January 13, 2019 - "Jesus' Baptism" The Rev. Kathy Guin

River Time – Rev Kathy Guin

Today on this Feast Day - we’re gathered at the River. Or as they say in the Northern neck of Virginia – Rivah! But not to make light of it – today is a big day. We know it’s a big deal when we see the Big Capital Letters stating  that we’re celebrating The Baptism of our Lord. So what do we find as we look at this story?

As we hear Luke tell the story, we see everyone is focusing on who John the Baptist. There were great crowds coming all the way out into the desert to seek John. John was preaching a baptism of life-change leading to forgiveness of sins. Jesus is barely noticed in this scene.  It’s John who’s making the big splash.

But then things change after Jesus is baptized. When Jesus is praying -  that the skies opened up and the Holy Spirit like a Dove descending, came down on him. Then we hear “You are my Son, the Beloved: with you I am well pleased.”

So how do we see this scene in our lives on this Day – where are we? Are you focusing on the image of God’s booming voice -that is affirming and strengthening Jesus for ministry? Are you focusing on the gentleness of the image of a dove descending -  that through Christ’s Baptism, we Receive God’s Spirit? Where does your heart led you?

I was thinking of these connections when I spoke to Shirley Jones, our wonderful parishioner, who is out of the area taking care of her nephew right now. As we were talking, I saw an incredible light piercing through the thick wall of clouds. We talked about this sight, which reminded me of our  Gospel passage and the focus of gathering at the River. Which of course led to singing the Gospel song “Shall We Gather at the River.”

Then she shared a story of how her Momma would take all the kids down to the river before going back to school. Not everyone could swim, so they’d wade and splash. And many years later they all talk about the way they’d return there each year. What an incredible gift this is to her children to remember and hold onto in life!

We hear echoes of this story in the song “River” by Leon Bridges as he sings:

In my darkness I remember
Momma’s words reoccur to me
"Surrender to the good Lord
And he’ll wipe your slate clean"

Take me to your river
I wanna go
Oh, go on
Take me to your river
I wanna know.

The River, Change and Redemption are central to our lives with Christ. Often we underestimate God’s powerful love or we just see Christ’s love just as a sweet comfort in our lives.  Or we mistakenly see repentance as self-loathing vs keen insight, an awareness that grows over time as we mature in our faith.

Faith means we know we are already in The River of God’s Infinite Love. The invitation is always there to gather in the River, to remember we’re there with others and the absolute Joy found in forgiveness.  God is a riverbed of Mercy, calling you by Name, claiming you as a beloved child.

Returning to the River to Remember, we are blessed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the path Christ shows us, God promises to forgive, renew, and restore us at all times.

Jesus said that “Whoever believes in me. ‘ Out of their heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” As you pray of the power of the living water in you, here’s another translation (The Message) of this passage as we find John describing the work of Jesus  who will “ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you. Changing you from the inside out.”  The connection of the Living Waters of the Holy Spirit is in you. We are connected, and when we come together then we live graciously.

There’s a story told about a desert monk of the early church, Abba Joseph. A young monk came to see him and said, “As far as I can say my prayers, I fast a little, try to live in peace and keep thoughts pure. What else can I do.”

Abba Joseph stood up and spread out his hands toward heaven, and each of his fingertips was lit with flames. He said to the young monk, “If you want to, you can be totally fire.”  Here’s our deep water invitation to live out our Baptism, a baptismal faith on fire with Christ’s redeeming love through the gift of the Holy Spirit!

"The Road Less Traveled" Sermon | The Rev. Kathy Guin | August 26, 2018

“The Road Less Traveled”

Sermon August 26, 2018

The Rev. Kathy Guin


Today, we hear in Ephesians to “Pray in the Spirit at all times.” This phrase reminded me of our families’ recent summer travels. I had read about this out of the way labyrinth that was created on the crags of rocky shoreline. Right at the water’s edge, you find this hidden prayer path where I prayed for those who God had put on my heart.


