Proper 20, Year A, Church of the Holy Cross, Murfreesboro

You have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat” (Matt. 20:12).

I had an email exchange with a colleague the other day that caused me to think; that made Jesus’ words in our Gospel today leap out from the page. I was in touch about a project we were both involved in; and after responding to that, my colleague told me about some of the … Read more

Proper 19, Year A, Church of St. Joseph of Arimathea

I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you” (Gen. 50:17).

To use an over-used word, the family of the patriarch Jacob was famously dysfunctional. Jacob had many wives and they had many sons, among them Joseph, who was so annoying and so despised by his siblings that, instead of murdering him, they sold him into slavery. There’s a back story to Jacob too: he got his … Read more

Proper 18, Year A, Calvary Church, Cumberland Furnace & St. James’ Church, Dickson

So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me” (Ezek. 33:7).

In the ancient world, the “lookout” had an important role, to keep watch over the city and to spy out who or what was coming. The crucial role of the sentinel was to alert the people to the approaching enemy, to sound the alarm in … Read more

Proper 17, Year A, St. James’ Church, Sewanee

You are a stumbling block to me” (Matt. 16:23).

“Stumbling block” is a vivid metaphor: it’s something in the way, something you trip over, something that causes you to fall. Anybody who’s ever tripped over his own slippers in the dark will know what a “stumbling block” is. Of course, it’s much worse when the slippers are someone else’s. That’s a bit closer to what Jesus is talking about in our Gospel today.

The idea … Read more

Feast of St. Bartholomew, Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville

We have become a spectacle to the world” (1 Cor. 4:9).

Our reading this evening invites us into the world of the first followers of Jesus; the world of St. Bartholomew (whose festival we celebrate today) and of the other apostles as well. The invitation comes through two words used by St. Paul in our reading: in our translation, the words “exhibited” and the word “spectacle.” Here’s the text: For I think that God has exhibited … Read more

Proper 16, Year A, St. Anselm’s Church, Nashville

Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15).

When I was a child, my mother and grandmother called me “J.C.,” the initials of my first and middle name, “John Crawford.” I’m named after my mother’s father, who was “John Thomas Gavin Crawford,” or “J.T.G.” (his own initials) to his friends. My grandmother pleaded with my mother not to give me all of my grandfather’s names, especially since “Bauerschmidt” was going to get tacked on … Read more

Feast of St. Mary the Virgin, Tennessee Laymen’s Conference

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed” (Lk. 1:48).

As it happens, our Laymen’s Conference this year takes place on the weekend that includes the observance of the feast of St. Mary the Virgin. August 15 is the traditional date of her death, or being taken into heaven; her “falling asleep” (as it’s called in the Orthodox Church). This feast is kept in many churches, under a variety of names, but it’s … Read more

Thursday in the Week of Proper 14, Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville

Thus says the Lord God: This oracle concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the house of Israel in it” (Ezek. 12:10).

Our reading today gives us a rare glimpse of the prophet Ezekiel at work, and an instance of “enacted prophecy.” We all know that prophets announce the “word of the Lord,” which means announcing the will of God. The word of the Lord makes things happen. However, sometimes God commands the prophets to … Read more

Proper 14, Year A, Church of St. James the Less, Madison

When he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened” (Matt. 14:30).

Back in early March (which now seems a long, long, time ago) Caroline and I woke after midnight to the sound of our cell phones going off, alerting us that there was a severe tornado warning in Nashville. As we silenced our phones, all was still outside, unnaturally so; the calm before the storm. Shortly after that our home alarm went off, followed by the … Read more

Proper 8, Year A, St. Matthew’s Church, McMinnville

Whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous” (Matt. 10:41).

It’s easy to miss the premise of these few verses from Matthew that serve as our Gospel today: that is, the Christian life is characterized by arrival and departure. Granted, today we hear about arrival and welcome; but it’s just a little bit earlier in the tenth chapter that we find abrupt departure. “If … Read more