Laetare Sunday Sermon


We are now halfway through the season of Lent. For 20 days we have been observing this liturgical season of penance and preparation for Holy Week and Easter. We began this journey on Ash Wednesday, which was also Valentine’s Day and tragically the day of a mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland FL. Throughout these 20 days, we have been praying the Stations of the Cross in the chapel on Friday mornings, followed by beautiful meditative organ music here in the church and a ringing of the church bell 17 times in memory of the Parkland shooting victims. On Tuesday nights, we have been gathering in the Parish Hall for soup and deep exploration into the Gospel of John and the question of suffering, followed by Compline prayer in the chapel. This Lent has been a rich season of introspection, lamentation, repentance and prayer; and I look forward to delving even deeper into these practices with you in the remaining 20 days of Lent.

But today is actually a little break from Lent. Although all of the Sundays in the season of Lent are feast days, times when we can break our Lenten fast, this Sunday is a special time of respite from repentance. This Sunday is known as “Laetare Sunday” and “Laetare” is Latin for “rejoice.” It’s a day we take a break from repenting to rejoice and relax. This Sunday is also known as “Refreshment Sunday” or “Rose Sunday” because many churches use rose-colored vestments on this day. The readings for this Sunday also offer a break from this series of readings we’ve had on the covenants which God makes with his people: the Noahic covenant, the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic covenant. Today, no covenant; instead we get snakes.

Now I imagine that subject might not initially sound very refreshing or relaxing to many of you, but if you bear with me, I believe we can experience some profoundly refreshing insights from today’s readings.

In the reading from the book of Numbers, the Israelites are frustrated and impatient, hungry and thirsty and fed up with their “miserable food.” On top of this, poisonous snakes show up and poison many Israelites to death with their fatal venom. So the Israelites ask their leader Moses for help. They say to Moses, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; please pray to God so that God will send the snakes away.” But God does not send the snakes away. Instead, God uses this as an opportunity not only to heal but also to reveal something profound about Himself to His people.

According to the text, the LORD is the one responsible for sending the poisonous snakes. The Israelites blame God (and Moses) for the miserable food, the lack of water and their apparent circumambulations through the desert. When poisonous snakes arrive on the scene, God is blamed for these as well, as the text declares: “The LORD sent poisonous snakes among the people.” So for the Israelites, the serpent has become a symbol of God’s violent punishment and wrath against his people for their complaining. However, God responds to their prayer by turning that symbol on its head; by making the symbol of the serpent into a sign of God’s healing and new life. By lifting up the serpent in the wilderness, God is saying to God’s people, “I am not a God of wrath. I am not a God who will poison you to death because of your complaining. I am a God of love and forgiveness and healing. I want you to stop projecting your violence and wrath onto me. I will teach you this by taking the symbol that you see as representative of my wrath and I will transform it into a symbol of healing and new life. By looking at this life-giving serpent, may your understanding of me be transformed from a God of violent wrath to a God of healing and life.”

Now it seems that this profound insight about God was lost hundreds of years later when King Hezekiah, the King of Judah, broke this bronze serpent down into pieces. However, Jesus sought to reclaim and embody this insight. Jesus says in our Gospel this morning, “Just as the serpent revealed God as a source of healing and love, not violence and wrath, so will I reveal God to you as a God of love and eternal life not condemnation and death.” Jesus makes that very clear. We all know the famous verse John 3:16 which beautifully sums up the Gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” And the following verse is just as important: “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus revealed God as a God of healing and salvation, not condemnation.

There is indeed a time for judgment when the Light of God shines upon us and exposes the many ways that we are caught up and complicit in systems of violence and oppression against vulnerable people. But that judgment always includes an invitation to be healed and transformed by the life-giving and liberating love of God.

Throughout church history, many theologians have understood the cross of Christ primarily as a symbol of God’s wrathful punishment of sin, which Jesus bore on our behalf. However, by understanding the cross primarily in this way, we end up making the same mistake that the Israelites did: we project our own violence onto God. At the cross, God reveals his love and forgiveness in response to human violence. At the cross, God transforms a symbol of human violence into a symbol of healing and new life.

