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September 21, 2018

I used to love to watch those top 100 clip shows on VH1.  "Top 100 Pop Songs," "Top 100 Songs of the '80s," "100 Greatest Rock n Roll Songs of All Time" (controversial opinion - I always go with "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin).  They'd get all these famous musicians and industry icons together to talk about which songs were the best and why.  When you got to the top ten, things often got a little heated, because ultimately all those "experts" had different criteria by which they were judging.

I'm not a huge sports person, but I know these debates often exist among sports fans too, and I imagine the statistics associated athletics can make the determinations a bit easier. Greatest franchise?  Greatest quarterback?  Greatest goalie?  Greatest hitter?  But even there you can run into problems.  Are you judging the greatest hitter based on RBIs or homeruns or batting averages or all of the above?

The criteria by which you judge "the greatest" makes all the difference.  Is the greatest rock band the one with the most hit songs or the one whose music pushed innovative boundaries?  Is the greatest film about the acting or the directing or the cinematography?  Is the greatest president about domestic policy or foreign affairs?  I find when I have these "greatest" debates, things often devolve into simply debating the criteria.

In Sunday's gospel lesson, Jesus catches the disciples having a debate about who among themselves is the greatest.  The greatest disciple debate - "Top 100 Disciples."  When Jesus asks them what they were talking about, they at least have the good sense to be too embarrassed to admit it.

And then Jesus lays out for them exactly what the criteria are for greatness in discipleship.  And his answer undercuts the very practice of ever debating such a thing.  "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all."  Whoever wants to be great has to stop talking about and thinking about their own greatness.

And I think this criteria works because it points to what discipleship is truly about. Discipleship is not about just claiming a name - you can't just call yourself a Christian and be done with it.  It's about the work you do, the ways in which you are a servant of all without thought to your position in the rankings. Because if you aim to be last in order to be first...well then you've missed the point there too.

And in that, Jesus knocks down the whole notion of a "top 100 in faith." The rankings are erased.  A "holier than thou" attitude is exposed as a fraud.  The distractions of comparing ourselves to others are gone so we can focus on true discipleship.  True discipleship - whose one criterion is acts of service to all.

See you Sunday,


September 14, 2018

Over the course of the last few days, I've heard from many of you who have family, friends, and very happy memories in the Carolinas and Georgia.  I've heard your deep and heartfelt concern for the people in the way of Hurricane Florence as well as people in the way of Typhoon Mangkhut as it approaches the Philippines.   So today I share with you this prayer that the Diocese of Virginia sent out yesterday in hopes that you might find it helpful. A Prayer for Safe Passage through the Storm God our creator, in the beginning your Spirit moved over the face of the waters; the wind blew, and the waves of the ocean were stirred. We ask you now to calm the wind and waves of Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut, as Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Enable those in the path of the storm to reach safety, and spare them from all harm.  Strengthen emergency workers and stay with them as they respond in threatening situations. Give courage and hope to those who are most vulnerable, especially the poor who have few resources, the elderly and infirm, and all who are alone. Fulfill your promise and be with us when we pass through the waters, so that they will not overwhelm us. All this we ask in the Name of the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ. Amen. 

See you Sunday, Kelly

September 7, 2018

This coming Sunday's gospel lesson is one where Jesus performs two different miracles.  The second miracle is the healing of a deaf man in which Jesus says to him, "Ephphatha" - "be opened." At this time of year, it seems there is much we are called to be open to.  Our kids need to be open to new school years, new classmates, and new teachers.  As adults we need to be open to new schedules and the new challenges they might bring. Here at The Falls Church, we are getting ready to open up a new program that features new staff, new classes, and new opportunities to grow in faith and as a community.  There is so much to be open to! Jesus' instruction to the deaf man doesn't end with the return of his hearing.  Once the man is healed, he is able to listen to the world around him and encounter it in new ways.  I think that instruction to be open wasn't just to his ears, it was an instruction on how to live his life.   Be open.  Be open to the world, to other people, to the new possibilities that will come after your life has been touched by Jesus. In a world that often tells us that we are safer, that we are smarter if we build up protections around ourselves, Jesus' instruction is radically counter-cultural.  Be open.  Listen.  Hear the world around you and the variety of stories Creation has to tell.  That kind of openness will transform you, transform our communities, and might just transform the world.

See you Sunday,


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