Sermons

The Second Sunday in Advent — The Rev. Deacon Richard P. Limato

The Rev. Deacon Richard P. Limato

The Second Sunday in Advent: December 9

Baruch 5:1-9  |  Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6  |  Canticle 4 or 16

Preacher: The Rev. Richard P. Limato, Deacon of St. Michael’s Church

Have you ever found yourself feeling like the voice of one crying out in the wilderness?

Once in high school a few friends and I lost our way on a camping trip.  We pitched our sleeping bags in the dark near a marsh – like area. The next day fearing the imaginary bears of the park’s namesake; we roamed aimlessly without a GPS.

With our car lost, and a Marriott nowhere in sight, we gave up and eventually called my uncle to rescue us.

But this isn’t really what I mean. (more…)

The First Sunday in Advent — The Rev. Katharine Flexer

Kate Flexer headshot

The Rev. Katharine Flexer

The First Sunday in Advent: December 2, 2018

Jeremiah 33:14-16  |  1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36  |  Psalm 25:1-9

Preacher: The Rev. Katharine Flexer, Rector of St. Michael’s Church

 

And so, as you see from the colors and the candles, today we begin the season of Advent. And if you’ve been around church for a while you know that today also marks the beginning of the church year. From today on into the next year we are in a new cycle of readings, a new calendar of seasons. The secular year begins on January 1; that’s mostly because of a calculation error that shifted the new year off of December 21, the winter solstice, marking the time when the days start lengthening again and light begins to return to the northern hemisphere. But in the church we back it up several weeks and begin the year with Advent, the season of expectation and preparation, the weeks that lead us up to Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s Incarnation.

(more…)

The Last Sunday after Pentecost — The Rev. David Rider

The Rev. David Rider

The Last Sunday after Pentecost-Christ the King: November 25, 2018

2 Samuel 23:1-7  |  Psalm 132:1-13 (14-19) 
Revelation 1:4b-8  |  John 18:33-37

Preacher: The Rev. David Rider, Assisting Priest, St. Michael’s Church

So how did it go?

Since our last gathering, all of us have been through some version of the uniquely American Thanksgiving holiday.

For some of us, we waft in the pleasing afterglow of family, loved ones and foodie paradise, indulging a wonderful karma before returning to school and work world.

For others of us, the long weekend is more business as usual, not too high expectations, perhaps a memorable meal, and a few more errands than usual amid a long weekend.

(more…)

The Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost — Sr. Promise

The Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: November 18, 2018

1 Samuel 1:4-20  |  1 Samuel 2:1-10
Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25  |Mark 13:1-8

Preacher: Sr. Promise, SSM, Seminarian at St. Michael’s Church

She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.

I don’t know about you, but for me when I heard the reading from first Samuel it reminded me of the big holiday that is coming: Thanksgiving. Which is supposed to be a time of rejoicing, fun and happiness for family members to celebrate together. Where Republicans, Democrats and Independents will get together to celebrate. Despite the joy and the excitement of celebration, there is plenty of room for rivalry, because we human beings have difficulty accepting and celebrating differences.

Whatever the differences might be, either skin color, language, accent sexual orientation, political party, having children and not having children, we can always find something to put another down. I have a friend of mine who always finds it difficult to go to family event, because his family will always make fun of him for his sexual orientation, which make him very uncomfortable, since our culture imposes on us what is normal and what is not normal. It was like this even in the ancient world because of this there is plenty room for judgement. Sometimes, we forget that if God is love and that God takes delight in us. Knowing that God is delight in us, is enough to make us go around and give everyone we meet a hug, except that they might think we are creasy.

In the ancient world, it was very important to have children and if you didn’t have children it became an embarrassment for you. Anyone could choose that circumstance to shame you or to make your life miserable. In the first reading we hear that Elkanah had two wives Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had sons and daughters while Hannah had none. Year after year Elkannah would go to the temple to offer sacrifices and Hannah would have to be face to face with Peninnah who would make her life miserable. Hannah would cry again and again. Though Elkanah loved her dearly, that was not enough to overcome her distress. Hannah was the victim of the culture she was living in, plus the victim of Penninah’s insult.

Year after year, when Hannah goes to what “supposed” to be a moment of celebration, a moment she was supposed to be looking forward to, being with her husband and the rest of the family. To worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of host at Shiloh. It turned out to be one of the stressful events in her life.

However, Hannah never lost hope and faith, but she was persistent in her prayer, because God never stops listening to our prayers. Hannah knows that she belongs to God and God loves her and takes delight in her. As Psalm 16: 8 tell us: “I keep the Lord always before me; because God is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” In the face of humiliation and insult Hannah never let go of God. Hannah persisted in her prayer and she never gave up. God is not deaf to our prayer, God is present in our life and God never fails to listen to us. Our Hope and Faith in God will carry us through.

