Monthly Archives: September 2013

Monday Matters (September 30th, 2013)


Reflections to start the week
Monday, September 30, 2013

It’s not all about Sunday.

This simple truth gets expressed in a variety of ways.

It was expressed by Archbishop William Temple who said that the church is the only organization that exists for the sake of those who are not its members.

It’s indicated in the sign I saw posted over the exit at the church which read: The worship is over. The service begins.

It’s the prayer after communion that asks for the strength and courage to serve with gladness and singleness of heart, a liturgical acknowledgement that it is not always easy.

It’s the claim that the dismissal is the most significant part of the liturgy, as we are sent out into the world to do God’s work.

It’s the habit of one peculiar priest (not naming any names) to conclude bible study with the “so-what” factor, i.e., an invitation to articulate and identify the relevance of scripture to life in the world. If you can’t come up with something, what’s the point?

It’s the theme of promises made in baptism, that we will proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ, that we will seek and serve Christ in all persons, that we will work for justice and peace. In other words, we promise to participate in the changing of the world.

It’s the beautiful poem sent to me by a beautiful friend last week. The poem, written by Mary Oliver, is entitled: The Vast Ocean Begins Just Outside our Church: The Eucharist. Thank you, Mary Oliver. Thank you, beautiful friend.


Something has happened

To the bread

And the wine

They have been blessed. What now?

The body leans forward

To receive the gift

From the priest’s hand,

Then the chalice

They are something else now

From what they were

Before this began.

I want

To see Jesus

Maybe in the clouds

Or on the shore,

Just walking

Beautiful man

And clearly

Someone else
on the hard days

I ask myself

If I ever will.

Also there are times

My body whispers to me

That I have.


So put faith to work today. Sunday worship may seem to punctuate your weekend. Let it launch your week.

-Jay Sidebotham


Jay SidebothamContact:

Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.

Monday Matters (September 23rd, 2013)


Reflections to start the week
Monday, September 23, 2013

Can we talk?

Let me begin with the wisdom of one of my favorite commentators on matters social and religious. That would be Dave Barry, columnist extraordinaire and eccentric. He offered an insight that resonates with anyone who has been held captive by unsolicited religious or political opinions at a cocktail party, in a crowded airplane row, at a family holiday dinner, in a pew, or on your doorstep when proselytizer appears. It’s happened to all of us. Maybe some of us have been the perpetrators. Anyway, Dave Barry keenly noted the following:

People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.

We’re told that in polite company, it’s best not to talk about religion or politics. Just don’t get into it. There’s good reason for that, of course, as noted above in those various experiences of captivity. But it does make me wonder if there isn’t some way, some significance in discovering ways to talk about our faith, without making other folks uneasy, without making them feel “less than”. The fact is, these kinds of conversation don’t always happen at church. The exchange of the Peace allows for a fleeting greeting. Coffee hour is nice for niceties, but rarely allows for deeper comment on things of the Spirit. We come in (sometimes a bit tardy) and leave but don’t find much opportunity to talk with others about what we’ve experienced, or what has caused us to wonder, or what challenges us, or where we experience pain, or where we see hope.

If we want that kind of discourse to happen, it calls for intentionality. Granted, it’s not a particularly Episcopalian thing to do, but it can be a growth opportunity when we articulate what faith, what things of the spirit mean to us. Small discussion groups, prayer groups, bible studies and book groups can be good venues, for sure. But I learned the most about it from the youth group who were my teachers when I served in Illinois. They’d go on an annual work trip and at the end of each day, would gather for what were called “God-sightings.” These sightings were beautiful. They were “I” statements, as in “I saw God at work today in the person who brought us lemonade when it was 100 degrees.”, or “I saw God at work in the life of the 90 year old lady who couldn’t afford air conditioning in the North Carolina summer but was still grateful.” These were elegant observations, not dogmatic impositions. What those youth taught me and our congregation is that we can keep our eyes open for the ways God is at work, and we can simply share them, talk about them, celebrate them. It’s not a debate about a theological or political issue. It’s a witness. Everyone can do it. You. Me.

