Breidenthal. And I want you all to know that is why I asked him to officiate. The fact that he is an incredible Bishop who is leading this Diocese in what I think is the right direction is a plus. But my, what a voice. So thank you Bishop. And to all the other clergy, you have been special in my life in one way or the other. So I thank you for all you have done for me and your participation. And the choir! One of the disadvantages of having been an organist in other churches all these years was that I mainly heard them at Evensong. But please accept my thanks to you and the beauty you bring to this community. And last, to the organist Dr.Stephan Casurella. The pieces I selected are all pieces I played when I was younger, albeit I didn’t play them as well as you are hearing them today. So I wanted this service, my last gift to all of you to be about love, acceptance and a bountiful supply of MY type of music. Usually funerals today are short and try to be up-beat. And I hope you find some of that here. But by design, I want this one to end, not in sadness, but in peace. Therefore because this is both a religious service and part choral and organ concert, if you want to show your appreciation to these outstanding artists, you may applaud following the Cortege and Litanies.

I have always loved cemeteries and always wanted to know the final resting places of my friends. I would visit my friends, not for them but for me. It brought back memories in a very different way. So I want you to know where my ashes will be. Some of you may remember that song we used to sing as a children:

My little girl, you know I love you
But on the first night we were wed.
You put your glass eye up in the window
And your peg leg under the bed.

You put your false teeth upon the mantel
And your wig upon the chair.
My little girl, you know I love you
But you are scattered everywhere.

Well, you can visit my ashes in many places. Some will be in the family plot my great-great grandfather started, and where my sister will join me in Hephzibah, (Augusta) GA; some on top of a mountain I always wanted to move to in the Smokies, and the remainder with my partner in life and death in Spirit here in the columbarium at the Cathedral. So can’t you see it painted on a big rock or bill board: “Travel the South. Visit Jim.”

And if you don’t like this service and think it too long, or the music is not your type, please complain to me. I promise you will not get a peep out of me.

See, I told you death is powerful.

With my love and gratitude to you all.


Monday, August 09, 2010

Love, Belief, Faith, Trust, Hope: Action Words

Sermon on Proper 14 Year C, August 8, 2010 by Ken Lyon

The Readings

Genesis 15:1-6

The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great." But Abram said, "O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" And Abram said, "You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir." But the word of the LORD came to him, "This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir." He brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Psalm 33:12-22 Page 626, BCP

Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD! *
happy the people he has chosen to be his own!

The LORD looks down from heaven, *
and beholds all the people in the world.

From where he sits enthroned he turns his gaze *
on all who dwell on the earth.

He fashions all the hearts of them *
and understands all their works.

There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army;
a strong man is not delivered by his great strength.

The horse is a vain hope for deliverance; *
for all its strength it cannot save.

Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him, *
on those who wait upon his love,

To pluck their lives from death, *
and to feed them in time of famine.

Our soul waits for the LORD; *
he is our help and our shield.

Indeed, our heart rejoices in him, *
for in his holy Name we put our trust.

Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us, *
as we have put our trust in you.

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old-- and Sarah herself was barren-- because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, "as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore."

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

Luke 12:32-40

Jesus said to his disciples, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

"Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

"But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

The Sermon

It is a Friday night in the spring of my sophomore year in high school. As usual, my school has a sock hop in the gym after the basketball game and I am there. There are some couples dancing to 45rpm records—some boy-girl and some girl-girl--but I’m hanging out with a group of guys who are, as always, trying to work up the courage to ask a girl to dance.

Tonight, something—probably the testosterone coursing through my veins--drives me to overcome my fear and ask a girl to dance. I pick out a cute girl standing just to the side of a gaggle of girls on the other side of the gym. I walk over, ask her to dance, and she says “yes!”

This turns out to be the first of many dances together. Soon, we are seeing a lot of each other. I begin to have some pretty strong feelings toward her; strange feelings that have got me doing some serious thinking.

Is this what people called “love,” I wonder? I know I’m feeling something! Am I now “in love?” Does this mean I should tell her I love her? That doesn’t feel right. I don’t want to say anything I don’t mean.

I don’t know who to credit for this, but somehow, I came to understand that loving isn't all about feelings, loving someone means wanting what was best for them—putting their best interests above my own. Love, I learned, is more than a feeling; love is something one does. Love is very different from that selfish feeling that only wants something from the other.

“Love” is one of five words in today’s readings that have a lot in common. The other words are belief, faith, trust and hope. For many people, these five words are about thoughts or feelings, but for the people that wrote them, and for us Christians, these are action words. Let me say it again: love, belief, faith, trust and hope are not just feelings or thoughts—these words are about decisions we make--decisions that lead to actions.

Let’s see where these words appear in today’s readings.

In Genesis, God comes to Abraham in a vision, saying (and I’m paraphrasing), “Don’t be afraid. I am on your side. Expect a great reward.” Typically, Abraham argues with God about his situation, and finally relents and believes in God, and God, in turn believes in Abraham. Abraham and God arrive at a bargain, as it were, a bargain that requires trust on both sides. Abraham can’t see how things will come out right for him, but he decides to trust God anyway, and God, for his part, knowing Abraham to be a very imperfect man, decides to put his trust in Abraham. This is a deal requiring faith on both sides.

Let’s look at the last three verses of the Psalm. I might paraphrase it thusly:

We wait in hope for the Lord, he is on our side.

Our heart is joyful, for we trust him.

We are sure of your steadfast love; for we put our hope in you.

There’s no need to paraphrase Hebrews. It starts: Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus says, "Don’t be afraid, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” In other words, God has already decided that you are under his care and living in a world where he rules--there’s nothing you need to—or can--do about it, so don’t worry. The words love, belief, faith, trust and hope don’t appear in this passage, but they certainly come up for me. How can I believe this? Can I trust Jesus when he says this? Does God really love us? Can I dare to hope that this promise is true?

These words, love, belief, faith, trust and hope are used so much in church that sometimes I think they lose their meaning for us. Let’s take a look at what they mean in our non-churchy lives and see if we can shed some light on what they mean when they’re used in church.

Let’s start with love. I’m many years away from being that teen-age boy, but I still believe what I learned then: that love is wanting and doing what is best for the other. But after 46 years of marriage, my understanding of the implications of that belief are, shall we say, more nuanced.

People in long-term committed relationships learn just how important this behavioral definition of love is. We learn that loving means deciding to behave in a loving way even when we don’t feel like it—even when the other has done something we find quite unlovable. And sometimes we are lucky enough to discover that behaving in a loving way brings back the loving feelings that may have momentarily gone away. The feelings follow the behavior.

So, love is a decision to act.

Let’s take two more of those powerful words: belief and faith. Sometimes we say we believe something when we have absolute proof of its truth. For example, we say we believe that the sun will rise tomorrow. We say we believe that if we jump off a tall building, we’ll fall and probably die. But we also use the word belief to mean about the same thing as faith, and that’s the meaning I’m talking about today.

Faith or the kind of belief I’m talking about today both involve making a decision about the future in the absence of logical proof or material evidence to support that decision. In other words, if we have proof of something, it’s not faith.

Having faith in a person means deciding to behave as though we were certain of that person’s future actions.

Have you ever said “I have faith in you” or “I believe in you.” We don’t usually say that unless there’s some real possibility that we might be wrong. So when we say “I have faith in you”, we’ve made a decision to trust, in spite of our fears that we might be wrong.

