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November 2017

Sermon given by Father James (Bohlman)

On Sunday June 25th, 2017

At St. Mary Magdalene Church

Rincon, GA

(and for the missions in Helena, GA & Big Island, HI)


Rom 5: 1-10

Matt. 6: 22-33



In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Glory to Jesus Christ!


Little Igor’s Sunday School teacher asked her young class, “What’s brown, furry, has a long bushy tail and loves acorns?” Little Igor quickly raised his hand so the teacher said, “Yes, Little Igor, do you know the answer?” Little Igor replied, “Well it sounds like a squirrel, but because this is Sunday School I bet the answer’s going to be Jesus.”


In life sometimes things don’t always mean what we assume that they mean. Take, for instance, the habit of worrying which we may at first assume is a virtue but which, in fact, may actually be a sign that we don’t trust God. In this morning’s Gospel reading Jesus Christ has a few words to say about worrying: “…I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink. Is not life more than food…Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”


Our culture teaches us that it’s every person for himself, and as a result, we sometimes act as if we do not believe that our “heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Not really believing that God will provide for us, we live as if we alone must look out for ourselves, and, therefore, we worry. And when we worry excessively, we let God know that we do not trust him to take care of us, despite his promise.


A Pastor received a late-night phone call from the oldest person in his congregation, a man by the name of Benny who lived in the local nursing home. Benny was just a few days away from turning 100, so, of course, the Pastor assumed that maybe Benny thought that he was nearing his death. “Yes, Benny, how can I help you?” the Pastor asked. Benny replied, "Hurry, Pastor, please hurry. I’ve got to see you right now. It’s important. Please hurry." Fearing the worst the Pastor dropped everything and quickly drove to the nursing home. When he walked into Benny’s room the Pastor was surprised to see Benny sitting in his armchair, looking as he always did and not about to leave this earthly realm. Trying to keep annoyance out of his voice the Pastor said, “Well, Benny, here I am… what’s the emergency?” Benny looked up at the pastor and replied, "Pastor, I’m going to get married and I’ve called you out because I want you to perform the ceremony right now!" Being taken aback and trying to stall for some time in order to come up with something profound to say, the Pastor said, “Um, OK, but first tell me something about this woman. Is she a Christian?" Benny said, "No Pastor." Then the Pastor asked, “Well then, all right, is she beautiful?" To that Benny replied, "No." Becoming more confused by the second the Pastor said, "Well, OK. Now Benny, I’m just asking to ask, but Benny, is she rich?" To which Benny replied, "Nope." It being the middle of the night and none of this making sense to him, the Pastor finally blurted out, "Benny, why on earth do you want to marry this woman?" Benny looked him right in the eye and said, "Because she can drive at night!"


While people have all sorts of ways of dealing with what bothers them, marrying in order to have a night-chauffer should not be one of them! There is the temptation for us to think that our worrying about things is a sign of how seriously we take our spiritual life… when, in fact, our worrying may be no more than a habit created by a lifetime of reinforcing our worrying about everything! The fact is that worrying does not mean that we are being a responsible person. The English word “worry” comes from an old German word meaning “to strangle, or to choke”. And that is exactly what worrying does: It chokes the spiritual life out of us by convincing us that God does not look out for us. We mistakenly think that our worrying is caused by finances, or by job insecurity, or by living in the wrong neighborhood, when, in fact, we worry because we do not trust God to care for us! Not trusting God, we abandon praying to God… which is to say: We abandon God!


After a horrendous snow and ice storm Fred went out to his car in order to leave for work and found it entirely encased in a coating of ice. While little Igor watched from within the cozy and warm house, Fred used Little Igor’s baseball bat to carefully tap away at the ice in order to at least be able to get into the car and to see where he was going. After half an hour of this Fred came back inside and sat down with another cup of warm coffee. While he was sipping his coffee, Little Igor came into the kitchen and announced, “Dad, I helped you. I got the ice off the car.” Pleased by Little Igor’s desire to help, Fred asked, “How did you do that?” Little Igor replied, “The same way you did… with the baseball bat.”