I as a Sister knows that, but I must confess to you that it is not easy to accept that God is listening to our prayers.  I have been praying for so many people and I encounter so many people that pray for healing for a cure from an illness or for cure for cancer and yet they don’t survive. I remember Sally. her husband moved to New York for a job, while she stayed back home in another state to continue with treatment for cancer.  Finally, after her husband settled down, he brought her to New York.

When she came, she went straight to the hospital. I went to visit her.  Since we did not know each other, I told her who I was. After our conversation, I offered her communion and I prayed with her. That was our first encounter and for 4 years, I prayed with her in her house or in the hospital, whenever she made it to Church and over the phone. She never lost her faith. Until the night before she died, her husband called me and told me she wanted me to pray with her. I asked her if she would you like me to come over and she said I didn’t have to come. I prayed with her over the phone.  She said, “I love you” and I said I love you too.”  The next morning around 7:30 her husband called me to let me know she passed away. Hannah prayed God and asked God for a son and God gave her a son. As God answers the prayer of Hannah and granted her the gift of a son, I would love for God’s to heal Sally, and all the others that I prayed for. But, as the psalm said, “I keep the Lord always before me,” the Psalmist does not say I keep the Lord before me only when God fulfills my desire or grantes me my prayer request, but instead the psalmist wrote: “I keep the Lord always before me.” It becomes a way of living to keep the Lord always before us.

We belong to God always at all time and through all circumstances in our life. It is our faith in God that hold us through difficult time, the outcome of our prayer is in God’s hand.  I learned from Sally that having faith in God does not mean our desire will be fulfilled the way we want it, because God’s desire for us is bigger than our desire. God will always enfold us in his arm and God will always be with us and God’s grace and love will prevail. We are invited to pray and surrender our desire to God. As Sally did until the last day of her life. Now she is celebrating Thanksgiving with God in heaven.

God is in the midst of our confusion and our helplessness. Do not lose hope in your journey. Just keep walking and be faithful and stay open and available to God Spirit. God is in the midst of the migrant workers and God is with the people at our border, who are risking their lives through a long and difficult journey in search of a better life for their family. God is walking with you and me all along the way. You were never alone, and you are never alone whatever journey you are walking in because each one of us is on a different path and our hope is that it will lead us to the source where love dwells.

As God was walking with Hannah the whole time when she was facing humiliation from Peninnah, God is with the Republicans as well as the Democrats. God is with the one that feels rejected from their family because of their sexual orientation. Whatever you are deeply troubled with, remember that God is watching over you. Whatever you are happy and excited about remember that God is watching over you.

Within all this pain God sees Hannah because God never stop loving us, we are in God and God is in in us in all circumstances in our life. God loves for us is greater than the circumstances in our life. God’s grace, love and compassion for us is greater than our culture and whatever we might think about each other. So, Hannah faithfully prayed to God and asked God for the gift of a son and God answers her prayer.

What I found interesting is that the bible does not tell us that Elkanah told his wife Peninnah to stop the insults, but what the bible tells us is that when Hannah was crying, he said: “Am I not worth more then 10 sons to you?” and the Bible said he loved her very much. The Sister in me make me feel like saying “Well sir Elkanah, sometimes love asks for action and sometimes even some difficult action.” God’s loves for us is reflected in Jesus’ death and resurrection, so love demand action. Why doesn’t Elkana makes Penninah stop humiliating Hannah if he loves her so much? Then I realized that God has a plan for Hannah and God has a plan for each one of us here this morning.

Hannah thinks now, she can no longer take it, she must go to God who is the only defender. Sometimes God is the only one who can do something when the people you rely upon cannot defend you. She can no longer endure the pain of humiliation and insult. So, she went to the temple where the Priest Ely was sitting. She went there silently praying and pouring her heart to the Lord, the only one who could understand her Pain.

Yet Hannah met with Judgement again, instead of being offered some pastoral support. Ely told her: “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself. Put away your wine. (1 Sam.14”).  Can you imagine hearing those words from any of the priests at Saint Michael?  You would probably fly out of the priest office and will probably never set your feet back at this door again and would probably even take it to social media.

Instead Hannah spoke to Ely with great humility and grace. “She said “I am a woman deeply troubled, but I am not drunk, instead I have been pouring my soul into the Lord. 1 Sam. 15” Ely does not understand Hannah expression of pain before God, however, Hannah’s conversation with Ely help him to change his heart and now he joins Hannah in praying for the gift that she was asking God for. God always has a mysterious way to open our eyes.