We can have faith in an idea as well as in a person. Faith in an idea means acting as though that idea were true.

For example, most people believe in or place their faith in the idea of fairness, that is, of acting in a way that’s fair and equitable to all involved. I don’t think that anyone has proved that being fair guarantees anything other than, perhaps, the knowledge that we tried our best to act fairly. But we try to be fair to those around us anyway, and that’s an act of faith.

Many of us here at Grace Church believe in or place our faith in the idea that being a member of a diverse group is better than being a member of a group of people who are all alike. Again, I’m not sure that anyone has proof that diversity is to be preferred over uniformity. But we place our faith in diversity anyway--we decide to act as though we believe it. That’s an act of faith.

One of the things I picked up in Education for Ministry is a shorthand way of describing the idea that faith is a decision. “Faith is acting as though you believed.”

People familiar with 12-step groups may have heard the same idea expressed as: “Fake it till you make it.”

So if anyone asks you how they can have faith, simply tell them to figure out what they want to have faith in, then act as though they believed it, and trust that the feeling of faith will come.

So, belief and faith, like love, are also decisions that lead to actions.

How about that word “trust?” We trust someone when we decide to act like we have confidence that someone will fulfill their promises. So, trusting someone is a lot like having faith in someone or believing in someone. And again, as with the words belief and faith, the word trust often doesn’t come up unless there’s been some thought that trust might not be justified. We don’t say, “I’m going to trust you” unless there’s been some thought that things might be otherwise.

Trust, like love and belief and faith, is a decision that leads to action.

Finally, there’s that word “hope.” The letter to the Hebrews used the word hope to help define faith: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” That sure makes hope sound a lot like these other words. Hope, too, is a decision about the future without complete assurance.

In our everyday lives, we do have hopes, and we do dare to act as though our hopes as though we knew they were going to come true. For example, we go to school or send our kids to school in the hope that knowledge will have value in the future. If we didn’t have that hope, we’d find something else that was lots more fun. Another example: a couple who hopes for a child may set aside a room for a nursery and will it with things for the expected child even before there’s any evidence that a child will be given them.

When I came to this church, I was awe-struck by the architecture and mystified by the liturgy with its strange words and music with all its standing, sitting and kneeling. But something attracted me, and I joined in the hope that there was something there for me. And my hope was fulfilled beyond all expectations. After 30-plus years of participation, I can say that I’ve been led to spiritual places that I never could have imagined.

Hope, like love, belief, faith and trust, is a decision that leads to action.

You’ve heard it said, “Love makes the world go round.” I’d say that not only love, but also belief, faith, trust and hope are what make this world work. The world would grind to a halt pretty quickly if people stopped acting on their faith in an unknown and unknowable future.

Without trust that you’d get paid, why work? Without faith in another’s love for you, why commit to a relationship? Without hope that knowledge will make your life better, why bother to learn anything? Without faith that you’ll live past noon today, why get up at all? The fact that most everybody finally gets out of bed each day is evidence that most everybody has some faith, some belief, some trust, some hope.

I like the phrase, “keeping the faith,” because it emphasizes the behavioral aspect of faith. Let’s ask the question: what does “keeping the faith” look like?

Keeping the faith with someone means that when you hear them being dissed, you stand up for them. My mother-in-law is a great example of someone who keeps the faith with her family. I’ve heard what she says about people who mistreat any of her children, and I hope never to be on the receiving end of that!

Keeping the faith with someone means deciding to act as though we care for them; to act in their best interest.

In our daily lives, we keep the faith with our family, our friends, with organizations we have made a commitment to, even with our country.

Keeping the faith also applies to ideas. We may keep the faith with the idea of diversity by deciding to make sure that a person who tells a racist joke understands that there’s at least one person who doesn’t agree. We may keep the faith with the idea that all people are God’s loved children by deciding to resist the temptation to treat all Muslims as untrustworthy terrorists.

Now, I’d like to talk about how these words, love, belief, faith, trust and hope, might apply to this church—this congregation at Grace.

As for me, I believe in Grace Church as a diverse vibrant loving spiritually growing community, situated in an inspiring building, using liturgies that lead us places we couldn’t imagine. I have faith that this community will be worshipping in this space for years to come. I hold to the hope that by being the people God has called us to be, others will be drawn into our community. And I trust that God will be with us, loving us, no matter what happens.

And I choose to act, as best I can, as though that love, that belief, that faith, that trust and that hope were true.

What faith do you have in Grace Church? What have you decided to trust in? How have you decided to express your love for this church and its members? What hopes do you have, and how have you decided to act on those hopes?

These are questions we all need to be answering. We need to be answering them first for ourselves individually, and then we need to be sharing our answers with others. By sharing these things, we will discover the essence of our common or shared ministry at Grace Church. This is what we’ve been working toward over the past several months with those Common Ministry workshops and those surveys.

Love, belief, faith, trust and hope are powerful words. For some people, these words represent feelings or thoughts, but for the people that wrote them, and for us Christians, these are action words. When our love, belief, faith, trust and hope show up in our behavior, that is when they have real meaning for us and our world.

Let us close with the last three verses of today’s psalm.. Let us read responsively, breaking at the asterisk:

Our soul waits for the LORD; *
he is our help and our shield.

Indeed, our heart rejoices in him, *
for in his holy Name we put our trust.

Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us, *
as we have put our trust in you.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Healing Service?

Notes for a sermon by Hawley Todd, TSSF, Sunday,July 11, 2010, at a Celebration of Wholeness and Healing.

[Open with a prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to come and be present]

Good morning and thank you all for coming today.

Why are you here today?

Why did you come to Grace today?

[Take a few moments and see if anyone responds]

Episcopal Churches do not normally have a healing service as the principle worship service on a Sunday morning.

I would hazard the guess that we may be the only one.

Most will have either Holy Communion or Morning Prayer.

Some will have a Baptism Service and others may have a Confirmation Service.

I doubt though if there are many healing services being held this morning.

Again, why are you here today?

Behind many of the answers we can give, there is an expectation that we will somehow encounter the presence of God.

Holy Communion has been the principle liturgical service throughout Christian history because there is an expectation that Christ/God will be present in the bread and wine.

Reformation theology moved the presence of the Word/Jesus from the sacramental body and blood to the Word broken as the preached Word.

Protestant theology has an expectation that God will be encountered in the Word broken by the preacher.

Morning Prayer is based on this assumption – that we will encounter God in the homily.

So why have a healing service as our principle service on a Sunday morning?

The first reason is simply logistical.

We need a priest to have either Holy Communion or a Baptismal Service. We need a Bishop for Confirmation.

The other reasons are theological.

Please bear with me as I try to explain some of them.

First of all, both Holy Communion and Baptism are in their essence “healing services.” We don’t call them that but they are.

In our culture, we often confuse two words – healing and curing.

Curing is fixing an identified problem.

In the bio-medical paradigms, the problem is often seen in isolation and the cure is deemed to have occurred when the presenting symptoms of that problem have been resolved.

On the other hand, healing is the process of becoming the person God created us to be.

Healing, wholeness, and salvation are all intimately related.

One might say that healing in this life is becoming “whole” and healing in the next life is “salvation.”

Wholeness and healing happen as we invite God’s presence into our lives.

At its essence, prayers for healing are simply putting oneself in an attitude and position where one is open to receive God deeper into one’s life.

