Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Easter 6, May 29, 2001, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Rev. Paul Moore

This is Memorial Day Weekend.  Killeen and the Fort Hood community always celebrates it in spades.  There will be flags flown, graves of our war-dead will be decorated, and a moment of silence will be observed at 3:00 p.m.  Rightly do we celebrate this day well.  Not only are many of us military-connected, but the largest US military installation in the world has borne the brunt of the war effort in the Middle East.  Probabilities prove out in statistics, that we have also suffered the most in terms of fatal casualties.

Why do we celebrate thus?  Honoring our dead is something profoundly human.  There is anthropological evidence that the very earliest humans honored their dead.  There is not a culture in the world that does not mark the passing of one of its own, giving significance of the moment.  And when the loved ones we remember died to protect our way of life we mix our grief with gratitude.  They were our exoskeleton, our auto-immune system, and they lost their lives for a cause larger than themselves.

But at the root of it all, we honor our dead because it helps us get a focus on the living.  If these died for a reason, what does it mean for those who are left behind?  The past lays the foundation of the future, and those who paid the most dearly in the past speak most eloquently about our future.  And so we have our Gold Star Families.  The Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors (TAPS) is a national organization that provides care for Gold Star families and has supported more than 30,000 since 1994.  TAPS' motto is “Remember the love, celebrate the life and share the journey.”

If on this day we remember the past and the prices that have been paid, it is only right that we also consider the future for which that price was given.  We have this morning three ways we are going to consider our future.  They do not overtly speak of our military efforts, and though we live and move and have our being in the matrix of what is the American culture, what we do this morning has to do with something larger than merely American culture.  It has to do with people and the sacred relationships they hold dear: 
with spouses, with the Love-Dare program, with oneself in the Fireproof your Life program and our graduating Seniors, and with our God in our everyday living, and personally, in my Sabbatical which begins on Saturday.  If an American soldier could say, "In America we live and move and have our being, and for America I am willing to lay down my life,” how much more the believer says, “In God we live and move and have our being, and for Him I will live my life.”

One day when Landon our son was in 2nd grade we were driving to school, we stopped at a stop sign and he asked me, "Dad, why are we here?"

I replied, "Because there's a stop sign and we have to stop."

“No, dad, why are we HERE?”

Confused, I asked for clarification. “You mean, why we live in Weslaco?”

“No, why are we HERE?”

I reached for the impossible.  “You mean, why are we here, rather than not here?  Why do we exist?”

“Yeah, that's what I mean!”

He wasn't the first to ask the question.  In today's first lesson Paul is preaching in Athens.  He has raised some curiosity with his preaching of Jesus, and confused, people ask him for more.  Noticing an altar to "An Unknown God," Paul takes up the theme of the One Creator God, who is largely unknown to his hearers.  Don Richardson in his book Eternity in their Hearts tells a delightful back-story to this.  I don't know where it comes from, but the thrust of the story is that the god who must be appeased in order to stop a plague is invoked precisely on the basis of their ignorance.  Paul jumps on the opportunity.  The real Unknown God is the one who is not a god but the God, the one and only uncaused cause, the Pre-existent One, who is ultimately lost in unknowable divine mystery.  That God has made Himself known to us in Jesus Christ, and that God now has created a way to be in relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.  And so Paul preaches Christ as the One in whom we live and move and have our being.

If indeed in God we live and move and have our being, then God is the context of our living and our dying, in God we recognize and honor those who have fallen in defense of our country, and in God we value and commit ourselves to our relationships with spouses, with God and with one another.  God's heart is the larger context in which all that we know is located, of our marriages, and our graduations and our efforts to fireproof our lives, and our sabbaticals.  To be a believer is to acknowledge this, to live as a believer is to live from this.  To be a Christian is to believe that we best understand this in the person of Jesus Christ, that in Christ we meet the unknown God, face to face.

As we honor our war-dead tomorrow let us honor the greatest casualty and victory in the war the world has ever witnessed, when the very Son of God died to win the battle against evil and death, and rose again to unprecedented victory.  Let us also honor the living relationships in which we find ourselves, and accept them from the hand of God as gifts for our good and theirs, ways in which God Himself honors His relationship with us.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sabbatical--Hidden Treasures

Here's a link to a Youtube about my upcoming Sabbatical.  I'm traveling with my son, Landon.  We leave June 4 and return August 17.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

To Change the World

Easter 5, May 22, 2011, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Rev. Paul Moore

It's been a long time since anyone tried to stone me for a vision of heaven.  I figure it's an indication of a lack of faith or zeal, but I count it a good thing.  I'm not sure I would really relish that kind of martyrdom.  "Martyr" means "witness," however, and there are lots of different ways to give witness.  Happily for me, and for you, the most effective "martyrdom" is the most natural and the most genuine thing in the world.  It consists of nothing more or less than the effect the Kingdom has on your world.