See, she was described as drunk, but she did not describe herself that way, but instead as deeply troubled. Hannah’s desires were to have a son and she faithfully prayed that God would grant her a son, that was all she wanted, and she prayed that if God granted her a son that she would dedicate the son to God service. Hannah was not drunk, but circumstances in her life make her deeply trouble.  In our present day, Hannah respond to Ely remind me of the people at our border, who will probably describe themselves as deeply trouble from their native land and that they are not criminal, but circumstances in their life make them take their children in search for a better life. Sometimes, our judgement did not reflect what is going on through a person it is always best to have conversation and listen to each other with open heart and mind. Because God is the one who guided the lives of God chosen individuals such as Hannah and you and me.

We have a God who has already prepared a high way for us. God is inviting us to walk in it; we are invited to work with God. God wants to walk it not for me or for you but to walk with us. Just as Hannah discovered that she must do her part by Going to God to express her deepest desire to God, may we also never shy away from expressing our deepest desires to God. As Hannah left the Temple, she was no longer sad, because she surrenders everything in God hand. May we pray and surrender our deepest desire in God hand.

God is the God of history and who controls time and space, God is the God who control when and where of his chosen individual (paraphrase from a commentary by David Toshio Tsumura pg.71). God is in control of the democrats, republican, independent, black, white, poor and rich. God saving plan is fulfilled in the normal day today life of human being. so, let’s be compassionate and be kind to ourselves, to each other on Thanksgiving Day and in everyday life. Amen.

The Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost — The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh

The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh

The Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: November 11, 2018

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17  |  Psalm 127
Hebrews 9:24-28  |  Mark 12:38-44

Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church

 

On the surface, Jesus’ talk of tithing in the temple seems like an intentional nudge by our stewardship committee to turn in your pledge (if you didn’t already!).

But I think there’s more to this gospel teaching than money. Jesus calls his disciples to go deeper – to look beneath the surface of things. (more…)

All Saints Sunday — The Rev. Deacon Richard P. Limato

St. Michael's new deacon, Richard P. Limato

Deacon Richard P. Limato

All Saints Sunday: November 4, 2018

Ruth 1:1-18  |  Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:11-14  |  Mark 12:28-34

Preacher: The Rev. Deacon Richard P. Limato

The Jewish Talmud tells the story of two competing Sages, Shammai and Hillel, approached by a Gentile man who wanted to convert to Judaism.

The Gentile comes before Shammai saying, “Covert me on one condition that you teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one foot.”

Shammai, a builder by trade, abruptly pushes him away with the builder’s measuring cubit he held in his hand.  (more…)

The Feast of Saint Simon and St. Jude — The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh

The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh

The Feast of Saint Simon and St. Jude: October 28, 2018

Deuteronomy 32:1-4  |  Ephesians 2:13-22
John 15:17-27  |  Psalm 119:89-96

Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church

This Fall we have been discerning who is God calling us to be as a spiritual community. As we have gathered together, one of the questions we are asking is, “Why does church matter?”

In this week’s Messenger, Mother Kate shares the story of Matthew Shephard “who was finally laid to rest in our National Cathedral. Matthew was killed 20 years ago, a young gay man beaten and left to die in the freezing Wyoming night. His family, members of the Episcopal Church, never had him interred anywhere, afraid that his grave would be desecrated. But now, in our Episcopal and national house of worship, Matthew’s body is in peace, safe at last. In a time of violent division, here is one story that shows us how God’s house is a place of mercy, welcome and justice, a haven for all.

This is one story that shows us why church matters.” (The Rev. Katharine Flexer)

“For you who once were far off will be brought near…For Christ is our peace, through the cross he breaks down the dividing wall putting to death the hostility between us.” (Ephesians 2:13-14)

There was a time not too long ago in our neighborhood where the color of your skin determined your place in the world and in the pew. If you were white, you were welcome to worship here. If you were a person of color, you were not welcome. Instead you were sent down the street to St. Jude’s – a mission chapel established by St. Michael’s to serve the growing African-American population in the neighborhood.

St. Jude’s was a thriving community. Led by the Rev. Floarda Howard, the chapel grew over fifty years to include sports teams, choirs, Sunday School, social clubs, and worship. But when hard times fell upon the Upper West Side, St. Michael’s could no longer afford to support this vibrant cornerstone of Christ in the community despite their booming numbers. In 1957, St. Jude’s was closed and torn down to make way for what is now Park West Village.

“St. Jude’s was founded in 1909 not to help our neighbors, but to keep African-Americans separate from whites in worship. Fifty years later, not much changed in the way of welcome and hospitality. Only the altar, and a stalwart few including our own Lucille Donovan, made their way here in the end.” (The Rev. Katharine Flexer) Even then, St. Jude’s altar sat neglected on the porch, out of sight and out of mind for another fifty years until it was restored and placed at the back of the church in 2007, our bicentennial year.

