Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An Amazing Gift

Tonight I had the privilege of celebrating the Eucharist on the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood.  As I participated in this sacred and timeless prayer I was once again humbled at the gift of being able to do so.  

The day started with a question by a colleague of what encourages me about my church or denomination.  I have to be honest that it took me a while to come up with an answer.  We have been torn asunder by conflict and politics.  We have argued heatedly about how to spend “our” money.  I have been ashamed at times by my actions and those of my brothers and sisters in Christ about the poor witness we are to God’s love story.

I answered the question, yet as the day went on it was much like a piece of sand stuck in my shoe.  It was just enough to remind me I needed to do something with it, but not quite irritating enough to handle immediately.

As I stood at the altar tonight it hit me.  I am encouraged that all these years later God looks past what is on the outside and sees the heart.  God loves and uses broken people to build God’s kingdom.  God doesn’t see failure but rather a chance for a new beginning.  Even when we turn away, God continues to seek.

As I prayed the words of that beautiful prayer I was also reminded that this journey must be done in community.  It was in the love and support of family, friends, strangers, and mentors that I am able to share those words with this part of God’s family.  As I invited others to take part in this sacred ministry a glimpse of those who walked the journey with me flashed through my mind.  Each of those faces Christ to me along the way.

And as I shared the body and blood of Christ I saw Christ looking back at me and I was brought to me knees.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Celebration of Ministry

Sunday, June 26, 2011 was the bishop's visit to St. MM.  He confirmed and reaffirmed folks and celebrated our ministry together.
With Jamie at graduation from seminary

Greeting and introductions…

Well here we are in the presence of Our Lord, in the presence of A Bishop in Christ One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, in the sight of the people of the congregation, our hearts our minds attuned to but one thing this morning and that is to welcome and install the prophetess. Prophets are historically not welcomed into any community because their words seem harsh, their vision lacks conformity, and because that’s not the way we’ve always done it.
And yet you are called to the gift of welcoming and hospitality by the action of the Holy Spirit for which the by-product is the gift. The gift of Hospitality. To show grace and with open ears and hearts, and eyes to do the one thing we are called to do in the sight of Mother Julie, to listen to the words of the Prophet. 

I have known Julie for almost seven years. I have been with her in battle in the trenches when the odds were stacked against her and like the phoenix rising from the ashes, I have seen her stand in the heat of the fire and say I will not back down. There were tears, heartache, and even disagreement. The first of which is when I offered to make her some Pimento Cheese and she said I can’t believe you people eat that stuff, it’s disgusting.  I wept deep tears and prayed for our sister.

Then I brought my sister down to Birmingham for some dental emergency. I arose to make her breakfast one morning, and making stone ground grits, with a quarter stick of real butter on them, fried eggs, bacon, and cat head biscuits, she said I don’t know how you people eat that especially those grits is disgusting. Oh my heart wept and prayed for my sister. 

Then she met Tommy. And oh Lord I prayed for him so much. And their love grew for each other, and they married, and she announced that she was going to become a Southerner and oh Lord I prayed for the South. I feared that my influence on her had brought yet another Carpet Bagger into our midst. But I was wrong as usual. 

What God gave us was a Lady a true Lady, who in spite of her gentle manner, her quiet voice, her calm pastoral demeanor, is a prophet.  She proclaims the word of God in a society that says it is folly. She proclaims the word of God as a woman in a society that says woman should not do that, in spite of the fact that women were called to do it in the New Testament, in spite of the fact that the Early church as early as the 200’s had recognized the common call to ministry amongst women and men, in spite of the fact that the bar that was placed over women’s proclamation was a bar that was put there by the church in Rome whose yoke we fled which identifies us as Anglicans 500 years ago.
You being a church with sober judgment and with praying and discerning hearts heard a call to ask her to come into your midst and join you in the ranks of a battle. A battle that wants to see the injustice of lives devoted to self made god’s, put down and Christ lifted up. This is why my sister is here in your midst. 

She is here to lock arms with you, to be your servant, as Christ was to us, and to preach and proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and that Gospel only.  To celebrate the sacraments with you for not only yours but also her fortification, sanctification, and renewal.  Hers and yours or as we like to say y'all’s. You have learned y'all haven’t you?

She is here to help you claim your own ministry in the church, because the body can only be made strong when we are all contributing to the individual parts. She can’t do it by herself; God never intended it that way. He intended for all people to contribute to the needs of the saints, whatever that call may look like for each of you individually, she will help you clam it.

