Monday, May 1, 2017

"We Had Hoped..."

This reflection was written for the Devotions From Home series of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  It is intended to be a synopsis of the Sunday sermon sent to those who can not make it to church regularly.  Audio of sermons and other material can be found at

Easter 3 - April 30th

“We Had Hoped…,” said the two disciples as they ran out of Jerusalem on the way the Emmaus.  Maybe some of the saddest words in Luke’s gospel, or all of scripture.  It is in the past tenses.  The hope is gone. Lost.  With the events in Jerusalem the days before seemed so dark, all hope had ended.  

In a way, I think we all have been on that road to Emmaus at one time or another.  When “We Had Hoped…” When the cancer came back, the job never materialized, the degree seemed wasted, the friend never got better, the child was never born, the marriage ended.  When “we had hoped…”
And that is right where Jesus met them.  He met the disciples when they were: sad, distraught and angry. And they didn’t even know it.  Until, they all broke bread together.  And their eyes were opened, to see that God in Jesus was right there with them all along.

We break bread as followers of Jesus so that we can see the presence of God in our lives and world.  We break this bread together so that we can have, in the words of the Reverend John Thomas, “Food for the Journey.” Food for the journey of life that can help us see God’s hands at work in our lives and the life of the world.  So that we can know hope.  Hope that we can share with the world.
Last week in a TED Talk Pope Francis said:

“To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn't lock itself into darkness, that doesn't dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow. Hope is the door that opens onto the future. Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life. And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another "you," and another "you," and it turns into an "us." And so, does hope begin when we have an "us?" No. Hope began with one "you." When there is an "us," there begins a revolution. “ 

A revolution a love, kindness and compassion.  Which is what our hurting world needs more than ever right now.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Resurrection Eyes

This reflection was written for the Devotions From Home series of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  It is intended to be a synopsis of the Sunday sermon sent to those who can not make it to church regularly.  Audio of sermons and other material can be found at

Easter Sunday - April 16

We live in a world that sends us messages, that teaches us stories – stories that limit our vision. Stories about violence being a solution, stories about how success is measured through what we have, what we own, stories about thin being better, busyness being a sign of value or strength, and that protecting what is ours, should happen at any cost, and death always wins.  Stories that can shape our reality, shape our vision. Limit our reality, limit our vision.

We all can so easily become stuck, whatever the reason.  Become stuck in a vision that is shallow, or enclosed.  A vision where we cannot see that there will ever be a way out, another way to go, an alternate way to live.  A vision where death has won, and life seems to have lost. 

That’s where Hope comes in.  That’s where we need resurrection eyes to see.  Eyes that see new life coming out of death, renewal out of destruction, hope in despair. Easter prods and provokes us with an immense stretching exercise. God has renewed a life given to the evil of this world on behalf of those with no other helper. That earth-shattering and tomb-shattering rebirth has planted the seeds of hope in each one of us. Yet those seeds do not produce fruit without struggle.  We learn, we practice, we develop those resurrection eyes.

Seeing the world through the eyes of God, through the eyes of resurrection is hard work.  A few years ago, our former Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jefferts Schori says ”We are not born with the ability to insist on resurrection everywhere we turn. It takes the discipline and repetition that forms an athlete – in this case, a spiritually fit Christian. We practice our faith because we must – it withers and atrophies unless it's stretched. We must continue to give evidence of the faith that is within us.”  And this is not something you can do alone.  The shared hope of a community is essential.

The Christian community is meant to be a “mutual hope society,” with each one offering courage to another whose hope has waned, insisting that even in the darkest of night, new life is being prepared. A community showing us that there is no experience, there is no evil, no loss, no dark place – that God cannot bring new life out of.  That work of learning Hope is constant – it will not end until the end of all things.

Together we can shout, "Alleluia, he is risen! Indeed, he is risen, Alleluia!" even when some among us are not quite so confident as others.  Even when some struggle, as others rejoice.  The entire community is rising and risen when even a small part of it can rejoice and insist that God is renewing the face of the earth, and their own lives,  and light has dawned upon us.

Monday, April 10, 2017

What procession will we follow?

This reflection was written for the Devotions From Home series of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  It is intended to be a synopsis of the Sunday sermon sent to those who can not make it to church regularly.  Audio of sermons and other material can be found at

April 9 - Palm Sunday

The population of Jerusalem swelled during the days surrounding the Passover.  Some scholars say the city grew from 20,000 to 150,000 people during those days.  You can probably imagine the streets crowded with pilgrims, merchants, tourists and residents.  Since the Passover was a festival remembering the Hebrew people’s liberation from another oppressive ruler, the Roman governor always got a little anxious around this time of year.  Due to all of this, the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, increased the size of the garrison in Jerusalem.  So the day before the Passover each year a column of Roman military would process from the West into Jerusalem, with their swords and chariots and the beating of drums. This procession was meant to strike fear in the hearts of those who saw it – a statement of Rome’s power and might!