And healing is holistic. It involves the body, emotions, mind, and spirit of a person. And not only that, but it involves all of one’s relationships with others and creation.

With that understanding of healing, it is fairly obvious why I said Holy Communion and Baptism are healing rites.

So why have a healing service on Sunday mornings?

Healing is what Jesus did.

Read the Gospels again and pay attention to what Jesus is doing.

How did he spend his time and what did he do?

Healing is important to Jesus

1/5 to 1/3 of the Gospels describe Jesus involved in healing.

72 accounts, 41 distinct instances

3779 verses in the 4 gospels

727 relate specifically to healing

In Luke 9 Jesus sends the 12 out to do his work.

And what is that?

Luke 9:2 tells us explicitly: “and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal.”

Why have a healing service?

Because healing and proclaiming the kingdom of God were what Jesus was all about.

The early church knew and understood that wholeness and healing are at the heart of Christ’s teaching and ministry.

At least one reason to have a Celebration of Wholeness and Healing as our principle service on some Sunday mornings is to lift up the fact that Christianity offers healing and wholeness.

So what happens when someone comes forward for prayer?

Typically those offering prayer will ask if the person has any special concern or request.

Also the person will be asked if touch is okay. Please note that we do not need to touch in order for the prayer to be effective. So please feel free to convey your level of comfort to those praying.

The goal is for you to receive God, so whatever we can do to facilitate that, let us know!

Also please know your requests will be keep confidential.

We won’t share them with others and we won’t initiate conversation with you about your requests at a later time.

We will pray for whatever you requested.

Also, I normally pray for the person to be filled with the presence of God and that God will minister to that person in whatever ways he/she most needs God’s power, love, and grace.

In Holy Communion, the priest prays for the bread and wine to be filled/blessed by the Holy Spirit to be the real presence of Jesus. And we receive Jesus/ God’s presence in the bread and wine.

In a Healing Service, those praying ask the Holy Spirit to come and fill/bless the person receiving prayer. That may be embodied through the prayers, or through touch or through anointing with Holy Oil.

I love healing services.

I have seen God so clearly as a result of participating in these services.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God – Abba, Son, and Holy Spirit - is alive and present here with us NOW.

I don’t know what God will do in your life.

I do know that God will touch and bless you.

I do know that God seeks wholeness and life for us all.

That God desires us all to be restored in God’s image.

And I do know that I always need God’s healing presence and power in my life because I am not anyway near the person God created me to be.

In closing, your typical Sunday service homily talks about the readings.

We all have heard innumerable sermons on the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus gave us the two commandments: to love God and to love our neighbors as our selves.

Most preachers stress the issue of who the good neighbor was and that we should be that person.

Yet what did the good Samaritan do?

He healed.

He bound up the persons wounds and he used oil and wine to heal.

Oil and wine were what people at that time used for healing.

Who is the true neighbor?

One who out of compassion lives and cares for those in need.

Why do we have a healing service on Sunday morning?

To show by what we do that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all strength, and with all our mind and that we love our neighbors as ourselves.

So come in simple faith, truly trusting in the unbounded love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If there is any aspect of you that is not yet as God has intended you to be,

If you feel that any part of you needs to be restored to the image of God,

Come and receive God’s love and presence.

May Jesus bless us all!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Common/Shared Ministry at Grace Church as of July 10, 2010

This summary was shared at a Diocesan Common Ministry meeting at Procter Conference Center on July 10, 2010.

“Almighty God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with us at Grace Church as we seek a new way of being, Common Ministry. We feel anxious about what this might look like. Look kindly upon us as we discern this new way. Guide us in your way, help us to discern your hope and purpose for us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”

(Grace Church’s Prayer for the Parish)

Grace Episcopal is a small mission church with an average Sunday attendance of about 35. We have been without a staff clergy person for the past year and rely on supply priests for Eucharistic celebration. We find that “common ministry” has been our norm for quite some time even though we did not attach a name to what we have been doing.

What is common ministry? Here are some of the definitions we have come across recently: priesthood of all believers; living out our baptismal vows; modeling the earliest expressions of the Church as displayed in the Acts of the Apostles; discerning and calling forth members of the body to perform all the ministries. For Grace Church, Common Ministry is Shared Ministry . . . everyone shares in the work of the Church.

From March through May, we had three Bible studies and four Workshops. The average attendance for each session was 12 to 15 people. We studied Ephesians 4:1-16 (one body, one Spirit . . . ), John 15:9-16 (As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you . . .), and 1 Corinthians 12:4-27 (varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit . .)

Our workshops were as follows:

“People Who Inspired Me” How other people in our lives helped us develop our values.

“Identifying Our Gifts” Other people listened to us share things we had done in our lives that we were proud of, and then they told us what gifts they thought we were showing through these actions.

“What Tugs at My Heart?” We shared our passions; things that were important to us in our lives.

“What’s Grace Church to You?” What brought you to Grace Church and what made you stay?

We feel that one of the greatest benefits of these Bible studies and workshops has been the development of greater self awareness among the participants and a strengthening of the bonds of community. Our gifts discernment activities during the workshops inspired one of our committee members to develop a gifts inventory which has been distributed to the entire congregation. We are presently processing the results.

Another interesting insight that arose out of this process was the question of what community/communities Grace serves. Is it a geographical community or one that is served because of the passions that we have to help a certain segment of society? We hope these questions will be answered in the future.

There are many examples of common/shared ministry at Grace. The church office is being run completely by a volunteer staff. People are pitching in to get a Sunday bulletin out each week; this is a tremendous effort by the people who are doing it. Lay people are taking leadership in Morning Prayer services and/or healing services which we conduct on Sundays when we are not having Eucharist. We have an exciting healing service on the second Wednesday of each month that is run by lay leaders. We have two licensed preachers in our congregation who are willing to present thoughtful sermons frequently. Everyone gives and receives.

Our hope is that common/shared ministry can be a corrective to how many in our culture and church view what it means to “go to church.” For many, the chaplaincy model prevails. In that model, the church is run and staffed by paid professionals who “do ministry” while the members of the church are the clientele. Churches are seen by some as entertainment or art centers. The heart of common/shared ministry is to offer a vision of church life and worship where everyone participates and the gifts of each person are validated and empowered. It is the ancient vision of the church as being the Body of Christ. This is the direction in which we want Grace Church to be traveling.

Respectfully submitted,

Grace Church Common Ministry Committee (Carol Lyon, Ken Lyon, Wanda Miller, Roger Perna, Hawley Todd) July 10, 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sermon: Keeping Your Eye on the End of the Row

Readings on which this sermon is based.

(Readings specified in Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Proper 8, for the Sunday closest to June 29.)

1 Kings 19:19-21

[Elijah] found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, "Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you." Then Elijah said to him, "Go back again; for what have I done to you?" He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

Luke 9:51-62

When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him; but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. Then they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."

The Sermon

One phrase jumped out at me in today’s readings. It’s in Luke’s Gospel.

"No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

When I was in high school, I dated a farmer’s daughter. I was a city kid, but I visited the farm a lot, and sometimes I helped out. The fall before I went away to college, Judy’s dad trusted me to sow a field of winter wheat—that’s wheat that’s sown in the fall so it’ll come up in the spring and be harvested early the next season.

