Embodying God’s Reconciling Love

Sermon preached on 06 September 2020 – St. Barnabas’ Famouth, MA
available on youtube here

May I speak in the name of God who is Love. 

At first glance, our Gospel for today seems to be a framework for conflict resolution. But if we expand beyond the lectionary to include what comes before, I think we get some helpful context about what Jesus is saying to the church in this passage. Immediately preceding the verses about harm and faults, Jesus shares an example of God’s love. He says God‘s love is like a shepherd who having 100 sheep was so distraught at losing one of them that he left the 99 to go, find, and rescue the one lost sheep. 

In Jesus‘s description of the church, he is instructing us to embody this love of God in our relationships with one another. He is saying, I want you to long for one another so much that when harm happens, we don’t just cut one another off or cast one another aside but instead we work to reconcile the relationship. 

The way that I see it, the church embodies this love on three levels – ourselves, with one another, and in the wider community.

In terms of reconciliation with self, I figured that because this is my first Sunday here it’s an appropriate time to share a little bit of my story. Not my whole story, we have three years for that, but to tell you how the church has been a place of reconciliation for me. 

I grew up in the Lutheran church and I absolutely loved it. I loved making the popsicle stick crosses, I love singing the hymns, and I loved most of all, communion – walking down the aisle on Sunday, putting my little hands out getting a wafer and a small cup of wine. I stayed really active in the church in high school and even at the beginning of college until he became more involved in a conservative branch of the church – where it seems like my sadness and my struggles were often viewed as sins that I can get it to fix – At some point, I was tired of hearing how bad I was, so I left the church.

I only returned two years later with my employer Kristen invited me to the baptism of her son at Saint David’s Episcopal Church. Right away, I felt at home immediately – the liturgy reminded me of growing up – especially Eucharist and while I didn’t find a place to make popsicle stick crosses at 22, I found an adult small group that had dinner together regularly. And we talked about our real lives, challenges with depression, marital problems and recovery, this was a place where people could bring their whole selves. And it was there around those tables that I learned at the church was called to embody the truth of God’s love and longing for each one of us, no matter what, and in that please, I knew I was reconciled to God.

This sort of love is not just between me and God it also between me and you between each one of us. 

That’s what our gospel for today focuses on, what reconciliation looks like between two people. Jesus’ instructions are clear, be direct when harm is done to you – don’t be passive aggressive, or go gossip behind the person’s back. Instead go straight to the person and share the harm that has been done. Now this is not to make someone feel bad or to lord it over them. Rather it’s to tell one another how we’ve hurt each other in the hopes that we can change and grow to be more like God. 

If someone tells me how I  hurt them, the idea is that I listen deeply to their pain and out of my longing for them, my love for them, I am willing to change so that we can maintain relationship with one another. And likewise when others know how they have hurt me that they are willing change to change to restore relationship. 

Jesus is very clear that reconciliation requires change, he says that if someone doesn’t listen to you over and over again if they are unwilling to stop doing harm, the relationship you have with them must take on a different form. And that is because the church is called to embody God’s reconciling love, a process of ongoing change, that we might more closely resemble the body of Christ.

Lastly, the church is called to participate in the reconciliation of the wider community – to recognize that God‘s longing and love extends far beyond our walls. 

To recognize that if God is distraught over the one sheep, imagine the level of pain God feels when thousands of immigrant children are lost on the border, ripped from their families. 

That if God is saddened over the loss of one sheep, imagine the depths of God’s sadness for the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to COVID, most of those lives in poor communities, Black communities, Indigenous communities, and communities of color. 

And if God is heartbroken over the loss of one sheep, imagine God’s heartbreak over the death of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Gardner, George Floyd, and so many other senseless deaths because of racist violence. 

The church is called to name the harm that is being done in the wider community. Because only when we speak the truth, can we go about the work of building systems that heal and of restoring relationships. This work is more than politics or equity and diversity or even about doing the right things it’s about embodying the longing that God has each One of God’s children.

This is the work of the church to be a place where relationships are restored with God, with one another, and in the wider community.

 It is not easy work, the good news is that we are not doing it alone. The very foundations of the church and other reading today, is that we need one another to do this work. And like it is promised in our gospel, when two or three of us join in this work of reconciliation together, Jesus is with us. Emboldening us, sustaining us, and guiding us on the way. 

