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New Departures
by nathanielkiddnathanielkidd on 11 Feb 2013 01:22

If it isn't immediately obvious, this blog is in "archive mode," but our adventures continue.
If you would like to keep up on our next chapter, we have set up a private blog.
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Homily for the Nativity of St. John the Forerunner
by nathanielkiddnathanielkidd on 25 Jun 2012 02:34

Sing, O barren one: Shout for joy you who have borne no children. Rejoice and exult, proclaim the greatness of the wonderworking God, who makes deserts run with flowing streams, and transforms wastelands into fertile valleys. For today, she who was called barren gives birth, and even in her old age she brings forth a son, who is the greatest of the prophets, full of the Spirit from his mother’s womb. Elizabeth bears John the Forerunner, and rejoicing with her, we keep the feast. The mouth of Zechariah is opened, and we open our mouths with him to bless the God of Israel, who has come to his people and set them free. We open our mouths to laud the King who has raised up for us a mighty salvation, according to his ancient and eternal promises.

He is born, who leapt in the womb at the sound of the voice of the mother of our Lord. He is born, the messenger, who will prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight his paths. He is born, the promised Elijah, who turns the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers. He is born, the witness, who came to bear witness to the light.

A thunder foretells the coming storm. The last lamp of night anticipates the rising of the Sun. The first spark of pentecostal fire is kindled. He who with his words proclaims the coming of the Word of God makes his first cry. His life is already a pouring out to his own decrease that the one who follows after him might increase.


He is born, whose tragic and cruel execution on the machinery of depraved political mechanisms foreshadow our Lord’s Crucifixion and redeeming sacrifice. He is born, in whom wicked Herod will first learn to tremble at the promised resurrection. He is born, who is truly the forerunner: let us run forth to imitate the virtue revealed in him.

The Forerunner is born, and we keep the feast: for here we find the nativity of our Lord foreshadowed even at the opposite pole of the year. We keep the feast, for the Cross is now the axis of history, and the ticking of time is measured from the moment of incarnation, and all moments surround him like his ministering angels, gathered to adore the boundless depth of his infinite eternity.

The Forerunner is born: let us go out to the desert to meet him. The Forerunner is born, let us gather round him like the pilgrims and penitents he plunges into the waters of River Jordan. He is called the Baptizer, but not because he baptized many. He is called the Baptizer because he baptized One. He baptized the One whose baptism washed away not his own sins, but the sins of the whole world.

These infant hands we behold today will soon grow broad and strong; these hands will grab hold of our Christ, and lower into the water for our sakes the one whose sandal he is unworthy to stoop down and untie. Yet this is what is required to fulfill all righteousness, for he enters our humanity, that we may be enabled to participate in his divinity.

John is born: let us go out to meet him, to behold him, to consider his preaching. Let us listen to the Word he proclaims both by his voice and by his life. For he lived as a voice crying out in the wilderness, a voice crying out “Make the way straight! Prepare a highway for our God! Level the mountains, raise up the valleys, pave the desert: the Lord of all is coming! The Lord of all is coming, and suddenly he will appear.”

He is a voice crying out in the wilderness, and so in the wilderness we find him. We find him in the wilderness: a man out along the extreme margins of the mortal world, bearded and barefoot and wild-eyed, clothed in camel hair, fed on the austere bounty of the Lord of all, on locusts and wild honey. His mouth is frantically agape in prophetic proclamation: Spirit-saturated words tumble forth from his lips like a flowing stream: they rise up and shake the earth, shatter kingdoms, pierce the soul to its very root.

This is the one we have come out to see. Not a mere reed, shaken by the wind — not an instrument piped for the sake of vanity or frivolity. Here is no spectacle of laziness, no example of attention-grabbing, counter-cultural rebellion. This is not another instance of self-seeking, fetishistic indulgence. This is a prophet, and a prophet indeed, aglow with the uncreated light of the super-surpassing deity. By the Spirit of God working within him, he tears the very fabric of time and eternity and borrows his preaching from the end of the ages, paving the way for the Coming One. Even now his voice echoes: magnified through the ages, it sounds in sharp, urgent staccatos. His powerful proclamation pierces our hearts through the printed word of Scripture and pounds now upon our ears: “Repent! Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” For even now the axe is at the root of the tree, and every tree that does not produce the good fruit of repentance will be cut down and cast into the fire.

