A Sermon for Maundy Thursday

By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation

 

I spent several years as the religion teacher at an Episcopal day school in Baton Rouge.  I taught about 300 students from PreK – 5th grade. They called me Church Lady and I loved it. I wish I had written down all the things they said and did, because there are some hysterical and profound stories.

One day I was teaching the story of the Good Shepherd to a group of Kindergartners.  I talked about how the Good Shepherd led his sheep to green pastures and cool still waters and through the dark rocky places.  I told them that the Good Shepherd knew all his sheep by name and if even one of them was missing he would go out to find them and bring them home.  I used big pieces of felt and small wooden sheep and shepherd to tell the story. At the end of the story,  Warren, a darling, precocious boy with strawberry blond curls and freckles all over his big moon face shook his head. He had the best gravelly little voice I had ever heard from a 5-year-old.

I don’t know Miss Amelia….”That Good Shepherd must have had some kind of good GPS system to not get lost out there.”

Warren, the son of an avid Louisiana outdoorsman, knew how easy it is to get lost travelling in the wilderness without some help.

David helped us start off this Lenten season by reminding us that God has a burning question for us all, and it has been his question since the garden….  Where are you? We humans have gotten very good at hiding. From God. From each other and from ourselves. And the call of Lent is to try to stop hiding so much and show up.  Not an easy task.

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A Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

By: Amelia McDaniel, Director of Children’s Ministries

 

One evening deep into my teenage years I sat in the club chair in the den with my father, bewailing some grave injustice that had befallen me.  I’m pretty sure I had already exhausted my mother and had not gotten the answer I wanted.  So he was my next victim.  For the life of me I cannot remember what exactly I was so mad about.  I do remember that I had copious tears and snuffles and probably some wild gesturing.

Then Dad said something to me that has stayed with me for over 30 years.  “Are you really going to put that rock in your backpack?  Carry that around?”  To my teenage ears this statement was odd enough that I stopped and heard him. “Why haul things around that you simply don’t have to?”

He was right of course.  Carrying the extra weight of anger and hurts and guilt and grudges is simply dead weight.  I’d like to tell you that from that moment forward I have lived a life free of all extra rocks in my backpack.  Of course that is far from true.  Struggling with the weight of human hurts and forgiveness are not one and done battles.  It takes a whole lot.  Just look at today’s readings.

From the Old Testament we hear the story of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers who have shown up in need of food for their tribe since a famine had spread across the land.  Let’s remember these are the brothers who years before ripped off his fancy coat, threw him in a pit and then sat down to eat lunch while the talked over exactly how they were going to get rid of him.  They hated him, the one they perceived to be their father Jacob’s favorite, the one who had crazy dreams.  And while they were debating some traders came by and solved their problem for them.  Off Joseph went, out of their hair.

And now years later here they are before him and Joseph says to them…

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A Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany

By: Amelia McDaniel, Director of Children’s Ministries

I spent eight years living in Louisiana. I’d like to tell you a fell in love with it the minute I set foot there, but that would be a lie. I was eight months pregnant and it was June. I hated it. It was hot and miserable. I longed to be back in the part of the south I understood. The part where roaches weren’t the size of small birds. The part where the cold tap water still came out from the faucet cold instead of tepid to luke warm. The places where I understood how to say the names of streets and towns because there weren’t strings of consonants and vowels that made no sense and involved lots of u’s and x’s.

One hot afternoon I waddled myself over to the local nursery to get some plants for the pots by my door. I chose a collection of things, most of which I had never seen growing in Tennessee or Virginia. They nursery guy looked at me and said, “m’am that’s way too many plants. You won’t need that much.” I, in my wisdom, disagreed with him and I guess he thought better than to argue with the crazy pregnant lady.

I took my plants home and potted them. There was some space between the plants, just the way I had always planted them before back home. They’d fill in as the summer went on. Take that nursery man! I know what I’m doing!

Within two weeks those plants were spilling over the sides. They growing over one another, crowding each other straight out of the pot. He was right. I was in the sub tropics. Abundant growth was all around. Everything there was lush and green and full. Sometimes it was so green it almost hurt my eyes. I did fall in love with Louisiana in time and its crazy mixed up jumble of life.

Enough so that I will happily watch the football game this afternoon with the rest of Who Dat friends cheering on the Saints.

In much the same way I was shocked by the lush growth in Louisiana, we don’t live in a world that focuses much on what there is plenty of. We tend to see what is lacking. I think today’s Gospel speaks to this state we seem to live in.

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A Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent

By: Amelia McDaniel, Director of Children’s Ministries

 

I like to go back and read books again.  Books I have loved.  Sometimes the re-reading is nostalgic.  Sometimes I realize that I no longer identify with the characters the way I once did.  And sometimes I am astonished to find that the rereading reveals a whole new story to me.

I make a habit of rereading To Kill a Mockingbird every few years.  Each time I read it again a new facet of the story comes into view for me.  And I fall in love all over again with it.  I’ve loved Scout as someone who identifies with her, as a big sister to her, as someone who wishes she had a momma to love on her.  I’ve loved Jem through the eyes of a sibling, and through the eyes of a mother to a son.  My last reading of the book had me enthralled with Atticus and how he struggled to care for his children alone and explain a world that in so many ways is inexplicable.

So when I was rereading today’s Gospel, with different eyes from the last time this story came up in our lectionary cycle, I was struck by John’s screaming out at the people around him.  John, who from the very beginning was in on what God was doing with Jesus.  John who leapt in his mother’s womb when she was in the presence of Mary, still carrying Jesus in her own womb.  John whose fire and zeal led him to the to tell people to get ready.  That God was going to do something new.

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A Sermon for Christ the King Sunday

By: Amelia McDaniel, Director of Children’s Ministries

 

I speak to you in the name of the Good Shepherd, the King of Love, whose goodness fails us never.

Today marks the end of our liturgical Church Year.  The last Sunday in the Season after Pentecost. I guess you could call today the church’s New Year’s Eve.

Next Sunday the new church year begins with the first Sunday of Advent, the time of preparing for the birth of Jesus.  And we will begin anew the ancient pattern of days, the circle of the Church Year. Following the way to Bethlehem during Advent.  Celebrating the Birth of the Jesus on Christmas. Remembering the stories of how he grows from a baby into a man throughout the stories of the season of Epiphany.  During Lent we turn again to preparing, but this time not for his birth but for his death. And then thankfully there is Easter to celebrate. And we do that until the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter.  The day we remember that Jesus did not leave us here high and dry but sent the Holy Spirit amongst us. And then we hit the LONG season of the Season after Pentecost. It is almost impossibly long.

Pentecost amounts to a whole lot of Sundays.  Like half the calendar year of them. It seems that someone had the wisdom to know that it would take us an incredibly long time to grow into the mysteries of Christmas and Easter.  This Sunday is the 27th Sunday after Pentecost.  For 27 Sundays in a row we have heard stories inviting us to grow into a bigger understanding of the Kingdom of God.

Today on this Church New Year’s Eve, it is not the baby Jesus we are remembering.  Today our readings are full of the story of Christ the King. The psalm portrays a King, a man with splendid apparel, mightier than the biggest breakers of the sea.

The Epistle has Jesus rolling in with the clouds. Our Alpha and Omega who is and was and who is to come.

Strength, power, dominion, glory.  This is the picture of the King these scriptures hold.

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