So make it God gave us the grace to hear where the spirit is leading and the courage to follow.

Ordination Prayer

Pentecost Fire by Jan Richardson

Over the next two days, I will be ordained into the Sacred Order of Deacons in the Episcopal Church. When I woke up this morning for my daily prayers, writing, and meditation – this is what I prayed. I hope you will join me in offering up this prayer for my ministry.

God, make me worthy of the ministry you have entrusted to me. 

I want to stand in the gap – a reminder of justice, suffering, and pain in the church and a sign of love, endurance, and promise in the world. I want to love the gap. I want to remember that, indeed, church and world are more wrapped up than we ever know.

I want to love the things that are uncomfortable, help me make my home in the questions that aren’t easily answered. Help me to push myself and the people who seek to follow you to be discontent with what feels good enough and to push on towards your way of wholeness.

Help me to remain, to remain steady for those who cannot feel you in the moment. Help me to remember that you show up to all of us in our own ways and in our own time and all I am called to do, is love.

Help me to forgive, over and over and over again, to remember that I get to choose what I hold on to and what I release.

Help me to believe in who you have called me to be. Help me to run your race with all you have given me, please God give me glimpses of you along the way.

Help me to stay grounded in your truth – remind me that I am dependent on your love and without your guidance an your word, the word, as my light and lamp, I will falter. Hold me when I don’t think I’m held.

Keep me humble, aware that I never know the full picture, remind me that you are bigger than any of us can understand, keep my ears open to year ever active truth.

Anger me and embolden me when our world doesn’t look like what you imagined for us – stir up in me a longing for equity, justice, and liberation that cannot be diminished by worldly comforts

May I go to places where I an be among those who know your way, the way of exclusion and suffering, remind me that you lived your life among those the world deemed sick – help me do the same.

May this ministry transform and challenge me. Every. Single. Day.

Most of all, may I always remember that this is not my path to carve out, you have gone ahead, Holy Spirit, Miriam, Mary, Sarah, Hagar, Bathsheba, Mary Magdalene, Sedonia, Phoebe, Elaine, Dorothy, Annette, Sojourner, Rosa, Barbara … the Spirit has gone ahead and I am never ever ever alone on this path.

In Defense of Riots

Luca Giordano – Expulsion of the Moneychangers from the Temple

When thinking about riots there are two primary faith stories that come to mind.

The first is Jesus in the temple, outraged at the exploitation happening at the hands of the religious and governmental authorities. His anger motivates him to turn over tables and turn a rope into a whip.

The second is an older story, that of Samson, who after being unjustly imprisoned tears down the temple killing himself alongside the spectators.

While violence is not necessary a “solution,” our faith traditions teach us that when the systems that are supposed to support and sustain us continue to deny voice, humanity, and any hope of change … those systems must crumble.

As a white woman, I cannot imagine the daily violence and stress this world places on the shoulders of people of color. What I do know is that my tradition teaches me that there is a place for riots. And if I had to guess, Jesus would be on the streets, crying out for change, and turning over tables.

Seeing Beauty: With Gods Help

Although it’s not a secret, I don’t often share about my recovery from disordered eating publicly. I’ve spent the last 16 years (good God) learning to surrender, accept my body as is, speak out against body injustice, and choose food that feels like a good choice in the moment.

On that journey I have met many powerful healers, primarily Isabel Duke but also Geneen Roth, Annie Lamont, Brenee Brown, and Catherine Hummel. On Friday night at Diaconal formation Marilee Comford joined that list.

Marilee led us in this beautiful prayer practice calls the GRACE prayer. After naming an intention for the prayer you walk/move through the five letters.

G – gratitude

R – release

A – acceptance

C – challenge

E – embrace

My intention for my prayer was body, as it had been a more difficult week in the healing department. I asked God to open me to the grace I might receive about my body.

G – I am grateful for the resilience and strength of my body when it’s been through so much.

R – I release the desires of empire that tell me to be a certain size.

… the next letter is A, acceptance, I’ve done a lot of body work so I imagined that I’d say “I accept my body just as it is.” But as I walked over to the A section the Spirit moved. She spoke to me, “What if you accepted yourself as beautiful?” That might seem like a slight reframe to some but the question still feels jarring to me.