Even now John is calling to us: “Come down to the waters,” he invites us “Come and baptize your very intentions. Call out upon the Triune God and wash yourself in tears. Leap into the Divine Embrace, which at once is fire and water. Be set free from modern mediocrity, that in your freedom you may offer to God more pure and perfect praise.”

Let us heed his calling; let us take up his call, so that when the Lord passes by, we may run with feet unfettered to meet him of whom John attests, “This is him of whom I spoke, who coming after me is preferred before me.”

Today the Forerunner is born. Honor the Forerunner by running forth. Forget what is behind, stretch on for what is ahead. Imitate his striving: for the Kingdom of God suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. Praise the wonderworking God, who has opened this river in the desert, who has opened mute mouths to sing his praise, who has brought forth from a barren womb the culmination of the Prophets. To him be glory, now and forever. Amen.

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Good Shepherd Sunday
by nathanielkiddnathanielkidd on 29 Apr 2012 23:07

Shine the light of your resurrection upon us, Good Lord, and reveal yourself to us in your risen glory. Open our eyes to see you, open our ears to hear your voice, open our hearts to know and love you, and draw us into your fold, that we may indeed be the people of your pasture, and the sheep of your hand.

Preaching from the lectionary is something of a mixed blessing. It keeps us honest, it keeps us on track; it keeps us in the faith once delivered, if we use it well. But there are some Sundays when preaching from the lectionary is less convenient. There are some Sundays when the lectionary gives you a rather unasked for roundhouse kick to the face. Unfortunately, for me, this is one of those Sundays.

But why do I say that of this Sunday? Anybody with ears to hear knows the Scriptural full-nelson that this week’s readings put the preacher in. This is Good Shepherd Sunday. Now there’s a softball if you ever saw one, right? Even a B-rate preacher should be able to slam this one out of the park. This is the Gospel good-stuff, a shoo-in for “the Greatest Hits of the Bible.” Here is Easter sweetness and light, images of pastures and puppies come to mind – we meet the all-loving, all-embracing, all-good, all-surpassing love of God in the image of Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd. What could be better?

In fact, last week, Fr. Harry, one of the retired priests who assists at Bread of Life, a delightful, a holy old man, former Trappist, who in fact used to be bunkbuddies with Thomas Merton – Fr. Harry, comes up to me, looking just a little confused, and says, “Nathaniel, what year is it? A, B, or C?” “It’s year B, Fr. Harry,” I replied. And he got this little twinkle in his eye, and smiled a broad smile, and replied, “Oh boy! The Good Shepherd. I can’t wait to preach next week!” There’s something particularly holy about an old priest who he can’t remember what year it is, but he can remember off the top of his head what the theme for Easter 4B is. (And it was a pretty good sermon. I made sure to have mine all the way written before this morning, so that I wasn’t tempted to steal anything.)

It’s Good Shepherd Sunday, the standard American preacher’s field day; and if the all the sermons on this theme were written, I suppose the world would not be big enough to contain all the volumes.
But that’s exactly the problem. Everything seems stale, everything seems cliché or kitschy, not up to the great, glorious cloud of smoke or the looming image of the Pantokrator that better accords with my spirituality, with that terrible sense of God in all his glory and all his grandeur that is impressed most deeply upon my soul and moves me perpetually to profoundest praise.

It says something about me, probably not something very positive, that my favorite image of the Good Shepherd is the one that Fr. Gabig has up right now as his profile picture on Facebook. There’s Jesus, looking very compassionate, looking down at this little lamb he is holding– but it’s not a lamb because someone has photoshopped the upper part and now it’s a baby T-Rex.


It says something about me, probably not something very positive, that I judge my sermons on my ability to say something new, something interesting. It says something about me that I want to skirt the easy stuff; that I so desperately want to avoid saying anything that seems to me to be obvious, or trivial, or mundane.