So give it a try. Share this morning, this day, this week, something about how you see God at work in your life, in your world. I know it’s a stretch for Episcopalians. It’s a stretch for me and I’m a priest! And as you do, don’t forget the sage advice of Dave Barry. He points out that anytime we want to share our religious/spiritual experience with others, we need to be ready to listen to their experience, to be hospitable and humble in that way. Who knows? We might learn something.

-Jay Sidebotham


Jay SidebothamContact:

Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.

Monday Matters (September 16th, 2013)


Reflections to start the week
Monday, September 16, 2013

A Reading from the Gospel according to Dilbert:
“Change is good. You go first.”

So we launch out on another week, recognizing that embracing change is never easy. It’s not always fun. It can be work. Dilbert knew that change came with difficulty in the corporate setting. I know (I suspect you do too) that it’s difficult in religious life, and in religious institutions. A mentor once noted that people in churches always want the church to stay just the way they found it when they first joined, whether that is a matter of decades or days.

I remember that once, serving in another church, I started what I thought was an innovative evening liturgy. We worked hard for months on its distinctive design and premiered the liturgy on a much-advertised Sunday night. Some things worked well. Others not so much. So over the next days, we met and made changes, tweaking the liturgy. (Warning to faint of heart: It can be dangerous to tweak the liturgy.) The next week, the service was a little different, and I think, improved. Yet at the end of the service, I was besieged by several irate Episcopalians who wanted to know why I had made drastic changes, implying those dreaed words that make clergy cringe: “We’ve never done it that way.” Apparently, iron-clad tradition can form quickly. Gather for one liturgy and you can lock in tradition.

I’m struck with how much Jesus spoke about change and transformation and growth. The first words we hear from him in the Gospel of Mark are these: Repent. If that word “repent” conjures up visions of a crazed street preacher with sandwich board predictions of the end, delve into the original meaning, in the Greek, metanoia. It means to turn around, to alter direction, to hang a u-turn. It suggests a journey, which means moving from where you are towards where you want to be. Jesus invited his followers to hit the road with him. He didn’t stay put. They would end up someplace different than where they started. That’s still true.

I recently re-read EVERYTHING BELONGS by Richard Rohr. It’s great. I’d read it a while ago, and had thrown it in my bag on a recent trip at the last minute. I’m thinking the Holy Spirit made me do that, because it was on target for the life I’m living and the work I’m tackling, exploring the spiritual journey and spiritual growth. In that book. Rohr cites Lawrence Kohlberg, who writes about levels of moral development. Kohlberg says that in the spiritual journey, we move from one level to a level we don’t completely understand yet. Every step up the ladder is taken in semi-darkness by the light of faith. The greatest barrier is our comfort and control at the level we are at now. We may respond to the call to a higher or deeper level with anxiety. Instead of saying: “Isn’t this wonderful?” we say “I don’t know if I want to go there.” It’s reminiscent of the wisdom of Dilbert: “Change is good. You go first.”

So let me inquire this Monday morning: where do you want to go in your life of faith, in the spiritual journey? Are you where you want to be? Do you have a sense of the next step on the ladder? Is it veiled in semi-darkness? Do you have some light of faith, a lantern on your path? It’s tempting, but I try not to rehash Sunday sermons in these Monday matters. But yesterday in a sermon, I did include this quote from Annie Lamott printed on the side column. It’s a beautiful picture of how by grace we embrace the new thing God has in store for us.

I believe there is something there for you and me this day, this week. It may or may not be major spiritual renovation. It may be just a tweak. But God calls us through the Spirit to take that next step on the ladder, often in semi-darkness with the light of faith. Go for it.
-Jay Sidebotham


Jay Sidebotham


Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.