Our children learn about life by watching us; what are we teaching them about the issue of worrying? Even when our mistakes make us miserable God never leaves us; we, on the other hand, toss him out of the boat whenever we’re busy trying to bail out our sinking life: In short, when we are deep in our misery we often no longer pray to God. Is it any wonder that our children don’t either?! And why is it that we only pray to God when we want something? Why are we not faithful to God? The answer to that question is that we are influenced by the culture which surrounds us, and that culture does not look upon praying as the way in which we are in a relationship with God, but rather, as a form of barter: I give God a prayer, and he gives me what I want.


Listening to these words this morning, we might think: I haven’t abandoned God… I’m right here in church this morning, aren’t I?! Just because I am in church does not mean that I haven’t abandoned my relationship with God. It is all too easy to abandon someone, even while still living with them. This happens when conversation between two people becomes reduced to the day’s plans, to where the kids need to go, or to what bills need to be paid. When a couple’s conversations become simply sets of instructions, it can be said that they have abandoned one another without ever having moved out of the house. And the same is true of our relationship with God. Do we talk to God each day, or do we relegate our relationship with him only to obligatory Sundays… or when we want something?


Mother Theresa of Calcutta is reputed to have once quipped, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” Even Saints worry; that still does not mean that we should just continue in our habitual worrying! At some point we need to start actually trusting God. If hearing this Gospel passage one year later we are still automatically worrying about things, we need to ask ourselves: Over the course of this past year, have I started to trust God at all?



Glory to Jesus Christ!


Sermon given by Father James (Bohlman)

On Sunday June 18th, 2017

At St. Mary Magdalene Church

Rincon, GA

(and for the missions in Helena, GA & Big Island, HI)


Rom. 2: 10-16

Matt. 4: 18-23


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Glory to Jesus Christ!


Some nine year old children were asked what they thought about death. Little Jimmy said, “When you die, they bury you in the ground and your soul goes to heaven, but your body can’t go to heaven because it’s too crowded up there already.” Little Judy answered, “Only the good people go to heaven; the other people go to where it’s hot all the time, like in Florida.” Little Johnny said, “Maybe I’ll die someday, but I hope I don’t die on my birthday because it’s no fun to celebrate your birthday if you’re dead.” Little Marsha stated, categorically: “When you die, you don’t have to do homework in heaven, unless your teacher is also there.”


When we were younger we knew all the answers… so isn’t it odd how, as we age, we seem to become sure of less and less? Sometimes, as we try to figure out our inner spiritual life, we might wish that we could write in to some celestial “Dear Abby” and get the answers which we need; instead, God gives us the example of those whom we commemorate this morning by way of telling us what WE need to do! Those whom we commemorate this morning went beyond the basic minimum of what was required of them in their relationship with Christ by giving all that they had, which is why the Church holds them up to us this morning as examples for us to follow. Can it be said of each of us that we go beyond the minimum that the Church requires of us? Each year, on the second Sunday after Pentecost, each local Orthodox Church offers us examples of Christian sanctity, since holiness, being the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s presence, is the fruit of Pentecost. In accordance with this custom, this morning the Orthodox Church in America remembers the saints of All-America.


In this morning’s Gospel reading, we heard Christ invite the Apostles to leave home and all that was familiar to them with the words “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Those whom we commemorate this morning became his disciples…not so much because they heard the invitation, but because they gotup, left their old life behind, and actually followed Christ. To further emphasize this point, in this morning’s Epistle reading St. Paul warns us: “…it is not the hearers of the law who are just before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”


Unfortunately for us, Christ’s call to discipleship is always “right now,” which usually turns out to be the most inconvenient moment for us. Jesus Christ does not wait to call us until our schedule is cleared, or until we have gotten our act together, or until we have gotten used to the idea of following him; he passes by and simply says, “Follow me.” And hearing that call, the Gospel reading this morning says that the Disciples immediately left their nets and followed him.” What about us? This morning’s readings, and the example of those whom we commemorate, present us with a question for ourselves: Am I REALLY Christ’s disciple simply because I call myself a Christian?


