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Awaiting Zechariah’s fulfillment

I am taking yet another preaching class…my motivations are less than ideal…I need to graduate, and to do that I need another credit in proclamation. I received feedback on my first sermon for this class that it was excellent, but likely to go above people’s heads. What do you think? I think its challenging, but I think it’s a message people need to hear. My sermon text is designed to be spoken not read, so it had some capitalization for emphasis and colloquial grammar…What do you think dear reader?

Sermon Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, Year A, Track 2. Lectionary for July 6

Zechariah 9:9-12, Ps. 145:8-15, Romans 7:15-25, Mt, 11:16-19, 25-30

 

Today is a day of wonderful lessons, that all seem like wonderful things we need to here. In the Psalm we heard “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great kindness…” Romans 7, talks about struggling with sin…who cannot relate to Paul’s lament “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do.” Many times in our lives we really need to hear about God’s compassion and how even the saints and apostles struggled with sin and temptation…So it may come as a surprise to many of you that I’ve chosen to preach on the Old Testament lesson today.

Why preach on 4 measly verses of the Old Testament? After all, many of us would be hard pressed to even FIND Zechariah in the Bible without turning to Table of Contents, and when we did we’d find him listed there along with several others under the heading “MINOR PROPHETS”….Minor or lessor means he is unimportant right? not quite…

Well to understand Zechariah’s importance, first we have to find him. The book of Zechariah is the second to last book in the Old Testament. He is one of 12 Minor Prophets in the Old Testament. Zechariah was a prophet and a priest. The book contains a series of visions that foretells not only the physical restoration and renewal of Jerusalem, but of the spiritual renewal of God’s covenant. Most significantly for us, Zechariah is one of the chorus of prophetic voices that foretold the coming of Jesus Christ. In Zechariah this morning we heard in about the coming of Zion’s king, chapter 9 verse 9, “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Some of you may be thinking, hmm gee that sounds familiar. Well it should. Just a few months ago during the Palm Sunday liturgy we heard from Matthew chapter 21, verses 1-5, the story of Jesus entry into Jerusalem.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” (Mat 21:1-5 NIV)

Jesus fulfilled Zechariah’s words in verse 9, so again some of you may again be thinking we don’t need to pay much attention to Zechariah here, after all it’s already been fulfilled, right? Not quite…

This morning’s passage goes on to foretell the time when the LORD will establish peace in Jerusalem. Zechariah 9, verse 10 describes the time when God will take away the war chariots, the war horses, and will break the battle bows. All we have to do is turn on the news to realize that this has not yet happened. Israel and the Promised Land is still a war torn country. Today’s warfare features battles between Israelites and Palestinians, instead of Israelites and Canaanites. And the technology is bombs, mortars, machine guns and even nuclear weapons as opposed to chariots and bows…

Yet verse 10 also tells us that, he, Jesus will proclaim peace to the nations and his rule will extend from sea to sea, to the ends of the Earth. Jesus did come, not as the triumphal military king the Israelites were expecting. No he came lowly, riding on a colt. He did proclaim peace, and also salvation and the forgiveness of sins. The claims of peace in the middle East seem ludicrous, and fantastical.

I have jokingly, or not so jokingly heard it remarked that the only way to bring peace to the middle East would be to level it into a parking lot. Indeed much of this country’s military efforts over the last decade have been consumed by operations like “Shock and Awe” and “Iraqi Freedom.” Bombing to bring peace…yet we see on the news that the region is still war torn and unstable.

This past week we celebrated Independence Day. The commemoration of this country’s signing of the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent war for Independence. My family has the tradition of watching the musical, 1776 every Independence Day. There is something quite humorous about hearing the future President John Adams singing about being obnoxious and disliked. The musical also relates the horrible compromise made with the South to remove language about slavery from the declaration of Independence, a wrong that wouldn’t be righted until the Civil War, almost 100 years later.

