We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sermon, Rev. Tom Hughes, March 17, 2024 – “in him [Jesus] all things hold together”

“We have today to consider  quite a few things that are presented as revolutionary things, things that have changed the world and things that should have changed  the world. They begin with the idea of the coming of the Greeks. Now it’s not obvious exactly on the surface of that what that means but if you look back in in in Greek history starting with the early days of the philosophers Plato, what they did was they developed a way of thinking that we now call rationalism. Being rational is something that everybody aspires to. If  you’re not acting rational that’s seen as some sort of aberration so that the Greeks then depended upon a kind of thinking that was rational. Now that’s good under many circumstances and we certainly can’t go through our life without that but it’s very limiting because the Greeks did not perceive anything that we would call spiritual. It was all the way you thought about life and the way you lived life through what you thought that mattered. They had no consideration of  deeper things we might call spiritual things.

“Now contrast with that we also have another character in this play,  Caiaphas the high priest was bound to the law. His role  as a high priest was to make sure everybody followed the law. The law was very clear. It had been passed down from God and you didn’t deviate from it. Now, the problem with that is the law  also requires some spiritual insight in order to know it and to live it. It’s not just what the words are on the paper but how God speaks to your heart so those are two considerations that are real in our present day to day. We are rational people and often we’re law-bound people. I want to suggest to you that neither one of those lead us to a spiritual understanding of Life. The spiritual understanding of life comes from an entirely different source – in scripture.

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Chancellor’s Village sermon March 12, 2024

The local region provides clergy for Chancellor’s Village Retirement Community for their weekly Eucharist on Tuesdays. The responsibility is shared and Catherine goes about once every two months. Currently, we have 3 residents there from St. George’s so it is a good opportunity to to see them as well.

While the service is a typical Sunday service, the priests can shorten it based on those in attendance. Today, there was only one reading, the Gospel with a shortened sermon. Today we had 16 in attendance. Cookie and Johnny from St. George’s also drove up for a visit.

The sermon was Lent 4 with the Gospel reading from John 3:16. Her complete sermon is here with an excerpt below:

“Events in this life, especially at this time of life, and the things that go on in the world, do shake our faith.  Suffering and evil take their ongoing toll, often randomly and unfairly. Those timeless and unanswerable questions that we ask about evil and suffering, only to come up with ..what?… challenge us. Paul says that of faith, hope and love, love is the greatest.  I find that when faith and hope get shaken, then the little bit of love we can cling to, in whatever form that takes, whether it’s some reminder of God’s love for us, or the love we have for one another, or the love we share out in the world in spite of the barriers that the world raises, are the shreds of love we hold up to God, and God can use that little bit of love to weave faith and hope back into our lives.

“Love your friends who are hurting in the ways that come to you. God will do the rest, in God’s time.

So love yourself and others, as inadequate as your love can seem. For when you do any deed out of love, you have done that deed in God, and God will turn your imperfect love into the fullness of God’s own love, the love that suffers with us, carries us through, and brings us into the resurrection life that never ends.”

Sermon, March 10, 2024- Rev. Tom Hughes – “It’s part of the journey. It begins now.”

Sermon is transcribed from the video.

Good morning  everybody. I want to start out by underlining some  things. if you turn back to the Gospel reading that we just  had – “for God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life.”

That’s really the bottom  line, that really is the fullness of the word of God to us because it lays out for us God’s purposes of God’s love and God’s plan for eternity.

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Sermon, the Rev. Catherine Hicks, Chancellor’s Village, March 12, 2024

Sermon, Chancellor’s Village, March 12, 2024

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…

Even though we do not have crucifixes hanging in our churches, but instead the empty cross, to remind us to focus on the resurrection, this phrase about God giving his only Son, especially in the context of the quote from the Old Testament at the beginning of today’s gospel about the bronze serpent, holds before us the image of Jesus suffering and dying on the cross. 

Why would this image of suffering be an image to bring love to our minds?  The suffering and dying of Jesus sanctifies our own suffering and helps us to know that Jesus will go through the valleys of the shadow of death with us, and will bring us safely home, through the grave and gate of death, into an eternal life of the fullness of love in God’s presence. That is the gift of God’s love for us.  God never deserts us, even when we have trouble imagining that God is present.

We live in a world of suffering and pain, our own, the pain of our friends, our family members and the news is nothing but one long report of pain.  How can we, in our small ways, be present to all this pain without it killing us?  Making us depressed?  Or angry?  Or just an ongoing dull hurt that won’t go away? 

