Last night Bishop Santosh Marrray kicked-off our Lenten Speaker Series with his talk, “No One Touches Me.”  Audio for the  presentation may be accessed here.

Bishop Marray shared a story of how an HIV-infected outcast in a church where he was serving, became an integral part of the community after Bishop Marray hugged his sore-infested body.

Crossing the uncomfortable divide of touching the untouchable healed the man, healed the community.

Bishop Marry also told about the challenging, important work that is being done at Grace Episcopal Church in Woodlawn.  Grace has for years been a beacon of hope in an under-resourced part of Birmingham.  They are a model for urban ministries–even though they struggle greatly to meet their own modest budget.

Recently, in a presentation to the diocese,  Grace’s rector, Mother Robyn told of how Grace opens its doors to those in need on cold nights.  Robyn and members of the congregation sleep on cots with the homeless, awake early and cook them a hot breakfast.

“It is good that we are uncomfortable so others may be more comfortable.”  Robyn told Bishop Marray and those who were at the gathering.

I felt so convicted.  My sister Robyn was willing to camp out in her sanctuary with whomever stopped by, and just a couple of weeks ago I had chosen to sleep in a hotel instead of a bunk-style cabin at Camp McDowell with fellow Episcopalians.

“It is good that we are uncomfortable so others may be more comfortable.”

Jesus was always pushing comfort zones–eating with sinners and tax collectors, challenging authorities–Sunday we will even hear him  call Herod a “fox.”

Where are you being invited to step outside your comfort zone to be Christ’s presence in the world?

Where are we as a congregation being invited to step outside our comfort zone so others may be more comfortable?





Letting Go of Beliefs

Watercolor by Kathrin Burleson

As we begin our Lenten journey, we are encouraged to be particularly intentional about spiritual practices.  Three practices associated with Lent are fasting, almsgiving, and prayer.  Most of us think of fasting from a particular food or drink. Partnered with prayer, this kind of fasting can, among other things, create an awareness around our attachment to personal comfort.  Denying ourselves can call to mind a solidarity with those who have no choice but to fast–like those suffering in Syria today.

After listening to our diocesan convention keynote speaker, Tom Brackett, I have been wondering about how fasting from habitual ways of thinking, might create awareness around attachments to beliefs that separate us from God.

Beliefs like–

  • I need to succeed to be loved by God, or others;
  • God is vengeful  and punishing;
  • There is limited abundance in the world, therefore celebrating the gifts of others will diminish my own
  • My worth is determined by net worth, good looks, ___ you fill in the blanks.

This Ash Wednesday morning, what one belief would you like to release in the service of deepening your relationship to God, yourself, and the world around you?

I pray for our release from unhealthy beliefs, and I welcome you to join us for Ash Wednesday service with the imposition of ashes at 7pm tonight.  Childcare and children’s chapel will be provided.  In fact, the children will begin the service in the parish hall instead of our customary practice of the nave.

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of the all who are penitent:  Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,…through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (The beginning of the Ash Wednesday service in the BCP p. 264 )