Readers Roundtable 2nd Wednesdays at 7

IMG_0382The Readers Roundtable gathers the second Wednesday of each month to talk about a book selected by those who participated in the Roundtable the previous month. Books are largely fiction, but are not limited to fiction.
Books so far have included Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Mary Doris Russell’s The Sparrow, and Mary Oliver’s Thirst.

IMG_0381Each month the book is announced at least three weeks in advance and the conversation is open to everyone and their friends.

Looking ahead, here are the books that will be discussed:

September 13 :  Their Eyes Were Watching God
October 11: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
November 8: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
December 13: A Land More Kind than Home

For further information, contact Paul Marvin. pmarvin64@gmail.com

Whether you’ve read the book or not, all are always welcome to join in the conversation!

 

What Happens Maundy Thursday?

IMG_0753
903630_10100328975028214_779556457_oOn the Thursday of Holy Week, also called Maundy Thursday, the Church universal remembers Jesus’ “last supper” with his disciples. Scripture tells us that they gathered in an “upper room” for the passover meal.  They feasted and enjoyed one another’s fellowship. The frescos of Da Vinci at the Vatican and of Ben Long in Glendale Spring, NC, capture the intimacy and the complexity of that night.
Jesus surprised them all, first by washing their feet, then by his strange words about the bread and the wine. The former practice is remembered with varying degrees of symbolism and formality by many congregations. The latter practice evolved quickly as the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper. And on Maundy Thursday we re-member both events.
Another practice of Maundy Thursday is “the stripping of the altar”. In this, vessels and cloths, of books and of banners, are all removed from the altar and its surrounding space. And the processional cross is veiled in black. It is as though the resurrection never happened. Death is the end. We move toward Good Friday, woefully aware of the disciples’ abandonment, and even betrayal, of Jesus, saddened by our own “standing by” while that crucifixion continues in other forms today.
In the first ten years of the Advocate, we had neither land nor building of our own, and we developed our Holy Week liturgies in such a way as to allow us to enter into Jesus’ last week as a human being as best we could in our time and place. We said “Carrboro becomes Jerusalem”. And we rented the Fleming Lodge at Camp New Hope to be our “upper room”. Maundy Thursday at Camp New Hope quickly became a favorite event in the life of the Advocate.
Each year we gather in the lodge for a festive evening of Middle Eastern food. Fresh tulips on every table, with a chalice of wine. and a basket of pita. Vestry members and other lay leaders serve the tables, and after supper offer the foot washing. An acoustic band leads us in favorite songs: All Who Hunger Gather Gladly, The Servant Song, Ubi Caritas, and more. At the end of the evening we clear the table tops and then the room itself. The transition is made plain. And we gather in the dark on the porch to hear Psalm 22, stand in silence, then go our separate ways into the night.
It is a night of friendship and faith. It is also a night of hospitality. We encourage visitors and friends to come on over and join us.
6:30 – 8:30 PM. Fleming Lodge, Camp New Hope. (off highway 86, 3 miles north of the I40-86 interchange).
Please come and join us for an evening of food, song and prayer. All are welcome.

 

The Piedmont Patch Project

img_7929The Piedmont Patch Project: Restoring Native Flora and Fauna, One Patch of Piedmont at a Time

The people of the Episcopal Church of the Advocate have a dream. Since moving onto our scruffy 15-acre site in 2014, we have been working to transform it into a place of hospitality, worship, and contemplation, and a regional resource for collaborative social ministry and the arts. In 2015, The Advocate began collaborating with individuals and organizations outside the church to host three “tiny homes” on our site, for individuals who would otherwise be homeless (PeeWeeHomes.org ). Now we are beginning a second collaboration, the Piedmont Patch Project, to restore native flora and fauna displaced by the rapid urbanization surrounding the property, and to cultivate keepers of Creation.

The Piedmont Patch project will transform five acres of our site into a food-producing and natural habitat, create a network of involved neighbors and provide numerous opportunities to educate and engage people of all ages and backgrounds. We believe that in deepening connections with creation and with our community, mindfully tending and keeping the land and teaching others to do the same, we will honor God.

