Reflection for Sunday, June 19 by Barbara Metcalf

Proper 7, Second Sunday after Pentecost

Year C, 19 June 2022


1 Kings 19: 1-15a

Psalm 42

Galatians 3:23-29

Luke 8 26-39


‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’

The Lord asks Elijah a question we can ask ourselves.  ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’

‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ Here matters. Should he/should we be somewhere else? And what matters. What are we doing with the finite, fleeting time we have.

Here is today’s story. Ahab was the eminently wicked king of Israel; Jezebel, a notorious worshipper of Baal, was his queen. But one person cast a persistent shadow over their lives.  Elijah today has just cut the throats of 450 priests of Baal. They had lost a competition to see who was greater, their gods or Elijah’s. For hours the priests of Baal [had] hopped and danced around the altar they had prepared. And still their gods had failed to consume the sacrifice they had prepared. Elijah, in contrast, had prepared his sacrifice very precisely but said very little to Yahweh,  focusing on these three words, “Answer me Yahweh,” an abrupt, intimate request. And God sent down fire.

No one terrified Elijah so much as Jezebel…Elijah knew that the game with the queen was far from over. The very next day Jezebel sent him a message: “So may the gods treat me or even worse, if by this time tomorrow I have not made your spirit like one of theirs.”  By “theirs” Jezebel meant her gutted priests. And the queen had used the formula of the oath, calling upon her gods.

Elijah had to get out at once. He headed south, toward Egypt. He kept going into the desert, as if intending to follow Moses’s footsteps in reverse. He despaired. But an angel brought food and a command to eat and continue his journey, 40 days of wandering. Elijah retreated to a cave. At last he heard a voice, that might have seemed mocking, for it said: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah said, “I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” The voice told him that the Lord was about to pass by. Then, wrapped in his cloak, he stepped out into the open and waited to hear God’s voice through wind and earthquake and fire.

And then Yahweh decided to speak to him. It was only thanks to his long flight, and because his desperate escape had reduced him to such a state of exhaustion, that Elijah was able to recognize Yahweh in the barely perceptible sound of the breeze. And Yahweh told him to cross the desert to Damascus.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”  Elijah was called to prophesy. But he strategized. “I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” He thought: What good will it do if I get killed? That will be the end of the prophets. So he retreated to the desert. Who can blame him? He shuts out God’s voice, until he hears it at last.  God tells him that he has to keep going.

And to look ahead from what we read today: Elijah will go on and anoint another king. He will keep on appearing before Ahab as a kind of bogeyman, to remind him of the law. And – spoiler alert – it is Ahab and Jezebel who die grizzly deaths as Elijah predicted. Elijah was worried about the wrong thing. Jezelbel wasn’t going to kill him. He wasn’t going to die at all. He would be whisked away in a chariot of fire.

Elijah didn’t know that ending, but even without that ending, he needed to go back. He is not to strategize, not do the wrong thing, not think that wrong ends justify good means. His job is to stand up for truth, for God’s law.

So that’s the question. Are we in the right place? Should we be somewhere else? The stakes for us are not life and death. Some of our steps, some of our asking has more to do with will than risk, like taking up the kind of concrete steps of the work of love, of living, and prayer in the Spirit, that Larry shared with us at Pentecost. Or, that Jon Owen, in the same spirit made in a list of in this week’s newsletter —  concrete actions on the pressing issue of gun violence, made even sadder if that were possible with the shooting at our fellow Episcopalians at the Church of St Stephen in Alabama this very week. The kind of actions that Jon and Larry suggest are an example of what we can think of — in the unforgettable image of Father Jim’s vision of engagement with the Trinity that he delighted us with last week — as a moment of perichoresis!! a dance where we are handed off from Person to Person. (I had to go look for that word but it certainly is one to cherish.) To dance with the Son, Jim said, is “serving Jesus in the neighbor, concerned with social justice, and working to help those on the margins.”

Juneteenth asks us the question of what we are doing in relation to our place in the systematic racism that has marginalized and distorted everyday life in our country’s history and present. It is

an invitation to engage with the past – sins we have done and sins done in our name – and what is needed for us to live our ideals. We’ve had study groups – Sacred Ground, the anti-racism reading group, an on-going group with All Souls’ on criminal justice. Some of us joined with OrZarua pre-pandemic in doing bystander training. We’ve had a modest discussion on finding an equivalent to ASCAP licensing fees for when we use spirituals. For some of us it’s time to look forward to the November election — money if we can, with get-out-the vote postcarding, with canvassing in Nevada or the Central Valley, writing letters right now to express outrage at DNC strategists supporting right-wing and denouncing moderate Republicans. Gandhi knew that ends never justify wrong means.

This is not a time – overwhelming as so much seems, worn out by Covid stops and starts – to retreat to the desert.

Look too at Luke, a passage from an amazing chapter that starts with a parable that reminds us to act not only with our lips but in our lives; that turns us toward community; and that then overflows with four miracles. The miracles tell us that Jesus is in the midst of crises of the natural world, of grievous sickness, of untimely death, and even societal oppression. Today we encounter the marginalized unhoused man possessed of demons, whom Jesus cures and whom he comes to know by name. Madness takes many expressions depending on time and place, and our Gerasene has the madness that comes with (let’s say) exploitative disrespectful colonial rule. The multiple demons who possess him take for him the multiplicity of the undoubtedly oppressive Roman military unit, the Legion. The man is saved. The demons die and they take with them the despised unclean swine that presumably under God’s law, not Roman, should not be there.

Once he is healed, the Gerasene too must answer the question. What are you doing here, Elijah? He  thinks he has found his place, sitting at the feet of Jesus. He begs to stay. But Jesus tells him that he must go, to reintegrate into society. Long marginalized, looked on with contempt, like Elijah, he has a gift: “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”

I have a parting thought. If “you” is our little congregation, What are we doing here? Are we in the right place, the Zoom-land? Should we be in our sanctuary more, with or without clergy? And beyond that, what are we doing as a congregation? Our gratitude for God’s grace and for each other in sustaining our community in these last years against all odds is unbounded. But still we need to question what we should be doing differently. It was a question posed to us in early pandemic times by Deacon Kathleen, trying to shake us up about our small and not growing numbers – maybe a question asked too early but good to return to now.

