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Farewell, The Falls Church Episcopal

Farewell, The Falls Church Episcopal
The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal October 27, 2019

Well I’ll name the elephant in the living room up front, which is that this is my last service here with you as your Rector, and therefore this is my final sermon.

I don’t have anything new to say to you this morning.
But, I hope, I’ve never had anything new to say to you - I hope I have spent seven years and two months reminding you of old truths, ancient truths, lasting truths.
Seven years and two months: that's roughly 366 Sundays, and while of course I’ve only preached on slightly more than half of those Sundays, most Sundays we preach twice, and so roughly speaking, I figure I’ve preached over 350 times here.
And in all those sermons I’ve really only been trying to make three points.
One, you are the Body of Christ and individually members of it.
Two, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he said “love the Lord your god with all your heart, soul, and might, and…
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America's best posture

Note: because the famous quote from the Statute of Liberty is in the news, I wanted to re-post a portion of a sermon I preached, partly on that topic, in September of 2015.  

Most people are familiar with a couple lines of the poem that is written on a tablet within the pedestal on the Statute of Liberty in New York: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” 
The poem is called “The New Colossus” by the Jewish poet Emma Lazarus. Here’s the whole poem:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch,  whose flame is the imprisoned lightening,  and her name Mother of Exiles.  
From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command  The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips.  “Give me your tired, your poor,  Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretche…

First things first

As we near the end of the season of Lent, a simple but often-forgotten point:

We are reminded each Sunday in Lent that Jesus summarized the law -- not only all the commandments, but all the Law and the Prophetic sayings -- by saying

"The first commandment is this:
Hear, O Israel,
the Lord your God is the only Lord.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.

The second is this:
love your neighbor as yourself.

There is no commandment greater than these." (From Mark: 12:29-31).

This whole season of Lent, we've been emphasizing the customary "disciplines" of Lent, and pointing out that the root of the word "discipline" is the same as "disciple."

Some common synonyms for "disciple" are "follower," "adherent," or "devotee."

I think the best synonym for "disciple," however, is "apprentice" -- someone who attaches him- or herself to som…

"I was a stranger, and you welcomed me..."

I want to share a remarkable story with you --  one of the most important stories I've shared. If you want to jump right to the story, here it is:


Background: Glennon and Amanda Doyle spoke at The Falls Church Episcopal last year. Some folks are aware that Glennon's sister, Amanda, is a parishioner here.

As part of their speaking engagement here, Glennon and Amanda raised money for Together Rising, their organization that identifies "what is breaking people's hearts around the world" and then connects people and organizations who are effectively addressing that need.

One such project that has been breaking my heart, and perhaps also yours, is the separation of asylum-seeking families at our nation's border. 

Let me hasten to add that this -- the humane treatment of asylum-seekers -- is not a partisan issue. It is a moral issue. People of good conscience can agree to disagree about a wide range of policies regarding immigration, and I'm not weighing in on a…

"Put out into the deep water--that's where the fish are."

At the beginning ofthe Gospel story we hear this Sunday, fishermen -- ordinary working folk who would, by the story's end, become some of Jesus' closest followers -- are washing their nets. 

They've fished all night long, but have caught nothing. These are not recreational fishermen; fishing is their livelihood. And so it's a bad situation.
Jesus gets into one of their boats and teaches. After he's done teaching, he tells the fishermen, "put out into the deep water, and let your nets down for a catch."
I'm not sure what strikes Rev. Kelly about this passage and where it'll take her in her sermon on Sunday, but the the part of the story that jumps out at me is Jesus' instructions to his followers (after he has taught them!) to "put out into thedeepwater."
God instructs us to venture out into the deep waters when we, like the fishermen, have been working hard but have nothing to show for it. When we wonder if, despite all our hard work, w…

Look Away from the Brights -- it's human nature to move toward that which we are looking at or concentrating on

A few weeks ago, when we had a small, combined worship service due to major snowfall, Rev. Kelly preached a homily about how the church community can be a bit like driver’s ed: at its best, a faith community acts as a experienced teacher, giving us, disciples or learners, real-time guidance in navigating life in a relatively safe setting.
And that’s this: if you’re driving at night, and someone is coming the opposite direction with their brights or high beams on, you must resist the temptation to stare at those lights.
To build on Kelly’s analogy, I’m want to repeat something I shared a few years ago, a lesson we learn in driver’s ed that is applicable to churches today.

As every driver knows, someone coming toward you with their brights on is annoying and distracting. It’s terribly rude of them.
Worse, if we allow ourselves to be distracted, it can be dangerous. That’s because it is human nature to move toward that which we are looking at or concentrating on. If you stare at the brights…

Opening Up our "Shutting Down," Part Two -- A Crisis of Leadership, and God's Judgment on Nations

I'm continuing here thoughts I started last week on the now-record-longest government shutdown.

Let me begin by stating the obvious: unfortunately, because the problems underneath the current government shutdown have long and deep roots, those problems are not going away any time soon.

Like you, I hope and pray the government fully re-opens tomorrow.

But even if it does, and even if --  as I wish could be the case -- everyone who, through no fault of their own, is being harmed financially by the shutdown were somehow made whole, we would still have a major problem on our hands.

That's because the government shutdown, bad as it is, is only one symptom of a larger crisis.

I believe the word "crisis" is correct. We are facing a crisis.

But the crisis we're facing is not the huddled masses yearning to breathe free who are making their ways to our borders and shores. It is a crisis of leadership on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

As I argued last week, I believe …