I drove the John Deere tractor up and down the field, pulling the planter, doing my best to sow evenly, not overlapping or leaving gaps. I focused on keeping the tractor’s left front wheel in the rut left by the right front wheel on my previous pass. It took all afternoon, and I thought I did pretty well.

On a visit home from college the next spring I visited the farm and asked about my field of wheat. That got quite a laugh from all the members of the family. They said they’d never seen such wavy rows. Oh, it was not a big deal--the wheat was growing well enough--but it was pretty funny, they thought.

I laughed along with them, of course, but being a sensitive kind of guy, I thought a lot about this later. In retrospect, I figured that would have done a lot better by keeping my eye on the far end of each row. You can’t do a straight row looking down or a little ahead—you’ll make too many adjustments.. And I should have never looked back to see how I was doing.

So yes, Jesus is right: a person who puts a hand to the plow and looks back isn’t fit to be a farmer, and perhaps not much else.

In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus has set his sights on the end of his row. He’s turned his face towards Jerusalem. Up to now, he’s been preaching his message about the nearness of the Kingdom of God in Galilee and other remote places, but today, he’s decided to take himself and his message to Jerusalem. Jesus’ ministry is sort of like an act that prepares by playing first in Cincinnati and other lesser cities, until it’s ready for the Big Time—Broadway in New York. Of course, there are risks when you take your act to New York. The critics can be devastating!

But Jesus has set his face to Jerusalem, in spite of the fact that he knows that he was going into a life-threatening situation. Like a farmer tilling his field, he’s got his eyes dead set on the end of his row.

He’s anxious to get to Jerusalem, and Samaria lies between him and his destination. You remember the Samaritans—those people who were like the Jews in many ways, being God-fearers and all, but who didn’t worship God in the right way at the right place. They were much disliked by the Jews—and the feeling was mutual. Most pilgrims going from Galilee to Jerusalem go around Samaria, but Jesus, being in a hurry, goes through. As they come to a Samaritan town, they are, not surprisingly, refused a place to stay. James & John want to set fire to the town, but Jesus angrily refuses, and keeps on going toward Jerusalem. This is the Jesus we know—not a fire & brimstone kind of man.

But now he’s met by three people who are attracted to him and want to be with him and follow him, and with them, he’s remarkably stern and off-putting. To a person who says he wants to follow him wherever he goes, Jesus tells him sharply that to do so means giving up the security of having a home to call his own—a home base. To another who says that he needs time to attend his father’s funeral, Jesus says,” Let the dead bury the dead!” To a third person, who wants to say good-bye to those at home, Jesus says “Anybody who looks back isn’t ready for the Kingdom.”

Jesus is being quite short with these people; not exactly the kind, understanding Jesus I’m more comfortable with.

Some people have said that this is a story about the excuses people make for not following Jesus. But these people’s reasons for delay seem reasonable to me, so I think this is not a story about excuses. I think it’s a story about perception—or lack of same. It’s about inability to see and understand the implications of what’s going on.

Jesus has just made the decision to take himself to Jerusalem—the center of the powers that be of his time. He knows that if his message is to have any effect—if his life is to have any effect, he needs to deliver it personally in Jerusalem—consequences be damned. And he fully expects something very significant to happen when he gets there; and he’s focused on getting there--straight to the end of his row.

So when people say they they’ll come to Jerusalem to be with Jesus, but not right away, Jesus understands that they’ll miss out on what’s going to happen. By delaying, they’re showing that they don’t understand the momentousness of what of about to happen.

And these three aren’t the only ones—his disciples, those closest to him, don’t seem to “get” Jesus. So Jesus is understandably concerned about these people. They’re missing the point of his life and message.

- - - - - - - -

Now, people who heard Jesus say, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" would have understood him to be referring to the story about Elijah and Elisha that we heard in today’s OT reading.

In that story, Elisha is busy plowing using twelve pairs of oxen. Elisha was a farmer—and quite a farmer at that! Twenty-four oxen! Elijah, who is Israel’s first great prophet, comes by and gives Elisha a prophet’s cloak. He asks him to come with him. Elisha asks to have time to say good-bye to his family, and Elijah gives permission.

Some people have said that Jesus, by referring to this story, is showing that he is more important than these two early prophets; that he’s saying that following Jesus takes precedence over family in a way that following Elijah didn’t. I don’t think so. Look what Elisha actually does. He kills his 24 oxen, he cooks them and gives the meat to the people to eat. By doing that, he’s destroyed his means of earning a living. He’s got nothing to go back to. He’s burned his bridges. Then he goes to Elijah and becomes his servant. He goes on to be the second great prophet of Israel.

This is not a story about lack of ability to make a life-changing commitment. It’s a story about seeing how one’s life could be different, and daring to make a change.

- - - - - -

Now, what does all of this have to say to us?

Two things, I think.

First, it’s important to keep your eye on the end of your row.

In our life, there may be several rows that we are plowing. And your rows are not the same as mine. But one row that we all share is the row that has the end of our life at the end of it. That’s a hard row to hoe, as they say. I’d rather not look down to the end of that row. I’d rather focus on what’s right in front of me, and look back to see the furrow I’ve already plowed.

But it’s important to look down that row. It’s important to realize that our life is limited and that we are limited. It’s important to take into account the fact that we only have so much time to have whatever effect we’re going to have; to make whatever contribution we’re going to make, to be whomever or whatever we’re going to be when we grow up.

To the older among us, I’ll say that it’s never too late to think about what we want printed on our tombstone; or what we want said at our wake; or what we want to be able to say about ourselves as we near the end of our life row. To the younger among us, I’ll say that it’s never too soon to think about these things.

Second, it’s important to pay attention to the things that are going in our life; and be ready to make adjustments—even life-changing ones.

We can all be paying attention to the gifts God has given us, and to the things that God has made us passionate about, and we can be looking for ways to use those gifts and passions to make this world a better place for all God’s children.

Not everything that happens demands a response from us, and not every request for help requires a “yes” answer. But some do, and ignoring them can mean missing the boat, so to speak. Going with Jesus to Jerusalem was something not to be missed by those who were attracted to Jesus in today’s Gospel. Responding to Elijah’s call was something not to be missed by Elisha.

Now, I’m not going to try to tell you about some great not-to-be-missed opportunity that you should be paying attention to today. Your opportunities aren’t the same as mine, and we have different gifts and passions.

But each of our lives is filled with information that we can pay attention to. That information includes things that are happening around us, but it also includes our own experiences. We can pay attention to what comes easily to us and what doesn’t, what works for us and what doesn’t, and thereby become more aware of what God-given gifts we have to work with.

We can note what things we really care about and what things we don’t care so much about (even though we’re told we’re supposed to) and thereby understand what we are passionate about—where our God-given energy lies. If we put these insights about the person God has made us together with the needs of those around us, we might find ourselves making some life changes—we just might decide to plow a different row entirely!

Figuring out who we’re going to be when we grow up—what our row will be like when we’ve come to the end of it, and figuring out which opportunities we’re presented with that we should respond to and which we should let go by—figuring out these things isn’t easy.

In my case, it’s taken a lot of trial and error; so my furrow isn’t the straightest of rows. In fact, it’s taken some rather strange turns. But I think it’s getting a little straighter, as I allow God to forgive my mistakes, and as I learn a little from each zig and zag.

