Video Sermons

 

 

Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s 

gospel reflection for the Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

 

Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s 

gospel reflection for the Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost.

(This is a recording of Morning Prayer. Nancy’s homily begins at the 11:11 minute mark).

 

 

 

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s 

gospel reflection for the Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

 

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video gospel reflection of Martha Dudich, Trinity Lay Associate

for Liturgy and Spirituality, for the Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

 

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s 

gospel reflection for the Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

 

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s 

gospel reflection for the Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

 

Thirteenth Sunday of Pentecost

 

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s 

gospel reflection for the Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

 

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s 

gospel reflection for the Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

 

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s 

gospel reflection for the Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

 

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s 

gospel reflection for the Tenth Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

 

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

 

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s 

gospel reflection for the Ninth Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

 

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s 

gospel reflection for the Sixth Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s 

gospel reflection for the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

 

Third Sunday After Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of Martha Dudich’s 

gospel reflection for the Third Sunday After Pentecost.

 

 

 

Second Sunday After Pentecost

Below is the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s homily prior to Trinity’s Annual Meeting. As this sermon was not recorded, we offer the homily here in print form —

“Well, I think it is safe to say that when we last met for the annual business meeting of Trinity Buckingham, none of us could have imagined that a pandemic was right around the corner. One day we were gathered here for worship, singing, hugging, sipping from a common cup, and lingering over coffee, and the next we were in quarantine.

At first, we thought we’d be closed for a couple of weeks while the virus ran its course and disappeared. I must admit that first week, I reveled in the gift of extra time. I deep cleaned the rectory kitchen, organized closets, caught up on mending, and read a novel. By the middle of the second week, it was dawning on all of us that this was not a simple two-week break, but a major public health crisis.

Fear for our lives and livelihoods and those of our loved ones set in. We began to wonder how on earth we would maintain relationships and continue to be church—the body of Christ—when we were isolated at home and away from one another. I remember the moment I realized that I was going to have to figure out how to provide for our worship and fellowship and spiritual needs virtually.

Technology has never been my strong suit, but overnight I became a televangelist.

Reed Chapel became a production studio and I practically lived there, looking at the little red light on my cell phone and imagining you all saying the responses at home, or reading stories to children in my pajamas in front of the fire place, or inviting unseen participants to silence at Morning Meditation. It was a great joy to be able to include some lay leaders and have Martha’s beautiful voice and skill at the keyboard enrich our worship with music, even though we were each in our own homes.

As the summer wore on, it became clear that live streaming is simply going to be part of our lives as a worshipping community from now on. Paul Harar spearheaded the technology project that extended the wireless internet to the sanctuary, added a camera and a computer with software that lets us broadcast on our website and on Facebook. When this Boxcast system went live in September, our virtual attendance tripled, and I heard from many of you about how wonderful it was to see our beloved chancel once again. An added bonus was that we added a new speaker in the rear of the sanctuary which has improved the audio for those who attend worship in person as well as on line. We were fortunate to receive a technology grant from the diocese for about half the cost of the project. We are also blessed to have the technological wizardry of 14-year-old Ewan Swidorski, who comes faithfully every Sunday to make sure things are operating smoothly and manages the camera.

Like most of you, I’d never heard of Zoom before the pandemic. Now I host Bible Study and Morning Prayer and Compline and book study and coffee hour and vestry meetings. I’m on Zoom with members of this church community six days a week. I am always so glad to see your faces pop up on my screen! One of the blessings of this odd way of being together is that our weekly bible study has tripled in size and often includes members of the Trinity family who have moved from the area.

Your vestry and I made lots of phone calls those first few months, checking in to see how you were doing and how we could support one another through the quarantine. Martha and I curated seasonal resources to support our spiritual lives in diaspora, and Joanne Welker and Natalie Welker-Marx lovingly mailed them to our 150 households throughout the year. I have been so encouraged by the way you have reached out to one another—phone calls, cards, emails, texts, surprise gifts and food deliveries. Even apart, we have been together.