A – I accept myself as beautiful.

C – I challenge myself to see beauty. I’ll hold this rock as a reminder.

E – I embrace where this journey might take me and I embrace God’s unending support along the way.

A Time for Hope

Happy Easter and Chag Sameach! May this be a season where we cling more deeply to the sort of Hope described by Rebecca Solnit in her book, Hope in the Darkness.

Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away. And though hope can be an act of defiance, defiance isn’t enough reason to hope. But there are good reasons.

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists.

It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act.

Things don’t always change for the better, but they change, and we can play a role in that change if we act. Which is where hope comes in.

Celebrating Easter with Darrell at St John’s Easter Vigil.

Lost in the Crowd: Lenten Reflection (39)


Scripture for Today: Mark 14: 32-72, 15

Today’s post is guest written by Jesse Ortiz, Natalie’s former co-worker and blog editor. Jesse is currently a PhD student in Cultural Studies at U.C. Davis. All opinions and mistakes are their own.

Where do you see yourself on Good Friday?

On March 18, two Sacramento police officers shot 20 bullets — two rounds of ammo — into a twenty-two year old man standing in his own backyard. Stephon Clark wasn’t killed for a crime. The police were told that a black man in a hoodie had been breaking windows in the area. They claim that when they saw Stephon holding his cell phone, they thought he was carrying a weapon and they feared for their own lives. Stephon’s only transgression was blackness.

Who killed Jesus? Was it the executioner who nailed him to the cross? Was it the soldiers who led him through the city? Was it Pilate, the governor who sentenced him to death?

The crowd shouted: “Crucify him!”

The soldiers, the executioners, and Pilate were all following orders. Even the apostles, Jesus’ closes confidants, fell asleep in the garden, failing to assert enough agency to stay awake and accompany their friend. Only the crowd, calling for crucifixion, could demand and receive what they wanted.

The crowd is us. The crowd is you.

According to the chief priests, what what Jesus’ greatest transgression? They claim Jesus said he “will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands” (14:58). As the scripture insists, this is false. In John 2:19, when a group of Jews ask Jesus for a sign of his authority, he says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” In a sense, the people take Jesus too literally. They project their fears of instability and scarcity onto Jesus’ words, imagining that he would single-handedly raise that very same temple — violating their common sense. The people are thinking as fundamentalists, while Jesus is speaking metaphorically. And Jesus’ metaphors offer us so much more.

In the days following Stephon Clark’s execution, people across the country used their voices and feet to confront the injustice of his death. In Sacramento last week, protesters such down Interstate 5 and delayed the Sacramento Kings game to bring attention to Stephon’s death.

I was in that crowd. As the Good Friday story teaches us, a crowd has power. We don’t have to use that power to kill.

Like Easter, Good Friday isn’t just one day. Good Friday is the day a family has to mourn the death of their twenty-two year old son, father, partner, and brother. Good Friday is the day a black trans woman is murdered. Good Friday the day a U.S. military drone destroys human life. Good Friday is any day, and Good Friday is every day.

Every day, we are part of a crowd. Whenever we say “Blue Lives Matter,” we are saying “Crucify them!” Whenever we call the cops on harmless people, or call for more cops in schools, we are saying “Crucify them!” Whenever we celebrate the U.S. military, whenever we stand for the National Anthem, we are saying “Crucify them!”

As Jesus shows us, simply following the rules, taking things literally, is not enough. We must grapple with our actions and beliefs to be in right-relationship with God. As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Silence, too, is persecution.

When you stand by as the U.S. builds more prisons to lock up more people, you are saying “Crucify them!” When you ignore the U.S. military action that isn’t covered in the mainstream media, you are saying “Crucify them!” When you don’t talk to your kids, your friends, or your siblings about racism, you are saying “Crucify them!” When you refuse to learn about mass incarceration, police brutality, or military violence, you are saying “Crucify them! Crucify them! Crucify them.”

Yes, every day can be Good Friday. But not every day should be. If we believe the Easter story, our world can be another way. On the day that Jesus died, his government, his community, and even his closest companions betrayed him.

Jesus died for us, and now we know so much better. Where will you be on Good Friday?