20170628_195951We imagine the Advocate Pond and grounds enriched with diverse well-adapted native plants that will attract and nurture an array of wildlife, including butterflies, bees, birds, frogs, turtles, and small mammals. Surrounded by rapid urbanization, the Church of the Advocate’s acreage can serve as a sanctuary for homeless wildlife increasingly displaced by bulldozers, asphalt, and concrete. Over time, such native plantings require less maintenance than traditional ornamental plantings, most of which do not meet the needs of native wildlife.

The project has an educative component, engaging school children and graduate students and inviting all who are responsible for patches of Piedmont land to learn how to create vibrant native sanctuaries that serve rather than harm God’s creation. Ideally, we can lead other congregations and other neighborhoods to adopt this concept of native sanctuaries, building refuges of hope for native wildlife and havens of peace and beauty for humans one patch of piedmont (and beyond!) at a time. The Project will also include education on invasive exotic species and their removal — why it is important, how it contributes to sustainability.

IMG_8563The Piedmont Patch Project is grounded in a belief that the environment and our natural resources will be better sustained, and even thrive, as organizations and individuals work to cultivate one patch at a time. The Project is envisioned as a collaborative effort of the church, the town, the NC Botanical Gardens, and individuals with knowledge and skills to share, such as Cathy Bollinger of The Piedmont Gardener.

We hope the Piedmont Patch Project (like the Pee Wee Homes Collaborative) will serve as prototypes that can be scaled and replicated in a variety of church, public, and private settings.

Here’s and article about native and non-native wildflowers and bees.

Reflections for the First Sunday After the Epiphany, January 8, 2017

Reflections on the First Sunday After the Epiphany
January 8, 2017
The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck, Vicar

“Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it, and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you…..” (Isaiah 42)

“I have taken you by the hand and kept you….”

Today marks the first Sunday in the season of Epiphany. Friday evening some gathered in the Chapel to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany itself. And we were reminded of the coming of the wise men, the sages from afar, to the birthplace of Jesus. By that story we are told that Jesus came, not just for a few, but for all. For all of “us” and for all with whom we share this world.

In the words of St. Peter in Acts of the Apostles: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality.”

And today, today we hear the story of the baptism of Jesus. (We had a little fast forward of 30 years in 30 hours…) In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus is full grown. A man.

Today’s story is not just the story of John the Baptist and the River Jordan and the cleansing ritual and Jesus.

Importantly, the Gospel story we hear today is also a story of the Holy Spirit, descending upon Jesus, in bodily form like a dove. It’s the story of a voice coming from heaven declaring, “You are my Son, the Beloved.”

That dove and voice bit is essential to the story. Because by it we learn, just as the witnesses of old learned, that somehow in this person Jesus God is made (here’s the good Epiphany word) God is made manifest in Jesus the man.

As the old hymn goes: “God in man made manifest”.

In this person Jesus,
God is.

And because God is in this person Jesus, in this human being born like one of us, in this human being dwelling on earth like one of us, because God is in this person Jesus, we understand that God has chosen to engage with us in an incredible, powerful, awesome and efficient way.

So that now we can hear the word of God in the prophet Isaiah and know it true,
“I have taken you by the hand and kept you.”

Throughout the season of Epiphany ahead we will recognize, embrace, celebrate, that God has taken us by the hand and kept us.
We will celebrate that God has been manifest in Jesus, and, as such, has engaged with us, closely.

In the season of Epiphany, we will hear story after story that reveals that manifestation of God in Christ. We will hear stories of Christ’s miracles, of Christ teaching with authority, of Christ shining with a holy glow like none other – in his transfiguration on the mountainside.

This is all very cool. And exciting. Not only because we are talking about God –
“the God who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it, and spirit to those who walk in it”.

But because we are talking about that God engaging with us. we who are frail and floppy, self-centered and arrogant, fearful and flailing.

Epiphany is not a story of God’s “outreach” — of God reaching out to us and giving us what we need. Epiphany is a story of God’s “engagement”. In Christ, God has engaged with us. And, in Christ, God has called us to engage with one another, and with the world in which we live.

It begins today as we hear the story of the Baptism of Jesus. And we consider again our own baptism. The Holy Spirit was present at both.

If we were in worship together this morning, we would renew once more our baptismal covenant, reminding us of what it means that we are baptized and what we are called to be and do because of it.
I’ve pasted that covenant below.