Whether or not our row is completely straight isn’t all that important. My first effort to plant a field of wheat wasn’t pretty, but the wheat did get sown, and it provided some amusement to the family. Better still, because I learned something from the experience, it gave me a life lesson. And finally, these, uh, 50 years later, a nice sermon illustration.

Ken Lyon
June 27, 2010

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

What is "Common Ministry?"

Over the past year, Grace Church has been exploring "common ministry."  Yet I still hear many people ask, "What is common ministry?" In simple terms, common ministry is shared ministry.  It is an understanding of the church where everyone shares in the ministry/work of the church. 

Common/shared ministry is a corrective to how many in our culture and church view what it means to "go to church."  For many, the chaplaincy model prevails.  In that model, the church is run and staffed by paid professionals who "do ministry" while the members of the church are the clients.  Another way of expressing that idea is that the paid professions are providers who offer a service to consumers.  In a similar vein, churches can be seen by some as entertainment or art centers.  The heart of common/shared ministry is to offer a vision of church life and worship where everyone participates and the gifts of each person are validated and empowered.  It is the ancient vision of the church as being the body of Christ.

An excellent example of common/shared ministry is the Wednesday night Healing Service at Grace Church.  The service combines drumming and healing. Everyone who comes to the service is welcomed to do both and to participate as led by the Holy Spirit.  In any given service, a significant portion of those attending will drum, receive healing prayer, and pray for others to receive healing.  Almost everyone gives and receives.  Yet no one is coerced to do anything or participate beyond one’s own comfort level.  It is shared ministry, common ministry.

Hawley Todd

Friday, May 07, 2010

Healing Prayer Frequently Asked Questions

By Hawley Todd TSSF



One of my earliest questions was “why did God heal my back?” I had had a miraculous healing of scoliosis of my spine but I had wanted God to heal my prostate. I needed answers. Why did God heal a part of my body that did not matter to me and seemingly leave untouched another area that mattered greatly to me? As I prayed through my anger at God for not doing what I wanted, I came to realize that the healing of my back was actually an answer (healing) to my wife’s petition to the Lord. My wife was a registered nurse and was skeptical about the benefits of prayer to God for healing. Her prayer had been often “Lord, help my unbelief.” She was one of three people who had been praying for my back when my spine was straightened. At that moment, she clearly saw the Lord heal in ways that her training as a nurse could not answer or predict. The healing of my back showed that God exists and is active in the world but that fact opened up a whole new set of questions. Many of those questions follow.

What is healing?

Healing is becoming the person God created us to be. We are all created in God’s image. One way to look at healing prayer is that it is a process of being restored in God’s image. It is important to know that healing and wholeness are intimately connected. Healing is restoring us to wholeness in mind, emotions, body, and spirit. Our relationships are an integral component of our wholeness and healing. Healing is holistic and never treats one aspect of who we are in isolation from the totality of our being. In short, healing empowers us to be restored in God’s image and renewed in God’s love so that we can love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, and spirit and love our neighbors as ourselves.

What is healing prayer?

Healing prayer is any form of prayer that seeks to promote healing. One may petition the Lord for healing for oneself and/or intercede in prayer for others and anything in creation.

Will I be healed?

Healing prayer is always beneficial to those receiving it. However the specific outcome of the prayer is not under our control. God heals in God’s own manner and timetable.

Will I be cured?

Healing and curing are different. Healing is a process of bringing all the aspects of who we are into harmony and balance with one another. Curing, in a medical model, is about fixing one aspect of who we are. One can be cured without being healed and one can be healed without being cured. Most often they go hand in hand in the process of becoming whole.

Will God perform a miracle in my life?

Miracles do happen. Most stories about curing and healing are actually miracle stories. They make a great witness to God’s power and grace but create an expectation that miracles are the norm. Miracles are when the process of becoming well is done in ways that are not normal. The Apostle Paul distinguishes between the gift of healing and the gift of miracles. In healing prayer, God always acts but not always in instantaneous ways that could be labeled miracles.

What are the benefits of healing prayer?

Each person is a unique creation and God blesses us through prayer in whatever ways that person most needs God’s love, grace, and power. Typically people become aware of God’s abiding love and experience a deep sense of peace, shalom. While a person may experience dramatic improvements in areas that directly relate to that person’s prayer requests, God may touch other areas of a person’s life first in order to restore balance to the whole person. In healing prayer, one cannot manipulate God in order to receive a specific result. The benefits of healing prayer are often cumulative and impact all areas of a person’s life. It can help to clear the mind, reduce stress, restore the body, and refresh the spirit.

What about the medical profession?

Healing prayer is a transformative process of inviting God to be present in our lives. It supports and enhances medical treatments. Many medical modalities focus on curing/fixing a particular disease or issue. Healing prayer can be used in conjunction with both biomedicine and complimentary traditions of intervention to treat a specific condition because God’s presence touches the whole person and helps to align all aspects of one’s being. Moreover, one can pray for caregivers as well as patients!

Should I see a doctor?

Healing prayer is one aspect of a holistic approach to wholeness. It works hand in hand with medical science. Always use every approach available as you seek to become whole and healthy! Yes, see your doctor!

Is healing prayer just for the sick or critically ill?

Many people who seek healing prayer on a frequent basis have prayer requests that focus on giving praise and thanksgiving to God. Others realize that healing prayer helps them to maintain a close relationship with God. Others see it as promoting a healthy lifestyle and acting as a preventative health measure for optimal functioning and wellbeing. Healing prayer is for everyone who desires more of God’s presence in their lives!

Who should pray for me?

Anyone can pray for you for healing. Family and friends typically make very good intercessors. Medical professionals are another possibility but due to ethical considerations, the patient will need to initiate that as an additional component of the care-giving relationship. One of the very best places to seek healing prayer is in religious settings such as a church or retreat center. Ask and see what the options are in that locality and then choose the ones that best fit your needs. What is offered will differ from place to place. Some religious groups will provide structured sessions to receive individualized prayer. Many churches incorporate healing prayer opportunities within their liturgies. In those instances, prayers may be offered by clergy or trained laity as part of a healing team. Some localities have only clergy who are available for prayer.

When I seek prayer from others, what do I have to do?

If you are requesting healing prayer in a liturgical setting, briefly share what kind of prayer you desire and what your prayer concern may be. Then relax and trust that God will be present and bless you in ways better than any of us could hope or imagine.

Will anyone else know what I have requested?

Prayer requests and the content of the prayer session are strictly confidential. Clergy and lay healing team members cannot share anything that occurs in the healing session with anyone else unless directed to do so by the person seeking prayer. The only exception to that rule is where state or federal laws would require a minister to break rules of confidentiality.

Will anyone approach me about my requests at a later time?

The prayer session is completely confidential and confined to that time frame. Unless you explicitly give the persons praying with you permission to discuss the session with you in the future, they will not initiate a conversation about anything you shared. Those who pray with you are deeply concerned for your health and wholeness and would like to know how you are doing but will not intrude upon your privacy.

What about the laying-on-of-hands?

Jesus often touched others when he prayed for them. The laying-on-of-hands has been standard practice since the earliest days of the church. However, touch is not necessary for healing prayer to occur. Jesus healed others without touching them. Tell those praying for you if you have any preferences. Some like to hold hands. Others prefer the more traditional approach of having hands placed on one’s head or shoulders. The critical factor is to convey to those praying for you your desires.

What about anointing with oil?