Today, St. Jude’s is once again a vibrant cornerstone of Christ’s mission. A space that calls us to face the tragic roots of our past and celebrates the life of a faithful community whose spirit lives on here – a blessing to all who sit or pass by.

In times of fear and desperation, St. Jude’s welcomes all around the table to gather together in hope to receive comfort in our sorrow, courage in the face of adversity, healing in the midst of suffering.

“For you who are far off will be brought near…for Christ is our peace; in his body he breaks down the dividing wall of hostility between us that he might create one new humanity in place of the two.” (Ephesians 2:13, 15-16)

St. Jude’s chapel reminds us why church matters.

On this feast of St.  Jude’s, we are challenged to grow in our own practice of welcome and hospitality — to ask ourselves: “who is missing at the table?” “Who do I need to welcome to come and see and taste the Bread of Life?”

For thirty five years, the Saturday Kitchen and Pilgrim Resource Center has been asking these same questions as it strives to serve those on the margins. Each week, over 200 people pass through our doors for food and referrals. But those who come do not just bring empty bellies – they too hunger deeply for that food that nourishes body and soul – they too long for a space to gather around the table as a community to break bread, share fellowship, sing songs, and be blessed and loved for who they are.

One of our Saturday Kitchen regulars says, “This place gives me life. It makes me feel like I have a place where I belong.”

Saturday Kitchen and Pilgrim Resource Center are places where walls of poverty melt away, where guests and volunteers become fellow members and saints in the household of God. A place where the Bread of Life is shared, where all who are hungry are welcome to God’s table where there’s enough for all.

Saturday Kitchen reminds us why church matters.

Each of us has a story to share of why church matters to us. Each of us has a story of how we have encountered the Bread of Life in this community. Our work of sharing this bread, of building up the kingdom of God on our corner of the world is possible not because of this building, but because of you,…you the people who give financially to support the mission and ministries of St. Michael’s.

This year, our pledge drive theme the Bread of Life invites us to consider how can we share from the abundance we have received? How can we share out of our abundance to sustain the ministries that help us feed and heal one another and our neighbors?

When we give to St. Michael’s, it is not to keep the lights on or the boiler working or to fix a leaky roof. We give to expand our mission and ministry of sharing God’s peace, healing, and welcome. We give to offer the Bread of Life from our table to all who are hungry and thirsty in the world.

Next Sunday marks our ingathering service where we will come forward to the table bringing our financial pledge for the year. Each pledge is a sign of support to the work we do here together. No matter how large or small, every dollar is a vital contribution to sharing the bread of life, to telling our story of why church matters here and now.

Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life, they who come to me shall never hunger, they who believe in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35) All of us, no matter how well-fed or housed, are hungry for the Spirit of God. Our prayer is that we continue to seek and nourish, and share this living bread with the world.” Amen.

 

 

The Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost — The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh

The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh

The Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost: October 21, 2018

Job 38:1-7, (34-41)  |  Psalm 104:1-9, 25, 37b
Hebrews 5:1-10  |  Mark 10:35-45

Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church

Christmas Eve, 1968 marked the close of one of the most turbulent, tragic years in American history. That night, millions around the world gathered to watch and listen as the Apollo 8 crew became the first humans to orbit another world – the moon.’[1] (more…)

The Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost — The Rev. Katharine Flexer

Kate Flexer headshot

The Rev. Katharine Flexer

The Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost: October 14, 2018

Job 23:1-9, 16-17  |  Psalm 22:1-15
Hebrews 4:12-16  |  Mark 10:17-31

Preacher: The Rev. Katharine Flexer, Rector of St. Michael’s Church

 

Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places…

Lookin’ for love in too many faces,
searchin’ their eyes and lookin’ for traces
of what I’m dreamin’ of.
Hopin’ to find a friend and a lover;
I’ll bless the day I discover
another heart lookin’ for love.
(more…)

The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost — The Rev. Deacon Richard P. Limato

St. Michael's new deacon, Richard P. LimatoThe Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost: October 7, 2018

Job 1:1; 2:1-10  |  Psalm 26 |
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12  |  Mark 10:2-16

Preacher: The Rev. Deacon Richard P. Limato, Deacon of St. Michael’s Church

“I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes
The love that’s all around me
And so the feeling grows
It’s written on the wind
It’s everywhere I go
So if you really love me
Come on and let it show.”

The opening lyrics from one of my favorite songs, a classic hit by The Troggs, parodied as “Christmas is all Around” in the British film Love Actually. (more…)