The effect the Kingdom had on Stephen's world ended rather badly, I should say—not for Stephen, mind you, he made out rather well.  He got heaven right off the bat, he got a name and a reputation, and he got the great satisfaction of finally being proven right.  Those who stoned him, however, did not fare so well.  We know of two groups of them.  One was a group of one - one Saul of Tarsus.  It wasn't long before Stephen's martyrdom fired this young man up into a missionary zealot, but before he could really get things rolling he had an encounter with the same Jesus near Damascus and ended up preaching the very thing he set out to destroy.  We know him as St. Paul, the Apostle.  Humble pie always starts out bitter (though it always ends up sweet.)

The other is the unnamed group of hoodlums who actually pitched the rocks.  All we know about them is that their lives went on apace.  If the Gospel lesson today means anything at all, they, too, will one day stand before the God of Stephen and give account, for when Jesus declares, "I am the truth," he lays claim to all truth for all time, and in all places wherever it is found, even the truth that Stephen was an innocent man.

The effect the Kingdom had on the community of believers to which the epistle of I Peter was written no less significant.  The Kingdom makes us something special in the world, it says, and that something special has an effect on the wider community.  To those who are being called into the life of God it is good news, Gospel, but to those who refuse it, it becomes a stumbling block, for when Jesus declares, "I am the life" He lays claim to everything that shares the life of God with us, and in our communities, no matter where, when or how we stumble across it.

The Kingdom stretched Thomas's geography almost to the breaking point.  Thomas and the rest were stunned at Jesus' declaration that He would be leaving.  It cast before them a web of confusing possibilities.  Do they fight?  Do they run?  Do they hide?  Do they pretend it all didn't happen?  Do they pretend they didn't know Jesus in the first place?  Knowing Jesus precludes all of those things and places before them a different sort of map.  I remember many years ago walking with my father on visits among the Tsachi people in western Ecuador.  The Tsachis do not live in villages, but rather on their individual farm plots, like so many Texas ranchers.  He knew the paths, but to me they all looked alike.  I learned that the best map I had was my father's back.  As long as it was in front of me we would get to where we were supposed to go.  Otherwise, I was in trouble.

The key to getting to the Kingdom is not a map but a person.  Wherever we see the traces of His passing, there is the door to the Kingdom, for when Jesus declares, "I am the Way," He lays claim to every signpost that points to God, wherever or whenever it may appear, and however we might notice it, for it not only points to God, but to Himself.

Visions of heaven no longer get one stoned to death these days, but the effects of the Kingdom still rock the world.  When you forgive your enemies as they are doing you harm you change the world for good.  In 1955 five young missionaries attempted to reach the violent and warlike Waorani Indians in eastern Ecuador.  The Indians attacked the defenseless men and left their spear-ridden bodies on the jungle beach.  The widow of one missionary and the sister of another, because they were defenseless women, managed to contact them peacefully.  They offered the killers forgiveness, a concept the Waorani did not understand.  But in time their violent ways were set aside in favor of the Gospel of peace.  In the 1980's a young Waorani man, product of the Waorani church, made a trip down river to another village still caught in the cycle of violent revenge killings.  He became martyr number 6, even as he forgave his own kinsmen who killed him.  The Gospel now urges people in that village as well to set aside their spears.

When you become known as a caring, loving community it changes the world for good.  Last year I sat with two men in their 70's on the porch of the school in Pedregales, Honduras.  I love visiting with the older men that come to the clinics.  They speak with measured tones and carefully chosen words, everything they say is worth hearing.  They told me in heart-felt words how appreciative they were that we had gone to the work and expense of getting to their village with doctors and medicines.  "It is clear how much you love God," they said.  This is the one thing the world has in very short supply and the one thing the Church has to offer.

When your geography stretches arms of love around the whole world it changes the world for good.  We come from all walks of life.  We are all different from one another.  Some of us are younger, some of us are older, some are single, some are married.  Some are politically liberal, others are more conservative.  Some have special needs, some seem blessed beyond measure.  Some are better at one thing and others at something else.  Yet here we are, all gathered together in God's house, under one roof, worshipping the same God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, seeing the truth and the life and the way differently at times, yet always somehow a reflection of Jesus Christ.  Here we stand together, shoulder to shoulder, and the grace of the Kingdom stretches a common mantle over all of our shoulders, to serve the world in His name.  Our uniqueness’s are evidence of grace.  Christ wears a myriad of faces, seen in one another and the people who populate our worlds.  As we see the face of Christ in those around us we most powerfully serve the world in His name!