Our hymns this morning are about moving, moving to get where we are meant to be. “Good Lord, show us the way.”


– – –

1. My friend Lee, in Ann Arbor, eight months into glioblastoma, recently started a reading group to discuss Roberto Calasso’s The Book of All Books (2019). Lee is beginning to manifest some of the effects of this cancer though they were only slightly evident when he moderated the first discussion last Friday. Calasso recounts stories from the Hebrew Bible, imagining himself into them. It seemed uncanny that Calasso’s section on Elijah was in the section we are reading for our next meeting, just as I was turning to this reflection. Calasso’s wording is so evocative that I’ve taken some of his phrases w/o quotation marks, defying all academic conventions.

2. There was an NPR segment on the Brookline project noted in the site below that peaked my interest in this. Note that our hymns today, unlike the classic spirituals, have known composers so do not fall into this category.

Trinity Sunday 6-12-22 Sermon by The Rev. Jim Stickney

St. Alban’s Church June 12, 2022

Trinity Sunday Pastor Jim Stickney


“Do you want to know what goes in the core of the Trinity?  I will tell you.

In the core of the Trinity, the Father laughs, and gives birth to the Son.

The Son laughs back at the Father, and gives birth to the Spirit.

The whole Trinity laughs, and gives birth to us.”


This whimsical theology was written by the 14th century Dominican preacher,

Meister Eckhart, whose daring writings caught the attention of the Inquisition.

Fortunately for him (or perhaps not) he happened to die before his trial started.


I have a whimsical speculation of my own — about the time-honored practice

of placing our recitation of the Nicene Creed right after the sermon. Now, most Sundays

this may not matter too much, but on Trinity Sunday the preacher may be liable

to fall into one of the many subtle heresies that arise from trying to articulate a mystery:

one God in three persons. So no matter which heresy I may seem to articulate,

soon we’ll all proclaim the Creed together and vigorously affirm our orthodox beliefs.


Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker: If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?

We may feel far removed from the questions that led to the teaching about the Trinity.

So: If the Trinity is the answer, then just what was the question? This theology

did not begin as some kind of abstract divine geometry. Where did it come from?


The first Christians grew up as Jews, insistent upon the basic insight that God was one.

Jews speak of God like this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Yet the first Christians experienced that God was revealed in a completely new fashion

through the life and death and rising of Christ Jesus. Slowly and carefully,

these believers questioned their way through until they could speak of “God the Son,”

and understand that God was not divided, & yet was manifested in human form.

A later generation of Christian thinkers understood that the Holy Spirit (whose feast

we celebrated last Sunday on Pentecost) also revealed the power of God’s love.


Now, we know some people who are “spirit” persons, who cultivate inspiration —

these are the poets and musicians, people who bring into existence new creations.

Other people are more like “Christ in action,” serving Jesus in the neighbor,

concerned with social justice, and working to help those on the margins.

Still others are the strong silent types, not talking much theology, but just living it.

These three spiritual types don’t always understand one another’s views,

but today, on Trinity Sunday, we can say that all three express a face (facet) of God.


Some people are very uneasy about sharing “what God is doing in my life”.

If you’re one one of them, “Rejoice! You are God the Creator’s strong silent types.”

Next, consider a title from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer for Jesus:

“Pain-Bearer.” Jesus is the personal expression of a God who knows human pain.

He is the divine Pain-Bearer, and human pain-bearers find refuge and meaning in Jesus.


Lastly, Jesus promised to send an energy, a power more than just memory, a Spirit

unlimited by time and place, a Holy Spirit that works to overcome all human obstacles

of language and culture. These cultural differences, far from being suppressed,

are celebrated in the worship and witness of Christian communities around the world.


Human beings can know some things about God, not directly, but by a reasonable faith.

In our spiritual progress, we don’t proceed from the Father to the Son to the Spirit,

even though that’s the sequence in which we proclaim the sections of the Creed


The Creator is opaque to us, the least able to be perceived by the limited human mind.

Instead, we are first moved by the Spirit (in community, or family, or in beauty).

The Spirit’s task is to remind us of what Christ Jesus said and did.  And when we look

more closely at Christ’s words and deeds, we find Jesus wants us to meet “Abba.”


And we do — for a moment, briefly.  But humans can never endure too much divinity.

Something in us backs off from infinite love and power — we hide our faces.

We get distracted, or feel unworthy. So we need a human model — Christ Jesus.

And he in turn continues to send us the Holy Spirit to be our Advocate & Comfort.


Do you see the pattern?  When we consider one person of the Trinity for a while,

we soon find ourselves handed off to another divine person — and so on and on.

When we feel inspired and even ecstatic, that’s the work of the Holy Spirit.

When that inspiration leads to serving the neighbor, that’s what Jesus wants.

And after our work is done, we rest in quiet, “Alone with the great Unknown” —

which is a favorite phrase of mine for contemplating God the Creator.


Theologians used a Greek word for this pattern: Perichoresis: Trinity’s “round dance”

from “peri” (as in perimeter), and choresis (as in choreography).

The theologian Elizabeth Johnson, in her book, “She Who Is”, enlivens

this unusual theological word “perichoresis” with a compelling image:


A divine round dance modeled on the rhythmic, predictable motions of a country folk dance 

[is] one way to portray the mutual indwelling and encircling of God’s holy mystery.

I have one final suggestion for contemplating the community of the Holy Trinity —

by looking closely at the little prepositions we use in our Eucharistic Prayer.

We address our community’s prayer TO God the Father, THROUGH Christ Jesus,

IN the Holy Spirit. Notice these prepositions at the end of the Eucharistic prayer:


All this we ask THROUGH your Son Jesus Christ. BY him and WITH him and IN him

IN the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father,

now and forever. Amen.


I’m going to conclude this sermon on Trinity Sunday in the same way I started —

with that brief reflection of Meister Eckhart from the 14th century:


“Do you want to know what goes in the core of the Trinity?  I will tell you.

In the core of the Trinity, the Father laughs, and gives birth to the Son.