Anointing with oil has been connected closely with healing throughout the Christian tradition. James 5:14 states: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” While many people find that being anointed with blessed oil and the laying-on-of-hands are beneficial in the healing process, neither are required for one to receive healing.

Do I have to kneel?

The prayer session is your time with God. However you are most comfortable praying is fine. Some people like to stand. Others like to kneel. Still others prefer to sit in a chair.

Do I have to believe in healing prayer?

You do not have to believe in healing prayer in order to benefit from it. God loves each one of us and will be present in the prayers. One can try it simply as an experiment or as an opportunity to grow in God’s grace. Have an open heart and mind and watch to see what God will do. Sometimes the effects of prayer can be very subtle as God seeks to restore harmony in our lives. At other times, the impact may be immediate and profound. Trust that the process does not rely on what you believe.

Do I need to have faith?

While faith can be an important component in healing prayer, the persons for whom faith is critical are those who are offering the prayers for you. Jesus healed people who were not even aware that he was praying for them. Many times faith is a gift that people receive after having had healing prayers. In short, one does not need to have faith to receive healing prayers!

What about painful or traumatic memories?

God cannot change the events that have occurred in our lives. Healing prayer can take away the sting and hurt of those events and free us to live fuller lives. Prayers for the healing of memories and life’s hurts often take time to bear fruit. However there is no aspect or event in our life that is beyond God’s redemptive touch.

Is illness a result of sin?

It is critical to note that while some sickness may be a natural consequence of bad choices, many people experience suffering and disease through no fault or sin of their own. Repentance and confession are excellent forms of healing prayer to restore a person to wholeness through the forgiveness of sins. Human beings are made up of body, mind, emotions, and spirit and all aspects of our being are connected. Sin is a form of sickness or illness that takes place in our spirit. A problem in one area may impact other areas of our lives.

What about death?

Every single person that Jesus healed in the Gospels eventually died. Healing, wholeness, and salvation are all linguistically connected in both Hebrew and Greek languages. One way to look at healing is that healing in this life is wholeness and that healing in the next life is salvation. Death is a point of transition from life as we know it now to life in the fullness of God’s kingdom. While those of us on this side of death grieve the loss of our beloved ones, death is often the doorway to complete wholeness and healing for those we love. God will be there with us in our sorrow and grief and will never abandon us.

Can I pray for the same thing twice?

Persistence in prayer is often a key to healing. Even Jesus had to pray twice for a blind man to regain his sight. Prayers for healing are simply a way to seek the nourishment of God’s grace and love in our lives. Pray often and gives thanks to God for what is already happening.

What else should I know?

The most important healing that any of us can receive is the gift of experiencing God’s unconditional love. That sense of knowing in the depth of one’s being that God loves me is the foundation of becoming whole! It changes everything in one’s life. To know and experience God’s love is priceless!

© Hawley Todd TSSF, Episcopal Healing Ministry Foundation,

Contact Information

If the reader would like to dialogue further, please feel free to contact Hawley Todd TSSF.

Hawley Todd TSSF 513-967-6581 Email:

The Episcopal Healing Ministries Christ Church Cathedral 318 East Fourth St. Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

web: Email:

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Mediating the Healing Love of God


Explanation: God is the healer. The love, grace, power, and presence of the Lord are what heal. We are the mediators, the presence through which God’s love flows. As intercessors, our task is to be as open as possible to God’s presence in our lives and through our lives to others. We become a vehicle of God’s grace to the other person. However, first we must connect with God, so that Christ’s love may become alive within us.


1. Take several deep breaths and relax.

2. Sit in a comfortable position which you can maintain easily without having to shift around.

3. Turn your attention and awareness to God – Abba, Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit.

4. Ask God to pour the Holy Spirit and the divine love of Jesus deep within your heart and mind.

5. Feel the presence of God’s love filling your heart.

6. Feel the presence of God’s love expanding in your chest, like a well, a spring of living water bubbling up from the depths of your heart.

7. Simply sit in the awareness of divine love permeating your very being, saturating every breath you take.

8. Let the love of Jesus slowly radiate out, filling every cell in your body.

9. God loves you. You are precious in the sight of Jesus. You are created in God’s image. You become one with the love of Jesus.

10. As your prayer times comes to an end, praise and thank God in whatever ways you choose.

11. Offer yourself to be an instrument of God’s love to the glory of God – Amen

There is no right or wrong way to do this exercise. As best as you can or feel able, give your heart to Jesus and set your intention to receive God’s love. Leave the rest to the Holy Spirit. Spend at least 5 minutes each day resting in God’s love.

© Hawley Todd TSSF, Episcopal Healing Ministry Foundation,

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Grace and the Celebration of Wholeness and Healing

A unique healing service occurs at Grace Episcopal Church on the second Wednesday of each month. We intentionally combine several modes of healing to provide opportunities for God to move and bless those who come. The operative theology behind this service is that God is greater and deeper than any of the limitations that our human systems of thought can imagine. It is the divine energy or presence of the Holy Spirit that heals; and as participants in the service, we invite God to come, touch and bless those who are present. We seek a synthesis of western medicine with insights and practices from the complimentary healing communities.

At its inception three years ago, the Celebration of Wholeness and Healing combined three healing modalities: Reike, African drumming and traditional Christian laying-on-of-hands, all incorporated within an Episcopal healing service. During the three years that this service has been offered, the scope has broadened to include all healing modalities that seek to allow the divine love of God to be active and present. On any given Wednesday night, numerous modes of healing will occur. The common thread is the desire for each person to become the person he/she was created to be–to become whole–to be fully alive in the divine Spirit of the living God. Hence one might find a Healing Touch practitioner working alongside both a Reike master and a Franciscan.

The tangible love that is shared among those who come and the inclusiveness of this service have contributed to its growth. While most services have about 40 participants, the April service had an all time high of 86.

All are welcome to attend and participate as led by the Holy Spirit. Drumming begins about 6:30 pm and the liturgy begins at 7 pm. The structure of the evening is very fluid and participants come and go as they desire. Typically the service concludes about 10 pm.

Whether you are seeking an experience of God’s love or simply enjoy the beat of the drums, the Celebration of Wholeness and Healing may be for you! Come and join us!

Hawley Todd, TSSF
April, 2010

See pictures of this service here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

On Not Being a "Good Christian"

On Not Being a “Good Christian”

Sermon on the First Lesson for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year C

The Lesson: Acts 9:1-20

The Sermon:

I’m going to focus on our first lesson today. That reading tells about Paul’s famous “Road to Damascus” experience.

Paul is on his way to Damascus to shut down this group that calls itself “The Way.” “The Way” is a group of people who believe in Jesus. Just before he gets there, Paul is struck blind and hears Jesus talking to him. Then he’s led by his companions to a place on Straight Street in Damascus. There, he spends three days alone without food or water.

Meanwhile, The Lord comes to Ananias, a believer, and tells him to go to Paul, lay hands on him and heal him. Ananias objects, knowing that Paul has come to Damascus to do harm believers like himself. But the Lord insists, and Ananias goes to Paul and lays hands on him.

Paul’s sight is immediately restored, and Paul immediately begins preaching that Jesus is the Son of God.

The “Road to Damascus” story was a particularly important story in the Protestant churches I grew up in.

First, Paul’s Road to Damascus experience is seen as the model Christian conversion experience. A bad person encounters God, sees the error of his ways, repents, follows Jesus and begins a new life. People who have had this moving and emotional experience often say they’ve been “saved” or “converted” or “born again.”