The quarantine made providing pastoral care so difficult for all of us. I heard from and prayed for parishioners who had contracted COVID, or coped with other health crises, but the virus kept me from being able to make pastoral visits. I wept with those who lost family members and friends and were unable to be with them at their hospital or deathbeds, or to hold funerals or memorial services. We still have much grieving to do together.

But as hard as it has been, it has not been all bad news. Marty and Lauren Gillen began to produce a bi-weekly Trinity Buckingham Good News newsletter, and month by month we have celebrated birthdays, graduations, the births of grandchildren, eager for the smiling pictures and proof that life continues in pandemic. Members of the community gifted one another with music and stories and poetry and candles during the twelve days of Christmas. Cynthia’s seemingly endless supply of cartoons to accompany the eblast has brightened our days with holy humor.

We’ve celebrated some real milestones this year. Two 100th birthdays: Cornelia Humphreys in August, with a distanced, drive-by balloon and banner celebration, and Jane Eastwood’s birthday celebration here at Trinity just a few weeks ago on April 25. Maddie Bannon, Emily McCreary and Max Harar have graduated from High School this year. And we’ve said some hard goodbyes. Doris Whelan, Donna Wisnom, Richard Newman, Lue Hansen, Nick Trunzo, Elaine Good and Dennis Zak left us this year to dwell in the kindly shelter of the Trinity.

Despite the quarantine, Trinity has been anything but dormant. Take a look at the facelift Faith Hall received from the woodworking skills of Jake Swidorski and the paint brushes of Sara Swidorski, Joanne Welker, Natalie Welker Marx and Jim Sanders. Spring daffodils covered the lawn in front of Historic Trinity, a gift planted this year in memory of former parishioner Joanne Phillips. In a year that saw many preschools close—some permanently—the Trinity Buckingham Academy has remained open. Under the direction of Alison Rose and six dedicated teachers, we have had a thriving program for three year olds and four year olds all year long. Department of Education grants allowed the purchase of a fogging machine and two portable air filtrations systems and masks and disinfectants. Ali reports that not only did they have no COVID cases, they had no colds, or flu or stomach bugs this year either! She also reports a waiting list for fall for the first time in quite a few years.

Our support of children and families has been strong during the pandemic. Others of our outreach ministries did not fare as well. For the first time since its inception, the Code Blue shelter wasn’t hosted by Trinity in January, although many parishioners did continue to volunteer for both meals and shelter shifts at the new January host site: Our Lady of Guadalupe. Sadly, the shelter will not be returning to Trinity. Guadalupe has a much larger volunteer base and a space better able to accommodate overnight guests, and so will become the January shelter site for Code Blue. We will continue to have a vital ministry to our unhoused neighbors, just not on site. Community PeaceMeal has also been on hiatus, during the pandemic, but we look forward to its return to Trinity as a collaboration of St. Philips, Trinity Buckingham and Trinity Solebury, perhaps by fall.

Our outreach ministry continued in many smaller and quiet ways: masked people dropped off bags of groceries during Christmas in July, and bicycles in the fall, shopped on-line for our Christmas gift-tag projects and have kept the office in gift cards and the rector’s discretionary fund flush for the weekly phone calls we receive from people in need of aid. Never let it be said that Trinity is not a generous parish.

This has been especially true in how you have kept up and even exceeded your financial support of the parish in the last year. Our operating budget has been impacted by the loss of income from rentals and from in-person offerings at Christmas Eve and now two Easter Services, but thanks to all of you, Trinity is still financially afloat. We’ll talk more about finances in just a moment, but I do want to thank you for your timely, ongoing and unfailing financial support of this parish.

