A short homily in the time of pandemic on the Fifth Sunday of Lent

A short homily for a time of pandemic on the Fifth Sunday of Lent. #myssw #TheEpiscopalChurch #SantaFeEpiscopalChurch

Today’s Lectionary Readings:
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11:1-45


What a week!

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate, many of us are facing the very real anxieties of all that comes with it. We fear for our health and the health of those we know. We worry about our financial stability and how we will put food on the table. We mourn the loss of graduation ceremonies and wedding postponements.

Like Israel in exile we cry out as in our reading from Ezekiel this morning, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are completely isolated.”

And like the desperate plea in our Psalm we say, “Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord; hear my voice!”

And like Mary and Martha weeping over the illness and death of their brother, we cry, “Lord if you had been here this wouldn’t have happened…”

And the question on everybody’s mind is will this all be resolved in time for Easter (https://www.cnn.com/…/fauci-trump-easter-coronav…/index.html).

And yet here on the Fifth Sunday of Lent our lectionary readings are all about resurrection! In Ezekiel we see God breath the Spirit into a valley of dry bones that come back to life!

In Romans Paul declares, “he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you.”

In the Gospel of John Jesus cries out to to the dead man in a tomb, “Lazarus, come out!”

And so while we worry about whether our Lenten fast will spill over into Easter, here we are celebrating Easter in the time of Lent!

It’s be such a pleasant surprise that even in the midst of fear and suffering, I have encountered so many beautiful life-giving moments. I see families playing games and watching movies together. I see overworked adults taking naps.

I see people singing hymns from their balconies (https://www.facebook.com/christine.brunson2/videos/10157721358970067/UzpfSTUwODQzNTQ2MjIxOjEwMTU2NTgzMjc2NzcxMjIy/),

and cheering for doctors and nurses from their windows (https://www.wfsb.com/…/video_924f6df5-ddd8-555c-a800-eeaa98…).

Sometimes there isn’t such a clear line between death and life. Sometimes there isn’t such a clear line between despair and hope. Between sadness and joy. Between darkness and light.

Sometimes the seasons of Lent and Easter fade into one another and we find ourselves in the time of a Paschal Lent—a Lenten Easter.

Friends, we are living in that time. Death and Life are all around us. We hold in one hand the despair of illness and death and in the other the hope of resurrection. We hold in one hand our weeping, and in the other our hope and joy.

And the good news of both Lent and Easter is that Jesus comes alongside us in both. The good news of today’s gospel reading is not just that Lazarus was raised but that Jesus wept. And as Christ’s followers in the way, Jesus calls us to do the same. We are to be a Lenten people. We are to be an Easter people.

So call your neighbor and weep with them.
Facetime your mom and play charades.

Pray for those on the front lines of this illness.
Go outside and smell the flowers.

Call your senator and ask for financial relief for the most vulnerable.
Eat some pizza and watch a movie with your kids.

And in your suffering, know that Jesus weeps with you.
And in your healing know it is Christ who makes you well. Amen.

New Homily, “What does the devil look like?”

Given on the First Sunday of Lent at Santa Fe Episcopal Church in San Antonio, TX. The sermon is mostly in English, with Spanish sprinkled through as I continue to learn.


From artist Simon Smith. A beautiful Lenten video of these illustrations can be seen here: https://youtu.be/P-6a25Yo2wE 

En el nombre del Padre, el Hijo, y el Espíritu Santo. Amen.

Hoy es el primer domingo de la Cuaresma. Y en la Cuaresma es muy común de hacer una disciplina espiritual o de ayunar. El trabajo de la Cuaresma es interno. En la Cuaresma miramos en los corazones y en nuestras comunidades. Muchas veces olvidamos quienes somos en Dios y perseguimos las cosas del mundo.

Entonces aquí estamos, en el principio de la Cuaresma, hablamos sobre la tentación. Temptations.  ¿Conocemos bien la tentación, no? ¿A quién les gustan las galletas girl scout? ¿Cuantos comen? ¿Una, dos, una caja entera?