It seems our country has a history of fighting to right wrongs. Throughout history violence has been used to right wrongs and redeem honor. Yet the Bible has placed strict limits on violence. The law limited revenge to an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth. Then Jesus went even further by telling us to turn the other cheek and when someone takes our coat, to give them our cloak as well. Did Jesus really intend for us to let ourselves get pushed around? Taken advantage of…Don’t we have a responsibility to bring about peace and right wrongs?

In Zechariah 9 verse 10 we hear that the LORD is the bringer of peace. The Lord is the one who breaks the bows of warfare. Should we also trust in the Lord to break our modern “weapons of mass destruction.” It seems naïve to think such a thing. Yet a portion of Zechariah has already come to pass, why should we not trust in its promises?

God promises his people in verse 11 that he will free their prisoners from the waterless pit. God has a covenant relationship with his people. We hear in Romans chapter 11 verse 17, that we are  “ingrafted branches” onto Jesse’s tree and we now share in the same nourishing sap. We share in God’s promises of peace, salvation, and the setting of the captives free.

Unfortunately, we know that for many of those promises to come true we need to wait for Jesus’s coming again, when we are promised a new heaven and a new earth, a new life with Christ, and a New Jerusalem, fully restored. It is a difficult thing to wait upon the Lord. Yet in Zechariah 9, verse 12, God enjoins his people to “return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope, even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.”

What does it mean to be a “prisoner of hope”? In part it means to obey God, to wait and to trust in Him and His ultimate plan for salvation. It is all too easy for us to rely on ourselves, on our country, and on violence to protect us, to restore us. Yet God promises that the prisoners will be freed, and that Israel’s splendor will be restored double, not through violence, but through the coming King. We have already seen Jesus come once, he came just as promised, “righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Because of this we can trust in the rest of God’s message, that war will be ended, peace will be proclaimed and Christ’s rule will extend to the ends of the Earth. In the meantime we must remain prisoners, not of war, but of the hope we have in Christ that one day all things will be brought into subjection, and all peoples will worship him.

In the meantime we must live in the tension, waiting for Christ’s coming again. Our King came once lowly, riding on a donkey, to live and die as one of us, to preach peace, reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins. Peace is promised in Zechariah along with a kingdom that covers the whole Earth. Christ’s kingdom will not come through redemptive violence, where we can, let us be agents of peace. Working to turn the other cheek, both in our personal lives, and the life of the nation. As John 13:35 and the popular worship song says, “They will know we our Christians by our love.” Within this community, the greater church, and the nation let us lead lives of radical love that witness to Christ. Redemption and peace is not accomplished through fighting…Indeed the work of redemption and reconciliation has already been accomplished through Christ’s death and resurrection. While we await his coming again in glory, let us focus on Christ’s commission to us “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Trusting that Jesus is with us “always, to the very end of the age.”

Adventures in Ministry, Fundraising, and Humility

Who am I? and Why am I asking you for money, and fundraising?

I am the loving wife of a United States Coast Guard service member, Will Dugger.

I am the devoted mother of, one soon to be 2 years old little girl.

I am a candidate to the Holy orders of Priesthood in the Episcopal Church. I am a wife and mother called to ordained ministry to increase the faith, hope and love of Christ in the world. I was lost, but now am found and I want to share the Good News, and healing, that I found in college at Purdue University’s Wesley Foundation, to the whole world.

My call to ministry:

My call to ministry began in the wonderful Christian Formation process at Purdue University’s Wesley Foundation. After a turbulent childhood, I arrived at Purdue University a deeply wounded person. I was invited to attend an event at Wesley Foundation, and over the next 4 years, they became the tangible arms of God. They fully embraced me, even through my weird purple hair phase. Pastors Glen and Lana Robyne patiently answered my questions, not easy ones either, but things like the problem of evil and suffering in the world, and perceived Biblical inconsistencies.

Over 4 years, I was taught, for the first time, both in word and deed what it meant to be a Christian. I was baptized my Junior year. My senior year of college, I began attending a group that explored a “Call to Ministry.” Over a series of mission trips, retreats, and Wednesday night devotions that I led, I realized God wanted to use me to be a means of healing and reconciliation to wounded and broken people. The time was not yet ripe for me to enter into ministry, however, and I sensed a “Wait upon the Lord.”