By turning this symbol of healing and new life back into a symbol of God’s bloodthirsty wrath, we miss the point. God wants to bring us out of our systems of oppression by inviting us to stop projecting our violence onto God but rather to bring our honest frustration and inner violence to God in prayer and experience healing and forgiveness as a result. This is how we “behold” the serpent in the wilderness who is revealed to us in the Eucharist, healing our diseases of sin and violence and giving us new life.

May we each find deep rest on this Laetare Sunday and be refreshed by the Gospel truth of God’s healing and liberating love, which transforms symbols of suffering and wrath into symbols of new and abundant life. Amen.


Combating the Green Eyed Monster

Ironically, it is one of the most hateful villains in all of Shakespeare’s plays that gives some of the most helpful and sage advice. In the play Othello, the cruel antagonist Iago advises Othello to beware of jealousy. He says, “Beware of jealousy; it is the green ey’d monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” For anyone who has experienced feelings of jealousy (which I imagine is all of us), you can likely attest to its monstrous and destructive nature. As I have been praying through this morning’s Scripture readings, I have found myself thinking about Iago’s advice.

This advice comes to mind because the Jewish rabbis explain that the ten commandments (the Decalogue) can be summed up in the final commandment: “Do not covet your neighbor’s belongings.” If we can follow this commandment, the rabbis say, we will not be tempted to steal, commit adultery, bear false witness or commit murder. Envy is the monster that poisons our hearts and minds and compels us to behave selfishly and irrationally and even violently, like Othello who ends up tragically murdering his own wife, Desdemona. If our lives are driven by jealousy and envy, we will not only be living lives of sin, we will be living lives of misery.

And God does not want any of us to be miserable; God wants us to thrive. This is why God makes covenants with us: to help us thrive and to help us enjoy the blessings and the abundance of his overflowing love. On the first Sunday of Lent, we read about the Noahic covenant in which God invited his people and all living creatures to rest in his loving protection and providence, to remember and claim that love every time we see a rainbow appear in the sky after a storm. Last Sunday, we read about the Abrahamic covenant, in which God promised that Abraham and his many spiritual descendants would be blessed and would indeed be blessings to the entire world.

Today, we read about the Mosaic covenant, the covenant God made with his people through Moses, through whom we receive the gift of the Torah, which really does not mean the “Law” as we often think it does, but actually rather means the “teachings.” And the gift of the Mosaic covenant teaches us very practical ways to thrive, ways to claim and enjoy God’s blessings and abundance. Because these practical teachings were given to a specific group of people living in a particular place at a particular time, some of the instructions do not translate perfectly to us. For example, I don’t think many of us struggle with coveting our neighbor’s ox or donkey here in Humboldt county (although I did recently learn about something called the “steam donkey,” which was an engine made for loggers that was invented by a local man named John Dolbeer, but that’s not what Moses was referring to.)

The general principles of the Torah and the Mosaic covenant, however, remain relevant and potentially life-changing for us today. And one of the most powerful teachings in the Torah is simply this: Avoid envy. Beware of that green-eyed monster.

And one of the best ways to avoid envy, one of the most effective methods for defeating the green-eyed monster is to obey another commandment in Scripture, which is actually not included in the ten commandments, but is in fact the most frequently repeated commandment in the entire Bible. It’s repeated all throughout the book of Psalms, which was the prayer book for the people of the Mosaic covenant. In the Hebrew Bible, the command is written as one word, which we actually refrain from saying during the season of Lent. But that one word is an imperative; it’s a commandment; and it means “Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord. Practice gratitude.” The best antidote to envy is gratitude.

This is why our weekly gatherings here are so important and crucial for us and for our souls. It is a time when we collectively give thanks; when we celebrate Eucharist, which means “Thanksgiving.” We count our many blessings and we acknowledge that it is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth. The great medieval German theologian Meister Eckhart believed that praising the Lord and giving thanks was so vital that he said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.” Gratitude is the most effective weapon against jealousy and envy.

