All posts by Camreon O'Riley

Stewardship Talk: Karen Moss

Karen Moss was the first presenter of the Stewardship talks.

Dearly Beloved: Do what you can, where you are, with what you’ve got.

 

July 28, 2019- Sermon for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost

The Rev. Cameron O’Riley

Proper 12

Hosea 1:2-10
Psalm 85
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Luke 11:1-13

You know how Father Stephen says, “We hear these stories every three years.” Or how after a weekend of deep diving into the Parable of the Prodigal Son at the Women’s retreat, I told y’all, “Don’t worry it will be three years before you hear this one again.”

Well, today is a perfect example of our lectionary cycle at work. On July 24, 2016, I preached one of my first sermons at St. Patrick’s on these very lessons.

That Sunday began a week of firsts. I had just finished my first St. Pat’s Vacation Bible School. My friend Christine came to visit and was my first guest in Ohio (who happens to be here today!). I celebrated my first Eucharist as a new priest at the Wednesday service. Only to culminate in my first celebration of a Sunday Eucharist at my first ever U2charist at my very first Irish festival.

Now that I think about it, that was a lot! But you know what? As scary and unsure as ALL of that was, someone had taught me these things. Someone guided the way. There was a foundation on which to rest this shaky beginning. The adults and youth who volunteered to teach Vacation Bible School when I was a child, provided the footings as they loved and nurtured me so that I might live a life rooted and built up in Christ, established in the faith, just as I was taught, abounding in thanksgiving much like today’s reading from Colossians suggests. My friends acted as sealant encouraging and supporting, keeping me humble, and being witnesses to the persistence. And all those teachers, ministers, and priests laid the first bricks influencing the way I engage in ministry with others. Sometimes I catch myself using their phrasing or mimicking their gestures, desiring in some way to have a faith like theirs.

We all have these kinds of people in our lives. Coaches that taught us how to throw a ball or swing a bat, instructors who placed our fingers correctly on our first instruments, mentors who advised us on how to be leaders in the workplace and our community. Just this past week on the Youth Mission Trip to the Appalachian South Folklife Center, I watched as our chaperones and site supervisors taught our youth and one another how to work saws, dig trenches, frame walls, lay flooring, spackle and paint the exterior and interior of a house, demolish a single room to a whole house, prepare meals, and so much more. The youth were teachers too. Those who had previous experience with these labor tasks brought the others along. They lived into the grace of inclusion and welcome as they worked and played and worshiped with the youth of Bruton Parish. And then as in the Gospel lesson today, they instructed each other in prayer serving as readers and officiants for morning prayer and compline. One day as we were struggling to get started at the job site, I asked Amani, “Will you show me how to do that thing you do with your fingers when you pray on your own?” “Of course,” he said. Patiently he demonstrated for Father Stephen and I how to form our fingers and slide our hands together, correcting my first attempt. “Now close your eyes and take a deep breath. Do that for a few minutes.” “Ok,” I said and opened my eyes. I realized Amani and Father Stephen were both still breathing, eyes closed, and I was like “Oh! We’re really doing this.” Amani didn’t just show me, he taught me.

 

Matthew L. Skinner, Professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary says “It’s a very personal, intimate thing, one’s prayer life. Getting started at praying is less like learning how to drive a car, how to play the banjo, or even how to preach. For most, it is more like learning how to kiss. You learn some by watching others do it. You should be discerning about whom you will allow to teach you. You certainly make mistakes. And maybe you always worry deep in your head that you might be doing it wrong.”[1]

 

“There is very deep and personal longing for connection that defies forms and formulas.”[2]We seek such intimacy with God in prayer, to deeply know and be known. And Jesus here encourages such familiarity in the Gospel reading today, revealing far more than just how to, but also about the character and personality of the One to whom we pray.  Prayer “rooted in the kindliness and generosity of God.”[3]

 

Some of you may have seen a vignette about a grandfather walking through his yard when he hears his granddaughter repeating the alphabet in a tone of voice that sounds like a prayer. “What are you doing,” he asks? The little girl explains, “I’m praying, but I can’t think of the right words. So I’m just saying all the letters, and God will put them together for me, ‘cause he knows what I’m thinking.”