So, when I graduated from Purdue in 2007, I was somewhat at loose ends, and deeply nervous. As it turns out there was a reason for my time of wait. My very first call to ministry, was my own broken and wounded family. My family, in very brief, had been torn apart by separations, fighting, mental illness, neglect and abuse. Yet, the beginning seeds of reconciliation had already been planted. Shortly after our first family Christmas in years, my mother was hospitalized. In January 2008, my mother was diagnosed with terminal, Pancreatic Cancer. She died that April. In so short a time, a lot goes through a family system. I was able to share the peace of Christ that I found at Wesley Foundation, and had continued finding at Church of the Messiah, in Winter Garden, FL. My mother and I had many talks about God, leading up to her final days. She died reconciled to God. She had left over Scientific doubts and personal turmoil. In her final days she received last rites from Father Richard Borden. He and Messiah’s youth minister, at the time, Anne Matthew’s came and ministered to my family. My father was able to talk to a priest for hours. I cannot say exactly what happened, except the work of God. My mother’s death became the catalyst for a time of turmoil, but also a time of healing. My sister found faith and was baptized in July of 2009, and my Dad began attending church with me whenever he was in town.

My husband, Will Dugger and I also met during this time of waiting, that wasn’t really waiting at all. He and his family, have incredible devotion to God, and the Episcopal Church. They walked alongside my family through my mother’s dying, and embraced us with the more love and compassion than I could have ever expected or imagined. We were married April 18th, 2009, just shy of one year after my mother’s passing.

The time of waiting, that wasn’t waiting at all, but was ministry to, in and for my family had come to a close, and I sensed God telling me, “OK, now!” I began to work with Father Tom, of Church of the Messiah to discern what a calling to ministry meant for me. The surprising answer was priesthood!

I entered the process of discernment in the Episcopal Church, and was affirmed and uplifted. I began seminary at Asbury Theological Seminary, in the Fall of 2010. For my first two years I had almost a full scholarship, and was working at Church of the Messiah as well, first as an intern, and then as Children’s Minister. Into every well laid out plan, a little turmoil inevitably ensues. My plan to graduate with my Masters in Divinity in 3 years, and become ordained was thrown off. God’s timeline included the birth of our wonderful daughter in 2012. My husband entered the military in 2012 as well. Up until now, our household had required 2 incomes. He entered the military, making a great sacrifice, so that we would have the economic freedom for me to “just” attend seminary full time, and stay home with our daughter. Thus my “3 year plan” became a 4 ½ year adventure. Part of balancing the calls of wife (and a military wife at that), mother, and priesthood meant that our original plan, me transferring for my final year of seminary at an Episcopal, had to be rethought.

By the graciousness of my Bishop Greg Brewer, I was allowed to complete my M.Div. at Asbury Theological Seminary, and conduct my Anglican Year of studies as a distance student at Nashotah.

So where do you come in?

Much of my scholarships and diocesan support are set up on the assumption that you will complete your studies in three years and remain a full time student year round, including summers and January term.

I chose to take the Summer I gave birth off. I spent it getting to know this wonderful daughter the Lord knit together in my womb, and reweaving our family after my husband’s boot camp experience. This time off resulted in my school support dropping by almost $10K. We soldiered on, making up the deficit with loans.

Now as I approach the end of my seminary career, I need your support. Because I’m dual enrolled at Asbury to finish my Master’s in Divinity this summer, and Nashotah House, to do my Anglican Studies, I’m maxed out on the amount of federal loans I can take out in a year, and there is still a shortfall. Hence, the fundraising.

God is not telling me to wait, however. Through the prayers and discernment of my Bishop, Father Tom, Father Bob with whom I’ve served as an intern at St. Benedict’s in South Florida, where my husband is stationed, I’ve sensed God’s call to complete the work he has begun in me. This sprint to the finish is a financial challenge, but God’s timing is perfect. The diocese has stepped up their support of me by $3500.