My son and I followed this ancient prayer practice after sunset and then had to find our way through the dim light. The jagged rock formations are called “Dragons’ teeth” and to find this flat large space where this labyrinth was created is wonderous find. This discovery made me think of the path that we follow and a book I read many years ago.


It is one of the best- selling books over the past 30 years - Scott Peck’sThe Road Less Traveled.” I remember reading this book forever ago and was struck initially by the title. But the first sentence pulled me in completely: “Life is difficult.” This simple sentence strikes a deep chord within our hearts, no matter our age or circumstances.


So how do we learn to meet the challenges of life? Well today, we see several important signposts for the journey – I read a story this week of an old pastor speaking sadly about a someone who had lost their way. He said, “Poor thing, when it was time for him to go to the well for water, he had no bucket.”


The pastor was pointing out our need to prepare ourselves for wherever we are now and whatever we might face – One image is the drawing water - we need to have our bucket ready to be filled – refreshing blessings! Another image of being prepared for what we may face in life is the armor of God. This image of the “spiritual armor” is not something that many of speak often in our daily lives.


If this is the case, then we may not be fully aware of the dynamics of our spiritual life - what surrounds on the path. The scriptures speak of spiritual forces that surround us, are for both good and evil. Certainly Jesus and Saint Paul presumed that the force is with us and against us. And so we find the image of an early Roman Soldier, whose presence was threatening the early Christians. We read about our need for a belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, a shield and helmet, secure shoes. 


As we focus on this image, Br Curtis of SSJE turns to St. Ignatius of Loyola as a guide for looking at this passage. The founder of the Jesuits, who in his earlier life was a soldier - a 16th century armor-bearing knight. For one, Ignatius says that the enemy of our soul is like a calculating general sizing up his opponent. So there are two questions, where are we spiritually vulnerable?  Where are we?


If we’re honest we will realize that we have many different ways to avoid facing what’s in our lives. We can be very creative in rationalizing things. So we need to beware of how we’re reacting in situations -what are our tendencies – where do we need to be proactive – to keep our hearts and minds open to God as we look at where we need God, we need to keep an eye on our different tendencies –




If we are prone to harbor resentment, then we will find residual anger, and it will eat us up. If we are prone to losing our gratitude, then we will find disappointment to be our guide, and we will miss the signs of grace - God – the giver – things wonderful, beautiful, sustaining, strengthening… If we are prone to lose sight of this, then we are prone to focus on ourselves – what we want and we become the center of things.


But here’s the good news, when we know our own way of  spiritual vulnerability – we know where we are. Then we know the how, when and where we need help – we need to pray – we need to turn to Christ. We need the Armor of God. Because it’s in those tight hard places, where we come to know God.


Now here’s some directions for the road that’s less traveled – these places are where God breaks through to us. And it’s this where we meet God again and again – those places where we need God the most. We find Christ wherever we need him – where there is fear, loss, grief, suffering, - where there is need for healing and renewal -this is where we find God again and again. Then we are more able to face any situation with hope and courage – through what God does!


Another prayer of protection reminding us that wherever we go we are surrounded by God’s circle of love. Comes from the St Patrick’s breastplate that you will find in the back of your bulletin. Prayers affirming that Christ is above, beneath, to the right and left, behind and before, and in all that we meet. As we see in this passage, prayer is central to our lives – we pray in the Spirit - who brings us together.


This means we also need a community to uphold us in prayerful support We need a Cloud of Witnesses, a community of Love, to sustain us in life’s challenges. Knowing change is part of life – we just need to put on own spiritual armor so that we’re prepared to do the work God has given us to To not just endure but to be strengthened by prayers of wisdom and grace – to see clearly the path before us This is the Road We Travel, the way of Christ!