Although there are many ways to interpret Jesus’s cleansing of the temple, this morning I want to suggest that this is actually Jesus’s way of going to battle against the green-eyed monster, who especially loves to poison places of worship with the venom of envy.  It is so easy for churches and temples to become places of spiritual and social competition where we are tempted to show off how holy and generous and self-sacrificial we are; where we might be tempted to envy others who seem to have more than us. In Jesus’s day, the wealthy people could show off their affluence and prestige by purchasing a cow or an ox for the temple sacrifice while poor people could usually only afford a dove or pigeon. Jesus likely sensed that the temple was becoming an incubator for envy rather than a house for worship and thanksgiving; and just as he had exorcised demons with his authority here he was casting out the green-eyed monster with zeal and righteous anger. And he was angry because places of worship are some of the few places that exist primarily for the purpose of inspiring awe and arousing deep gratitude for God’s many blessings and gifts. And if our churches and temples become poisoned with envy, jealousy and competition, then we are in deep trouble. And so Jesus was willing to overturn tables in order to protect these sacred places from such poison.

If anyone is still wondering what to do for Lent this year, I highly recommend fasting from envy and feasting on gratitude. I invite us to praise God and express our gratitude by giving generously (not in order to show off our wealth or to compete with others) but so that we can enter more deeply into that ever-giving flow of divine munificence, which we do every time we bring our gifts to the altar and say, “All things come of thee, O Lord; and of thine own have we given thee.”

In our Collect, we prayed that God defend us from “all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul.” I pray that God may defend each of us from the green eyed monster, which doth the mock the meat it feeds on; and I pray that we may each experience God’s blessings and abundance today more deeply by simply giving thanks. Amen.

Announcement – New Rector

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Announcement – November 5, 2017


Christ Church has been waiting for a “new” rector since late 2012.  During that time we have been well served by Mother Susan Armstrong as priest-in-charge, and for the last year and a half, Mother Lesley McCloghrie as interim rector.


Under the guidance of the diocese, we entered the search process in 2016.  First preparing the Parish Profile, then the formation and work of the Applicant Review Committee (ARC), and finally interviews of candidates by the vestry.


While there was a setback in June of this year when we ended up with an unsuccessful search, and some justified disappointment, ARC got back to work and the search again began in late summer.


Sometimes we must be patient and remember that God does have a plan for us.  The vestry met with Canon Andrea on October 22nd and after positive and inspiring discussions voted unamaniously to elect a new rector. I am very happy to announce that we did issue a call to the Rev. Dr. Daniel London and he has accepted.  This has been confirmed and approved by Bishop Biesner.


Father Daniel is currently the priest-in-charge at The Church of the Redeemer in San Rafael.  He was ordained in January 2014 and received his Doctorate of Philosophy in 2016.  He will be coming to us with his wife Dr. Ashley Bacchi.


Father Daniel’s first day with us will be January 28, 2018, also the date of our annual meeting. This will give us time to properly say goodbye to Mother Lesley whose last day at Christ Church will be January 7th.


We have been faced with many goodbyes to beloved parishioners in the past few years.  Now we shall look forward to greeting a young priest and his wife to help us move forward into a challenging and exciting new chapter in the life of Christ Church.


Lyn Klay

Senior Warden

Betty Chinn Donation

In a gesture of Christian hope, the parishioners at Christ Episcopal Church in Eureka have raised and donated $12,000 to help Betty Chinn purchase the building next door to the Betty Kwan Chinn Day Center that will house families in transition.


Pictured from left to right are Pastor Dan Price, President of the Betty Kwan Chinn Foundation, Betty Chinn accepting the donation check from the Rev. Dr. Susan Armstrong, Priest in Charge at Christ Church, the Rev. Nancy Streufert, Associate Priest at Christ Church, and Lyn Klay, Senior Warden of the parish. The donation was made on Tuesday, December 8.



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Welcome to the Christ Church website! As our tagline states, we are a welcoming community worshiping and growing in the Episcopal tradition of the Anglican Church. Christ Church is a community with a wide range of different people, from all ages and different backgrounds. As we live and serve in the way of Christ, we are excited about God’s plans for our future within today’s culture and our community. Our campus is between G and H Streets and 14th and 15th street in Eureka, California.

Christ Church Eureka Services

Holy Eucharist Rite II
Sundays 8:00 AM and 10:30 AM


Sts. Martha and Mary

1st Sunday 5 pm Evening Prayer
2nd Sunday 9 am Holy Eucharist
3rd Sunday 5 pm Evening Prayer
4th Sunday 9 am Morning Prayer
5th Sunday 9 am Holy Eucharist