On this first Palm Sunday, there was another procession.  This time from the East, down the Mount of Olives.  It was led by a different kind of king, riding on a donkey. Crowds of peasants from the countryside joined him, and they laid branches of palms on the road as he walked.  It was a procession of peace, of justice and humility. Some scholars say this procession was an intentional counter-protest to the procession entering from the West that day.  A sign of peace, in the face of military might.

The story of Jesus’ passion is a story of the conflict between these two processions, and all that they represent. 

The question for us this Holy Week, and each day, is what procession will we follow?     

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Join in the Conversation this New Year!

This article ran in the January 19, 2017 edition of the Medford Transcript. (A6)

Join in the Conversation this New Year!
The Reverend Noah H. Evans, Rector, Grace Episcopal Church

Between Christmas and New Years I had some time off from work. During this special week, I was able to unplug from the internet, email and social media. With this sudden openness in my daily life and work tied to electronic jungle of our 21st century culture - I found space and time to rediscover the special old time work of conversation. Spending time joining in conversation with family, friends, and some people I had not seen in years reminded me about the depth of experience and perspective of others that unfolds in conversation.  How conversation opens me to see the entire person - not just their positions, or sound bites, or social media statuses.  Conversation leads to connection, and I have come to believe, real connection with others changes us.  This time in conversation brought me back to why I am involved in the Medford Conversation Project - a project to help convene diverse conversation all across our city.

Medford Conversations is a coalition of more than 20 community groups, whose mission is to include and actively engage a multiplicity of voices in our community. Through conversations, the project hopes to encourage people to create and act on visions for a sustainable, just, and thriving Medford.

I have served at Grace Episcopal Church in Medford for almost nine years, and in just that time I have seen the City change tremendously. Looking back at Medford over the last 25 years, the transformation of the city's demographics is even more  profound.  As a result of this significant community change, in my experience, social networks in our city are underdeveloped, especially across geography, ethnic and generational differences.  And sometime we see that civic involvement is low.  Often times people don't know their neighbors, or the perspectives of people who live in other parts of the city. Connections between people across religious, ethnic and socio- economic difference are weak.  The extraordinary diversity of Medford is a real gift and asset, and we have an extraordinary opportunity right now for a rich social fabric as we find ways to connect across our difference. I see Medford Conversations as a way to connect and learn from one another and strengthen the civic and cultural life of our City. As a result of our conversations, I am hoping to see a strengthening of our civic society and civic involvement.  I also  hope to see all of us have a greater understanding of the joys and challenges of living and working together in a diverse community, and be willing to "lean in" to what we need to do to have a just and equitable community.

This winter Medford Conversions is holding its first conversation series.  Building on the past work of supporting single-time conversation events (Arts Summit (’15), MLK Day (’16) Envision Medford (’16), and World Café at Medford High (’16)) Medford Conversations seeks to bring together groups of 10  or so meeting in several sessions with a trained facilitator over a several month period.  It is our hope that engaging in this type of ongoing in-depth conversation will help to build relationships and understanding in our community that can lead to action for the betterment of all.

Our winter Conversation series "Who Belongs? Dialogues about Race and Ethnicity in Medford and Beyond" begins with an opening event on Sunday, January 29, 2017, 2-4:30PM at Medford High School.  Everyone is invited to this event, whether they are able to participate in ongoing conversations or not. Over the following six weeks dozens of people in small groups will meet around the city to further their discussion. We conclude with a citywide event on March 12 with an action forum to ‘walk the talk’ to make Medford an even greater place to live. Come join the effort, what better way to kick off the New Year.  For more information, and to register, visit

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Standing with Standing Rock

 Standing with Standing Rock

A version of this blog post appeared in the Medford Transcript on 11/10/16

It was night, on November 2nd, when we first pulled over the hill and could see the Oceti Sakowin camp. The sky was black, filled with stars. The river flats below were dotted with campfires, and I could see the shadows of tents, trailers and tepees below. Smoke from the campfires filled the air, and I recognized the pungent smell of burning sage. I could hear the sound of Native American singing, and many different drum circles echoing in the cold North Dakota air. Over 2000 people were staying in the camp that night. The camp was established last spring as an act of opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline, bringing together dozens of Native American tribes and environmental activists from across the country. The residents refer to themselves as “Water Protectors,” guarding the water of the Missouri River, the lifeblood of the Standing Rock Lakota tribe. And then I looked up and saw it on the hill past the camp: the white stadium lights blaring down on the construction site. President Obama had asked that construction be voluntarily suspended, but the work continued as the pipeline inched towards the Missouri River.