See, the fact of the matter is, I resist being a sheep. Sheep are stupid. They are legendarily stupid. In fact, they are so stupid that I think I’ve heard at least four sermons about how stupid they are. But if we are going to acknowledge Christ as our Shepherd, does it not require us to also acknowledge our sheepliness?

In a way, yes. But at the same time, part of the beauty of the image of Christ the Good Shepherd is that he takes this image on himself quite apart from our acceptance of it, or our response to it. Jesus is the good shepherd, even when we aren’t his good sheep. If we’ve wandered from the fold, he’s already left the ninety and nine to come look for us, that he might bring us back over his shoulders. Jesus is the good shepherd, even when we aren’t his good sheep. He is the good shepherd, because he lays down his life for his sheep.

Though we like sheep had gone astray, each one turning to his own way, he bore the bruises of our iniquity, and stood between us and our punishment. Even when quite unlike sheep we are caught up in our own schemes, our own devising, saying in our hearts like fools that God does not know, and that he will not find out: he is there, waiting to carry us home if only we will stop running in the other direction. And even though sometimes I may be more of a ravening T-Rex than a wandering little lamb, I can think about Fr. Gabig’s picture: Jesus isn’t looking down with shock and fear and horror; he isn’t even looking down with surprise. The look on his face is perfect love in perfect calm, a loving calm that melts my fears, my insecurities, my coldness and hardness of heart and obstinate individuality, and allows me to become what I really am, and come back into the fold, come back into his fold.

And here is a profounder mystery of his grace, many of us poor wandering sheep here assembled are in the pike to be ontologically changed so that we can further participate in his shepherd-ness. But as I reflect on the mystery here, as I approach my own impending ordination with fear and trembling, I realize it is not only sacramental – it is the foolishness of God. If I am a wandering sheep, as I know I often I am — or worse still, a wandering T-Rex—how is it that God would give me watch over his flock? Why does he not govern the heart of his people directly? Me, my Bible, and Jesus Christianity is starting to look like an awfully good idea as I recognize my utter incapacity to do the work he is giving me to do – and if I can’t trust myself to discharge this calling, how can I trust anyone else?

Luckily, God, who is really very clever, has this all figured out. We lead the sheep by becoming more sheepy ourselves. This is the measure of a Christian, is it not? Not his place on the ecclesiastical ladder, still less all his worldly accomplishments: it is in his faithfulness, his full self-abandonment to God that he is measured. It is this faithfulness, this radical trust in the Risen Lord, that allows him to laugh in the face of death, beholding the hope of the Resurrection. Thus we heard today how Peter and the disciples fearless before the religious authorities; thus we hear the stories of countless martyrs, who despised death as a thing dead because Christ in his Resurrection trampled it down. Here Christian faithfulness is measured, it is measured in willingness to become the sheep of all sheep, that his Lord might be the more gloriously the Shepherd. We lead the sheep by becoming more sheepy ourselves: just as the Lord led us, by being led like a lamb to the slaughter, and giving himself for our life and our redemption.

This is an important message: this is something we need to hear at seminary. We work a lot here on building skills, building virtue, building knowledge; preparing to step into positions of leadership, authority, and power. This is necessary. This is important. This is a labor of growth and a labor of obedience that cannot be ignored. But that is neither our ultimate good, nor the ultimate measure of our faithfulness. Our true faithfulness is measured in smaller things – in those little decisions we make every day about how we pray inwardly, how we live with one another and love one another; little decisions – imperceptible to the world – but of the utmost importance. Are we clear in our communication – is our yes “yes” and our no “no”? Do we keep our promises? Do we follow through with our commitments? Those who are faithful in little, will be faithful also in much, says the Lord. Where is our faithfulness? Before what, before whom are we pouring ourselves out, and how?