In Christ, God has engaged with humanity.
In our baptism, we have become engaged with Christ.
So it is that God has chosen to take us by the hand
and keep us close.

That is the stuff of the season.

Amen.

The Baptismal Covenant

Celebrant                  Do you believe in God the Father?
People                                    I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

Celebrant                  Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People                                    I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Celebrant                  Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People                      I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Celebrant                  Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?

People                      I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant                  Will you persevere in resisting evil, and , whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People                      I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant                  Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?People                       I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant                  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People                       I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant                  Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People                        I will, with God’s help.

 

 

The Sunday After Tuesday. A Nathan Kirkpatrick Sermon @ The Advocate

The Sunday After Tuesday
A sermon preached at the Episcopal Church of the Advocate
Proper XXVIII | November 13, 2016

In some strands of the Christian traditions,
The room that we are now in is called a sanctuary;
It comes from a Latin word that means “a place for holy things.”
Whoever the wordsmith was
who first called this place a sanctuary,
You know what she or he probably had in mind:
that this was a place where we were assured of God’s presence
Where reminders of God’s presence surround us.
This was the place where humble bread and simple wine
become Body and Blood,
Where water could claim and transform lives
through the power of the Spirit,
Where the tradition’s texts could be heard and God could still speak,
Where art and music could carry us
mystically into the presence of God.
This is a place for holy things.

It’s is an ancient idea.
You remember that the Israelites
in their sojourns carried with them a Tabernacle,
A physical place where God could be encountered;
As long as it was there, something was certain in an uncertain world.

When the Israelites settled into the Promised Land,
You remember that King Solomon built the most glorious Temple imaginable.
A physical place where God could be encountered;
As long as it was there, something was certain in an uncertain world.

Years later, when the Babylonians invaded Israel,
They destroyed Solomon’s Temple, destroying
The physical place that was a reminder of God’s abiding presence.
In its absence, things were even less certain in an incredibly uncertain world.

Years later, when the Babylonians were evicted,
the people built again, and in 515 BC, the Second Temple was completed.
A new physical place where God could be encountered;
As long as it was there, something was certain in an uncertain world.
It was a sanctuary – a place for holy things.

 

It’s why it was so disconcerting to hear Jesus talk about the coming collapse of the Temple.
The Temple was a sanctuary – a physical place where, in the midst of Roman occupation,
Jews could remember that God had not abandoned them, that God was with them.
In an uncertain life, you could see its shadow against the sunset and be assured
That you were not forgotten or forsaken.

And yet, Jesus says it’s coming down.
When some of his followers are bragging about how beautiful it is,
Jesus says that
that not one stone will be left standing on another.
That as nation rises against nation, as the world reels and rocks,
the sign and symbol of God’s abiding presence,
the place for holy things, would be no more.

To be sure, it’s one of Jesus’ least comforting sermons.
To the people of his day, this sermon would have been
As improbable as it would have been disorienting.

Without the Temple,
Would they ever feel safe again? Could they ever feel safe again?
Where could they know that God was with them?
Where could they ever feel like they belonged?
That they weren’t forgotten or forsaken?

In an already volatile and uncertain world,
In their already volatile and uncertain lives,
Without the Temple,
could they ever be sure of anything again?

Nothing would feel safe, nothing would feel sacred.
Stone-by-stone, the whole world would collapse.

 

And if you remember your history, that’s the way it happened.
In 70 AD, the Second Temple came down –
Leaving only a single wall, what we know today as the Wailing Wall, standing.
And the Jewish world despaired.

Now if you listen around the edges to his sermon,
it is as if Jesus is saying
that the future will require a different kind of sanctuary,
That the assurance of God’s presence will have to come through different means,
That a reminder of your value and worth as the people of God
would have to come from someplace other than the place where you had always known it.
The future will require a different kind of sanctuary.

Which is why Jesus entrusts us to each other.
It’s why Jesus gives us the Spirit – to knit us together –
As a single body, for one another, with one another.
Temples can collapse,
but the people of God will be sanctuary
for each other forever.

And across the early years of the church,
The people of God sheltered and shielded each other.
Lacking buildings, they hid together in tombs and catacombs.
They gathered around a simple meal and reminded each other that God was with them,
That they were precious in the sight of God.
When the Empire came with its spears and swords,
they surrounded each other with love and affection,
protecting the most vulnerable in their midst
with their own bodies if they had to.