And here we are. Nearly 15 months after Coronavirus shut our doors, the campaign of public vaccinations is allowing to open them again, and we are gradually resuming some familiar ways of worship, song, fellowship, community and ministry. But as I said in my sermon last week, I think the church—not just Trinity, but the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church—is at a crossroads. Like Nicodemus, we are being asked to be born anew. These next weeks and months will be ones of discernment and hard choices. We have been changed by these last 15 months, and we will never be the same. Despite a strong desire on the part of many of us to get back to normal as quickly as possible, going back may be neither possible nor truly desirable.

You, your vestry and I will be asking and seeking God’s help to answer some tough questions as we go on from here: Who are we as a result of this last year? What have we learned about God, about ourselves, about community in these months? What God is calling us to do for the life of the world, and one another now? What, from our pre-pandemic life, will we choose to pick up again? What might we choose to lay down, in order that we might pick up something else? Are there things to celebrate, bless, give thanks for and entrust to Trinity’s hallowed past, instead of carrying their bones with us into the future? And what are the resources for ministry that we will need to act on whatever answers we discern—space, time, volunteers, staff, money.

These next months—this next year—can be an exciting time for Trinity. As St. John wrote in his first letter: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” John goes on to say that God delights in revealing Godself to those who take the time to look, listen and trust.

Ahead of this annual meeting I sent you a brief survey. As much as anything, the questions were to prime the pump, to tickle the imagination of your hearts and prayers as we move forward together into God’s future. This is your chance…it’s not your only chance, but it is an important chance to make your own dreams known. As it becomes safer and we become more at ease with being together again face to face and sharing food fellowship, there will be opportunities to engage around questions of worship, education, outreach, pastoral care, fellowship, property, program and resources in smaller groups. In the meantime, I encourage you to speak with me and with members of your newly configured vestry about your vision for our common worship and ministry.

For now, let me leave you with the words of St. Paul: Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Glory to God from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.”

 

 

Trinity Sunday

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s

gospel reflection for Trinity Sunday 2021.

 

 

 

The Seventh Sunday of Easter

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s

gospel reflection for the Seventh Sunday of Easter 2021.

 

 

 

The Sixth Sunday of Easter

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s

gospel reflection for the Sixth Sunday of Easter 2021.

 

 

 

The Fifth Sunday of Easter

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s

gospel reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter 2021.

 

 

 

The Fourth Sunday of Easter

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s

gospel reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter 2021.

 

 

 

The Third Sunday of Easter

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s

gospel reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter 2021.

 

 

 

The Second Sunday of Easter

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s

gospel reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter 2021.

 

 

 

Easter Sunday

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s

gospel reflection for Easter Sunday 2021.

 

 

 

Palm Sunday

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s

gospel reflection for Palm Sunday 2021.

 

 

 

The Fifth Sunday of Lent

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s

gospel reflection for this fifth Sunday of Lent.

 

 

 

The Fourth Sunday of Lent

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this

fourth Sunday of Lent.

 

 

 

The Third Sunday of Lent

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this

third Sunday of Lent.

 

 

 

 

The Second Sunday of Lent

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this

second Sunday of Lent.

 

 

 

The First Sunday of Lent

Please click the image above to open the video link of Martha Dudich’s gospel reflection for this

first Sunday of Lent.

 

 

 

Absalom Jones Sunday, The Sixth Sunday of Epiphany

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this

sixth Sunday of Epiphany.

 

 

 

 

The Fifth Sunday of Epiphany

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this

fifth Sunday of Epiphany.

 

 

 

 

The Fourth Sunday of Epiphany

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this

fourth Sunday of Epiphany.

 

 

 

The Third Sunday of Epiphany

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this

third Sunday of Epiphany.

 

 

 

The Second Sunday of Epiphany

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this

second Sunday of Epiphany.

 

 

 

The First Sunday of Epiphany

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this first

Sunday of Epiphany.

 

 

 

The Second Sunday after Christmas

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this second

Sunday after Christmas.

 

 

 

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rachel Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this fourth

Sunday of Advent — a message from Mary, mother of Jesus.

 

 

 

The Third Sunday of Advent

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this third

Sunday of Advent.

