A Holy Road Trip

When you are packing for a trip, what do you think about?

Probably that you don’t want to forget your toothbrush–again. Or maybe you are hoping that the traffic isn’t too bad, or that the plane won’t be late. Continue reading

Do I Matter? Do I Matter to God?

When it begins to rain, do you lie down on the ground until the storm passes?

Probably not, but Andy Goldsworthy does. He is an artist, and a sculptor who works in the landscape, often with materials he finds where he is: usually leaves, sticks, rocks, and thorns. Continue reading

Lent Madness meets Sacred Story

Anne and bracket

The Rev. Anne Emry distributing Lent Madness brackets at the Hingham train station

I never thought I would go to the train station fully vested, but anything can happen around here.  I work at what has become ground zero for Lent Madness–the brainchild of my boss, the Rev. Tim Schenck.  About three years ago he came up with this crazy mix-up of Lent and March Madness which pits saints against each other in rounds decided by online voting.  It began on his blog: Clergy Family Confidential, and has now gone viral, and has been featured in major media outlets.  Now Lent Madness has it’s own website, and is affiliated with Forward Movement. Not only have I been passing out brackets at the Hingham train station (can’t tell the players without a scorecard!), but I have created the first official Lent Madness Lenten Series Curriculum.  You will find it on this blog, with it’s own page for easy access. The first contest this Lent is between Jonathan Daniels, a modern civil rights martyr and Macrina the younger, a fourth century theologian and monastic. Let the madness begin!

Christmas Day: Traveler on a Cosmic Journey

John 1:1-14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Continue reading

The Song of Mary

When you need to know the truth, who do you listen to?  Not the Mayans, evidently.

Here we are, after the latest predicted apocalypse has failed to arrive. And yet, the world as we know it may actually have ended a week ago Friday—with the death of the innocents in Newtown, Connecticut.   Continue reading

Thanksgiving Eve Homily given at Old Ship, Hingham 2012

Psalm 126 and Matthew 13:31-32

This is a holy moment.

We come to this place, each of us carrying our own faith tradition.  We gather at this moment to express gratitude for our lives, for our blessings, and for the hope that is in us even when trouble befalls us, even when trouble befalls the world.  Continue reading

What the Bible says about Divorce: Mark 10:2-16

I don’t know of any preacher who approaches this text with joy.

Where is the good news in such harsh words about marriage and divorce?  It might be tempting to give a rousing endorsement of the importance of marriage and a stable family home for children, but that is a superficial reading and I am not content with that.  The stakes are high.  I know that even before I rise to preach, the words of the Gospel are ringing in people’s ears and many are feeling guilt, sorrow, or desperation. Continue reading

Where We See Jesus

Canterbury Cathedral

Sir, we wish to see Jesus,

said the Greek visitors in the Gospel of John.  We all do, says the Very Reverend Robert Willis, dean of Canterbury Cathedral.  The request made to the disciples seems so essential to our faith, that Canterbury Cathedral adopted the mission statement: “To show people Jesus.”

Just as we are seeing who Jesus is, and how he is related to the God he calls Father, we realize he is saying farewell and taking his leave of us.  So we are left to follow and seek, with no certain understanding of when he will return.  We wonder when we will see Jesus again.

Like visitors to Canterbury Cathedral, when we visit a church we are likely to see fine architecture, stained glass windows, and other ecclesiastical finery which reflect traditions that have evolved over the centuries.  But what speaks of Jesus may be less visible at first.  It is the prayer that has soaked into the place for however long it has been a place of worship.  The site of Canterbury Cathedral has the location of a Christian church–at least since the arrival of Augustine from Rome in 597.  But not one stone remains upon another from that period.  There is no carving, no piece of furniture, no stone altar that survives the sacks and fires that have destroyed the successive buildings.  Only the prayer of the people, offered faithfully to God over the centuries, remains unchanged.

Steps worn by pilgrim feet

When I went on pilgrimage to Canterbury several years ago, I was struck by the stones beneath my feet.  Steps were worn down by the feet and knees of people who came to Canterbury on pilgrimage.  In the deep faith of those pilgrims, I saw their yearning for Jesus, and I saw Jesus himself.

The voice of God from the sky, named Jesus as his glorified son. Not everybody heard it. Some heard thunder, and some heard an angel.  So perhaps the best way to know who Jesus is, is to see him in his followers as we daily make the path and wear it a little more so those who come after us can follow it more easily and find Jesus–like the Greek visitors, who followed the disciples path hoping to see Jesus.

Children’s activities: click here for some activities related to Following Jesus


Mother Anne+


John 3:16 in Context: Nicodemus at Night

Yup, Tim Tebow

Yup, Tim Tebow

If you were going to come up with texts that are among the Bible’s greatest hits, you would certainly include:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

It is a beautiful sentence that speaks of God’s nurture for creation, God’s self-giving, and the promise of life after life.  But there is no single sentence that is wide and deep enough to hold the Christian story.  So this sentence does not exist alone, it is part of a story that begins in the dark.  The Gospel begins: Jesus said to Nicodemus…  Who? Let’s go back a bit, to the beginning of the chapter. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of a reforming group of Jewish leaders who often sparred with Jesus but who shared many of the same goals–to bring people to holy living, to further the cause of justice.  Pharisees sound like the villains in the story because the worst fights are between brothers.  The text says:

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.

Nicodemus came by night, when the crowds of people had gone and it was possible to talk.  And they had a wonderful conversation about life and salvation, rich in metaphor.  Jesus told Nicodemus that life is constantly renewed by the Holy Spirit, and that there was always hope, and vitality for those in God’s kingdom.  Jesus told Nicodemus that:

No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.

which has led to the use of the phrase “born again” to describe some forms of Christianity.  The whole conversation, including Nicodemus’ question:

“How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?”

is wonderful dialogue, completely consistent with Rabbinical debate.  Here are two Rabbis testing each other, matching wits, and coming to mutual understanding.

And what was it that Nicodemus wanted to know?  In his learned, probing way Nicodemus was asking Jesus who he was. And maybe because it was late, and they were alone, and Jesus thought that here was someone who might really understand, he told him.

Jesus described himself using the title Son of Man, which sounds like a way to say human being.  But that term connects with imagery in the book of Daniel that describes a vision of God (the Ancient of Days) and his anointing and commissioning of a younger divine being…”one like the Son of Man.”  So Jesus was pointing to the scriptures and opening them up to a seeker who was skilled in interpreting them.

We don’t know if they met again in daylight. Nicodemus is quoted in a debate with the Pharisees who wanted to arrest Jesus:

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?”

All we know is that after Jesus was lifted up on the cross and died, Nicodemus was there again on that day darker than any night, to lift him down from the cross, and prepare his body to be laid in the tomb.  Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, to be a companion, friend, and savior.  And we hear this story, and all of the others, and know we are beloved, and that though we go through darkness and death, life leads to life.

Children’s activity: The wind blows where it chooses…is one way Jesus described the actions of the Spirit.  Make wind socks.  Provide students with construction paper, instructing them to print this Bible verse on it:

The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

Roll the construction paper into a cylinder, securing it with staples, tape or glue.  Decorate the bottom of the wind sock with strips of tissue paper.  Attach string to the top for hanging.  Talk about how the Spirit is like the wind.


Mother Anne+