Category Archives: Homilies

Homily for the Last Sunday after Pentecost – Nov. 21 & 22

The Feast of Christ the King…Series B
The Church of the Good Shepherd (November 21st, 2015)

Text: John 18:33-37
Title: The Last Words of Fr. Dave+!
Text: Acts 20:32.

On November 8th, 1942, Allied forces under the command of General Dwight Eisenhower launched a bold and dangerous assault on German forces in North Africa. The assault was given the code name OPERATION TORCH. The day after the assault began (on November 9th) Sir Winston Churchill (who was serving as the Prime Minister of Great Britain) was interviewed by a young journalist for the London Times. The journalist asked Churchill to assess the impact of the Allied invasion on the effort to defeat Hitler and Nazi Germany. Churchill paused to ponder the journalist’s question and then, as only Churchill could he replied, “Well…this is certainly not the END…this is not even the BEGINNING of the END….it is only the END OF THE BEGINNING”. This is not the END…it isn’t even the beginning of the END…this is only the END of the BEGINNING!

This weekend, we join Christians around the world in celebrating the great feast of Christ the King, and, in our liturgies, we remember that our crucified and risen Christ is sovereign KING and that one day he will establish his eternal and glorious Kingdom of justice, peace and love in this bruised and broken world of of ours. The feast of Christ the King also marks the end of the church year. But, when you think about it, this isn’t really the end, because next weekend we celebrate the first Sunday in ADVENT…the beginning of a brand new year in the liturgical calendar. So, one liturgical year flows seamlessly into another, and the END is not really the END…it is only the end of a wonderful new beginning!

This weekend also marks the end of something else…not just the liturgical year, but the end of my ministry as your Interim Rector…your “Temporary Shepherd”. I don’t know about you, but I can’t believe an entire year has passed since I preached my first homily on Sat. Nov. 8th, 2014…but it’s true! And all I can say is that these twelve months have been among the richest and most satisfying of my nearly 30 years of ordained ministry. Tonight my heart is filled and overflowing with gratitude for each of you and for the time we have been together and I will never forget you!

But, when you think about it, tonight is not really the END, because next week you will welcome your new Rector…your “Permanent Shepherd”, Mth. Susan Osborne-Mott, and working together in a spirit of partnership, you will create the next chapter in the long and distinguished history of the remarkable parish. And, on December 21st, I will begin my ministry as the 23rd Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Mount Holly. So, just like one liturgical year flows seamlessly into another, so what may appear to be an end for us is actually an exciting and challenging new beginning filled with promise and with hope. And friends that is the way it is for us who follow in the footsteps of the Carpenter from Nazareth! The end is not the end…not permanently…the END is only the end of a new beginning!

According to my calculations this is the 107th homily that I have preached here at GSEC since arriving on the scene last November 3rd (The Feast of All Souls was my first service, but Dcn. Carl Dunn preached the homily and I listened). I want to conclude this final homily by sharing a verse from the Acts of the Apostles. In verse 32 of the 20th chapter of Acts, we hear a portion of the Apostle Paul’s farewell address to the Elders of the Christian community at Ephesus.

I chose this text to complete my preaching ministry here at Good Shepherd because Paul says to the Elders of the Church at Ephesus exactly what I want to say to you this morning:

And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified.

Today is a sad and a difficult day for me (and for Susan). It is more difficult to leave this church and all of you than I ever imagined it would be. .But, like the Apostle Paul, I commend each of you “to God and the message of His grace”. It is the unique role (and the sacred responsibility) of the priest to commend the people to God and God to the people…to commend the sheep to the Good Shepherd and the Good Shepherd to the Sheep! So, in spite of the sadness, there is real joy because I know that the same God who has been with us this past year will continue to be with his church and with all of you as you welcome Mth. Susan and together you continue your mission and ministry in this community. And I know that the message of his Grace, which has been proclaimed this past year will continue to be proclaimed and God will continue to use that word of proclamation to transform your hearts and to build you up and encourage you in the journey of Christian discipleship..

And so, with a touch of sadness mingled with a profound sense of joy and peace and gratitude, and with the courage, confidence and conviction of faith, we can affirm the great truth of the Gospel of Grace:

For the followers of the Carpenter from Nazareth…the Good Shepherd…Christ the King, No END is permanent. And what we end today is certainly not the END…it is not even the beginning of the END…it is only the END of a wondrous, grace-filled and exciting NEW BEGINNING!
God bless you…
Amen…

Homily for Pentecost 6 – July 5th, 2015

This homily was offered by parishioner Rich Harrington.

May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O lord.. Please be seated.

Good (Afternoon)/Morning.. This weekend, we celebrate the 239th Birthday of our Nation… We look to our flag, which represents “One Nation, under God”, and we celebrate again our Independence and recognize our land as a land of free people and the home of the remarkably brave.

I recently had the privilege of seeing my daughter Hayley graduate from High School. She graduated from Paul VI, a Catholic High school, and during the Homily, the Bishop advised the graduates that in order to know where you are going in the “new beginning” that each has reached, that you only need to reflect on where you have been, and to think about, and always remember, the “legends” in each of their lives.

Now According to Webster, independence means “freedom from outside control or support”. Each of us, at some point of our lives, may have experienced a yearning for SOME form of independence; from school, from our parents, maybe from a relationship which failed, or from a career that was unfulfilling – but I share with you a notion to think about – that no Christian ever achieves complete independence.