The people of God became to each other a sanctuary,
Not made of stone or by human hands.
But a sanctuary made by the Spirit, the Advocate —
The people of God became a sanctuary of a common purpose,
A sanctuary of common love, a sanctuary of common heart.
The sanctuary – the place for holy things – was the community.

It was part of the way that the Church lived its mission:
To restore all people to unity with God and with each other in Christ.

Over time, as the Church secured structures and built buildings, and
The sanctuary of common heart became again a sanctuary of place.

In England, for more than a millennium, churches were actual sanctuaries for people.
People fearing punishment or retaliation or even earned-justice
All they had to do was cross the threshold
and they were safe and shielded from the world beyond.
They could not be touched as long as they were in a church.

Through history, churches became sanctuaries for immigrants and refugees,
Offering shelter and sustenance, remembering and imitating the welcome
that Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus received in Egypt
when they were fleeing the wrath of Herod at home.

In our own country’s history, more than thirty churches served as waypoints on
The Underground Railroad,
Serving as sanctuaries for people fleeing slavery for their freedom.

One of the problems in the Church, though, is that over time
our sanctuaries of buildings and places
erased our understanding of ourselves as a sanctuary of the Spirit
for one another.
We counted on walls to do our God-given work.

Yet, Jesus’ call remains.
In an uneasy and uncertain world,
We are called to be for one another and with one another,
A sanctuary people.
A sign of God’s presence and peace,
A refuge in an uncertain and volatile world.
A people of safety, a community of love.

This week, I wish Robert Putnam had been wrong.
In his controversial book Bowling Alone, the Harvard political scientist
Cataloged and predicted the decline of community in American life.
He pointed to the simplest of things –
He noted that, in the 20 years before the book came out – so 1980 – 2000,
the number of people who bowled in America had increased steadily
but that the number of people who belonged to bowling leagues
had declined steadily.
And if fewer people were bowling in bowling leagues
That meant that there was less interaction,
Less conversation, less engagement with people
with whom we might disagree
in a context where we can disagree
with fairly low stakes.

It wasn’t just bowling, of course.
He traced declines in membership and volunteering with
Religious groups, including churches and synagogues,
Labor unions, PTAs,
The League of Women Voters,
The Boy Scouts, The Girl Scouts,
The Red Cross,
The Lions, The Elks,
The Junior Chamber, The Junior League,
The Freemasons., The Rotary, and on and on it went.
Fewer members. Fewer volunteers.
Less interaction, less conversation, less engagement.

In the year 2000, Putnam warned that
we were becoming strangers to each another.
And without structures and regular practices of relating to one another,
He wrote that people would suffer,
That organizations and institutions would decline,
That our democracy would be imperiled.
That the very social fabric that had held us together would fray.

In the swirl of emotions that I’ve heard this week in the wake of the election’s results,
From elation and celebration and relief
to confusion and bewilderment,
to sorrow, sadness, anger and protest,
the thing that has become clear is that
as a country, we are strangers to one another.
Republican, Democrat.
Urban, rural. Blue state, red state.
College educated, Not college educated.
Blue collar, white collar. Male, female.
White, Black, Latino. Young, old.
Gay, straight. Trans. Well-to-do, not well-to-do.
Healthy, not healthy. Evangelical. Progressive.
The list goes on.
The priorities of one are perceived as a threat by the other.
The realities of one life are almost unimaginable for another.

This week, we witnessed a relay of fear.
Pundits – there are a few of them left standing –
tell us that millions of those who voted for Mr Trump voted from fear –
Fear of what we have become as a country, fear that we are unrecognizable from what we once were. Fear for self and fear for the world.
And when Mr Trump was announced as the winner, as that part of the country was allaying their fears, the fear was just handed over to so many others –
Fear of what we will become, fear that we will become unrecognizable from what we have been. Fear for self and fear for the world.