 

There once was a young boy named Jack. He loved spending time at his grandparent’s house. He’d follow his Grandfather around his workshop marveling at all the tools hanging from various hooks, drawers tumbling over with hammers and wrenches and screwdrivers, rags tossed about covered in varnish or motor oil, enticing coffee cans and glass jars filled with tiny treasures of nuts and bolts and various odds and ends, deeply breathing in the musty dual scent of wood shavings and car parts. The dusty worktable an altar of possibilities, a sacred and hallowed space of all things Grandpa.

He’d wander through the garden with his Grandmother checking on the flowers, picking vegetables for the daily meals. When he thought she wasn’t looking, he’d peak through her sewing basket. The pins and scissors sticking out the edges calling to him to come and explore. It was filled with notions of brightly colored thread, a spooled measuring tape that no longer stayed wound, and buttons galore. Her spaces smelled of rosewater and whatever labor of love was baking or being fried up that day. Cooking, gardening, and sewing were central to her theology of love.

Jack would sleep in his father’s old room on an old wooden spool bed that creaked when he’d lie down. It was a simpler less hurried time. Wrapped in a faded worn quilt, he’d wait and listen for Grandma and Grandpa to settle into bed themselves, slowly the mumbles became clearer as they prayed compline together. It was their evening ritual, each having their own part giving thanks for the joys and graces experienced at the close of the day.

Jack grew and the years passed, then one day Grandma passed away.

Jack came back to visit Grandpa. The garden was still there, yet it seemed smaller. The workshop now covered with dust and spiderwebs from disuse. The world had been shifted. That night as Jack lay in that same wooden bed, from down the hall he heard his grandfather praying, but this time he said all the parts of Compline himself, both his and hers. It was the rhythm of prayer that he had settled into and it was the rhythm that would see him through his grief.

It was this witnessing, this intimacy that guided Jack’s prayers more than any book he’d ever read, or sermon heard.

 

Lord, give us the words, and teach us to pray.

[1]Working Preacher

[2]The Rev. Dr. Stephen Smith

[3]Texts for Preaching, Yr C

 

 

Palm Sunday Sermon

Palm Sunday Sermon

The Rev. Cameron. O’Riley

Sermon for Epiphany Sunday

The Rev. Cameron O’Riley

Readings for Epiphany Sunday- http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearABC_RCL/Epiphany/Epiph_RCL.html

Epiphany Sermon 2019

On December 26th, the second day of Christmas, my cousin shared a video of her 2 ½ year old daughter holding two folded pieces of paper. One in each hand. When asked what they are, she determines they are Christmas Cards sent from her Uncle Rhett. As the tag line, her mother wrote “[Baby Girl] is going to be so sad when she realizes that Christmas is over! She keeps asking when Santa is coming back, where Poppa Elf is, and where are more presents.” My cousin further clarified that those Christmas Cards, were in fact NOT from Uncle Rhett, but were really Dollar Shave Club inserts.

I was aghast, and immediately typed, with perhaps an excessive use of exclamation points, “But Christmas isn’t over! We get 12 days of Christmas!!! We celebrate until Epiphany on January 6!” A fact she is well aware of considering our Grandmother’s birthday was on Epiphany. Let that sweet baby keep on celebrating!

That is the conundrum though, isn’t it? How to forge on when the seemingly grand celebration is over. When it feels as though there are more nettles on the floor than on the tree, when the boughs have begun to sag, and the pretty twinkly wrappings in which the gift was swaddled have been discarded. When life has begun to return to its usual routine, and we can hide from the media barrage no longer.

I can’t deny that it is challenging to carry the magic of Christmas into the days beyond and into all seasons of life. But incarnationally speaking, the wonder, the mystery, and the majesty do last. The gift of the Incarnation is that Christ always was, always is, always will be with us.

Today is Epiphany Sunday, the season of Christmas is officially over, and in less than 12 hours, the annual pageant will take place during the 5:30pm service. For some, the production of these enactments can be stress inducing with the pinning of halos, the learning of lines, and the distribution of costumes. But personally, as y’all have heard me say time and again, I LOVE Epiphany Pageants with their wayward lambs, errant little angels, twinkling stars, anxious wise-people and their camels, beaming Holy Mothers, Josephs hesitant to hold Mary’s hand, dogs dressed as donkeys, and Youth and Adults who are still willing to dress up and join in so that the whole church from the youngest to the oldest can be witness to the light of Christ in one another. It is an opportunity to engage with and live out one of our most sacred stories as Christians. Granted we’ve played with the storyline a bit. We’ve taken bits and pieces of different Gospel stories, added in a few apostles, saints, and historians. So, while perhaps not completely historically accurate, it is all done in an effort to embrace the spirit of the most sacred story of a journey to a place called Hope.