She is here to open up the Holy Scriptures and to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them and then in turn aid you in the same. Bringing to life the Gospel narrative of Grace by which we were undeserving as sinners and yet while we were still sinners Jesus Christ, the Son of God came in human flesh and took our sin to the cross, where even though we crucified him, he forgave us, was raised and reigns victoriously at the right hand of the Father. 
That is a prophet’s message in this day and age, to put us in the mind to jump in the water of Baptism and the fluid of repentance will well up inside like millions of Holy tears drenching our soul in relief from the burdens of a world dying. A world that wants to park itself away in the corner lost in the fairy land of your personal electronic device where you can put up the picture of the person you want people to see and have 400 friends instead of the ones you really need, your family, your priest, and those for who your soul longs to be with.
Julie has been called among you to obey her bishop and to follow the most important canonical duty that he can charge her with. It is in the fine print of her contract and it says, and all other duties as assigned.
Just kidding, he has given her more than that, he has given her all that I have mentioned and one more thing that we will get to in just a second.

Julie we really have laughed and cried together, but I have seen the heart and light of Christ in you in such a powerful way that it gives me hope. And as Andy says in The Shawshank Redemption, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and a good thing never dies.
Today more so than ever we need vital churches, that understands their role as building up people for service as the Body of Christ. And with all the time we have spent together I have seen it in you time and again and don’t you ever forget it and don’t you let anyone take it away from you.

Julie knows the church needs this and she knows that her job is to build you up for this work. We are in unprecedented times and we need to regain our strength. A. W. Tozer, my favorite Christian writer said the following before he died in 1963 said the following, “In many churches Christianity has been watered down until the solution is so weak that if it were poison it would not hurt anyone, and if it were medicine it would not cure anyone!" Tozer was seeing what was only the beginning of the birth pangs.

For all these ailments that the world brings to the body of Christ there is but one cure, it does not come from a gun, it does not come from the well worded letter that insults, it does not come from the politicians, it comes from Love. Unbridled, wild, Christian love.

This is what everything I have said boils down to. To Welcome Julie to welcome the stranger, to pass the peace, to stand in the face of the powers and principalities of this world, and to Love them. Love one another as I have loved you, Christ said. Give my little ones a cup of cold water. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, be present to the hurting and lonely and by doing so you will let your light so shine before all and give Glory to your Father in heaven. This is why Christ has put you all together at this time.

This is why he has called Julie in your midst, me in your midst, The Bishop in your midst. To welcome that for which we cannot and do not wish to welcome, our selves. To love that for whom is unlovable, us. And in the process to change us in to whom we were meant to be. For you are called to be Christ to me and I am called to Christ to you.

Mother Julie this is your charge of ministry in this congregation and it is a task that you are equal to. You have been doing it all your life and I have seen you do it over the last seven years in the face of every obstacle. Congratulations St. Mary Magdalene, you have called one of Christ’s own unto you and together with your Bishop and as God as my witness let me say well done good and faithful servants. 

The Rev. Jamie McAdams

Friday, June 24, 2011

What do you hear?

Standing at the door
Watching and waiting
Are you opening or closing?
A gate keeper or an entry way?
Is the invitation to meet with God?
Or be part of the club?
“Come to me”
I hear my Lord say.
When you listen
What do you hear?
Is there fear
When you draw near?
Or is there silence
Leaving you to feel empty and alone
The promise is forever
“I am with you always”
Open your hands
Let go of the gate
And reach to the one who loves you
And invites you in
Where you may be free
From all that causes worry
Won’t you come to dance and play
With me?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Trinity Sunday (A)

Copyright ©2007, Ola Damberg

This is the story of Beatrice, the Apostle Paul’s fictional sister.

Y’all have met my brother Saul or at least heard his story.  Most of you have probably also read some of the letters he wrote.  Many say he is a great man.  I remember him mostly being a pest.  Growing up he would tease me and I would get punished when I tried to get back at him.  He would make fun of me for not being able to cook as well as mama or to sew like nana as she made tents.

It was easier for boys.  They were able to be outside more and go to school.  Saul was a good student so he spent more time studying than working.  Saul studied the Torah and he believed its words.  He often told me I was good because God created me in God’s image.  Somehow that never made sense to me.  The girl who couldn’t sew straight or cook.