 

 

 

Second Sunday of Advent

Please click the image above to open the video link of Martha Dudich’s gospel reflection for this second

Sunday of Advent.

 

 

 

First Sunday of Advent

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this first

Sunday of Advent.

 

 

 

Last Sunday of Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Matthew Simpson’s gospel reflection for this Sunday

on the Reign of Christ.

 

 

 

Twenty-fourth Sunday of Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday

on the Parable of the Sowers.

 

 

Twenty-Third Sunday of Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Matthew Simpson’s gospel reflection for this Sunday

on the Prophet Amos.

 

 

Twenty-Second Sunday of Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday featuring a slideshow of saints through the ages through our current time and place. Blessed All Saints’ Day!

 

 

Twenty-First Sunday of Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday on how we are shaped by what we love.

 

 

Twentieth Sunday of Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday on whether or not church and politics should remain separate.

 

 

Nineteenth Sunday of Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday on the parable of the Great Feast.

 

 

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday on St. Francis of Assisi.

 

 

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday on lessons from the time of Exile and today’s time of pandemic.

 

 

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday on the Parable of the Sowers.

 

 

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

 

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday.

 

Here is the text:

Sermons at Trinity Buckingham

September 13, 2020

The Rev. Dr. Nancy Burton Dilliplane

 

In the name of God, Holy One, Holy Three.  Amen.

Today’s gospel reflection is brought to you by the letter “H” and the number “7”

Holy.  Hallowed.  Halleluia.  Hope.  Heaven.  All churchy sounding words that begin with the letter “H”.  But the word I’d like to focus on this morning is “Hyperbole.”

Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device.  It is a figure of speech designed to evoke strong feelings and create strong impressions.  In most cases, these exaggerations or figures of speech are not meant to be taken literally. 

We use hyperbole all the time in our daily lives—“I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!”  “I’m sick of hearing that.  If you say it again I’m going to throw up!” “Sometimes he makes me so angry I could kill him!”  Mostly we know how to interpret statements like these and we don’t phone the ASPCA, grab a bucket and mop or call the police homicide division.

When it comes to scripture, thought, we are often slow to recognize hyperbolic speech. And that’s too bad, because Matthew’s gospel this morning is just full of hyperbole.  Jesus uses exaggeration after exaggeration to make his point about the importance of forgiveness.

Let’s take a minute to put today’s passage in context.  It follows the story we heard several weeks ago—the story of Peter’s confession of faith—the story of how Peter was the first to call Jesus Messiah—the son of the living God.  In response, Jesus called Peter the rock on whom he would build his church.  And then Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. 

In my gospel reflection on this story, I told you that I thought that the keys that opened heaven were mercy and forgiveness.  And I invited you to send me a story or a reflection or an experience or a question you had about mercy and forgiveness, in exchange for a secret treasure from my personal treasure box.  By now those of you who accepted the invitation should have received your secret treasure in the mail. 

And the rest of you?  Well, I’ll give you one more week, and if you don’t send me something, I’m going to take your name out of the parish directory and stop sending you the eblast until you do.

But enough of my hyperbole.  Let’s return to gospel.  

First comes Peter’s question about forgiveness:  If a member of the church sins against me, how many times must I forgive?  As many as seven times?” That’s already a bit hyperbolic.  It’s as if Peter is saying, how often do I need to forgive?  EVERY SINGLE DAY?  Is forgiveness really something I have to practice that often?

Jesus picks up on this and says, “not seven but seventy-seven times.”  In some translations it reads “not seven but seventy times seven.”  Jesus takes Peter’s exaggeration and inflates it even more.  He makes forgiveness not a daily, but an hourly occurrence.  Jesus’ hyperbole suggests that forgiveness is more than a once-in-awhile thing, it is a way of life.

This is gospel math along the lines of how five loaves of bread expand to feed a crowd.  Jesus’ exaggerated response to Peter’s points to the abundance of kingdom of heaven, and to God’s compassion and mercy and abundant forgiveness.  Forgiveness of this magitude is a God thing.  And this God thing is meant to become the way of Christian life. 