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Sermon, Lent 3, March 3, 2024

Sermon, The Third Sunday in Lent, Year B 2024
John 2:13-22, Exodus 20: 1-17

The temple in today’s scripture was the temple that Ezra built after the Jewish people returned from exile in Babylon.  Six hundred years had passed and the temple had been central to Jewish worship all that time.   King Herod, appointed by the Romans as the King of the Jews, had been renovating the temple for forty-six years, hoping to gain the favor of the people.  

The Jewish people believed that the presence of God dwelt in the temple, in the Holy of Holies, that inner sanctum separated from the rest of this massive temple complex by an elaborately woven veil.  God was off limits and transcendent, an invisible force to be revered and feared. So people came to this temple, God’s home,  from all over Palestine to thank God, to bring God sacrifices, to pray, and to hope for God’s favor.  

Jesus shook up the status quo when he interrupted the temple economy with his disruptive actions and his statement to stop making his Father’s house a marketplace. These actions were a direct challenge to the temple authorities about temple worship and the economics of that worship.    

And when Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” Jesus was speaking of the temple of his body, one of the most subversive and radical statements Jesus ever made about himself.    

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The Sermons in February

Feb. 25 – Lent 2- “Suffering” – Rev. Catherine Hicks

Written
Video
Gospel 

The sermon was about suffering. Three types of suffering  – those due to natural causes,  sin, redemptive were included.

“God does not ask us to suffer needlessly.    But God does hope that we will accept redemptive suffering if our suffering can contribute to the growth of goodness and justice in the world around us, and if our suffering and self-denial could possibly lead to the redemption and healing of even one other person by letting  God’s grace work through us.”

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Sermon, Lent 2, Feb. 25, 2024 – Suffering

Sermon, Second Sunday in Lent, Year B
Mark 8:31-38

Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma with their family in Poland

Although we don’t generally like to hear about or to think about suffering, Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel that following him as a disciple will include suffering. 

As I’ve thought about suffering this week, it’s been useful to consider three broad categories of suffering. 

The first category is physical suffering due to natural causes.   

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Sermon, Feb. 18, the Rev. Tom Hughes – The Symbols of Lent

Lectionary
Video

It’s nice to be here together as we begin Lent. These lessons that we have last Sunday and this Sunday are monumentally important because of what they teach us about the coming of the Kingdom, which is here, about the Messianic age which has now begun and how we are to live in it. The way I think to begin is to understand the importance of knowing symbols and what they mean because you can’t have a spiritual understanding of scripture if you don’t understand symbols and so that’s how we’re going to spend some time on this morning.

But I want to say to you first about Lent. I think sometimes we miss the point because I know people who are intent upon giving things up. I’m not going to have any popcorn or I’m going to give up wine. Some people take on things. I think both of those approaches are not quite what lent’s about and particularly the idea of giving up things. It’s not that you give up things that bring you pleasure or are good for you or make you happy, the idea is to give up things that are bad for you. The focus of what you give up is not the things that are lifegiving and happy that help you get along in this life and that you enjoy. You don’t give those things up. It’s not the idea for us to suffer. The idea is for us to grow spiritually and the way you grow spiritually is to make an intentional effort to give up those things that are not good for us

The lessons of last Sunday and this are just chocked full of powerful symbols for us to understand. The first one is that water – Jesus being baptized in the water. Remember the way to read scripture is to always look for the spiritual meaning in it. Don’t read it for what’s on the surface, read it for the spiritual meaning that is in it.

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Sermon, Feb. 11, 2024, Last Epiphany – “…He was transfigured. He became fully the person he was created to be.”

Video

A few minutes ago Catherine and I were standing outside and we were talking about preaching on the transfiguration Sunday and  neither one of us could remember anything we’d ever preached before! 

I just remembered a Transfiguration sermon. What I talked about was the fact that they were having this discussion about building tents there so they could stay on the  Mountaintop and the thrust of the sermon was you can never stay there. You have these experiences and then life moves on. That’s actually that’s relevant for today because the theme is about life moving on. It’s changing all the time. None of us here are the same people we were last year, the year before,  20 years ago for some of us. 

The point though is that we’re not the people we used to be. We are different people not necessarily better or worse.

I want to give you a quote from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 3:18. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

So what he is saying there is that the whole experience of change is a part of life because we don’t want to be stuck in one place and be  that person. I don’t want to be the person  when I was five or 10 years ago .  I’m happy with life as it as it’s coming along each day now. The idea of being stuck in one place of course is I guess that’s what death is you.