The Son laughs back at the Father, and gives birth to the Spirit.

The whole Trinity laughs, and gives birth to us.”














(gets around objection of crucifixion as divine child abuse)

Reflection 6-5-22 Pentecost Sunday by Larry DiCostanzo

Reflection for June 5, 2022
Pentecost Sunday

Lawrence DiCostanzo

Acts 2:1-21
Romans 8:14-17
John 14:8-17, 25-27
Psalm 104:24-28, 30, 33

Today is the Feast of Pentecost, and I’d like to begin with a quote from Hymn 209 which we sang last Sunday. The quote is just part of a verse, really just a fragment. And it goes:

We may not touch his hands and side,
nor follow where he trod . . .

When I think of Easter, I think of the Resurrection, and I think of the beautiful traditions of the holiday – the Easter eggs, the family dinner. And when I think of Christmas, there is literally an explosion of exciting tradition – pictures of the Nativity from all the ages, the smell of greenery, the darkness and the candles, the songs. You can each put yourselves into the atmosphere of these holidays.

But when I think of Pentecost, there are no Pentecost cakes or dishes, no family dinners, no colorful traditions. At least, I don’t know of any. It does not seem a feast that brings up a lot of exuberance. – except of course in today’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles.

Why is this? I think it’s because actually Pentecost is the holiday of our loneliness. Or maybe I should say it is the holiday without Jesus. Since Ascension, the apostles had to deal with the absence of Jesus in the flesh. And we have to do the same. As much as we love Jesus, he is not physically present to walk the trails and roads with us, to eat with us, to touch us, to take our hands, to wash our feet, to talk to us. Jesus has ascended and he is not here on earth anymore. And we are left with the deep expressed among the very last words of the Bible – Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

Jesus knew that we would feel alone. In the great farewell of the Last Supper in the Gospel of John, Jesus prays: And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you, Holy Father, protect them in your name . . . so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name . . . I guarded them. . . [I] am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them . . . (John 17:11-12) He knew that the Apostles would need and that we do need protection and care.

So, I feel sometimes that the great challenge of being a Christian is how to live in a world in which Jesus the man is no longer walking. The Gospels give us such a bright picture of him and now he’s gone.

How do we live with this challenge? Well, he feast of Pentecost addresses this loneliness. We are challenged to find God. And Pentecost supplies the Holy Spirit. But, despite the exciting events of the first Pentecost in Jerusalem and occurrences like Philip’s being whisked away by the Spirit after he’d spoken with the Ethiopian eunuch, the Spirit seems fairly quiet. Yet, the Spirit is Jesus’ great promise. The Spirit is the beginning of the Age of Us. It’s the beginning liturgically to the “long green season” of Pentecost.

So, how do we meet the challenge of Jesus’ physical absence? How do we sensitize ourselves to his promise of the Spirit? We have to do this because we live in a demanding world that claims our energy and attention. Just look at all that the Apostles had to deal with in the story Saint Luke relates in Acts. How do we live? How do we hope? How do we endure?

Well, first, as a child, my catechism taught me that “Our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.” This is a healthful call to respect the body, but now I think it goes beyond. In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul makes a memorable statement, or perhaps he is quoting even a pagan philosopher: . . . [T]hey would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him – though indeed he is not far from each of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being . . . (Acts 17: 27-28

Paul is saying God and Jesus are in you. They are close to you. They are family members. They are part of our being. They are as close as the joints of our limbs. . . . [B]ecause I live, you also will live. On that day, you will know that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:19-20). I think this is what Jim Stickney meant when he mentioned “divinization” in his sermon last month.

And so we look for Jesus in our hearts and in our bodies. I say we look for Jesus, but I think I mean we try to realize that he is present. He is in us as he is in God the Father. This occurs because we have the Spirit.

Second, the gentleness and strength from the Spirit is our being together! I mean in Saint Alban’s, the church as the Body of Christ. It is we who obey Jesus’ command that we love one another. (John 15:12) We can find the power and the courage to love, which as Steve Hitchcock preached a couple of weeks ago, is in fact our work. He did not say it is something that we just do: he said it is our work.

How I would love to meet Jesus in the flesh. What a great hope that is. In the meantime, let’s consider how we act in this world without Jesus in the flesh.

So, here are some suggestions kind of in the spirit of how Margaret Doleman called on us to talk about the occasions when we thought we’d said the right thing at the right time::

Suggestion 1: On the first Pentecost, Peter preached and quoted the prophet Joel, saying . . . your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams . . . (Acts 2:17) So, when have you prophesied or dreamed dreams. Was it the thrill of hearing the notes of the first hymn of the service? Was it saying to a non-Christian or unchurched friend that you’ll pray for her daughter with Covid and seeing their eyes light up? Was it being in a meeting to hope and plan and manage something beautiful, like a musical ensemble, or in a vestry meeting to plan our continued future and to scratch heads over what to do about the drainage on the north side. Was it calling someone in the hospital and taking the lead to pray over the phone with them?

Suggestion 2: So, when have you loved recently? Did you grocery shop for your children and grandchildren? Were you kind in your interactions with people on any given day, both friends and family or simply people you encounter in a shop, a homeless person you give a banana to? Have you tried to put away the thought that some people are lesser because of their opinions or political party. Did you care for someone sick or disabled in your home or family? Did you give away some money – even a widow’s mite – to the Alameda County Food Bank, or the Richmond Rescue Mission. or something else. I am not going to ask whether you’re planning on becoming President of the United States or founder and leader of an NGO because actually we have to love where we are.

Suggestion 3 involves seeking God within us, in the joints of our body, as the person in whom we live and move and have our being. I can only imagine that a big part of this finding of the “absent Jesus” is prayer. Prayer is the place I know of where we sit down and actually talk to God. It is direct. And there is no such thing as bad prayer! You can be distracted, your mind might wander. That’s fine. You can say, “I’m sorry, Lord. I drifted off.” or not. The point is you are talking to him. If you talk to him, you realize he is there, to comfort us, to just be present, to strengthen and assist, to recognize us.

I want to close with another quote from Hymn 209. It summarizes in four lines just about everything I’ve said. Here goes:

We walk by faith, and not by sight;
no gracious words we hear from him
who spoke as none e’er spoke;
but we believe him near.