To drive home the point, Jesus then shares a parable drenched in more hyperbole. 

A servant owes a king 10,000 talents.  In first century economic terms, a talent was worth about 6,000 denarii.  And a denarius was about what a servant could expect to be paid for a day’s labor.  If I’ve done my math correctly, that means that the servant owed the king about 60 million denarii.  In today’s terms, that’s the debt of a small nation, not an individual!  No person could ever hope to repay it.  Not even by selling themselves and their family into servitude for several lifetimes.  The debt is outrageous. 

But in an equally outrageous act of compassion and mercy, the king forgives the debt.  The servant is set free.  His life is restored many times over.

Now it happens that a second servant owes the first servant100 denarii.   That’s a large amount of debt, but payable.  And it is miniscule by comparison to the debt that has just been forgiven by the king.  And yet, the forgiven servant refuses to forgive the debt of his fellow servant. 

The parable doesn’t tell us why someone who has been forgiven an almost unimaginable debt would be unwilling to show mercy to someone else.  But it’s not, perhaps, an unfamiliar story.  How often, throughout history, biblical and otherwise, have the oppressed, once freed from oppression, turned around and become the oppressor?  What makes human beings behave that way?  What keeps us from extending compassion and mercy to others when we, ourselves, have received so much?  When we owe our very lives to the mercy of the Sovereign God, who are we to withhold mercy from others?

Why, when God forgives us over and over again—not just seven times, but seventy times seven times—and welcomes us home with open arms, are we so stingy when it comes to forgiving others?  Why do we not use the keys we’ve been given to open the gates of heaven for other people?   If the parable leaves us asking those questions, it has done its job.  We could leave it right there, and have enough to reflect on and repent of for the rest of the week.

But Jesus doesn’t end the parable there, he drives his point home by speaking of the king’s terrible disappointment and anger.  “In anger the king handed the unforgiving servant over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Does anyone else find this jarring? What happened to the merciful, forgiving king from the first part of the parable? Is there a limit to forgiveness, after all, despite that seventy times seven thing?  What are we to make of how this parable ends? 

The answer, I think, is that this, too, is hyperbole. Have you ever been so disappointed or so angry that you thought or said, “Oh, I could just murder you right now?”  Or “burn in hell?”  Judgmental, unforgiving, unmerciful over-the-top statements sometimes fly out of our mouths.  The thing is, we don’t intend to act on them (I hope).  Instead, we use exaggeration to try to convey the depth of our feelings.  The utter seriousness of the matter at hand.  If the end of the parable unsettles you, good!  

Jesus is that serious about the importance of forgiving one another.  As I have loved you, so you should love one another.  As I have forgiven you, so you should forgive one another.  Just as it is the nature of God always to have mercy, and to bestow on us humans unmerited grace, it is God’s deep desire is that we would extend that grace, mercy and forgiveness to others.  It’s the key—or one of them—to living on earth as in heaven. 

Despite the warning at the end of the parable that God will act like the angry king, God does not, in fact, act that way.  Rather than handing us over to be tortured until our debts are forgiven, God gives us Jesus, who speaks forgiveness from the cross, and on the night before he died, instituted a new covenant in his blood, poured out for us all for the forgiveness of sins. 

Thanks be to God.  Amen.

 

 

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday — on addressing conflict with mercy, forgiveness through the power of the presence of Jesus in the midst of us.

Here is the text:

Sermons at Trinity Buckingham
September 6, 2020
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Burton Dilliplane

In the name of the one holy and triune God, Amen.

You know, I don’t usually think of Matthew’s gospel as a roller coaster of excitement.  But over the course of the last few weeks, he really has taken us on some ride!