But we know well enough what’s good, and we know how far we are from it. It’s Good Shepherd Sunday, so let’s let the image of the Good Shepherd surprise us, make us a little uncomfortable. Let’s be a little offended at being likened to sheep, and let’s let bind us with the cinctures of Love, and carry us home, bring us together, and make us again one flock. So too John instructs us, once again, as he writes, This is love: that Christ laid down his life for us – so too we should lay down our lives, one for another…Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

May our Lord indeed be truly our shepherd, and may we be truly his sheep. +

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Palm Sunday Sermon
by nathanielkiddnathanielkidd on 01 Apr 2012 22:57

Prepare ye the way of the Lord – Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Behold, Zion, your King comes to you, humble, and riding on a donkey. Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Today, the King comes to Jerusalem; he comes, that is, to our hearts, to the very center of our being. Today, the Great King comes to us; he comes to us on a donkey, on the foal of an ass. He comes to us, that is, humbly borne by ancient words and symbols and riddles and rituals, left in the hands of frail and sinful men.

Today we witness a miracle. Heaven and earth are joined together; the past and present and future collide. The cosmic liturgy becomes visible, performed in time and space. It is a miracle, and nothing less; a profound miracle, perhaps the profoundest of miracles. But it is a fragile miracle, let us not forget this – it is a fragile miracle. It will happen whether or not we are aware of it. But if we lose our focus, if even for a moment we let our minds wander, or our spirits be absent, or our hearts cluttered about with other thoughts we may miss these marvelous things taking place among us.

Be attentive, then, be alert, be awake: the King is in our midst. What respect would you spare an earthly potentate, were he to appear among us, were he to spend some time with us? Would you not learn to properly reverence his every quality, in every way he expects reverence? Would you then deprive the King of the Universe of the same? Be attentive, be alert, be awake, and learn the praises he would have you offer.

Today is the Great Entrance. Today is the Great Entrance. Today the Lord is on the move, he moves from the altar of his life, where he gave himself as a perfect example, to the altar of his death, where he gives himself as the redeeming sacrifice. The Lord is on the move, and the universe arranges itself to accord with his footsteps. All along the way Holys and Hosannas intermingle, the air is alive with a restless energy, a gentle breeze moved by the fluttering of angel feathers and the swish of palm frawns.

We prepare the way for him, laying our garments in the path before him: laying our garments, that is, stripping ourselves of all ungodly thoughts and impulses, leaving aside every earthly care that we might receive the King of All. Our lips ring loud “Hosanna,” our breath is raised in praises, we the troll ancient strain Baruch haba b’shem Adonai, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Our accolades sound through the corridor of the ages, reverberating through time and eternity. A great cloud of glory descends, and the air becomes electric with expectation.

But expectation of what? Do we know what we say? Do we know whom we hail? For the people of Israel in that day so long ago, it was just another messianic claimant that they received. It was a fine excuse for a parade, for gathering thrill seekers or the curious. It was a worthy cause to raise the standard of hope, perhaps, at least part way, at least for a time. But no hearts were turned, no eyes opened, no spirits refreshed, for in but a few days would these same voices be raised to yell “Crucify!” when he seemed but yet another charlatan. They did not know what they said. They did not know whom they hailed.

For us, today, it is just another Palm Sunday; just another lead in to Easter. Just another run through of the familiar story, a story, perhaps, entertaining or inspiring or sentimental; maybe interesting, maybe tedious; but a story, in any case, that seems to have very little impact on the way that we actually live our life and understand our world. It’s worth coming out to see the goings-on, to stick with the tradition, or to fulfill the requirements placed before us. But do we know what we say? Do we know whom we hail?

Were the stones to cry out, as Jesus says they would, if we were silent, if the stones were to cry out, it would be surprising, no doubt, but it would be no miracle. The Lord who made the stones can give them lips, can bestow them breath, can command their praises. Behold the soaring towers of nature he has erected for himself: the yawning chasm of the Grand Canyon, the infinite mountainous expanse of the Himalayas, the pillars of Meteora. But that he has extracted praise from these sordid and rebellious lips; that praises should arise from us, even ignorant and spiritually blind as we are, this is a miracle; this is a far greater miracle.

Do not be satisfied with this. Do not be satisfied to know these things only vaguely and from afar. Do not be satisfied with praising and prophesying unawares. Do not be satisfied to stand at the back, scarcely glimpsing his homely form over the chaos of the assembled crowd. Push through the crowd to see him. Push through, push through the crowd, that is, the crowd of thoughts, the crowd of distractions, the crowd of anxieties, all the appetites that weigh you down in the concerns of the body, and behold his holy and perfect body: behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.