Second, after his Road to Damascus experience, Paul begins preaching a new Gospel of Justification by Faith rather than of Works. No longer do people have to be burdened by guilt for all they’ve done or not done; all you have to do to be guiltless and free is believe that Jesus died on the cross to save you from your sins.

Now, I have to tell you that for most of my long life, these understandings of Paul’s Road to Damascus experience have been very problematic for me. For me, they have not been a “good news” gospel. Instead they’ve left me feeling left out—an outsider in the Christian community.

Now you might be wondering how these bedrock Christian ideas can be so troubling.

When I looked around me at the Good Christians I knew, it seemed that there were plenty who had deep prayer life in which they talked with God or Jesus. And there were those who talked of having had their lives turned from bad to good in an encounter with Jesus.

I took these to be the normative experiences of Good Christians.

The problem for me was (and is) that I have never heard God or Jesus speak to me. I tried to have a personal prayer life, but nothing happened. I concluded that I didn’t have what it takes to pray right—that there was something wrong with me.

Nor have I ever felt like I had had that experience of being saved. “Just have faith and you’ll be saved,” they say. But try as I might to have faith and believe, I still felt bad about my sins. So obviously, I didn’t have enough faith. I wanted that faith that would save me from my sins, but I didn’t have a clue about how to get it.

When I was about thirty I joined the Grace Episcopal Church.

One of the blessings I discovered here was that we Episcopalians don’t do testimony much. If we’ve got a deep prayer life in which we communicate easily with God or Jesus, we don’t talk about it. If we’ve been saved or converted or born again; we don’t mention it.

So the heat was off--except I still knew that somehow I didn’t measure up as a Good Christian.

Happily, Episcopalians don’t seem to care whether or not the people sharing the pew with them are Good Christians. We figure that anyone who participates willingly in Book of Common Prayer worship is one of us and on the right track.

I asked Father Ray, who was rector here at that time, what Episcopalians thought about being saved He said simply that many Episcopalians believed in the sacramental life; regular participation in the sacraments of the church. Oh, I figured, Episcopalians get saved little by little each Sunday. Well, in the absence of a “real” Christian experience, I guessed that’d have to be good enough.

I think that this experience of not measuring up to the normative Christian experience is not limited to Protestants immersed in Road to Damascus theology. My high school girlfriend—a Roman Catholic--had a well-worn book about the lives of saints. She taught me about the appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Bernadette at Lourdes, and to three shepherd girls at Fatima. I know that she thought that being a nun was a better way to be a Christian woman than staying in the world.

I suspect that there are a lot of people who go to church who may feel like they don’t have the beliefs or experiences that Good Christians are supposed to have.

I said earlier that the theology of the Road to Damascus experience as I understood it had been a problem for me for most of my life. That implies that it’s no longer a problem. That’s right. Let me tell you a couple of stories about what changed for me.

I was an Education for Ministry Mentor for eight years. At one point, a majority of the members of my Friday morning class happened to be professionally trained church organists. As a group, they were a rather sophisticated—even cynical--bunch.

There came a day when our discussion came around to the subject of being “saved,” or “converted,” or “born again.” The response to even talking about this subject was not just cool—it was downright frigid. There was not one student who would admit to having had any such experience, and they were suspicious of anyone who claimed to have had one.

They got to talking how they handled those strange people who come to your door or accost you on the street asking: “Are you saved?”

I could see that this conversation was going nowhere fast and I needed to do something to get it back on track. Something inspired me to ask the question differently: “Have you ever had a life-changing experience?”

Without hesitation, my most cynical organist class member surprised me by telling this story.

An organist friend had told him about a new pipe organ in a Baptist church up in Toledo (can anything good come out of Toledo?). It had been hand-built by a couple of guys in Cincinnati area using only the materials and methods that organ-builders of Bach’s time used. His curiosity was piqued.

His friend asked if he’d like to take a day off and go to Toledo with him to hear and play the instrument, and he agreed. They went up to Toledo and they played it.

“On the long drive home,” my student said quietly, “I realized that everything I thought I knew about how an organ should sound was wrong! That everything that I had been taught about how to play the organ—was wrong! I realized that I would have start over and relearn all my music. And I knew that I had to find a way to play my music on instruments like that one.”

That certainly qualified as a life-changing experience. That organist had heard something new and had experienced a great change of understanding—a great “aha!” And as a result, he not only realized that his life must change--it did change. There was no decision on his part about changing—he didn’t have a choice. Given his new world-view, he couldn’t not change.

I have come to believe that that organist’s experience has a lot in common with many of the Bible stories about encounters with God, including the “Road to Damascus” story. A person has an experience that changes his or her life. The experience is so powerful that is strains language to describe it, but the person has to tell about it. And they express themselves using their understandings and language that their culture has given them.

The communities that created our Bible—Christians and Jews alike—used vocabulary that grew out of their belief that God was close by and was running things; that when things happened—good or bad--God was behind it.

For whatever reason, many people today don’t have that understanding, and even if they do, we don’t have a way of expressing that truth on the tips of our tongues. That’s just not the way we talk in today’s society.

The Biblical encounters with God are life-changing, and that’s something I can understand. My faith is that God is behind life-changing experiences—whether or not “God language” is used to describe them. Now, when I study the Bible, I trust that the experience behind the stories is true. I don’t get hung up on the Biblical-era words used to describe the experience.

In my life today, I have learned to be on the alert for life-changing experiences in my life and in the lives of others. Mostly these are little “aha’s,” but sometimes they are big.

Here’s an experience that has been life-changing for me.

Remember that I had long labored under the assumption that I don’t measure up as a Good Christian, not having had what I considered to be the normative Christian experiences and beliefs.

Then something happened.

It was a few years ago in another Education for Ministry class. We were sitting on my front porch in the spring—about this time of year. We were talking about the first chapter of Genesis—the first creation story.

Each day, God creates part of the world and pronounces it “good.” When he comes to the sixth day, he creates humankind, and pronounces his work “very good.”

Suddenly it hit me that I’m God’s creation, and that He considers me to be good work. It came to me that God had created me like I am “on purpose,” warts and all. I realized that strange bag of skin that I am, containing this “interesting” mixture of gifts and contradictions, is exactly what God intended for me.

I realized that I no longer had to beat myself up over the things that I couldn’t do, and that I could focus more on using my particular God-given talents to make myself useful. I could stop trying to “push up a rope,” so to speak, and start “going with the flow”—my flow. What a relief!

During the preparation of this sermon, I even came to understand that my inability to hear God talk to me or to have the prototypical "saving" experience was also a God-given gift. It makes me sort of a missionary to those who have similar struggles.

My front-porch experience was life-changing for me. From that day on, I’ve been a happier person. I find myself freely jumping in to do the things that I can do, and I’m even able to say “no” to things that don’t fit who I am. I feel more fulfilled and I’m making a better contribution. Given who I am, I still generate ten times as many ideas for things I could be doing than I can possibly do, but it’s ok now. I do what I can, and try not to be too frustrated by what goes undone.

All of this leads me to talk about why I’m excited about the current series of Gifts Workshops that we’re doing at Grace Church.

It’s hard for us to see our own gifts. Gifts are what we do without thinking. They come so easily to us that we take them for granted. They’re fun, so they can’t be real work.