Saul spent much of his time with Gamaliel.  Gamaliel was a gentle teacher and often counseled peace and patience.  We were never sure why Saul did not follow Gamaliel’s ways.  Perhaps it was the teasing he took as he walked home from the rabbi’s house.  Or maybe it was that he was not a good fisherman like the other boys.  Whatever it was, Saul became full of anger and it became his mission to persecute those that followed Jesus, the one they called the Christ.

One day while I was visiting cousins we went to the beach.  I was there when Jesus came to the boats and called Peter and the others.  First they put out to deep water (after being up all night with no luck).  They caught so many fish their boat began to sink.  When they got back to shore, they left everything to follow Jesus. 

I couldn’t do that.  My parents were getting older and nana could no longer see.  Who would care for my family?  Besides, why would Jesus want me?  A tent maker who couldn’t sew straight, a woman who couldn’t cook.

Saul was gone for many, many moons.  We heard stories about him, but we did not think they could be true.  When he came for a visit, we knew then that the stories were true.  He told us he had a new name, Paul.  He talked about meeting Jesus on a road and bright lights and voices from heaven.  My brother Saul who had persecuted the followers of this Jesus now says he knows this Jesus.  He says he wants to spend his life telling others about this Jesus, the one whose followers he persecuted. 

He shared about Jesus.  His teaching about the love of God, his healings, the miracles he did.  Saul, I mean Paul, shared about Jesus being crucified, dying, and rising again.  He shared about a time some of the followers were hidden away in a dark room and Jesus appeared to them.  And he told of another day when the followers shared about Jesus in many tongues so that all that were there could hear in their own language.  Some people thought they were drunk, but one of the followers, I think he said it was Peter, told them they were not drunk, but sharing the words of the prophet Joel.

I don’t know about all this stuff.  Maybe following Jesus is for people like my brother, people who are learned and smart.    That day I saw him at the beach was exciting, but I couldn’t drop everything and follow him like those fishermen.

Paul shared some of the last words Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Paul says that is why he is leaving home again.  To go and to share about Jesus.  About his love and his power.  Paul shared some of the letters he has been writing.  It is hard for me to realize this brother of mine is the same one who helped kill my friend Stephen and who burned with rage when speaking about the followers of Jesus.

Yet I see with my own eyes how he is changed.  He is softer, more at peace.  He no longer teases me but rather urges me to know this Jesus.  He is more patient, more loving.

I want to be like he is now.  Yet what would this Jesus want with a tent maker who cannot sew straight, a woman who cannot cook?  Paul reminds me that we all have different gifts.  That we are to use our gifts in community to meet the needs around us.  Paul reminds me that I am good at organizing things and making sure details are taken care of.  He tells me I can use that gift to help spread the words of Jesus.  He says that my gifts will allow those with the gift of words be free to share their gifts.  It doesn’t make sense to me.

Paul wants me to go with him to do this work, but somehow it seems safer to stay here in Tarsus.  To keep doing the things I have always done.  Who am I that I could make disciples?  Who am I to baptize people?  Who am I to teach people?  How do I know Jesus will always be with me?  I never met this Jesus.  How can I know him and how can he be with me always?

It makes no sense to me.  I think I will just stay here.  It is safer.  It is easier.  It is what I know. 

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know

This indecision's bugging me… (The Clash)

Let us pray:

God, whose fingers sculpt sun and moon
and curl the baby's ear;
Spirit, brooding over chaos
before the naming of day;
Savior, sending us to earth's ends
with water and words:
startle us with the grace, love, and communion
of your unity in diversity,
that we may live to the praise of your majestic name. Amen.

Reproduced from Revised Common Lectionary Prayers copyright © 2002 Consultation on Common Texts admin. Augsburg Fortress.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Fighting traffic and fear
Rushing to the airport
A hurried kiss from my beloved
One more hug as the bags are grabbed
Tears at the thought of not snuggling and giggling at the close of the day
The silver wings glide through the sky
A vision of God close by
Landing a wall of heat
A reminder this is an unknown
Lunch with a friend who has the same bag
A van ride with other journeyers
Buildings and noise give way
To water and trees that sway
A magical road over a swamp
A reminder of a time when levees failed
Prayers that broken ones wailed
A new home for a time
Fellow travelers found
Tears, fears, cheers, and even a few beers
Draw us together as we pray and play
Plan for a  new way
I gaze at the lake
The mist like my fear rises to the new day
A reminder that God journeys with me
And will carry me home
Richer for this time away from time
Reminded that I am wholly thine.