This is our season. Happy Pentecost.

Thank you.

05-15-2022 Reflection by Margaret Doleman

By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. For me, this is the core message of our faith.  Love one another.  And, in Acts, Peter confirms that Gentiles, that is, others, are worthy of love as well.

We all know that sometimes, we just don’t get this.  We talk a lot about how we fall short of Jesus’ commandment to love one another.  But today, let’s talk about the times we get it right.  We do a lot of good deeds around here, some small, and some pretty big.  And I’m betting that every one of us can think of a time when we found ourselves in the right place to do the right thing, maybe for someone we didn’t even know, When I look back on experiences like that, sometimes I feel as if it wasn’t really I who did that, or said that – God was using me. I’m just glad I could get out of the way, and let God use me.

When did you get it right? When might you have been the face of Jesus for someone?

I’m going to tell you a little story about something that happened to me, and then I hope that a few other people will feel comfortable sharing a few sentences about a time they felt as if they were showing God’s love.

It was maybe 15 years ago.  I was setting up the altar on Saturday, and there was a work party that day, so several people were around, and the church doors were open.  I saw a woman I didn’t recognize, kneeling in one of the front pews, praying.  Then she got up, and I heard her tell someone that her grandson was having surgery the next week.  That person was in the middle of some task, and didn’t really know how to respond, so she started walking out.  Here’s what went through my mind: her grandson can’t be very old. If he needs surgery, he might have a birth defect.  I know something about birth defects (since I’d been looking a birth defect data for about 20 years).  I also thought, she wants to talk to someone, and the first person she found wasn’t able to talk to her, so she’s leaving.  I need to talk to her. So I scurried off after her. As soon as I caught up with her and spoke to her, she started telling me all about her grandson (who did have a birth defect), and pretty much all about herself.  I realized right away that what I really needed to do for her was mostly just to listen, and I did. I couldn’t tell her anything that someone who knew far more than I did about her grandson’s case already had. My knowledge probably helped me to be a more active listener, but who knows? I just know that I was in the right place at the right time, and I think that with God’s help, I gave her something she needed right then.


05-22-22 Reflection by Steve Hitchcock


St. Alban’s Episcopal Church ● Albany, California ● May 22, 2022

Acts 16:9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21:10,22-22:5
JOHN 5:1-19

For me, one of the blessings of this ongoing pandemic years been working with Becky
Osborn-Coolidge as she prepares the bulletin for our Sunday services. I’m always
impressed how Becky assembles the assigned Scripture readings, finds appropriate
prayers, and puts everything together in four, easy-to-use pages.
It’s not entirely Becky’s fault, but this Sunday’s bulletin is somewhat deceptive.
Becky does use the Episcopal Church’s Lectionary Page. She cuts and pastes the
lessons and psalm for each Sunday. Thus, we see that the Gospel for today, which
Margaret just read, says John 5:1-9.

The truth, though, is that Margaret read only seven and a half verses – not
nine. That’s because the oldest and most authentic Greek manuscripts omit the last
part of verse 3 and all of verse 4. You may recall that those verses suggest an angel
periodically stirs the pool of water, imbibing them disease-healing power.
The other peculiar thing about today’s Gospel is that the last word – Sabbath –
is the key to unlocking the very good news in this Scripture reading. That last word
also explains why the spurious verses should be omitted when reading this Gospel

The promise on offer today is that if we hear that one last word, we
too will experience healing in our lives. We will be able to get up
and get going – and face our challenges with hope and confidence.

John’s Gospel gives us signs

Before we get there, though, let’s step back for a minute or two. During this
Easter season, except for the Second Sunday of Easter, we’ve interrupted our reading
Luke’s Gospel to be treated to the Easter-drenched Gospel of John. Like Matthew,
Mark, and Luke, this so-called Fourth Gospel is comprised of stories and sayings, but
90 percent of what’s in John’s Gospel isn’t found in the other three Gospels, which
share have 50 percent or more content with each other.
The first half of John’s Gospel is built around seven signs, what other Gospels
depict as miracles. The first was the wedding at Cana with its overflowing
abundance of premium wine. The second also took place at Cana, where Jesus cured
the royal official’s dying son – without actually going to see the boy in Capernaum.
Today’s Gospel is the third sign, which like the Cana wedding and the
Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4 involved water. After today’s Gospel
comes the feeding of the 5,000 in chapter 6. Here, once again an abundance of

nourishment takes place. Then, for the fifth sign, we’re back to water: this time Jesus
walks on the water during a storm. In chapter 9, we have the sixth sign: the healing
of the blind man.

The seventh and final sign wraps up the first half of the Gospel: the raising
Lazarus from the dead. This time, Jesus does go to the dying person, but he arrives
too late. So, Jesus must go into the tomb and shout Lazarus alive.

God works on the Sabbath

Now we can look more closely at today’s Gospel, the third sign, and get back to
that last word: Sabbath. As is often the case, the verses that follow today’s appointed
text explain the significance of what we heard read the Gospel. On the Sabbath, no
work is supposed to take place. At first glance, it appears that the crippled man – not
Jesus – is actually the one working: he carries his mat, which was considered work.
And we learn that the crippled man didn’t even know who it was who had healed him.
As all this comes out, the Jews – John’s words for Jesus’ opponents, not the
Jewish race – become incensed with Jesus for breaking the Sabbath.
Jesus rebuts their accusation in a different manner than he does in Matthew,
Mark, and Luke. And that’s good news for us today.

Jesus reminds his opponents – as well as those first readers of John’s
Gospel and us today – that, even though the Sabbath was a day of
rest, God, the creator of all that exists, does not stop working on the
Sabbath. God, who is the life force, is always at work.
And this is what really upset Jesus’ opponents. Jesus claims that he is the
Child of God. As God’s equal, Jesus too works on the Sabbath. Jesus is busy working
– creating abundance out of scarcity, washing us clean through baptism, healing our
infirmities, rescuing us from death.

That’s why it’s important to omit the verses about an angel stirring the waters.
It’s not some angel or agent of God who is at work in our lives. No, it is God at work.
It is God in Jesus who makes it possible for us to get up when life knocks us down –
or when we’re too tired or discouraged to face another day.