Behold him. Behold him, and fix on that image, focus on him. Strive to see him as he is, pray the Spirit gives you eyes to see. Strive to see him transfigured.

Remember: the Mountain of Transfiguration is not merely a physical place. It is not merely that at one particular time one particular handful of Jesus’ disciples got a little taste of his glory. The transfiguration is a symbol, also, of when we see him whom we thought familiar to us. Then we stand inwardly on the mountain, and we behold his glory. That inward mountain is the faith received, and the eyes that behold him in glory are the eyes of the heart.

Oh that we might so see him now! Oh that we might so see him as he comes towards us! His garments dazzling white, resplendent with the uncreated light pouring forth from the fount of Divinity. He comes to us, Priest, Prophet, King; Sacrificial Lamb, Messiah, Redeemer; our Lord and our God; Christ, our King and our God. We behold the mystery of the divine nature joined to our human nature, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; here, God come in the flesh, that he might present all flesh to God.

His procession comes near enough that we might reach out and touch him, yet at the same time, it is as distant and powerful and inexorable as the sun and the stars in their courses. He moves through the parted crowds, a pure shaft of light, a pillar of flame, a tower of smoke; passing by in silent cacophony. No force or necessity compels him, but he who sets all things in motion moves also himself, moving with each step towards his unspeakable end when he shall be given up, rather, when he shall give himself up, for the life of the world.

Today, he sets his foot on the first stair of the temple, ready to ascend, slowly, majestically, to the altar of the Cross, where he will be both priest and victim. Ascend with him, inwardly, and learn to ascend: for this is your vocation, O Christian: to offer in and with Christ, first yourself, and then the world. Be attentive, be alert, be awake: watch him, watch with him; the King of all is in our midst. The King is in our midst, and we have come to his Holy Week, that great and terrible time, the time of his scandalous, inverted coronation; his ultimate defeat turned ultimate triumph.

Now is the time. Have you been negligent in your fasting? Fast now, the bridegroom is being torn from you. Have you been casual in your abstinence? Abstain now, for the Lord forsook all things for your sake. Have you been lazy, hazy, sleepy in your devotion, in your watch with Christ? Awake, O Sleeper; O Sluggard, arise, watch and pray, journey and labor, for the day is not yet over, but twilight approaches, and the gentle light of gloaming will soon descend to cold dark night: the darkest night, the coldest night, a night when even the stars stop singing.

Let tears become your bread. Let sleep come only in snatches. Let your wicks be trimmed and your lamps burning. For urgent is the hour: urgent as the fevered prayers that ooze from his pores as drops of blood. These are holy days, his holy days; not holidays, not days designated for our relaxation and bodily indulgence, but days sacred and set apart. The terrible weight of his glory descends, becomes to the discerning a thick cloud of heavenly seeing and unknowing. Let reverence and awe and fear descend upon you, for the King of All is in our midst.

The Lord whom we seek is suddenly come to his temple. Behold, behind him and before is a raging fire. All about him are his ministering spirits, in countless myriads his angels attend to him. The earth quakes at his presence, his lightnings flash to and fro. With our eyes, we see but modest ceremony; a mediocre, lackadaisical procession, quite unbefitting to the sophisticated modern world we inhabit, or even to the earth-shattering Gospel we proclaim. But oh, may the Lord give us eyes to see! A countless host marches with us! A tremendous force is gathered around us! Our Lord leads the final siege on the forces of darkness! The Gates of Hell are rattled and shaken, and soon they will be burst in sunder, and by death will he trample down death, and to those in the tomb, whether living or dead, he will bestow his life.

Now is the time. Now is the time to reach out and touch the real, to grab hold of the heart of the existence. Now is the time to be swept up in the truth, to be stamped with the seal of the unseen drama that sustains the universe. Now is the time to take in hand the fiery sword of faith, and beat back every spiritual foe. Now is the time to prepare our hearts, that when the time comes, we may lift them up to the Lord as our own sacrifice of reciprocating praise.

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