Two weeks ago, Jesus asked the disciples “who do you say that I am?”  We soared high with Peter’s sudden insight and his confession of faith:  “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” We thrilled to Jesus’ ringing affirmation that Peter had  got it right:  “Blessed are you, Peter!  You are the Rock on which I will build my church!”

Then last week, Peter plummeted from grace.  He scolded Jesus for saying that God’s Messiah could possibly be arrested, tried, convicted and executed.  Suddenly it was no longer “you rock!” but “get behind me, Satan.”  In a matter of verses Peter went from high to low and Matthew took us along for the wild ride.

In this week’s Gospel lesson Matthew takes us on another loop-de-loop, this time with regards to the church.  Matthew is the only gospel to use the word “church”—ecclesia—to refer to the community that follows Jesus.  He first used the word church two weeks ago in a very positive way  when  Jesus proclaimed that the gates of  Hades would not prevail against his church. 

But this week….well….fasten your seat belt!   The mighty church appears to be awash in sin and conflict.  Zoom! The church is established.  Whoosh! It falls.

Before the church is even a generation old, it appears as if sin and broken relationships are par for the course.  Sorry if all this is making you dizzy,  but it would seem that from the very beginning, the church was not perfect. 

And well, maybe we shouldn’t be all that surprised.  Not when the church is founded on the likes of Peter:  Clear-sighted and faithful one moment, and missing the mark completely the next.

Truth to tell, I think most of us are like Peter.  At times we are willing to turn our lives inside out to follow Jesus, and at other times, we deny and betray him. We, flawed human begins are at once chosen to show the world what God’s love looks like, and pretty much guaranteed to behave in unloving ways.  When God chose to love humankind, God pretty much chose to ride a roller coaster.
Matthew’s gospel takes a good hard look at human sin and conflict and confirms what the church in every generation has known to be true:  despite our best intentions, challenges, division and conflict are part of every church community.  But, if we take a closer look, we find that Matthew’s focus isn’t really the sin and conflict, his focus is on reconciliation and forgiveness. In today’s gospel passage, he is showing his community how to use the keys to the kingdom of heaven that Jesus entrusted to Peter.  Matthew is showing his own church community how to deal with division and conflict when they occur, as they inevitably will.

First:  communicate! If you have a problem with someone else, first go and try talk to them directly. Don’t go around talking behind their backs, fueling the gossip mill and assembling  a judgmental, self-righteous faction to take sides.  Don’t go on an unfiltered rant on Facebook or Twitter.  We don’t need to look farther than the evening news or the op-ed page of the pater to observe  how conflict escalates when people complain and gossip about one another but are unwilling to talk to one another.  Matthew’s advice:  Be radical and courageous and seek out the person with whom you are in conflict and try to reconcile with them.

A word of caution though, before we take Matthew 18 uncritically as a how to manual:  I don’t think Matthew intends for us to go into threatening or unsafe situations alone.  Someone who is being bullied, for example, shouldn’t be made to approach the bully in private.  And there are clearly some situations that call for us to go directly to the police, or leave and find a safe haven.  And there are times we need to enlist the aid of someone skilled in handling conflict. 

But I don’t think those extremes of sin and conflict are what Matthew is envisioning here.  Matthew isn’t addressing relationships that are built on abusive power.  He is addressing the Christian community which is founded on Jesus’ example of self-giving love and service. 
Matthew is addressing a community who strives to base their relationships on power-for rather than power-over others.  He takes as a given that member of the church are invested in loving one another, reconciling their differences and mending broken relationships. 
He imagines that members of the church are willing to listen to one another and hear what the other person is saying.  If we truly take the time to speak to and to listen to one another, we may indeed gain or regain one another as brother or sister.  One-on-one communication may keep conflict from spreading and calcifying into divisions within the community.

Of course, sometimes, even when it is undertaken with good intentions on both sides, private conversation just cannot resolve differences.  Matthew then offers a second principle of conflict management:  enlist a few other members of the community to help you reconcile.