Pray: Grant me the heart that Jesus died for me to have.

Reflect: Where have you been passive in situations of injustice? What can you do when you recognize yourself as part of an oppressive crowd?

Art: From Jesse’s Instagram, an image from the #BlackLivesMatter protest in Sacramento following Stephon Clark’s death. Man holds rainbow Black Lives Matter sign in front of a gym.

Further Reading: 


Bermuda and You: Photos From Our Trip

Rain has drops
Sun has shine
Moon has beams
That make you mine

Rivers have banks
Sands for shores
Hearts have heartbeats
That make me yours

Needles have eyes
Though pins may prick
Elmer has glue
To make things stick

Winter has Spring
Stockings feet
Pepper has mint
To make it sweet

Teachers have lessons
Soup du jour
Lawyers sue bad folks
Doctors cure

All and all
This much is true
You have me
And I have you
by Nikki Giovanni

Hosea_(Menologion_of_Basil_II) http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com

Mixed Metaphors – Lenten Reflection (19)

Scripture for Today: Hosea 1-4, 11

Hosea is a passionate love story. And, while it may not be factual, it is a story most know to be true. A steadfast lover, ardent in their pursuit of their beloved, is pained by acts of deceit and infidelity. The lover, ever determined to win back the beloved, fights for their return but is cast aside by their unfaithful partner.

As a seventeen-year-old girl reading this book I adored the story of Hosea and his wife. I saw myself in the promiscuous wife and found myself longing for a man, or a God, who would fight for my sinful and unworthy soul.

However, as I read this text today, as a thirty-three-year old woman who is fully embodied and aware of my worth, I am disgusted by the language Hosea used to talk about his wife. I can’t shake the fact that Hosea’s metaphor spawned the figure of a seductive woman who causes misery for men. I can’t ignore that the metaphor enforces a flawed idea of sexuality in which women fall into one of two categories, whores or Madonnas. And, I can’t deny that the church has perpetuated these teachings for years. 

I really didn’t want to write this reflection.

Rather than offer clarity,  the Bible commentary I read fueled my frustrations: “There is little doubt that the very negative use of female imagery in the Prophets has contributed to negative stereotypes of women, and even to physical abuse on occasion” (Introduction to the Hebrew Bible by John J. Collins).

There were some authors who sought to redeem the text by stripping it of its gender roles and interpreting it simply as lovers who struggled to be faithful to one another. However, as a woman who has experienced the impact of this metaphor, these attempts at redemption feel paltry at best.

I wondered, as I imagine some of you do, “Why do we continue to read texts that promote harmful ideas towards women?”

The best I can come up with is that we want to maintain our connection to the people of God who came before us. Despite their flaws, we want to connect with the eternal story of people seeking to understand God.

I imagine that we, just like the prophet Hosea, use words or terms for God that are also harmful. We, just like Hosea, create stories about how and why God acts that limit an understanding of God’s love. And we, like Hosea, are trying desperately to find a way to describe God.

So, while I won’t yet endorse this use of a metaphor, I can find some compassion for the author who was trying their best to articulate the ineffable love of God. I can see, through the frailty of human language, a God who is tender and generous with me. And, I can commit to speaking more cautiously, humbly, and slowly about God, lest I repeat the pattern of Hosea.

Pray: Keep me humble as I seek to know you fully.

Reflect:  How do the metaphors or images of God you learned as a younger person impact your understanding of God today? What image might you use to describe the love of God?

Art: Hosea found on the blog of John Sandidopoulos

Books: In the hopes of understanding Hosea I’m going to read the following:



Do We Need One Another? – Reflection on Mark 6

A reflection on today’s daily office reading on the Gospel of Mark

The first half of the Gospel reading tells of the frustration that Jesus experienced when he went home to Nazareth. The people of Nazareth experienced Jesus, not as the son of God but as, “the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” This understanding of Jesus apparently stifled his ability to perform miracles, Mark observes, “And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.”

Similarly, the second part of the Gospel highlights the essential nature of relationship. As Christ sends out the disciples he instructs them to take nothing and rely on the goodness of other people. This action catapults us into a level of relationship with people that requires intimacy, vulnerability and a level of dependence that we often find uncomfortable.

Read More »