The Kingdom will change your world, but that’s OK.  God’s changes are always for the good.  Jim Elliott, one of the five young missionary men martyred by the Waorani in 1955 said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose!”

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Landon Moore and the U of I

For a very nice piece done by the University of Idaho featuring our son Landon follow this link:


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

He Will Not Be Denied; Mother's Day

Easter 3, May 8, 2011, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Rev. Paul Moore

The parents of this morning's baptismal candidates are special to me.  The situation has happened to me plenty of times in my 20 years of ordained ministry, and every time it is special.  I married the parents, now I'm baptizing their children.  In today's move-every-3-years society that doesn't happen often.  It's special because in our transient society follow-through with the same people is often just not an option.  They PCS somewhere, their job moves them, or their parents need them in a distant city, and off they go.  Oh, we get around it like today, by the parents bringing the children back to the same place to be baptized, and whereas they will be raised in another context, the sense of continuity is important, the sense that we have a hand in continuing what we start.

This is the lesson in today's Gospel reading.  We don't really know much about Cleopas and his friend, Cleopas sounds like "Clopas," whose wife, Mary, was at the foot of the cross at the crucifixion.  But there is no evidence that these are referring to the same person.  Either way, there is no other Scripture reference to either of them.  So we know these two disciples only as the two men who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus.  We can say this about them, however.  They knew Jesus before the Crucifixion, and they were sad and disappointed at His death.  They took it to be the final chapter in Jesus' story, and they wished there had been more.  A nascent faith was dying in infancy in their hearts.

It is puzzling, of course, why the disciples were kept from recognizing Jesus.  The text seems to indicate that something did it to them, the voice is passive.  Was it God?  If so, why?  Was it the devil?  So what is the moral of the story?  Or was it something in themselves that just couldn't get past Jesus' death?  We're not told.  I believe that whatever the immediate cause, their blindness is instructive to us.  In Jesus teaching them from the Old Testament they would see that what had happened was part of a larger plan.  In appearing to them in the breaking of the bread He showed them that the story keeps going, and that they are part of it.  His presence is no longer restricted to one time and place, and therefore one appearance.  Now He will be with them wherever and whenever they break the bread.

So, whoever they were, these two disciples are one with us in the community of Jesus, for Jesus is also with us and recognized in the breaking of the bread.  We, too, are warmed in heart, and hurry out to share the news, and Jesus' actions that night become His actions with us tonight, we have a hand in the message of Emmaus.

And herein lies the greater lesson.  Baptism gives us a hand in continuing in the lives of these two boys, yes, and it is a grand thing to do so, and a great privilege and responsibility.  Yet that is not the end of the story.  Baptism is bigger than any one baptism per se.  I was baptized at age 11 in an outside baptismal font in Quito Ecuador on the campus of missionary radio station HCJB.  My wife was baptized by her father in a river in Africa.  All of our baptisms take on a different color and texture and appearance, yet they all are one, for we are all baptized into Christ, who is one.

Therefore we reaffirm our own baptismal covenants.  Just as the experience with Jesus in Emmaus sent Cleopas and his friend hurrying back seven miles in the night to Jerusalem to share the good news of the risen Christ, so we join Christians of all places everywhere in committing ourselves to proclaiming in our own way and our own day the power and grace of His resurrection.  Cleopas and his friend hold our hands and the hands of these two baby boys.

Today is also Mother's Day.  I think of my own mother, 81 years old, living with my father in Dallas in the sunset years of their lives.  The other day we were up there visiting with them and she said what every mother feels.  We were talking about a move to a retirement center in their native Indiana, close to my older brother.  She wasn’t sure she liked the idea.  At one point almost rebelliously she said, "I don’t care how old you are, you know you’re all still my kids."  Though my siblings and I now carry the load of the family, and it is now our turn to care for them, we are still her kids.  She still has a hand in our lives, and she will not be denied!

There are many images in Scriptures of God treating us as a mother treats her children.  God Himself, as the best of mothers, will have a hand in our lives, our continuing, changing and evolving lives.  From creation to birth to baptism through this life to death, our Lord Jesus Christ continues with us.  Often incognito and unrecognized, always recognizable in the breaking of the bread and the life of the Church that breaks it, but always there, whether known or not, always present, always with a firm, wth a steady and supporting hold on the upper hand in all that our lives are and will be.  In His unobtrusive way He will not be denied.