Matthew counsels the presence of two or three witnesses.  Jewish law, based on the book of Deuteronomy, required two or three witnesses to uphold a complaint, and to assure that the accusations against the other were just.  This isn’t 3 or 4 people ganging up on somone else, it is a small group of people dedicated to love and reconciliation seeking to help restore a loving relationship between two others.  And there is more.  Today’s gospel passage ends with Jesus’ promise to the Christian community “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Jesus promises to bring the power of his own healing, reconciling love to any gathering where loving relationships are the goal.  Jesus is in the midst of those who dedicate themselves, as he did, to forgiving and reconciling.   

That’s how I make sense of the next part of this morning’s gospel passage, which otherwise I find very troubling.  Matthew writes:  if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Gentiles and a tax collectors were two examples in Matthew’s time of people who were outside the bounds of community.  Very often this statement gets interpreted as a kind of “three strikes and you’re out” policy: a justification for excommunication—casting an offending member out of the church, excising him/her from the body of Christ.  If the offending member can’t be reconciled by one, several or the whole, then let him or her be put out of the community.

But wait!  Is this really what Jesus means?  Remember that Jesus could usually be found in the company of  those who were outside of the community. Is it what Matthew means?  Remember that Matthew was a tax collector.  I have to wonder what it means for Matthew the tax collector to say “let one be as a tax collector”?  Could it mean that, rather than casting the recalcitrant member out of the community, the community is to try all the harder to reconcile with him, to forgive her, restore him to community, to bring her back into the fold.
This position is made all the stronger when one looks at today’s Gospel in context.  The story that precedes today’s reading in the Gospel of Matthew is the story of the lost sheep.  The shepherd leaves the 99 to go in search of the one who has left the fold.  And immediately following today’s verses we have the story of Peter asking how many times one should forgive.  Should we attempt reconciliation as many as 7 times?  No, as many as 77.

When we read Matthew 18:15-20 in isolation, as we did this morning, there seems to be a clear three-strikes and you’re out approach to sin in the community of faith.  But in the larger context of chapter 18, Matthew insists that seeking out the lost, relentlessly working for reconciliation and restoring the sinner to the fold is the primary work of the community of faith. 

And that brings us to  Jesus’ words about binding and loosing.  This is the second time that Matthew has used those words, both in connection with ecclesia—the church.  The first was 2 weeks ago, when Jesus established the church upon Peter the Rock.  Matthew seems to be pretty insistent that Jesus has empowered the church to act in his name and to carry on his ministry in the world. 
The church has long interpreted these words as its commission to act as God’s proxy in passing judgment on sin—its authority to declare or withhold forgiveness.  And maybe it is.  And yet, today’s passage about how to deal with a sinner are surrounded by a gospel that proclaims mercy, forgiveness, seeking the lost, and our need for every one of our brothers and sisters.

Today’s collect reminds us about God’s mercy and compassion. We are the people who boast of God’s mercy.  And I think that, finally, is the context for our hearing of today’s gospel.  The church, with all its imperfections and conflict, is the primary witness to God’s reconciling, redeeming mercy in the world. 

Anglican theologian Sarah Dylan Breuer writes:
As Christians, we believe that Christ is reconciling the whole world and each of us in it to God and to one another. So when two Christians take their conflict as an opportunity to practice reconciliation, what they do in the Church can stand as a visible sign for the whole world of what we believe Christ is doing in the world. An outward and visible sign of a grace that we believe is happening in a broader and more mysterious way in the world.

Maybe that’s what Matthew had in mind in today’s gospel.  The way we, the church address conflict, and live in fellowship with one another despite unresolved differences among our members is a testimony to the world that God’s love and mercy are real.  The ways in which we listen to one another, and seek to draw one another back into relationship may be our truest proclamation about who God is, and the best hope for our nation and our world.

Jesus founded his church among flawed, sinful, conflict ridden human beings and said that it would be a place where God’s presence could always be found, so long as we hold onto the keys of forgiveness, inclusion, reconciliation, mercy and love.