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Sermon, Epiphany 5, Feb. 4, 2024

Rembrandt-The-Healing of the Mother in Law of St.Peter

Next Sunday is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany so let’s do a quick review of this season.   During the Season after the Epiphany, scripture reminds us all over again who Jesus is, the Son of God, and who we can become in the light of who He is. 

The Season after the Epiphany always starts out with the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, when the heavens are torn apart and the Spirit descends like a dove, and God speaks—“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” And then the season always ends with the Transfiguration, that mystical experience on top of a mountain in which we hear God’s voice once more, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”  But that’s next week. 

In between Jesus’ baptism and his Transfiguration, scripture gives us proofs that Jesus is indeed the Beloved Son of God. 

In last week’s gospel, we found Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum with his disciples.   Jesus is teaching with authority, not as the scribes, and then a man with a demon starts ranting and raving against Jesus—I know who YOU are—the Holy One of God!  What are you doing here?  This is our territory.”  And indeed this demon in the man makes a valid point.  Sometimes it’s easy to believe that the world has been taken over by spirits that want to keep anything holy, true, trustworthy and healing out so that they can continue to bring distrust, hatred, violence, destruction, and death to hold us all captive. 

When Jesus said that the Kingdom of God has come near, he meant it.  He came to rid the earth, and us, of the demons that hold us in thrall.  And so he casts out the demon in the man, showing the people in the synagogue, and us, that he has authority over even the demons that threaten to take us, and that he has authority over Satan himself. 

Now we come to today’s readings.  Jesus has just cast out the demon, and now he and Simon and Andrew and James and John go to Simon’s house.  All is not well here either—there isn’t a demon, but Simon’s mother-in-law is sick in bed with a fever.  The disciples tell Jesus about this at once.  Jesus goes to the woman, takes her by the hand and lifts her up.  Is any word spoken?  We don’t know.  

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Sermon, Rev. Thomas Hughes, Jan. 28, 2024

Sermon is transcribed from the video.

The lessons today are all about spiritual considerations. If you spend a little time with them, the lessons are all about the spiritual nature of what it means to live in this world before God. So with that in mind there are really four things I want to talk about today. One is knowledge and kinds of knowledge . There are two kinds of knowledge – there’s spiritual knowledge, there’s intellectual knowledge and there’s also this basic drive that human beings have for wholeness. Then I want to talk a little bit about symbols and how they are an expression of our spiritual lives.

I’m sure we’re all aware that our culture is really starving spiritually. There’s no other way to describe it. You hear descriptions of  places where there is  a food desert.  I’ve heard that expression lately talking about places where there is food that is not available in the way that people need food. Jesus  said you did not live by bread alone. Jesus’ teaching is all about being fed spiritually even though he is very mindful of what it required to live in this world and what human beings  needed to do to survive. There’s no reason to think he wasn’t always respectful of people’s knowledge. Certainly growing up in the in the carpenter shop he knew how to build things; he understood how things in this world work so he was not naive about that. Yet his life was  all about something else altogether different. His life was all about teaching and revealing the spiritual nature of the world and of God and of the spiritual nature that we all have to all the people around him. 

Now, the idea that there are spiritual things at the heart of all goes to a little quote here in Jeremiah where it says I  created you as a strong vine with your roots firmly in the ground to produce for me. Why is it then you have produced wild grapes instead of those for which you were  created? Going all the way back some 700 years before Christ we had the great Prophet Jeremiah writing about the fact that what was coming up in our lives, what was coming up in civilization was not what God had intended. God had planted plants that were to give birth to a whole new kind of life of the spirit. Instead, something else was happening it’s still happening even though all these 2,000 years later. 

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Sermon, Jan 21, 2024 – Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational Meeting

This story at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry never fails to fascinate me.  Jesus comes to Galilee, saying 

“The kingdom of God has drawn near!  Repent, and believe in the good news.” 

Jesus doesn’t wait around for people to come to him.  He immediately calls followers, those he hopes will help him in his work of sharing the good news so that all will know that the kingdom of God has indeed come near. 

As he walks by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus sees the brothers Simon and Andrew, who are busy casting their nets, hoping to catch fish.  And then two more, the sons of Zebedee, James and his brother John.  They too are fishermen, and Jesus finds them in their boats mending their nets.  These four immediately leave their nets and follow him. Jesus tells them that they will still be fishing, only now they will be fishing for people. 