And as acts of intimidation and harassment followed, fear has been legitimized.
You have seen the stories:
In high schools and middle schools,
Children have built walls against children and racial epithets have been shouted,
In a college bathroom, a doll with darker “skin” was “lynched” in a shower.
On city streets, gay men have been beaten; women have been sexually assaulted.
Muslim women have been stripped of their hijab.
In our own dear Durham, graffiti-ed messages have demeaned our black and brown neighbors,
In Brier Creek, some twenty miles from here, a woman of Asian descent was told by a complete stranger that she needed to go back to China, that this was not her country (never mind that she is Korean).
You have seen the stories. We are strangers, threats, to one another.

And if that is to change, then we as people of faith must answer Jesus’ call.
Our future will require us to be a different kind of sanctuary.
As important as these walls are, these walls alone will not do our work.
We are called to be sanctuary for one another – with one another.
We are called to be a reminder to the world that God has not abandoned us,
Forsaken or forgotten us.
We are called to proclaim the holiness of all of God’s creations,
And safeguard the most vulnerable among them.
Our work has not changed this week.
The context has changed. Its urgency has changed.
But the work has not.

In March 1861, President Lincoln concluded his first inaugural address this way:
We are not enemies, but friends.
We must not be enemies.
Though passion may have strained
it must not break our bonds of affection.
The mystic chords of memory,
stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave
to every living heart and hearthstone
all over this broad land,
will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

For those better angels to do their work,
For us to nurture our common life,
For us to find community,
We must answer Jesus’ call.
The Temple may come down, for sure.
But we must be God’s sanctuary
In and for our wounded world.

Amen.

The Rev. Nathan Kirkpatrick, Priest Associate
The Episcopal Church of the Advocate

 

Pledge Drive for 2017

logo_red_advocate_tricolor

October 20, 2016

Dear People of the Advocate,

It is time again for the usual and necessary request to each and all for a financial pledge to the Advocate’s operating budget for the year ahead.

The Advocate’s operating expenses include maintaining the chapel and house, liturgical supplies, audit and accounting services, fellowship, Christian formation, and much more than we’ll attempt to cover here. The operating budget is also how we compensate our piano accompanists, our very part-time administrative assistant, our kids’ Christian education coordinator, our childcare providers, and Lisa, our vicar. (Nathan, our priest associate, is modestly paid by the Diocese.) We are fortunate to have many others volunteer their time and efforts to ensuring the Advocate is a wonderful place to be. And, as it has been since our launch, 10% of pledged and plate offering is given to those in need and to organizations that help those in need, through our Advocate Tithe.

It may seem we were just asking for your financial gifts, and we were—thanks to you all, we’ll be able to secure a generous matching donation and reduce the Advocate’s $180,000 debt by $80,000. Achieving this milestone is significant, and we’re grateful. But we’re also aware that this is one milestone on a long journey. We still have much more work to do by 2018 to raise the remaining funds to hit the $300,000 target for our Strength to Strength Campaign that seeks to retire our debt and make the house accessible and welcoming.

But while making progress on our multiyear Strength to Strength Campaign is important, just as critical is the need to make sure we continue to bring in enough each year for our operating expenses. Beyond maintaining what we currently do and provide, there ajre many opportunities to expand (e.g., through increased administrative support or additional kids’ Christian ed offerings to better support a range of ages), and we would love for 2017 pledges to allow us to plan for growth.

We need as many households as possible to pledge their financial support to the Advocate’s 2017 operating budget. Unanticipated donations in the basket on Sunday are helpful, but pledges are the foundation of our budget—they provide the basis for our decisions about what we can afford for salaries, stipends, and other expenses. The Advocate operating budget, like our liturgy, is truly the work of the people.

Know that your pledge makes a difference. A pledge form is available at church and online.

We ask that you make your pledge for the 2017 operating budget by the Sunday before Thanksgiving. November 20. We will celebrate God’s abundance with thanksgiving on that day.

Peace,

The Advocate Vestry

Celisa Steele, senior warden (celisa@steelcob.com)
Denisé Dews, junior warden (ddews@unc.edu)
David Pass (d.pass.unc@gmail.com)
Coleen Cunningham (coleen.cunningham@duke.edu)
David McInnes (dmmcinnes0521@email.campbell.edu)
Shannon Gigliotti (sg4jc@msn.com)
Molly Sutphen, treasurer (mollysutphen@gmail.com)

 

The 2nd Annual Autumn Unplugged at the Advocate!

autumn-unplugged-91916

NOTE: All day we will be collecting food and clothing for farmworkers at The Episcopal Farmworker Ministry. See more here.
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1 – 1:45        The Dogwood Blossom Band