I have never before asked for financial support from my congregation and my greater church family, but I need to now. Will you be instrumental in completing the good work that God has begun in my life? First and foremost, PRAY! Not everyone is called to give, but EVERYONE can pray! Pray that the means to cover the finances will be provided.

If in your prayers you discern God calling you to part of His means for my financial provision, then please GIVE with a cheerful heart. You can do so by going to this website, http://www.gofundme.com/funding-seminary

I hope that by hearing my story your faith that Christ is Risen! and at work in the world has been strengthened.

God Bless you,

2217_696464881768_7561_nTracy (Bridge)Dugger

day of prayer

National Day of Prayer, So what?

Thursday, May 1st is a national day of prayer.  So what? Do we really believe this is going to change anything? It might!

I think it depends on the attitude in which we approach this “Day of Prayer”…Do we come willing to accept guidance? Or are we just looking for blessing?

Standish, in his book Becoming a Blessed Church, describes a spiritual affliction. This affliction manifests itself in “little expectation that members will experience and encounter God, or connect what they do to God’s purpose, presence, and power.”

It sounds absurd when put like that, but its true. In our churches we don’t expect to encounter God’s purpose, presence, and power. We pray because we know we are supposed to. We pray because, “Eh, it can’t hurt.” and We pray because we’ve run out of other ideas. We pray because it is a “Day of Prayer.” God save us from this type of praying!

A seminary professor of mine, Father Gabig, described prayer as “wasting time with God.” He did not mean that prayer is a waste of our time. He meant that our prayer is like the time we spend with our families, and our friends, where it doesn’t matter what we do. We just want to spend time together. Prayer begins here, spending time with God. When we spend time with God and in His presence, we become attuned to His purpose, and we unleash His power.

I pray to you now God, may tomorrow be a time when we become attuned as a people, as a church, and as a nation to your presence. May we seek your Purpose for us, rather than merely asking your blessing on our own agenda. And may we allow your Holy Spirit to be at work in us, not just tomorrow, but everyday in our daily life and work. May we, by your grace and power, become a people who pray without ceasing, always seeking your presence, purpose, and power.

If you don’t know how to pray or what to pray for you can check out the Book of Common Prayer’s list of Prayer’s here.

To find Day of Prayer events in your area you can go to the official day of prayer webpage: http://nationaldayofprayer.org/ their event finder can put you in touch with local places to go and pray.

Finally, if you are looking for a way to become more in tune with God’s Purpose, Presence and Power as a Church, or Church leader, I HIGHLY recommend this book: Becoming a Blessed Church Becoming a Blessed Church:  Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence, and PowerN. Graham Standish; Alban Institute 2004WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Us vs. Them or Us. FOR Them?

I had the wonderful opportunity to preach at my home Church, Church of the Messiah this past Sunday. If you would like to hear my sermon you can check it out by following the link below…The sermon reflects on the purpose of confession and absolution in the Sunday Service in light of sin in the world.

Us vs Them?

The lessons were Gen 2:15-17, 3:1-7 * Ps 32 * Rom 5:12-19 * Mt 4:1-11

 

blog_gospelprocession2

Can you find the gospel?

Perhaps it is my many years working for Disney, but I cannot stand bad show. Bad Show at Disney is any element that is out of place that detracts from the whole experience. At Disney, Bad Show was rigidly prevented and disciplined with extensive handbooks on employee and park appearance, as well as guidelines on the closing of attractions based on whether certain key Show elements were functioning…So how does this relate to the Episcopal Church?

Is worship a show? yes and no. Hear me out… Last Sunday, I was serving at the altar, and one of my roles, in the absence of a deacon, was to carry the gospel book for the gospel processional and recessional. I was a little nervous because I had never done this at St. Benedict’s before, but I had done it at other churches. And so I felt reasonably confident I could do this.

At the proper time during the gospel anthem, I went and retrieved the golden gospel book. I bowed with it facing the altar, and then turned and with the priest in my wake held the book aloft as we processed with crucifer and torchbearers preceding me into the congregation. The theological reasoning here is that the gospel is proclaimed among and for the people.