Barbara Crafton in her book, Come Here Jesus, released this past fall, reflects on her own experience with pageants, recalling that as a child the pageant ended the same way every year. “After the shepherds and the angels had departed, after the kings had given their gifts, after Mary had sat very still for all three verses of “Silent Night” while [they] all watched her ponder things in her heart, these Elizabethan words from the prologue to the Gospel of John” were spoken. Words we heard just last week from John “who draws us away from the manger, away from Bethlehem, away from the Holy Land, away from the earth- out, out into the mysterious universe, out into the mystery of time and the creation of everything that is.

And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”[1]

And thus, the lessons from last week and this week merge together as “We are invited to dwell in the Word made flesh and to bring our darkness to the place where it can comprehend [God’s] light,”[2]a star shining in the East, dazzling the cosmos. “The star the magi followed was the word of Christ. They never traveled alone. All along, Jesus was with them and calling them to [him]. His word, his presence, appeared to their eyes as a star, to their minds as a power to get up and go, and to their hearts as a longing and desire, an absence that held the divine presence within them.”[3]

Crafton invites her readers to recall the Christmas of 1968, when the crew of Apollo 8 read to viewers and listeners across the globe the story of creation.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Crafton muses that “as they read the ancient words, they beheld the earth in a way no human being had ever seen it: hanging in the blackness of space like a bright jewel, its waters a rich blue, its continents snowy white…They read Genesis from space on that Christmas fifty years ago, not the first chapter of John” (or the story from Matthew or Luke) but choose “our ancient mythology over our ancient mystery. But both…tell the same tale, each in its own way: this was our beginning, this Word. Everything emerged from it and continues to emerge, traveling through space, traveling swiftly along with all the other bodies in motion: all the stars, every planet, asteroid, all the space dust, the molecules and atoms, the subatomic particles- all of us.”[4]

“God’s glory shines among us in Jesus Christ with vivid signs that move heaven and earth.”[5]A light shone down on us. A star of hope shines bright for us, and with us, and in us. We have been made living lights of Christ. Therefore, to help you embody and practice being the light bearers you are, you have been given a gift, an epiphany star of your very own, a star word. In your bulletins today, you will find a simple bright star with a word written on it. “The premise is this: the magi followed the star to find baby Jesus, bringing their gifts. We are also seeking Jesus, trusting God can/does use many signs (or stars) to guide us closer to the Divine presence.”[6]As we celebrate the experience of Epiphany, the star at its rising, you are encouraged to take this star with you, don’t discard it. Take it home, hang it up where you will be sure to see it every day. Ponder these words in your hearts, reflect on what significance this word might have in your life, what it may mean for you in the coming year, how God may be guiding you.

Throughout the year, you are encouraged to share some thoughts, either briefly or at length, about your star words with us and one another. “Thus it [may] be that on a bright summer Sunday in the heat of August, we will be reminded of” the wonder, mystery, and majesty of Christmas and of that January Sunday surrounded by candles with random stars taped to your bulletins when we were called to reflect on the brightness of God who continually guides, encourages, and strengthens.[7]“The more we become aware of ourselves as shined upon, the more we are able to reflect, and the more we are able to shine.”[8]Perhaps that is what is meant to be the delight of Star Words.

The story of Christ continues to live through us, through the children, Christmas cards, the heavenly hosts, and yes even in pageants. There is good news in the gift that has been given to us in the birth of Christ. We are called to follow unexpected lights, dancing stars that guide our way, to pray for peace, to give thanks, utilize the spirit of wisdom which has been given to us, and act with faith and courage in the face of risk and danger. These are the gifts we bring.So that with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may know what is the HOPE to which he has called us, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.[9]

 

[1]Come Here Jesus, Barbara Crafton, 2018

[2]Planning for Rites and Rituals, Yr C, 2018-2019

[3]https://interruptingthesilence.com/2018/01/07/what-is-absent-from-your-life-an-epiphany-sermon-on-matthew-21-12/

[4]Come Here Jesus, Barbara Crafton, 2018

[5]New Proclamation, Yr C, 2013

[6]https://revgalblogpals.org/star-words/

[7]https://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2009/star-gifts

[8]Connections, Yr C 2018-2019

[9]Paraphrase of Ephesians 1: 18-19