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Showing posts from September, 2015

"Who am I to Judge?"

or, Does Pope Francis’ non-judgmental attitude cause him to smile, or does his smile cause him to have a non-judgmental attitude?
A sermon preached at The Falls Church Episcopal, Falls Church Virginia September 27, 2015 (Proper 21B) The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector
Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 Mark 9:38-50

If you’ve come here -- to this Episcopal church -- knowing we are not Roman Catholic, and thinking that you might get a break from what seems like 24/7 coverage of Pope Francis – well, sorry to disappoint you, you’ll have to wait a little longer. Because I want to add my voice to those who are praising him. Thanking God for him.
The current Pope is one of those rare people in life who motivate you to change your behavior without once telling you to do so.
Have you ever noticed that? – that the people who have the most influence on you are the ones who aren’t trying to change you? – that, ironically, the people who change us the most are the ones not trying to change us at all, but are simply…

Protect territory, or shepherd direction?

Around 2003, when the split in the Episcopal Church was heating up over the election of an openly gay priest as Bishop of New Hampshire, I ran across an odd but fascinating essay about mathematical "open and closed set theory" by the blogger Steve Collins. His essay -- all that is in quotes below, as well as the illustrations, are from it -- offered a helpful explanation not only of what was going in the Episcopal Church at the time, but also in the wider culture now.

I plan to say more during Sunday's sermon, but here's a peek:

"Closed set believers have a 'territorial' concept of God's kingdom," Collins writes. To them, God's kingdom, or favor, is enclosed within a boundary, and "Once you are inside the territory, care must be taken not to cross the boundary again."


Open set believers, on the other hand, define membership by movement toward or away from Jesus Christ as the center. "There are still those who belong and those th…

Caricature Christians?

A sermon by the Rev. John Ohmer, Rector, The Falls Church Episcopal Falls Church, Virginia September 13, 2015

Jesus is walking along with his disciples and suddenly asks them, “Who do people say that I am?” (In other words, “What are the prevailing opinions out there?”) They give him some of the most common theories, and then Jesus says, okay, let’s make this personal.
“Who do YOU say that I am?”
Peter answers (seemingly correctly at first) by saying he’s the Messiah, the long-awaited anointed one, but then when Jesus spells out what that means, it turns out Peter had it all wrong.

We are simply asked

(Edited from original post)

Twenty or more years ago, someone gave me what has become my favorite prayer/poem. It was written by the Jesuit* priest Peter Byrne, and it's this:

We are simply asked to make gentle our bruised world to tame its savageness to be compassionate of all (including ourselves) then in the time left over to repeat the Ancient Tale and go the way  of God's foolish ones.
I've also seen the prayer/poem in a different version, with the words "...from these ministries of justice and care" added after "in the time left over," but that always felt a little clunky to me. I often wondered if those words had been added, because they seem to break up what is otherwise a nice rhythm to the poem.

So three or four years ago, when I asked Mary, as my birthday present, to splurge on commissioning calligrapher Michael Podesta to write up the prayer/poem as something I could frame, I decided to research the prayer/poem.

To my delight, I ended up making contac…

The Best Posture of this Country

A sermon preached September 6, 2015

The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal Falls Church, Virginia
James 2:1-17 Mark 7:24-37
In case you’re confused by the service leaflet, where it says Kelly is supposed to be preaching today, well, she was, and she was planning to. But yesterday she came down with the stomach flu, and of course we encouraged her to stay home until she’s 100%.  
(And to think I came this close to getting out of having to preach on a couple of very tough passages…)
(Kelly’s sermon, by the way, was written well ahead of time and is, as we have already come to expect, excellent. And inspiring – I was inspired reading it.* Hard copies are available, and will be made available on line.)  
What you’re going to get from me today is a little different than a normal sermon.
Today I want to tell you a story – a bit of my own family history -- and then read you a poem. And then show you how I think that story and the poem relate to today’s lessons and to current events.

"Still Grieving" --- AND "Moving on"

Three weeks ago - August 12th  - in a message titled Prayers, Please I shared the news of my sister's death, which had happened two days earlier.

Two weeks ago - August 19th - I wrote about the grieving process itself in Grief and the Upside Down Shovel, sharing with you the fact that in the past, I'd done a terrible job of grieving, and vowing to do better this time.

Using the symbol of the upside-down shovel used at Jewish burials, I tried reminding myself (and you) that burying our loved ones - grieving their death - isn't supposed to be an efficient or quick process. It's messy. It's exhausting work. And it takes time.

Last week, I started to write about grief again, but stopped myself, and wrote about something else.

A few days ago, I spoke to a trusted friend and counselor to get his advice: how often is too often, and how much is too much to share?

In response, he said something fascinating:

"John, your reluctance to write about grief is emblematic of …