I don’t know about you, but these days when I get up in the morning and make
coffee with my achy hands and foggy brain and then read my newspaper articles, I’m
ready to get back in bed. Another wave of coronavirus, a faltering economy, the
brutal war in Ukraine, and hate-filled killings in our own country. Overwhelmed by
confusion and anxiety, getting up out my chair seems a chore.

God, who is supposed to be constantly working as the Creator of all things,
seems to be on an extended vacation – if not part of the great resignation.

Jesus’ death is God’s life-giving work

In the midst of our uncertainty and weariness, John’s Gospel shows us how
Jesus is busy in our lives today, how he heals us and gets our discouraged selves
moving. Paradox of paradox, Jesus does this life-saving work by dying. We hear in
chapter 5 that Jesus’ opponents begin plotting against him. By chapter 11, the raising
of Lazarus finally puts his opponents over the edge, and they begin seeking a way to
put Jesus to death. In other words, giving life to Lazarus precipitates Jesus’ death.
That’s where all those signs in the first half of John’s Gospel were pointing: to
the hour of Jesus’ death on the cross. The hour when he would be lifted up, when he
would be wounded for us. If we had any doubt about this, not long after the raising of
Lazarus, his sister Mary anoints Jesus’ feet – with lots of very expensive perfume.
Jesus defends her extravagance by saying that she’s preparing him for his burial.
And it is this fragrant extravagance that invites us to trust the Easter promise
that, in his death, Jesus overcomes death. That Jesus is lifted up to be with God, the
one who is always working on our behalf. That the wounded Lord is able to breathe
his Spirit of new life into us. That, even in our dying – which is our human condition,
for some more noticeably than others – God is giving us new hope, deep joy, and –
yes – life eternal.

We are fed so we can busy doing God’s work

After John reveals the unfolding plot that will put Jesus to death, he takes time
to reminds his readers – and us today – how we can trust that Jesus’ death – and our
own death – is not the last word. In chapter 6, we are invited to share the loaves and
fishes that become the new manna of the new Exodus. We are invited to take part in
the Eucharist that is the Bread of Life. We have this “standing invitation,” John tells
us because of our baptism, by which we are adopted to be siblings of Jesus, to be part
of God’s family.

Because of the pandemic, we don’t get to take part in the Eucharist as often as
we would like, but the good news is that just a morsel bread – and a sip of wine –
become a feast that nourishes us for weeks on end.

And strengthened by this holy food, we can get up and walk. We, too, as
adopted children of God, can be busy doing God’s work all the time. Despite our
frailties and infirmities, we are a source of healing and hope for others. Our smallest
gestures make the biggest difference. In a time of worry and despair, we are beacons
of joy and hope.

As we heard in last week’s Gospel – and in Margaret’s marvelous reflection –
this work we’re doing is called love. It’s what holds our lives – all creation – together.
So, today – and every day – is our Sabbath. Let’s get to work! Amen.

05-01-22 Reflection by L. DiCostanzo

Reflection for May 1, 2022 

Third Sunday after Easter 

Lawrence DiCostanzo 

Acts 9:1-6, 7-20 

Revelation 5:11-14 

John 21:1-19 

Psalm 30 

It is hard to believe and I can hardly believe it, but this is my 18threflection since early 2020. Thank you so much for this privilege. I love to do it, and I appreciate your trust. 

Today, the Gospel passage is packed with messages. My connection to it began in 1949 when our parents gave me and my brother a skinny child’s book called “The Easter Story.” I still have it. There is one story and one 

picture in the book that have always, always lived with me. This is the story and picture of a young and slim and elegant Jesus on the beach cooking fish. I don’t know why this image has stayed with me since childhood. But now I think that the memory of the story and picture are really, quite simply, a 


Today’s Gospel passage has Jesus cooking on the beach. The passage is part of what is called the appendix to John’s Gospel. But I think that the passage is actually an extremely important capstone to the Gospel. And I’m really glad that it got tacked on so long ago. For one thing, it is the third and last time Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection. And three seems a special number. For another, food features in it just as food features strongly in all of the Gospels, just as it features strongly in our lives and in our liturgy. 

Eating the bread and fish that Jesus cooked on the shore of Lake Tiberias (which is more familiar to us as the Sea of Galilee) and sitting around with him and your friends must have been a relaxed and happy time for Peter and the disciples who had joined him when he went back to fishing. They knew that the man on the shore was the Lord, and they knew that the last time they had eaten with him was on the night before his passion and death. By contrast with the Last Supper, how peaceful this meal on the beach must have been. I think back to the fires on the beach in my childhood and to how meals on the sand were part of our summer life. Even today we can

appreciate this meal on the shores of the Sea of Galilee because eating in company is one of the most beautiful things of life. 

In contrast to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, John’s story of the Last Supper before Jesus’ passion and death does not narrate the institution of the Eucharist. John has very long chapters on the Last Supper. And they contain a lot, but they do not contain the Eucharist. (John 13 – 17) 

But I think that this meal on the beach is John’s own special narration of the institution of the Eucharist. John tells about it through the power of a story that resonates with our daily lives. 

I have two reasons for saying that John is talking about the Eucharist in this story. 

The first is that Jesus’ love for these companions is so evident because he goes to where they are and he feeds them. He actually does the cooking. This is a communion of love. 

The second reason is that Jesus sends these guys forth into the post-Easter future. So, this is a passage about “going forth” and being “sent forth” just as we are sent and go forth after the Eucharist. 

Let’s think about the first reason, the love in this story. If you are like me, you hear all the time that God loves you. But you really want to know how this love comes into your heart, how you feel it, how you visualize it. 