As I turned and opened the book the torch bearers gathered in close. This is so that the priest can see to read the book, and is a leftover from the days of dim chapels without electric light, but also symbolizes Christ the light of the world.

The priest read the gospel. I closed the book and began the solemn recessional back up to the altar with the book held aloft, when suddenly I felt a tugging at my sleeve. This tugging causes me to fumble a bit as he pulls me and instructs me to step off to the side so that the cross, then the torches and then FINALLY little old me with the gospel book is allowed to go.

My initial reaction is “what?!?” this is horrible show. How tacky to have the gospel stand to the side while we re-line up the parade in the order “we prefer”.  I spoke to the master of ceremonies (yes our church has a master of ceremonies to corral the acolytes), and he explained this is just the way we do it at St. Benedicts. My question here is “Why?”

Aside from it not flowing smoothly when you have to rearrange elements in full view of the congregation, what is it saying about our theology. What we do visually indicates what we hold most important. Is the cross always the most important element? I would say “No.” Look back to the featured image at the top of this post. This is a gospel processional…Can you find the gospel? Go on and look, I’ll wait….Did you find it yet? Tip: look 3 people back from the front.

At the processional and recessional of the gospel the focus is on the teachings of Christ. They should be the “star of the show.”

Howard E. Galley, in his bookThe ceremonies of the Eucharist The ceremonies of the Eucharist: a guide to celebrationHoward Galley; Cowley Publications 1989WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

thinks the presence of the cross isn’t appropriate at all in the gospel procession.

“The two lights carried at the gospel are both a token of joy and a symbol of Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12). The use of incense is also appropriate. The use of a processional cross at this point is not desirable. The original purpose of the lights was to accompany the gospel book, a purpose that is obscured when a cross is carried, since they appear to be accompanying it instead. A cross, moreover, tends to call attention away from the book.”

So thinking theologically…

  1. Is show, or the way we do things important theologically?
  2. If we believe, as I do, that show is important how do we handle it when things go wrong. Do we correct in the midst of the worship service? or Do we wait until later? I tend to lean towards the latter. Correcting (like pulling on the sleeve of a person) during the service only compounds the issue of things not going according to plan.
  3. Finally, what do we do when we disagree, theologically, with how worship is run?

 

The trend of Young Anglicans

I read a great article about a trend towards younger clergy in the Anglican church in England. From my own experience in the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Florida I can definitely say this holds true here as well as across the pond.

The biggest factor in this trend that I can see is moving away from the idea that clergy is a second career calling.

Check out the original article…

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/a-new-generation-of-vicars-more-young-people-are-choosing-a-life-of-wing-tips-and-clerical-collars-9142497.html

Apologetics in an Unapologetic World

One of the classes I’m taking this semester is about Christian apologetics. The course readings include author’s such as Dawkins. One of his assertions that stuck out at me is that we are all atheists in this world. Some of of us just have one more God that we don’t believe in than others.

On the whole I find Dawkins smug and repugnant, but he has a point. No one is arguing much these days for the Gods of the Greek pantheon. Is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacod going the way of Zeus? Are Dawkins and others just ahead of the curve in ousting this God that seems to not make sense in our scientific world. I would argue that no…they are not ahead of the curve, but are behind it.

Joseph Butler, an Anglican Bishop, wrote a fabulous book called “The Analogy of Religion.” His book is a fabulous piece of apologetic work that deconstructs the problems that many beginning in the Enlightenment began to have between ‘reason’ and ‘religion.’ Sadly his work is in 18th Century English, and largely inaccessible to the modern readers comprehension.

Apologetics seem more important than ever in a world where a Christian viewpoint is automatically deemed as biased and suspect, yet where have they gone? The last century was filled with great evangelists, but they had little impact on rational debate. Perhaps this century will be one in which apologetics again comes to the fore.

The recent debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham about creation received a lot of buzz. Yet it seems no one was convinced. Nobody won…The creationists still believe and their opponents still do not. So what would a meaningful and impactful Christian apologetic look like in today’s pluralistic world?