Standing Rock is a place I feel deep connection to. I have been to there several times. A friend and mentor of mine served as the Episcopal priest on the South Dakota side of the reservation for a number of years. I had a classmate who was from Standing Rock. During seminary, he died suddenly, and dozens of people from the reservation traveled to New York for the funeral, and we hosted many, including the ceremonial drum in our one bedroom apartment for several days.

Last week, the Reverend John Floberg, the Episcopal priest serving on the North Dakota side of the Standing Rock reservation, issued a call to clergy across the country to join with him for an action against the proposed Dakota pipeline which crosses sacred Lakota lands, and threatens the water of the Standing Rock reservation. He had hoped for 100, and more than 500 came. I was joined by over 25 clergy from Massachusetts, with 15 from the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The action was prayerful, peaceful, nonviolent.

The Dakota Access pipeline is a 1,170 mile, $3.7 billion pipeline that is slated to cross 4 states to bring North Dakota oil into Illinois for distribution around the world. The pipeline is planned to go under the Missouri River, less than a mile a mile north of the current Standing Rock reservation land, crossing land that is said to be Lakota land by their 1851 treaty with the United States Government. The Standing Rock tribe fear that the pipeline will pollute their drinking water, and its route crosses land that is sacred to their tribe. Original plans showed the pipeline crossing the river north of Bismarck, but it was moved south when the people of the town feared it would pollute their water. The current route is a textbook example of environmental racism, moving environmental risk from whites to vulnerable minorities. This pipeline is just the newest expression of generations of violence against native people. Environmental groups have also joined this movement in order to prevent the pipeline to be built at all, to help keep carbon resources that contribute to climate change in the ground.

On the morning of the action, we gathered at Standing Rock and representatives from different Christian denominations read statements of repudiation of the “Doctrine of Discovery,” the church and legal doctrine that white Christian colonists used to usurp lands from indigenous peoples. From there we marched to the now-blockaded bridge over Cannon Ball River that separates the Oceti Sakowin camp from the pipeline site. This bridge also connects the Standing Rock reservation with hospitals and services in Bismarck, and its closure has led to a 40 mile detour for all emergency vehicles. On one side of the bridge we sang, prayed and offered testimonials. On the other side armored police vehicles, police with automatic weapons and more than 20 police vans kept watch. In recent days police response to protesters have been marked by violence and militarized police tactics, including use of tear gas and pepper spray and use of rubber bullets. The day after the clergy demonstration, two rows of razor wire and concrete barricades were added as well. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, had referred to Standing Rock as “our new Selma.” Standing on that bridge, I knew that to be true.

In contrast to the militarized bridge, Oceti Sakowin camp is a place of extraordinary hospitality, healing and peace. People at the camp refer to everyone as “relatives.” Everyone at the camp is fed and given shelter. Donations of food, clothing, tents and supplies are constantly being delivered from across the country. An elder over a loudspeaker calls out when someone needs a ride or other help, to connect them to those who can provide assistance. There are workshops for healing from trauma and addiction. People from different Native American tribes are finding connection, healing, purpose and cultural revival through the life of the camp. It is a stark contrast to the violence being done on the hill above, violence against the earth and against native peoples.

The Obama administration has said it will now look into rerouting the pipeline. There is some hope there for a positive outcome, but public pressure and support of the Water Protectors in the Oceti Sakowin camp must continue as well. And even if the pipeline is moved, native communities will still need our witness and solidarity in the future. I have found that there are moments in a life of faith, and life as a citizen, where we have to stand with a larger community in solidarity with people who are being marginalized, and this is one of those moments.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Gathering of Friends: first day at Standing Rock

Last night we gathered in the gym in Canon Ball, North Dakota with almost 500 religious leaders from many denominations and faiths, to eat and learn a little more about the events we are to participate in over the next days.

The Rev. John Floberg, Episcopal Priest on Standing Rock, told us how he had prayed for 100 people to come and is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.  A local historian told us the history of the sacred lands the proposed Dakota pipeline is to cross, including centuries of the life of villages and life on the land.

We also heard about how today we would first join in a witness to our denouncing of the Doctrine of Discovery, which is the 16th century church doctrine which has been used to colonize the Americas, marginalize native peoples, and has been golden into American cultural perspectives, which has led to this pipeline to being built here.

We will then gather in a sacred circle of prayer on the site of the camp that was violently cleared last week, in an expression of solidarity for the native people of the region, and standing against the pipeline's construction.

Many familiar faces from across the church were there, and many new friends and relationships being born.  It is good for us to be here.