1:50 – 2:35   The String Beings

2:45 – 3:45   The Durham Ukulele Orchestra

4 – 4:50        The Hey Brothers

5 – 5:45        The St. Paul AME Voices of Inspiration

6 – 6:45        The North Carolina Jazz Ensemble

 

FAQ About the Weekly Schedule at the Advocate

signHere’s the Weekly Schedule through June:

Sundays:
9 AM
          Classic Episcopal (Holy Eucharist from the BCP and songs from the Hymnal 1982)
9:45-10:45 AM  A Teachable Moment* for youth and adults and Godly Play* for the kids
11 AM        Traditioned Innovation (TI)* A 75-minute Holy Eucharist with songs and innovations.
12:20 PM  
   Lunch fellowship (food provided)

And on Wednesdays:
5:30 PM               A simple, quiet Eucharist, with readings from Holy Women; Holy Men
6:15 – 7 PM          Contemplative Prayer

*Here are some emerging questions:

What’s Classic Episcopal is an experience of the basic worship in the Episcopal tradition, using the Eucharistic rite from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer and songs from the Episcopal Hymnal 1982. It is the foundation of our liturgy and worship life.

What is *Traditioned Innovation? TI (Traditioned Innovation) According to the theologians at Leadership Education at Duke Divinitytraditioned innovation is a way of thinking as a Christian that engages the past for the sake of the future. At the TI Service at the Advocate, this means that we take each of the various elements of the basic worship of the Episcopal tradition and consider how it might be made new or interpreted in different ways in different seasons or places or by different people. We use prayers and songs from throughout the Church and take seriously the ancient word for worship, liturgy, meaning “the work of people” such that our worship becomes the work of this particular people at this particular time in this particular place.

What’s A *Teachable Moment? A Teachable Moment is a thirty minute occasion to reflect on an issue or event in the life of the congregation, the wider community, or the world. It consists of 10 minutes of presentation and 20 minutes of conversation. While we have a cache of subjects to draw on, we also are ready to spontaneously respond to something current.

What’s *Godly Play? Godly Play is an educational experience for kids, in which they are lead to engage with the stories of the Christian faith and participate in simple practices together. The Advocate offers Godly Play for kids age three and up. To learn more, please contact our kids Christian Ed Coordinator: Becca Bland <rebeccagwbland@gmail.com>

How can lunch be provided? Do I need to pay? The table fellowship of the Advocate is an expansion of the Eucharistic Feast. Food each week is provided by a rotation of 6 volunteer groups, each group providing the meal once in six weeks for the community gathered. The Advocate encourages participation in these food-providing groups. To volunteer, please contact Martha Wheeler <martha.s.wheeler@gmail.com>.

Ambivalence and Faith. A Nathan Kirkpatrick Sermon

Following is a sermon preached by The Rev. Nathan Kirkpatrick, Priest Associate of the Advocate
on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 17, 2016. 

She was sure that he was the man for her.

After six years of dating, she knew down to her bones

that he was right for her, that they were good together.

But each time, she would hint around the marriage question,

she received the same answer:

“I’m just not sure that you’re the one for me.”

 

Six years. Six years of her certainty. And six years of his ambivalence.

Finally, she had had enough:

No more. She wrote him a letter.

She told him that she loved him, and that they

either they had to get married or they had to break it off.

 

Her friends cheered her.

“About time,” a few suggested. (Six years?)

But now, she waited for a reply.

Day after day, she would walk to the mailbox, and there was nothing.

Until finally, one day, a letter came.

 

 

To my ear, the question of the religious leaders to Jesus seems fair.

It seems reasonable enough. It seems honest … enough.

It might have even been the question on my mind or in my heart.

“Don’t keep us in suspense any longer.

Tell us plainly …

          Are you the Messiah?

Are you the One we have been waiting for?”

 

It’s not like Jesus hasn’t been asked this before.

Do you remember the story in St Luke’s Gospel

when John the Baptist sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask,

“are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Luke 7.19)?

When John’s followers asked, Jesus told them to go back and tell John what they saw —

and just then, Jesus goes on a tear of healings.

You’ve got a problem? Jesus has a healing for you.