Dear Tech Support,


Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and I noticed a distinct slow-down in overall system performance, particularly in the flower and jewelry applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0. In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5, and then installed unnecessary programs such as NFL 5.0, NBA 3.0, and Golf Clubs 4.1. As a result, Conversation 8.0 no longer runs, and I have found that running Nagging 5.3 simply crashes the whole system. What can I do? Signed, Desperate.

Dear Desperate,


First keep in mind that Boyfriend 5.0 is an Entertainment Package, while Husband 1.0 is an Operating System. Please enter the command "http: I Thought You Loved Me" and try to download Tears 6.2 and don’t forget to install the Guilt 3.0 update. If that application works as designed, Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewelry 2.0 and Flowers 3.5. But remember, overuse of the above application can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Beer 6.1. Whatever you do, DO NOT install Mother-in-law 1.0 since it runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources. Also, do not attempt to reinstall the Boyfriend 5.0 program since your upgrade to Husband 1.0 will now cause the whole system to crash. In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have limited memory. You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance; we recommend Food 3.0 and Lingerie 7.7. Good Luck, Tech Support.


Ahh, if only our spiritual life were as easy as installing some programs which would then run automatically! Now that the State no longer feeds Christians to the lions, we modern-day Christians can be tempted to assume that the sacrifice central to Christ’s call to discipleship is somehow no longer required of us, we tech-savvy people. Sadly, too often too many of us opt for the mediocrity of being comfortable arm-chair Christians. No matter how good we might think that we are, the day comes when the Holy Spirit brings us the insight that we are not “good enough”; the question for us this morning is: What do we do with that insight? Suspecting that some inconvenience might soon follow that insight, do we deliberately try to forget that insight? Or do we embrace the understanding that being a disciple of Jesus Christ means that we must leave behind our nets… which means to leave, once and for all, who we have been and how we are used to thinking?


One day Leroy came up to Fred and said, “Hey Fred, how about if I borrow your lawnmower?” Fred replied, “I can’t let you use it because all the flights from New York to Los Angeles have been canceled.” Leroy looked at Fred as if Fred had just had a stroke. “What?!” Leroy blurted out; “What does that have to do with anything?!” Fred replied, "It doesn’t have anything to do with it, but since I don’t want to let you use my lawnmower one excuse is as good as another."


So… are we honest with ourselves about our discipleship to Jesus Christ? Are we who call ourselves “Christians” willing to sacrifice in the same way as those whom we remember this morning, or are we fiercely determined to be neither inconvenienced nor changed by our discipleship? Just as last Sunday’s feast of All Saints was a call addressed to us, so too this morning’s Saints of All-America call to us and ask us about our discipleship to Jesus Christ. This afternoon, let us reflect upon the sacrifices that made this morning’s Saints of All-America holy, and then, after reflecting, let us also leave our nets behind and truly follow Jesus Christ.



Glory to Jesus Christ!


Sermon given by Father James (Bohlman)

On Sunday June 11th, 2017

At St. Mary Magdalene Church

Rincon, GA

(and for the missions in Helena, GA & Big Island, HI)


Heb. 11: 33-12:2

Matt. 10: 32-33, 37-38, 19: 27-30


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Glory to Jesus Christ!


After Lucinda’s father Ludovico died, her ancient mother Grizellda fiercely maintained her independence and lived alone in the old family home. Whenever she had an emergency, she rarely called any of her children, preferring to go it alone. One morning, however, Lucinda was startled to receive a call from Grizellda saying that she needed Fred to come over because there had been a burglar in the house during the night. When Fred arrived she took him up to her bedroom, saying along the way, “I think there is a burglar because I heard noises in my closet during the night.” When they reached the bedroom Fred was startled to see boards nailed all across the bedroom closet. From within he could hear someone asking for help. “What’s that about?” Fred asked. Grizellda replied, “Well, it was late and I hated to bother you, so I just nailed the closet door shut and went to bed."


The lesson from this story is that if you are going to burglarize a home make sure you know whose home it is; becoming a victim of your own ignorance is embarrassing. Those whom we commemorate this morning were not victims, but chose to live their lives in such a way as to be witnesses for the Faith! The Sunday following Pentecost is dedicated to All Saints, both those who are known to us, and those who are known only to God, all of whom were faithful, in large and small ways, in their discipleship to Jesus Christ. This feast originated at an early date, perhaps as a celebration of all martyrs, but then it was broadened to include not only martyrs, but also all those men and women who had borne witness to Christ by their virtuous lives, even if they did not shed their blood for Him.