In John’s Gospel, Jesus says a couple of important things about love at the Last Supper. He says that the greatest love is to lay down one’s life for his friends. (16:12) And, in fact, this is what Jesus is about to do. But Jesus goes on very nicely to talk about “friends.” And an important part of what 

he says is “You are my friends . . . I shall not call you servants anymore.” (16:13) In the prayer that closes the Last Supper scene, Jesus says that he prays for everyone who hears the Word – that’s us – and he says, “May they all be one, Father, may they all be one in us, as you are in me and I in you.” (18:20-21) 

Jesus is saying that we are his friends. And as we gather together in this Christian enterprise, if you will, we actually can identify with Jesus. He

makes an effort to get this point across because, at the Last Supper, he also says that he is the vine and we are the branches. (15: 5) 

This is a true friendship that is manifested in the quiet of the companionship of the meal on the beach. It is a kind of friendship that is close and intimate. We can say, metaphorically, to Jesus around the fire, “Would you mind passing me a little more bread?” 

This is love and friendship that is a Eucharist. We participate in it most mindfully and sacredly in the Communion service. But we also participate in it when we have a meal together. This is peace mixed with love, love mixed with peace, as we metaphorically eat on the beach. As Jesus also said at the Last Supper, “My peace I give you; my peace I leave with you.” (14:27) 

So, don’t be afraid of Our Lord. He is not distant. He is your friend. And he manifests as your friend in your heart, in the liturgy, and in scripture. 

I said that the Eucharist narrative here includes both love and a going forth and sending forth. So, how about the going forth? 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus has a conversation with Peter. I think that Peter is one of the most attractive characters in the Gospels. He says: “Be quiet, Jesus, don’t talk about crucifixion.” And then Jesus scolds him. Matt. 16: 22 – 23) He says: “I’ll never betray you.” And then he does. (Mark 14: 72) He says: “Don’t you wash my feet, Lord.” And then, after Jesus takes this as a teaching moment, he says: “Wash all of me!” (John 13: 6 – 9) He is the guy who jumps out of the boat to swim to Jesus on the shore. (John 21: 7) And he is the guy who jumps out of another boat to walk to Jesus on the water. (Matt. 14: 28 – 29) 

There is a lot of Peter in all of us. And through Peter, we receive the “sending forth” of this Eucharistic moment. Three times, Jesus says to him: “Feed my lambs.” This is a kind of sending forth summarized in what we call the post-communion prayer which closes with the words: “Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart.” In our dual Christian identity of lamb and feeder of lambs, we do our best in the world to be loved and to love others.

So, we have a meal on the beach that is a communion of love and we have a sending forth. Now, how about the somber way in which this Gospel passage closes? The chilling prediction of Peter’s martyrdom? Well, let’s hope none of us gets martyred or has to face the ultimate cost of discipleship. But we all know that the world is not a great place in many, many, many respects – war, famine, the political power of money, and so forth. And we know that we and other persons suffer greatly or even a little. We are all sometimes taken to a place where we do not want to go – illness, the troubles of our children, helplessness, the fear of war, and so forth. 

How do we respond to this uneasy tension between the victory of Jesus’ resurrection and the defeats we see all around us? Well, here is where the Eucharistic moment comes to help us. Here is where we keep going back to the beach and keep being sent forth — over and over and over. This is where the Eucharist and Eucharistic moments of love give us each other and give us joy. 

So, my last question today, how does joy work? Tish Harrison Warren is the New York Times’ opinion writer on religion. She is a Christian. And she has recently written very well and succinctly about joy. I’m going to quote some of what she wrote last Sunday, April 24. 

Joy . . . does not refuse to face grief or sorrow. But it does say that they are not all there is and that they are not all that needs to be faced. . . . This means that death is real, but there’s something greater than death. Injustice is real, but it’s not the end of the story. Heartbreak is real, but it gives way to redemption. Suf ering is real, but it cannot erase beauty. 

Let’s go to the beach, everybody, in this Easter season. “Hey, Jesus, can I have another beer?” 

Thank you and Amen

05-08-22 Sermon by The Rev. Jim Stickney

St. Alban’s Church  

Acts 9: 36 – 43 

May 8, 2022 Psalm 23 

Fourth Sunday of Easter Revelation 7: 9 – 17 

Pastor Jim Stickney John 10: 22 – 30 

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they  follow me. 

Our Psalm for today is the 23rd Psalm, perhaps the most  famous of the Psalms. It evokes images of the boy David,  who was taken from tending sheep to be King. We find comforting images, the table of feasting spread  despite the presence of troublemakers, the sense of being  guided to green pastures and still waters, and especially  the promise of God’s being with us when we walk in  death’s valley. 

In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, we hear Jesus  spelling out in some detail what this image of the good  shepherd really means — putting one’s life on the line for  the sake of the sheep, standing up to the wolves who are  prowling as the flock journeys safely through the valley of  the shadow of death. 

In this tenth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus tries to  reassure anxious people that he is on the lookout for them  even as they impatiently wait for further clarity. Jesus  declares that he knows his sheep, and they know his  unique voice.

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they  follow me. 

In a spiritual sense, those who listened to Jesus felt the  frustration of not knowing whether or not He was their  long-awaited Messiah. He kept things vague. Jesus’  listeners want him to state right out whether or not he is  the Messiah! They are frustrated that Jesus is waiting for  what he calls “his hour”. Like us, they want clarity. And  like us, they cope with not-knowing, with suspense. 

To help his hearers, and us, to be patient with ambiguity  and suspense, Jesus uses the image of the Good Shepherd,  with the idea of caring for the flock. The prayer composed  for this Sunday gives a clear summary of the theme: 

“O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your  people, grant that when we hear his voice we may know  him who calls us each by name, and follow where he  leads….” [Book of Common Prayer, p. 225]. 

Amidst this talk of sheep and shepherd, I recall a very  earthy reflection I heard from a fellow seminarian from  the great state of Montana. He told us that the sheep not  only know the distinct voice of their shepherd, but that the sheep also know the shepherd’s smell. He or she smells  “sheepy”, like them! Can we imagine things being just that  intimate between us and God?

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they  follow me. 

Do we really believe that the Creator of all that exists, the  Uncreated One, beyond all human projection and imaging,  the One who’s simple “Let there be!” initiated the Big Bang  or the Seven Days or whatever creation story we use — could that infinitely powerful God take the time and care  to know me, and to love me? 