We need others to help us see our gifts--the things about ourselves that we can be using to live more meaningful, happier, more useful lives. To get a handle on our gifts, we need to get into situations where others can point them out to us.

I’ve participated in sessions where people told one another what they saw as their gifts. And I can tell you that it’s a great experience to be told that something we do easily without thinking actually has great value to those around us.

Right now at Grace, we all have an opportunity to have that experience in Grace’s Gifts Workshops.

Many of us participated in our first Gifts Workshop. That was sort of a warm-up exercise. If you didn’t make it to that one, don’t worry, the best is yet to come. Check your bulletin for the schedule of the next two workshops. Plan to come and be ready for a possibly life-changing experience.

Ken Lyon
April 17, 2010

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Common Ministry: Groups Attend Gifts Workshop

By Hawley Todd
Interchange contributor

Common Ministry addresses fundamental issues that plague contemporary Christianity. How does the church encourage, empower and equip its members to live out their Baptismal vows? How does the church recover the priesthood of all believers? How does the church move from an ethos of professionals who are paid to do everything to an understanding that all Christians are engaged in ministry all the time?

Common Ministry is just a new name for what the church has endeavored to do for all of its life. It is a process of engaging each and every member of a parish to do ministry. The new aspect of what is called Common Ministry is that the Diocese of Southern Ohio is being intentional about the need to train and form as many of us as possible as ministers for Christ.

Having attended and led various gifts workshops over the years, my expectations for the Common Ministry gifts workshop in February were rather low. I knew that gifts workshops were an excellent tool, but I did not expect to have any new insights into my own gifts and ministries. I was in for a surprise. From the start of the workshop until its completion, the process was one of discovery and delight.

The team who put the workshop together modeled “common ministry” at its best, as they each contributed their gifts and talents. In many ways, the leadership team functioned as a catalyst for the work that those of us who attended the workshop did. They gave us a structure for uncovering our gifts and then got out of the way so that the Holy Spirit could move in our midst. Ample time was given for private reflection and prayer. Many of our exercises were done in small groups where we were encouraged to listen and share our stories with one another. And in one of the exercises, other members of our small groups reflected back to us what they had heard us share. Listening to the insights of people whom I had just met was eye-opening. It helped me identify two core spiritual gifts that I had overlooked and yet were central to all that I do. The gifts workshop was indeed a precious gift from God.

The three of us from Grace Church, College Hill, who went to the workshop were blessed to have attended. Already we have begun the process of implementing the training and have constructed a plan for having our own gifts workshops at Grace over the next few months. As we all learn to discover and embrace what gives us life and what we are passionate about, we will more fully become the people God created us to be. Therein resides the most precious gift of all: to be alive in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hawley Todd is a member of Grace Church, College Hill. Contact him at

From the March 2010 issue of Interchange.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gifts Workshop Experience by Hawley Todd

Dear Sisters and Brothers at Grace,

Several months ago, I went to a Gifts Workshop that the Diocese offered. It was intended to be a model for what we could do at Grace. It deeply moved me and I would like to share with you what happened.

Our instructions to prepare for the workshop were to divide our lives into 10 year segments and think of

one or two persons in each segment who really inspired or touched our lives. When we came together as a group we would share how and why one or two of those people were important to us.

I prayed and asked God to bring to my heart and mind those persons he wanted me to remember. I was surprised at the two people who came to my mind. They were very different. The first memory was sitting in the living room of my home holding my infant baby daughter Tina. The second memory was living in India and meeting a holy man in an apartment in Bombay. I knew the images were important but I did not see any apparent connection.

When it came time for me to share who my two people were and why they had impacted me, it all became very clear. While I had been holding my first child, I had looked deeply into her eyes and experienced the unconditional love of God. Being present with her and simply cradling her in my arms had been a doorway into a profound experience of God's presence and love. While I had been in India and met the saint in an apartment, we were not in a religious or holy setting. We were watching Get Smart on television. Yet in that very secular and common setting, the holy man touched and blessed me. I experienced the love and presence of God in ways so deep that I cannot come close to describing it.

God had been revealed in two totally different people. Yet each had acted as a bridge to divine love. What was even more eye opening to me was the realization that both experiences were in the midst of everyday activities. God was and could be present anywhere: holding a baby or watching TV. Something about each of those souls and their very presence enabled me to be touched by God.

Hawley Todd
March 30, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Common Ministry Bible Study March 14, 2010

Common Ministry Bible Study

March 14, 2010

Handout and outline of the session is attached.

Present: Ken Lyon, leader, J. White, Hawley Todd, Roger Perna, Belinda Perna, J. Tan, Tina Larkin, Fr. Howard, Wanda Miller and Carol Lyon, Mary McLain, Ray Betts

Ken opened the session saying that John 15:19-16 was part of Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples.

Ken read the scripture from the NRSV version. After a short pause, members shared the word or phrase that stuck out to them. They were:

  • · “Your joy may be complete,”
  • · “the father may give you whatever you ask,”
  • · “If,”
  • · “You did not choose me I chose you.”

Ken read the passage again, this time from the Contemporary English Version.

After sharing answers to other questions with one or two others, Ken asked what people learned or what insights were gained from this discussion

  • · “to delve more deeply into what it means to be a spiritual person”
  • · “to imitate Jesus’ love to one another:
  • · “What does this have to do with Common Ministry?”
    • “all take our church back”
    • “speaks to the attitude of Common Ministry”
  • · “You have been chosen to carry on”
  • · “Jesus touched people’s lives. People came to him”
  • · “God calls each of us. How people respond is up to them”
  • · “Love one another. Celebrate the other’s gifts”
  • · “I hate pain. Difficult to be with others when they are in pain. Easy to be with gifts.”
  • · “Difficult to let people go through difficult times when we can’t make it better for them”
  • · “Spending life doesn’t always mean dying, it can mean giving time to a friend”

Carol Lyon

Lectio Divina on John 15:9-16


Today’s passage is part of John’s record of Jesus’ “farewell discourses.” It is the night before the Passover—the night before Jesus is killed. Jesus is with his disciples. He washes their feet. Judas leaves. Jesus knows his death is near, and in five chapters, he does all he can to prepare his disciples for his departure. After Jesus finishes his last-minute instruction, they all go to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Judas identifies Jesus to his enemies and they take him away.

NRSV: 9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will

Contemporary English Version: 9I have loved you, just as my Father has loved me. So remain faithful to my love for you. 10If you obey me, I will keep loving you, just as my Father keeps loving me, because I have obeyed him. 11I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am. 12Now I tell you to love each other, as I have loved you. 13The greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them. 14And you are my friends, if you obey me. 15Servants don't know what their master is doing, and so I don't speak to you as my servants. I speak to you as my friends, and I have told you everything that my Father has told me. 16You did not choose me. I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last. Then my Father will give you whatever you ask for in my name.


1. Listen to the bible passage. As the passage is read, imagine Jesus speaking directly to you. Listen for one word or phrase that speaks to you.

2. Share the word or phrase with the group.

3. Pair up with a person next to you and share why this word or phrase speaks to you.

4. Listen to the passage again.

5. Pair up again and share answers to these questions:

a. What would your life be like if you fully lived the message of this passage?

b. How would your life be different?

c. Why is this so hard to do?

6. After conversation in pairs, share your insights with the group.

Ken Lyon
March 14, 2010