St Patricks Breastplate Prayer.jpg

“We are called to be the Church of the Beatitudes” - Sermon from January 29, 2017 | Rev. Kathy Guin

Last week, we heard Jesus calling out to others to “Follow him.” Now, we see Jesus is teaching his disciples the Beatitudes. He is telling us to follow his example – Jesus is teaching us how we are called to live. This means we’re called to be the Church of the Beatitudes: to know that we are blessed and to seek always to be a blessing to the communities we serve.

As we look at the this passage, we see Jesus is challenging the legalist view of status, where your status could dictate whether your literally survival.  Here Jesus is radically honoring those who’ve are pushed out to the margins of their culture.

I thought about this means when I heard the message extended to all those who come to Coventry Cathedral:

“We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, widowed, straight, gay, confused, well-heeled or down-at-heel.

We especially welcome wailing babies and excited toddlers.

We welcome you whether you can sing like Pavarotti or just growl quietly to yourself. You're welcome here if you're just browsing, just woken up or just got out of prison. We don't care if you're more Christian than the Archbishop of Canterbury or haven't been to church since Christmas 10 years ago.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome keep-fit moms, football dads, starving artists, tree huggers, latte sippers, vegetarians, junk food eaters.  We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you're having problems, are down in the dumps or don't like organized religion. ( We're not that keen on it either!)

We offer welcome to those who think the Earth is flat, work too hard, don't work, can't spell, or are here because Granny is visiting and wanted to come to the cathedral.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced, both or neither. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down their throats as kids or got lost on the Ring Road and wound up here by mistake. We welcome pilgrims, tourists, seekers, doubters and you!”

This incredible welcome shows what it means to be blessed and to be a blessing to others. And this blessed St Margaret’s is known for our generous and warm welcome, we are a full expression of God’s family.  We bring people together from different backgrounds - we come together in Christ’s love with diverse perspectives.  But what else will we find as we look at this passage?

One way to approach this passage is to hold it as a road map loaded with signs, so that we will recognize signs along the way for following Jesus. As we look around to see these signs with fresh eyes, what do we see?

‘Poor in spirit,’ ‘Those who mourn’ do we recognize those times when we see someone struggling – those who are in need of God, of seeing God through our actions. Together we are the Church of the Beatitudes, we know our need of God and therefore we see God at the center of everything.  Together we are the Church of the Beatitudes, we are called to be a community of kindness and gentleness and mercy.  We are called to be an outspoken for justice and for the poor. 

This is what it means to be a Christian; we follow in his footsteps by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and welcoming the stranger. We must speak up for the vulnerable for those refugees, who’ve suffered unimaginable pain and loss. Just as Jesus challenged the legalist view of status, we must honor those on the margins who struggle to survive, those who fled war, violence, famine, and persecution.

We are called to follow those who’ve gone before us, to anchor our lives in prayer, worship, scripture and reflecting on all the ways we see signs along the path.  We must honor Christ by having hearts of mercy, helping all those in need – therefore we to act when we see actions that don’t speak of Christ. Everything is centered on the good news of Christ, at the heart of everything is encountering and understanding the love of God revealed in Jesus.


As we look at this new sign for St Margaret’s, we see this symbol as reminder of God’s Eternal Love that we find in Christ.

The red center reminds us that our hearts are connected to one another through this eternal love of Christ.  ‘Blessed are the pure in heart,’ as we remember our namesake St Margaret, who is known for having a heart for the poor – all those in need. She sought to live humbly and to serve the needs of others as we hear in the Beatitudes.

We remember our Anglican heritage with this Celtic style cross of our Savior.

Infinite Love with the blue of water of our baptism, water of God’s creation  and yellow of the light of Christ, the warm Sun that lights the world.

Infinite love, as we see the vine, we remember that Christ is the vine and we are the branches.

This is what it means to be a Church of the Beatitudes; all the fruit that we bear - everything good comes from abiding in his love.

And at our annual meeting, we will celebrate all the ways we are walking in love and together we will look for new ways our living God is calling out it us – Christ calling out – Follow me!