Some of us have powerful imaginations, and can take the  idea of “infinity” and understand that such a divine power  is boundless, and not limited by space-time. But others  among us need a more human way of understanding God’s  love — and so we have the Word of God, the Logos, the  Wisdom of God, Sophia, born among us, living among us,  dying at human hands, and rising for us. 

Most of us know that there are many millions of Christians  around the world who call themselves “Orthodox”. They  are located mostly in the East, in the countries of Greece  and Russia and Ukraine and in other Eastern countries. 

When the Orthodox explain how Christ Jesus relates to  human beings, they are rather bolder than most Anglicans  or Roman Catholics. They can say 

Christ Jesus became as we are, so that we might  become as He is.

They speak freely of the divinization of our humanity.  What does “divinization” mean? Just this: By following  Christ’s teachings and example, we participate in divinity. But Jesus does not leave it at that. Following Christ cannot  be just about our own souls. He says, I have other sheep  who do not belong to this fold. Who is Jesus talking  about? Jesus means other people, those not in this flock of  his Christian followers. 

One of the Archbishops of Canterbury declared that the  Christian church is the only organization that exists for the  benefit of those who are not its members. I pray that we  can always support those in the church who turn our  attention to those who do not yet know, or have forgotten,  the shepherding truth of God’s love. 

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they  follow me.

Easter Sunday Sermon by The Rev. Jim Stickney

Easter Sunday 2022                        St. Alban’s Church


Alleluia!  Christ is risen!        The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Christ did not die and rise from the dead just to make bad people into good people. Christ died and rose to make fearful people truly alive!


I’d like to begin this sermon for Easter morning with a special word of welcome

to those who are visiting with us today. We’re glad you’re here this morning,

and we invite everyone who wishes to join us to receive Communion.


Today we celebrate the heart of Christian faith, that death is not the end of the story.

Today we rejoice that we share in the new life of Christ Jesus beyond death.

Today we proclaim our freedom from any fear of being imprisoned in this world

of such swift and varied changes — we know where true joys are to be found.


Last Sunday we waved joyful palms to celebrate the easy way of being believers —

following Jesus in fair weather, when there’s a crowd cheering all of us on.

Then we shifted and became a mob crying for this one man to die for the people.

Some of us gathered on Good Friday in a vigil for divinity seeming to die —

trying to be faithful, when bring a believer seems to be the hardest thing to do.

And today we celebrate new life, risen life in which we all can share.


Christ did not die and rise from the dead just to make bad people into good people.

Christ died and rose to make fearful people truly alive!

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!        The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!


I’d like to share an unusual sort of Easter story, dating from the year 1996.

I had taken a two-month sabbatical from my ministry as a Rector,

and I spent several days at an Episcopal monastery above Santa Barbara.

I was not on a silent retreat, and I shared a few lunches with some gay men

who were on a very different form of retreat — they were living a kind of resurrection.


All of these dozen or so men had contracted AIDS. They had seen friends

and lovers die all around them. They themselves had been facing their own deaths —

in a sense, they had been preparing for death quite intentionally.

But around 1996, scientists had developed new treatments for those with AIDS —

a class of drugs called “anti-retrovirals.” They were not a cure,

but by working with an array of drugs, doctors could extend their lives.


These men were spending a few days at a monastery, getting spiritual guidance

about re-entering the regular ups and downs of daily living after getting ready to die.

I might be off-base, but I think they experienced a kind of Easter story.


Christ did not die and rise from the dead just to make bad people into good people.

Christ died and rose to make fearful people truly alive!

        Alleluia!  Christ is risen!                        The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!


In the Gospel reading we heard, a woman named Mary, from Magdala, just can’t sleep.

She is thinking of what she plans to do at dawn — to visit the tomb of Jesus.

Finally she thinks, “I’m not sleeping anyway — I’ll just walk over there by moonlight

and be ready at first light for the anointing of the corpse of my beloved teacher.”


She discovers that the stone (the stone of doubt) has been rolled away, the tomb empty.

Then she runs and locates the official apostles, sharing this amazing news.

The men visit, and one of them has the insight that Jesus has been raised from the dead.

Mary waits until they leave, and then peeks in, and sees angels robed in white,

who ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”     Why are any of us weeping?


Well, we grieve for the return to European war in Ukraine, war in Somalia

and other countries. We grieve the divided state of our country, and of course COVID.

We try to help with donations and prayers, but it can seem so limited.


Are we holding back our tears, our anxieties, our dread of the future?

“Why are you weeping?” Tell God what it is that deeply touches your heart. For a few,

though, it will not be anxiety, but joy — you are weeping to express your bliss.


In Luke’s Gospel, the men in dazzling robes ask a different rhetorical question:

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Why do we keep returning

to old habits of mind and heart that we know do not bring us joy and peace?

On this Easter, on this day when we celebrate our share in Christ’s new life,

let’s look for new attitudes of mind and heart, and not seek new life in old dead habits.


Was it difficult for the disciples who went to the tomb to open their hearts again

to the love they felt for Jesus? Is it difficult for us to break out of the tombs and the traps

of our fond pleasant memories, and look around at the changed circumstances

of our life today, and find Jesus there? Among this world’s swift and varied changes

we know where the true joys, the authentic riches, are to be found: in our souls

and in our communities, which will not fluctuate like the breaking news of each day.


Let’s not be pasting last year’s leaves on the tree and trying to call that Spring.

Instead, look at your life this day! This moment Christ Jesus wants to live in you!

The new life     just won’t be the same as the old life — God intends to do a new thing.


Christ did not die and rise from the dead just to make bad people into good people.

Christ died and rose to make fearful people truly alive!


Alleluia!  Christ is risen!        The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Good Friday Sermon by The Rev. Jim Stickney

St. Alban’s Church                                April 15, 2022

Good Friday                                    The Rev. James Stickney


At the beginning of this week called “Holy,” just before the procession with palms,

we prayed that we might “enter with joy upon the contemplation

of those might acts whereby [God has] given us life and immortality.”

On this Friday called “Good,” we’re at the very heart of Holy Week.


We’ve just finished John’s version of the saddest and most tragic story in the world.

We’re about to re-enact an ancient ritual, the Veneration of the Cross.

In this homily, the most I hope to do is negative — not to get in the way

of your contemplation of God’s might acts that we observe and re-enact.