Or who has ever stayed in bed when you know you could be out washing the car or doing other chores? Who has ever skipped church when you felt like you should be there? Who here has ever worked an extra hour at your job instead of going home to your family? Who here has ever pretended to not see the person standing at the street corner and asking for money? We know what temptation is. We know the feeling it leaves in our gut when what we want to do and what we know we ought to do don’t line up.

And so here at the beginning of Lent I have one question. What does the devil look like?

¿Cómo se ve el diablo?

Click here to continue reading or to hear the audio.

Teresa of Avila and Preaching without Notes

This semester I’m taking a preaching class and we recently had to record ourselves giving a sermon without notes. In the Episcopal Church it is very common for preachers to read from a manuscript, which is how I am most comfortable preaching. I like the feeling of having planned exactly what I want to say. There are some draw backs to this method though and we’ve been experimenting in class with how to preach with limited or no notes at all. It’s been challenging, but surprisingly it has also given me much fodder for theological reflection in my continued discernment of the priestly vocation. Who am I as a preacher? Who could I be? What are my comfort zones? What are my insecurities? What is the role of preaching? These questions sure do have me thinking deeply about preaching in a way I’m not sure I ever have.

Here a my recorded video for class commemorating the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, which was on October 15th.

New Homily, “Borderlands: La palabra de Dios no está encadenada!”

“Gloria Anzaldúa” by Angela Yarbor,    www.holywomenicons.com

Our readings today are about borders. We have our own national border not too far from here. And it is something, I’m learning, that deeply forms the culture of south Texas. In her book, Borderlands/ La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa describes the border as una herida abierta. A place where the implications of our nation’s prejudices are fully visible. To live in the borderlands means to live in a complicated place, often full of pain, but also great beauty. Anzaldúa also points out however, that there are many kinds of borderlands. I didn’t grow up in south Texas. Though I was born less than 150 miles from the Canadian-U.S. border, a place vastly different than here. But I have gone through different kinds of borders in my life. I’ve passed through the borders between employment and unemployment. Between the church I grew up in and the church I’m in now. Between health and mental illness. Borders are hard. And I know my borders have been easy compared to what others have had to face. But living in some type of borderland is a fact of life. The borders in our lives are always changing, and sometimes we are on one side, and sometimes we’re on the other. Here in south Texas, we are especially aware of this reality.

In today’s first reading, we encounter the people of Israel in the borderlands of exile….

Click here to continue reading or to listen to the audio.

The Transitus of St. Francis

71076481_10218166025796597_7986049073352278016_nHere at the seminary we have something called a CISs (Community Initiated Services). These services provide seminary community members the opportunity to come up with creative expressions of prayer and worship in Christ Chapel. Last year I helped put one together for the Feast of St. Óscar Romero, which was so great.

Last fall I found an old book of plays in the library about St. Francis by Laurence Housman. I thought it was so cool and decided to dream up a Transitus service that used short plays in place of the traditional readings by Bonaventure and Thomas of Celano. Tonight that dream became a reality!

I’m so grateful for everyone who helped put this together. There were 20 of us involved in this one service from presiding to acting to baking bread and cookies. It was so, so special.

It was streamed live on the seminary Facebook page here. 

You can also see the service bulletin here: Transitus Bulletin Final

Practicando para la Eucaristía de este juenves/ Practicing for this Thursday night Eucharist

This semester I’ve taken on the role of facilitating the music for Seminary of the Southwest’s Thursday night Community Eucharist. I say facilitate because there is an amazing group of musicians with whom I collaborate each week, and I’m not nearly the most talented or the most visible or the most vocal. Even so, I’m really loving playing the part of a minister of music again. I spent over a decade in the Church of the Nazarene leading and writing music and when I joined the Episcopal Church, I sort of thought I left that all behind. In most Episcopal Churches you walk into these days, the organ (or maybe piano) is the only instrument. And while that’s beautiful, it’s been fun to practice some creativity about what music can look like in an Episcopal context. I’m especially enjoying playing with the less used hymnals from the African American and Spanish language traditions in the Episcopal Church. Thursday night Eucharist is incredibly special and I’m so grateful to participate each week.

