Who is Jesus?

The Last Sunday after the Epiphany

We do not have the privilege of the disciples, walking with Jesus, praying with Jesus, seeing him heal and teach. We are lucky if we manage to have one of those life-changing, neck hair-raising experiences of the Holy Spirit—and even luckier if we realize that one of those experiences has happened.

When Peter, James, and John climb up on a mountain to pray with Jesus, they do so after a weeks-long discipleship orientation. They were there when Jesus calmed the storm, fed the thousands, and healed the widow’s son at Nain; they were there when Jesus told parable after parable and when he preached a sermon on the plain.

In a quiet moment, Jesus asks his friends who the crowds say that he is. Some think John the Baptist, some Elijah, others think one of the prophets of old.

“But who do you say that I am,” Jesus presses further.

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Location, location, location

The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

Pick up the Bible in your pew. Open it up about three quarters of the way through. Find the Gospel According to Matthew and turn it to chapter five. If you hit Mark, Luke, or John, you’ve gone too far. Matthew’s fifth chapter, along with the sixth and seventh are what is known as the “Sermon on the Mount.”

In the Sermon on the Mount we find great Jesus hits like:

  • “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.”
  • “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’
  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

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Jesus and the Fab Five

The Last Sunday after the Epiphany

I have been crying a lot lately. Don’t worry—I’m fine. I have been crying a lot lately because Netflix released a reboot of Queer Eye, a show in which a group of five gay men advise men on fashion, food, culture and design. In its rebooted form, the show is elevated above the previous iteration’s goal of equipping straight men with a style arsenal. Now the “fab five,” as they are called, seek to empower their “heroes” to care for themselves and their loved ones and to explore more diverse expressions of masculinity.

The fab five accomplishes their mission within forty-five minutes, which is unrealistic yet never fails to offer some mountaintop moment of catharsis. At its core, Queer Eye is about physical transformation—how the visible, tangible things of life can catalyze one’s views and behaviors for good.

I don’t believe that Queer Eye’s “fab five” was on Mount Tabor with Peter, James, John, Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, but if they had been, I am sure there would have been more glitter and a snarky comment about wearing white after Labor Day.

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Life Before Death

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

I have been doing some counting recently. There are 538 references to “love” in the Bible. 86 to “wealth,” and 1008 to faith. And in what may or may not prove to be prophetic, 33 to “eagles” and “0” to patriots.

There are also 63 occurrences of some form of the word “demon” in the Bible, one of which we heard just now from Mark, all of which are in the New Testament, and most of which are in the Gospels. Jesus encounters many demons and demon-possessed persons in his ministry.

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A Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious God

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Last May, Google decided to analyze search trends to determine the most commonly misspelled words in each state. Massachusetts had as much trouble spelling license as they do earning one. New Jersey has apparently decided that the number after eleven is “dozen” because they cannot spell “twelve” for anything. And Connecticut’s most commonly misspelled word?

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

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If EVERYONE received such kindness

The First Sunday after the Epiphany

Most of you are unaware that these last few days almost looked quite a bit different for St. Paul’s.

I awoke around 2 in the morning on Thursday to find that a friend of mine was stranded at Newark Airport with about 25 high school volunteers and a handful of chaperones. The group from Portland, Oregon had built a sports court at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic, and the storm caused their flight to be delayed from Wednesday until today. They were searching to a place to lodge that would be less expensive than the Wyndham Garden Inn.

I reached out to them and said, “I have this house…”

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Phone-Illumined Faces

The Feast of the Epiphany

I grew up in a rural, forested area of unincorporated Clark County, Washington. On cloudy days—which was most of them—it was intensely dark on Bridlewood Road. Even on clear nights, the darkness filled the valley, but in the night sky there was an impressive spectacle—enough stars to make Abraham blush. Light pollution did not hinder our view, and one of my favorite nighttime activities was going for a walk to gaze at the illuminated sky.

Since then I have mostly lived near cities—Washington, D.C., Quito, and Hartford. Evening walks to stare at the stars were no longer possible. But this summer, I traveled with my brother and his family and friends for a camping trip in the Dolomites of Northern Italy. On the very first night, I lay in my tent in a new time zone with too much cappuccino, so I ventured out for a walk and rediscovered the night sky. In the deep darkness of the mountains, I found my soul illuminated with that wonder I had sensed in my younger years.

When we dare to explore dark places, we discover just how illuminating the darkness can be. And yet, “Christianity has never had anything nice to say about darkness,” says Barbara Brown Taylor. Christians use ‘darkness’ as a synonym for sin, ignorance, spiritual blindness, and death; theologically, this language is terrifically problematic, dividing every day by pitting the light part against the dark part. “It tucks all the sinister stuff in the dark part, identifying God with the sunny part and leaving you to deal with the rest on your own time.” [1]

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