Since today is the day of our congregational meeting, I’m going to focus on how this passage applies to all of us here at St Peter’s. 

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Sermon, The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B

“As Gail O’Day says in her commentary on John’s gospel, Jesus becomes the bridge between heaven and earth. Knowing Jesus is to see the way to heaven opened for us.”

Have you ever had this experience?  You’re in the grocery store in the produce section.    

Someone comes up to you and says with great intent, “I know you from somewhere.”  This happens to me more than it used to, since there are many short women with gray hair and glasses pushing carts through the grocery store aisles, trying to remember what exactly was on that grocery list that they can’t find—now which pocket did I stuff that list into? 

So there you stand with this person who is sure that they know you from somewhere, and you’re thinking, “I don’t think so, but maybe….”and the person names various places that might have been where they knew you, and then, at last,  there’s an epiphany and the person  says,  “Oh, wait, weren’t you at Christ Church (or wherever) for a while?”  And then the dim lightbulb in your mind gets brighter and you remember–“Oh yes!  I remember now!” and you have a little chat next to the bananas, which yes, you remember, ARE on your grocery list, and then you part ways, hopefully both happy that an old acquaintance has been found and acknowledged even if only for that moment.

So here’s Nathanael, minding his own business when his friend Philip comes running up with some news.  (Remember that people have been fervently hoping for the Messiah).  “We’ve found him!”  Philip says with great excitement—”the one we’ve been waiting for, Jesus of Nazareth!”

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Sermon, First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B – Rev. Tom Hughes

“Good morning to you all and welcome. I am sitting here with the Sun shining in and sitting in warmth and in comfort and peace and safety together here in the Lord’s house. What a blessing that is! So many people in places in the world do not have this service this morning and we take it for granted.

“The whole idea, however, of the way the world works was captured by me during this Christmas season in “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”.  Verse four captured for me what I want to share it with you because it really was a kind of a high moment for me.

“For lo the days are hastening on, by prophets seen of old
When with the ever circling years shall come the time foretold”

“The ever circling years” phrase carries real power for me because if you think about the way time moves there’s a real sense in way things move on from day to day and there seems like there’s some kind of repetition in the way things occur from generation to generation but most ways it seems like time moves in a straight line but in fact that’s not entirely true. It also moves in a circular way so God’s timing seems to move like this. It’s moving in a in circle as well as moving forward and so God’s purposes for us always are moving forward and that’s really what the basis of our time together this morning is as far as the scriptures are concerned because we read from the  Old Testament.

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Sermon, Christmas Eve, 2023 – “Peace on earth, good will to all people”

Peace on earth, good will to all people. 

Yet another war is raging in the Holy Land, a war that in a few short months has caused unimaginable terror, a war in which over 20,000 people have been killed.  The Christians in the Israeli occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, have cancelled the usual Christmas celebrations, for celebrations seem out of place with so many people dying such a short distance away in Gaza. 

I’m willing to bet that every year since the birth of Jesus, violence and war have been going on somewhere on this earth, and that God’s peace seems like nothing more than a dream. 

So more than ever, we need this story of the birth of Jesus,  the story that I’m convinced is the most important story in the entire Bible.  This story reminds us that God likes to start small.   God uses the small things that we make available to do great things. 

This story  also gives us hope that in spite of all of human history, we can, along with Edmund H. Sears, who wrote  “It came upon the midnight clear” firmly believe that “when with the ever circling years shall come the time foretold, when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling, and all the world give back the song, which now the angels sing.” 

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The Story Corps Christmas sermon from 2017 –

Flashback to a gem from Christmas, 2017. …”This story is the good news of Christmas– the story of open doors and open hearts, forgiveness, and unexpected generosity.”

Dr. William Lynn Weaver with his younger brother, Wayne, in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1963. Courtesy of the Weaver family.

“I recently heard this story on Story Corps.

On a cold Christmas Eve in 1967, just before dark, William Weaver, age 18, home from college, was walking down the street in his small neighborhood in Knoxville, TN,  when a young boy rode by on a bike.

“Hey,” William thought to himself.  “That looks like my brother’s bike.”

So when he got home, he asked his little brother Wayne where his bike was.  And his brother said it was outside against the steps.

“No, it’s not,” said William.  “It’s gone.”

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Sermon, Advent 3, Year B – “Music, a thin place “

In the Living Compass publication, Living Well through Advent, Scott Stoner talks about the music of Christmas.  He says that “music is a thin place for many, where the distance between themselves and God is narrowed.  It has long been said that music is the language of the soul and that those who sing, pray twice.” 