Go tell John that, in Jesus, the blind can see,

that the lame are made to wake,

the deaf can hear,

and the dead are raised.

That was the answer.

 

But on this particular winter’s day

during the Jewish Feast of Dedication

— the holiday that we now know as Hanukkah —

Jesus’ reaction to the religious and the religious leaders

suggests that there must be something else going on in their question;

His impatience with them

tells us that, however charitably I want to hear their question,

there was something less than charitable in what they were after.

 

You heard what He said?

“I have told you, and you do not believe.

The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me;

but you do not believe,

because you do not belong to my sheep.”

You do not believe … you do not belong.

Jesus seems to hear something from them other than an honest question.

 

I wonder if what Jesus hears in them is

something akin to the boyfriend who, after years of dating,

still says, “I’m just not sure that you’re the one for me.”

Against the certainty of His love,

He hears in them ambivalence, apathy, and indifference.

 

He loves them. All the way down to His bones.

 

But they? They’re still asking, “are you the One?”

 

The Contemporary English Bible renders their question this way:

“How long will you test our patience? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

 

Their question sounds honest, reasonable, fair.

Who wants to give their lives to something and then turn out to be wrong?

Who wants to follow someone only to find out that they’re just a cult leader

and not the Messiah?

But when you poke at it,

that’s not what they’re asking.

Theirs is not a question that comes from vulnerability.

They’re using the question

to hold faith at arm’s length.

They’re using the question to prevent finding an answer.

 

Now, let’s be clear.

There are plenty of good reasons to hold faith at arm’s length.

To examine it. To inquire into it.

To put to it the hardest and most meaningful questions of our lives.

And sometimes we have to do that at some distance.

We have to hold the thing up and look at it and really see it.

 

And there is no harm or judgment for those

who ask questions

about what they believe

or why they believe

or if they believe at all.

 

Those can be the most important questions of our lives —

to wrestle with those questions –

can be the most important wrestling we do.

 

It’s what the late writer Reynolds Price called “a serious way of wondering.”

And week-by-week we pray for all of us who do that work

when we pray for those who seek God

and a deeper knowledge and love of God.

 

But, Jesus seems to be warning us that

there comes a point

when the question itself can become a shield,

when the wonder itself becomes a defense,

when the seeking becomes an excuse from finding.

 

Here’s the thing:

If you’re going to ask the questions,

at some point, you have to be willing to be changed by the answers.

Faith doesn’t require that all our answers are the same,

but faith requires the vulnerability of relationship.

The religious ones of Jesus’ day were substituting the question for the relationship.

 

 

She went to her mailbox, and there was a letter — an invitation to dinner.

She almost didn’t go. There had been so many dinners.

But she needed to know.

 

He told her that he loved her.

But that he was afraid he would be a terrible husband.

He told her that he was scared.

That he didn’t know what it would mean for them to get married.

 

And she took his hand,

and told him that, from what she had heard,

no one knows what it means to be married. Ever.

But they would figure it out

— together —

across the rest of their lives.

 

So, take a hand. Ask the questions.

And we’ll figure it out together.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

Sunday January 24: Change in schedule due to weather

L1008403 (1)Due to the weather event that has left roads icy and travel advisories in place, the Advocate will adjust the Sunday morning schedule as follows:

10:30 AM    The Rev. Mary Ogus, priest for the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina and mother of Advocate resident Rebecca Ogus, will celebrate the Holy Eucharist in the Advocate Chapel. All ye who can trundle there from wherever you dwell, please do! (Note: We will not have child care, lunch, or the previously schedule program about the Church World Service.  Also, the parking lot and the sidewalks will be icy, so be careful!)

10:30 AM (as well)  All are welcome to go online to the Advocate’s GoToMeeting room to join in Morning Prayer with the Priest Associate. (Our GoToMeeting subscription is only good for 25 links, so if you can share a screen with someone else, please do). Morning Prayer can be found in the Book of Common Prayer on pages 75 – 102 , in the online Book of Common Prayer here, and with a rotation for our shared reading here.

Click here to access the Advocate GoToMeeting room.

5 PM        The Contemplative Eucharist is cancelled.

The vicar bids your prayers for safe travels on the road home from Sewanee, Tennessee on Sunday.

  • Hope to see you all in person next Sunday!