Who do you say that I am?  You are the Messiah, the merciful and forgiving one, the Son of the living God.  And who do you say that you—the church—are?  We are the people who make our boast of God’s mercy and forgiveness.  Thanks be to God!  AMEN.
 

 

 

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Richard Vinson’s gospel reflection for this Sunday  — “It Is What It Is.”

 

 

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday on mercy and forgiveness being “keys to the kingdom.”

 

 

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday on The Story of the Canaanite woman.

 

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday on Matthew’s stories of Jesus and Peter walking on water.

 

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday on the Feeding of the 5000.

 

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the video link of the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection for this Sunday on the Parable of the Great Pearl.

 

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open a video of the Rev. Matthew Simpson’s gospel reflection for this Sunday.

 

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open Trinity’s Sunday worship service in its entirety. Pastor Nancy’s gospel reflection on the Parable of the Sower appears at the 10:00 minute mark.

 

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s video sermon on this Fifth Sunday after Pentecost.

 

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s video sermon — a meditation on water — on this Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.

 

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open a Facebook Live recording of Deacon Matthew Simpson’s Morning Prayer service including his gospel reflection beginning at the 25:00 minute timestamp.

 

Second Sunday after Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s video sermon of the twelve disciples on this Second Sunday of Pentecost.

 

Ninth Week of Easter — Trinity Sunday 

Please click the image above to open the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s video gospel reflection for Trinity Sunday 2020.

 

Eighth Week of Easter — Pentecost

Please click the image above to open the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s video gospel reflection for Pentecost Sunday 2020.

 

Seventh Week of Easter

 

Here is the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane’s gospel reflection on the challenges and the assurance the Ascension Day gospel might bring to us.

Please click the image above  to open the Seventh Week of Easter gospel reflection.

 

Sixth Week of Easter

Deacon Matthew Simpson’s reflections on his personal experience as a nurse during this pandemic and on the power of Jesus’ command to “Love one another.”

Please click here to open the Sixth Sunday of Easter Gospel reflection.

 

 

Fifth Week of Easter

 

This Mother’s Day Sunday Gospel Reflection is on Julian of Norwich’s life and teachings of the God’s nourishing and sustaining love for us.

Please click here to open this Mother’s Day Sunday Gospel Reflection.

 

Fourth Week of Easter

 

This Sunday’s Gospel Reflection is The Parable of the Good Shepherd Godly Play Story. You are invited to sink into the profound quiet moments throughout the story, full of wonder, to consider what meaning the story might hold for you in your life.

Where are you in this Godly Play Story?

Please click here to open this Sunday’s Gospel Reflection on the Parable of the Good Shepherd.

 

Third Week of Easter

 

Here is something new and wonderful —

In her sermon during Trinity’s Sunday worship service this week, the Rev. Nancy Dilliplane introduced us to the practice of Visio Divina, the thoughtful contemplation of a painting, a photo, a work of art, or really anything visual that invites God to speak to us in a deeper way.

“Visio” is very meaningful and exciting and fun for all ages.

Click here to open a the YouTube video of today’s gospel reflection.

(And click here for a printed description of the process of Visio Divina).

(And for a Visio lesson oriented to children and their loved ones, click here to open this week’s Pajama Vespers video)!

 

Palm Sunday Sermon 2020

 

“Why this huge turnaround? … How is it that glad Hosannas turned into angry cries for death? …. Why?

In no small part, I think it’s because Jesus didn’t live up to all of their hopeful expectations of him. The crowds expected one kind of Messiah, and they got another kind.

They didn’t’ get someone who came in the name and power of God to rescue them. They got someone who came in the name of the power of God to be WITH them.

I’m struck today with how similar this Palm Sunday to that one. This year we too are living in occupied territory. We too are not in control of our land, our lives or our livelihoods. Our enemy is not Rome. It’s Covid-19 ….”

Please click here to open and view the video.