Many of us may have also experienced at some point in our lives, a “Revolution” (as Webster defines among many meanings as) “ a sudden or momentous change in a situation”. Some Revolutions are good, and some are not – but every meaningful Revolution has “legends”, or at least “legendary moments”.

So if I asked “Who were the “legends” of the American Revolution?”, I would expect to hear names like Paul Revere, Robert Paine, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and John Adams.

But What about God? Was God a “legend” of the American Revolution?

To get where I am going with that question, please reflect with me back upon how the colonists lived in the Eighteenth Century. The colonists under British rule lived in a monarchy where the King controlled the Church of England.. the Church leaders were sworn to “obey the rule of” the King. Throughout the colonial period, and even in the early years of the United States, most colonies or states had established churches that were legally recognized as THE official state church. Different colonies privileged different Christian ideologies – Congregationalism, the descendent of Puritanism was the official state church in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and Anglicanism was the established faith in most of the other colonies, including Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia. The early colonists harbored no expectation that there should be any separation between church and state, as that was not how they lived.

But state-supported religion is as an obstacle to true faith. Think of the first two commandments – last time I read Exodus, the King was not God… Those with little or no wealth or standing under the King’s church, left the Church of England in droves to become worship as Separatist Baptists, New Light Presbyterians, and Methodists. Freedom of worship for individuals – and freedom from government influence for churches led to the flourishing of Christian spirituality in America. And by the way, by 1840, the Methodist Episcopal Church was the largest religious denomination in the country, and the Baptists were not far behind.

Now a “legend” is someone who has fame and some level of notoriety in their achievements, and some significant effect on people’s lives. So while it is commonly inferred that religion was a direct cause of the American Revolution, and legendary Patriots of many religions came together to declare our independence – the true “legend” of the American Revolution was Christ.

So yes, not only was Jesus present with the colonists, he CALLED the Patriots to declare their independence, to bring together ONE Nation, Under GOD, from the thirteen colonies under the rule of the King.

The colonists had to sacrifice all outside support to take on the British, risking their lives (and many lives were lost), almost entirely on the notion that it was the right thing – the only right thing they could do. People of many different faiths came together for one common purpose – to put God before the King.

There are many examples of Christian influence in the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Forgive me for modernizing the texts of some of our national archives, but the concept from our Declaration of Independence that “all persons are created equal”, and that we, each of us and collectively are endowed by our Lord with certain unalienable rights, among them the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The First Amendment concept that the government shall neither prohibit the free exercise of religion by any people nor establish any religion by means of law, and the Ninth Amendment concept that the establishment of rights by our Constitution shall not be construed to disparage the rights of others come from the very core of Christian beliefs, and very well represented in the practices and preaching of the 21st Century Episcopal Church.

According to the story in Exodus, God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on two stone tablets. The fundamentals are still the same. Our greatest obligations are to worship God frequently and to worship only God, to protect life and persons against injury, to protect the bonds of the family, to protect commerce and law, to protect our parents (and our children, and those who are unable to protect themselves), to be truthful, and to not take what is not rightfully ours. God calls US, and continues to call US to create a government which is right and just equally and for everyone.

God even saw to it that the American Revolution was successful. Think about this: During the Easter Vigil every year, we read the story where Moses leads the Israelites across the Red Sea, allowing them to cross on dry land, protecting them from the charging Egyptian chariots, leaving the Egyptians, ruled by pharoh, to later drown in the Sea.

But did God not also bring the coldest and snowiest of winters to Colonial Pennsylvania at a key point of the Revolutionary War to hold back the British, ruled by their monarch, while a wounded and outnumbered Gen. Washington’s Army bunkered down in Valley Forge to heal and regroup and eventually outlast them?

God is good.. All the time.. Back then.. and Even more so now..

As great as our nation is.. as economically and militarily powerful as we are, these same ideals are under attack, not just by our adversaries, but within our own borders..

Some are challenging the freedom of public religious expression – expression not only of the Christian faith, but the Jewish faith, the community of Islam, and the expression of ANY religion or use of any religious reference.

Some are misconstruing the right to bear arms outside the context of the Constitutional purpose of a well-regulated militia, and insist that access to certain weapons which serve no traditionally lawful purpose be maintained by people with no role in the security of our communities, or our nation.

The balance between maintaining privacy and public security in managing the technology of our times is eroding the security of us both individually and as a nation.

And we continually as a society are debating WHICH rights are endowed to us by our creator – what is included and what is excluded in the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and injustices remain to which, we – as a society – continue to look the other way.

Maybe God is calling US – each and every one of US – to come together for a revolution – to revert back to many of the ideals upon which our nation was founded, in a contemporary context. It may be time for a sudden or momentous change in our situation. It IS time to graduate to a “new beginning” where we look back at where we have been, individually, but not just individually, and as a Parish, but not just as a Parish, and collectively as a NATION to think about who our “legends” really are, and both listen to AND ACT UPON what our Lord is calling each of us to do.

At Good Shepherd, We are not colonies of different families, we are ONE Parish family, and a family that needs to unite and grow together.

We need to be supportive of each other, and our Parish, and our Diocese, and both plan and provide for a stronger future for the mission of all of them.

We have an obligation to God to get his message and teachings out into the community – to send out the Good News of his love for all of us, and to bring others to him. Let’s not just put a sign on the door and welcome those who find the door – let’s take our work outside the red doors, and share with others how great it is to be here!

I am very proud to be a Christian American, but we must work together with people of all faiths to re-revolutionize our Great Nation with the true ideals, Christ’s ideals of liberty and equal justice for all.

We can, and we will – with God’s help.