Here are some videos that give a glimpse of what we do:





New Homily, “To Be With Jesus”


Icon by Cláudio Pastro

Our gospel reading today is the beloved story of Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary and after a year of seminary I feel like I have about a thousand ways I could approach the text. With my Pastoral Theology class in mind I might analyze the family system at play between Mary and Martha to discern the most appropriate way to provide pastoral care. Using what I’ve learned in my Liberation Theologies class, I might speak to the socio-political-economic culture of capitalism and its dehumanizing idolization of busyness and productivity. Having taken Liturgical Music 1 (and 2!) I might point out that Mary’s posture of listening to Jesus was not unlike listening to a beautiful piece of music. With Church History 1 (and 2!) in mind, I might speak to the contemplative Benedictine charism of Mary and the active Franciscan charism of Martha. And having taken Mujeristaand Latina Feminist Theologies I might finally call for the end of the debate on a woman’s role in society by pointing to Jesus’ response to Martha and saying, “El lugar de la mujer no está solo en la cocina!” “A woman’s place is not relegated to the kitchen!”

Click Here to Continue Reading or to Listen to the Audio.


Holy Saturday: The Dead God

In college I picked up the practice of praying the Jesus Prayer, an ancient Eastern mantra which comes from stories in the gospels where people cry out to Jesus for healing and mercy. I picked it up from the 19th century Russian classic, The Way of the Pilgrim. Anyway, I always keep a set of prayer beads in my pocket (I use a rosary) and at times pull it out and pray this prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

This afternoon I went to our Holy Saturday liturgy at the seminary and found myself there after the service praying with my beads and without even thinking too much about it praying a different prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, the dead God, have mercy on us, sinners.

Today, in Jesus, God is dead. We, in our hunger for power, in our allegiance to the status-quo, in our fear of others, in our prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry have killed God. Today God is in the tomb.

Our Lady of Ferguson by Mark Dukes Www.requiemfor10000souls.com

God is in the tomb with Trayvon Martin, whom we also killed. God is in the tomb with Felipe Gomez and Jakelin Caal. God is in the tomb with Roxana Hernandez, Dana Martin, and Ashanti Carmon. God is in the tomb with Matthew Shepherd. God is in the tomb with Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. God is in the tomb with those who lived most of their lives on death row. God is in the tomb with the teenagers from Parkland, FL and the children from Newtown, CT. God is in the tomb with the families in Afghanistan bombed by drones. God is in the tomb with those in the World Trade Center. God is in the tomb with the Rohingya in Myanmar. God is in the tomb with those who starved in South Sudan. God is in the tomb with so many of the indigenous people of the Americas. God is in the tomb with the soldiers in Vietnam. God is in the tomb with the millions of Jews who suffered the Holocaust. God is in the tomb with the millions of Africans who died on ships of enslavement and the millions more who died by the hands of their oppressors and under Jim Crow. God is dead. We killed God right alongside so many others.

In his book The Crucified God, theologian Jurgen Moltmann wrote, “When the crucified Jesus is called the ‘image of the invisible God’, the meaning is that this is God, and God is like this. God is not greater than he is in this humiliation. God is not more glorious than he is in this self-surrender. God is not more powerful than he is in this helplessness. God is not more divine than he is in this humanity” (295).

Black Liberation theologian James Cone also wrote, “But when the poor of North America and the Third World read the passion story of the cross, they do not view it as a theological idea but as God’s suffering solidarity with the victims of the world. Jesus’ Cross is God’s solidarity with the poor, experiencing their pain and suffering” (“An African American Perspective on the Cross and Suffering” in The Scandal of a Crucified World).

77D8C6CB-5BDF-4C01-85F4-931291D8E8A8 Lamentation by William H. Johnson http://American art.si.edu/artwork/lamentation-11815

Lest we relegate the death of Christ solely to an historical event or a theological idea, Moltmann, Cone and many others remind us that in the poor, marginalized, and oppressed of the world, God is still dying. God is still being killed. If Jesus is the least of these as Mt. 25 reminds us, God is being crucified, starved, hung, shot, bombed, and poisoned everyday. Holy Saturday is everyday. The question is, if the Church wants to be a resurrection people and the hands and feet of Jesus, will Easter be everyday?

Lord, Jesus Christ, the dead God, have mercy on us, sinners.