When I was active here as your full-time pastor, we shared most Good Fridays

with our ecumenical brothers and sisters. The Lutherans, Methodists,

Baptists, Roman Catholics, and Presbyterians would share our reflections.

We would rotate around to our various churches, and divide the three hours

into sections of one-half hour each. That way people could come and go,

as their work schedules determined attendance.


For several years we adopted the overall theme of “Personalities around the Cross.”

Nobody would choose the personality of Jesus, of course — too profound.

But the disciple Peter was a very common choice, as was his Mother, Mary.

The villains were also popular — such as Judas and Pilate and Herod.


One year I came across a book of medieval Christian poetry, and discovered

“The Dream of the Cross.” The unknown author recounts how he dreamed

that the actual Cross of Calvary appeared to him and began to speak of Jesus’ death.

I knew that the Cross of Jesus would the “personality” I would choose

to shed some new and different light upon the meaning of Good Friday.


As I recite parts of this poem, I hope you discern its positive tone —

frankly, its heroic portrait of Jesus being eager to embrace his redeeming death

as he confronted the powers of the Roman state and cynical religious leaders.

In this poem, Jesus is not a helpless victim, meek and mild — but our strong Savior.






Then I saw the King            of all mankind

In brace mood hasting            to mount upon me.

Refuse I dare not                nor bow nor break

Though I felt earth’s confines        shudder in fear.

All foes I might fell            yet I stood fast.


Then the young Warrior            God, the All-Wielder

Put off his raiment            steadfast and strong

With lordly mood                in the sight of many

He mounted the Cross            to redeem mankind

When the hero clasped me            I trembled in terror

But I dared not bow me            nor bend to earth


I must needs stand fast!            Upraised as the Cross

I held the High King            the Lord of heaven,

I dared not bow!                With black nails driven

Those sinners pierced me            the prints are clear,

The open wounds.            I dared injure none.

They mocked us both            I was wet with blood

From the hero’s side            when he sent forth his spirit.


Now I give you this bidding            O man beloved

Reveal this vision                to the children of men

And clearly tell                of the Tree of glory

Whereon God suffered            for one man’s sins

And the evil that Adam            once wrought of old.


Death He suffered            but our Savior rose

By virtue of his great might            as a help to men.

He ascended to Heaven.            But hither again

He shall come to the earth            to redeem mankind,

The Lord himself                on the day of doom.


And all shall be fearful            and few should know

What to say to Christ            But none at his coming

Shall need to fear                if he bears in his breast

This best of symbols.            And every soul

From the ways of the earth            through the Cross shall come

To heavenly glory                who would dwell with God.

Maundy Thursday Sermon by The Rev. Jim Stickney

St. Alban’s Church            Maundy Thursday 2022


A while ago I heard a part of an interview with two Jewish comedians who were summarizing the essence of many Jewish celebrations.


So I crafted it in the form of a Japanese haiku!


They tried to kill us — // we escaped — our enemies  // are dead now — let’s eat!


That’s the stark and yet joyful background of the Passover meal Jesus shared with his friends, his students and fellow-travelers, the night before he died. It didn’t take divine foreknowledge for Jesus to perceive that his death was near. His pattern of confronting religious authorities brought their final solution: eliminate him.


They tried to kill us — // we escaped — our enemies  // are dead now — let’s eat!


Someone might ask me, “what does the word “Maundy” mean? It’s a word derived from Latin: Manadatum — which means commandment. But this day’s commandment  is not of the official Ten Commandments. It’s the new mandate of Jesus, impossible to legislate, but essential for authentic Christian life.


This mandate of Jesus is found in the final verses of today’s Gospel reading:


“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Such a mandate was counter-cultural in the Roman province of Palestine in the first century. It remains counter-cultural in our divided country today, and in a world that seems intent on reverting to a brutal philosophy that “might makes right.” And yet, the way of loving one’s neighbor remains the high challenge for authentic Christians.


They tried to kill us — // we escaped — our enemies  // are dead now — let’s eat!


After more than two years, we seem to be emerging for the worst of the Covid epidemic. Of course, we are taking prudent precautions at this church and in other places as well — masking, distancing, ventilation — to name the most obvious.


As we take stock of what has changed, it seems like the practice of sharing a common cup for Communion will be “on hold” for the foreseeable future. Our parish has taken a page from Protestant churches in using small glasses set in a tray. I would paraphrase the implicit theology this way: one tray, many glasses.


Let’s go a little deeper. During the most rigorous months of the shutdown, we realized

how much we depended on community — this specific community — for mutual spiritual support and basic human fellowship. Zooming in on a screen is better than nothing, but mediated worship can’t give us the fullness of Christian community.


They tried to kill us — // we escaped — our enemies  // are dead now — let’s eat!


So we’re grateful that we once again can gather to share the spiritual food and drink — the blessed bread and wine that presents to us, by faith, Christ’s body and blood. And yet this particular day — Maundy Thursday — includes the ritual washing of feet. This practice is for now another casualty of the Covid epidemic. But I still intend to use the wording found in the Book of Common Prayer — mindful that we are not physically re-enacting the practice Jesus told us to do.


At the Passover meal Jesus shared with his beloved friends (which we call the Last Supper) he could easily foresee his immediate future — he would be handed over to the power of the state. so he gave two signs, two very puzzling signs of how authority would operate among his followers after his departure.


The first puzzling sign the one who leads the best is the one who serves the most. Who’s washing the feet? Who’s the servant of the servants? That’s the leader!


And the second greater puzzling sign: an ancient ritual meal now becomes Christ’s Body and Blood! What did he mean? He gave no theology, no explanation of these symbols. But precisely because he did not explain himself, his followers puzzled over it. I imagine his conversation went something like this:


“Do you remember the night before he died, how he met with us in that upper room,

passing around ordinary bread and wine and calling it his own Body and Blood?” And then, as his bereaved friends re-enacted those most peculiar words and deeds, they found Jesus, present among them again in a spiritual form, as he had been among them physically. The eyes of their minds were opened and they once again perceived the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread.


They tried to kill us — // we escaped — our enemies  // are dead now — let’s eat!