Every Sunday, at the Great Thanksgiving, our Eucharistic Prayer, we sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might.”  We join our voices with angels, archangels, and with all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of God’s name.” 

That music brings us directly into the presence of God and all the company of heaven as we prepare to come to God’s table and share the bread and wine together.  Those who have gone before us surround us in this thin place at the table every Sunday.  Music helps us to know that they are there with us, the company of heaven, and once more, the circle of love is unbroken, even by death. 

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Sermon summary, Rev. Tom Hughes, Advent 2, Dec. 10, 2023

Prepare the way of the Lord – What does it mean for us?  These lessons chart a course for us, what is expected of us, understanding how life works. “The wilderness inside takes a whole lifetime to cross.” This is what Isaiah is talking about preparing the way of the Lord in the desert. Where is that desert? Those that live in the Middle East is what comes to your mind – barren land, dryness. It also has to do with our life course – walking across this life span we are given. Sometimes it is not easy –  sometimes things happen along the way we would never have wanted to happen or anticipated. However, if you are on a course with a particular destination, things don’t trip us up as much.

It’s just the idea of a container. Say you have a bucket with paint in it. It’s not the bucket what is important, it’s what’s in the bucket. It is the paint, not the container. That’s the way it is in our lives. We live in these containers. It is what’s inside what God looks at that’s important. We need to be mindful of what’s inside of us.

We have markers of where we are in Kronos time, such as the calendar date and lectionary date. But where do you think you are on the road? That’s a rhetorical question, we all would do well to ponder.  Where are we in our path through the Wilderness because the wilderness is the perfect metaphor for life in that we don’t know exactly where we’re going, we don’t know what the terrain is going to look like and we don’t really have much of an idea about where we’re going to wind up.  But we’re given some help with that in understanding our path and where we’re going to wind up too because that’s what the Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ proclaims unto us.

We need not be afraid of the wilderness even though it’s an unknown.  We need not live in fear of the place of our souls in creation – that’s already taken  care of.  The way that’s taken care of is very interesting too because we have that presented to us in the Gospel where it talks about John’s baptizing in the wilderness. He baptized people and what happened was that in  those days the understanding of baptism was an ancient Jewish custom which wasn’t new The idea was that he bathed in the River Jordan and your sins were washed away. It was a physical thing – your bodies became clean. What Jesus did was take that beautiful Jewish tradition that John embraced and what Jesus did was embellish it , transform it, elevate it to something brand new which is it is the revival of our souls.

At Christmas time we sing songs about the birth of Christ. But I want to tell you that I believe this that every time one of us makes the decision to seek a deeper life, to search more aggressively for that which is internal in our lives, the child is born again in us and we are born again. 

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Sermon Dec. 3, 2023 – Summary

The Gospel on Advent 1, Year B calls us to look to ‘end times”. Mark provides a description – “Sun and moon will not shine” and the “stars will be falling from heaven”

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.”

Tom’s sermon said “we should give a lot of thought to the End Times.” What does it mean to us? It is the bringing together of all God’s purposes and all God’s plans for the world and for humanity and for the Kingdom of God to all come together into fruition.

“Now we don’t know what it looks like. We pray that God restores Earth and  war will cease. We have clues what end times look like but We just have to remain awake and to watch.”

That is important because we have two things in the conflict going on inside of us:

1 Bios – physical things of this earth. This is the world we live in:
We tend to worry about Bios coming to an end but that is not as important as the next item

2 Zoe – Eternal essence of life. It is what happening inside of us. This is what matters.

Are you aware how that eternal essence of life is moving inside of you? It doesn’t happen automatically you have to seek it. Many people are clueless about this and not understand Zoe.

It is about being on the road and on that road when you are seeking the internal and eternal essense of life, that’s where you encounter Christ because that’s the road Jesus walks.

That life we lead here is preparation for life which is to come, eternal life which comes to us because we have eternal essense what it means to be alive.

To be in this world and be aware of only Bios our physical selves, will not help you in end times. What matters is the degree to which we embrace the presence of Christ in the world in dwelling with God in the holy spirit that makes us more than just bio. It makes us aware of the eternal nature of who we are truly are, children of God, given gift of eternal life. But we must go on the road to receive it.

We must understand the spirit of God which is inside of us. That is where God dwells. That’s the temple to which Christ comes.

How to make a difference in the world? Live inside where god dwells, the Zoe of life the true essence of what it means to be live in this world and the world to come.