In this morning’s reading from Hebrews, we have just heard: “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Those Saints whom we commemorate this morning are those witnesses, whose hearts and minds… like those of the Apostles on Pentecost… were set afire by the grace of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and who went out into the world to bring to the whole world the good news that God has so loved the world that He entered into it, never to leave it, and that in His Resurrection He has taken all that is the world and brought it home to Himself. Good news, indeed, for those who had been banished from the Garden!


When he first began dating Lucinda, a young Fred went into a drug-store and bought 3 different-sized boxes of chocolate. The pharmacist asked, “Why 3?” Fred replied, "I’ve been seeing this girl for a while and she’s really beautiful. We’re having dinner with her parents, and then we’re going out. If she lets me hold her hand I’m going to give her the small box. If she lets me kiss her on the cheek I’m going to give her the medium box. And if she lets me kiss her on the lips I’m going to give her the big box.” Later that evening, when they all sat down for dinner, Lucinda’s father Ludovico asked Fred to give the blessing. Well, Fred went on and on, and when he finally finished and they had all added “Amen”, Lucinda leaned over to him and said, "You never told me that you were such a religious person." Fred leaned back and replied, “And you never told me that your father is a pharmacist."


Just like Fred, at one time or another most of us are tempted to think that we know just about all that we need to know. Like Peter in this morning’s Gospel reading some of us, at least, like to think that we are special. In this morning’s Gospel reading we heard Peter ask a question which, upon first hearing, might have struck us as crass; basically, he was asking what was in it for the Apostles if they followed Christ? The question, however, might be better understood as Peter’s seeking reassurance that in their following of Christ he and the other Disciples had made the right choice since they had, in fact, left everything to follow Jesus! While they had not always understood what he said and did, nor had they always selected the proper course of action, nonetheless, they had still sacrificed everything to follow Him. What Peter was really asking Christ was: Were we right to do this, or was this just foolishness on our part? Just as the Apostles did, so too a serious follower of Jesus Christ gives all that he can to that discipleship. I am sure that all of us have, at one time or another, asked the same question of God: “See, we have left all and followed you. Therefore, what shall we have?” To this question Christ gave a definitive answer: “He who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”


One year Lucinda waited until the last minute to send her Christmas cards. She rushed into a store and just grabbed a package of 50 cards, and once home just shoved one in each envelope without even looking at them or signing them, sure that when people saw her return label on the envelope that they would know the card was from her. On Christmas Day, when things had quieted down somewhat, she found a leftover card and finally read the message she had sent with the 49 other cards to her friends. Much to her dismay, it read: "This card is just to say – A little gift is on the way!"


When Christ says, “He who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me”, sometimes our not knowing what we are doing IS our cross!The question for us this morning is: “Dowe understand that taking up our cross calls for… at least!... our willingness to embrace inconvenience?Or are we sitting here this morning thinking about what we have to do once we leave church?Do we really understand the extent of the sacrifice of those whom we honor this morning? And do we here this morning think that we are not called to that same level of holiness and commitment as were those whom we commemorate today? What the Church stresses in today’s commemoration of All Saints is that this feast is a call to each of us, a call to our own personal discipleship to Christ. And, as Christ makes clear in this morning’s Gospel reading, there can be no Christian discipleship without the cross! Are we willing to obey Christ’s command, and to embrace the crosses that come to us in the ordinariness of our days, the crosses sometimes great, but mostly small and merely annoying? At the heart of the cross is kenosis, or what we might call “self-emptying”. There is no way that self-emptying can be comfortable; it must cost us something! Jesus Christ knew this on the Cross. This morning’s Saints knew this, and yet embraced this. How about us?


An IRS agent walked into a church and asked to see the pastor. He was shown into the pastor’s office and offered a seat. The agent said, "Pastor, I believe a member of your church has stated on his tax return that he has donated $100,000 to your church. I am here this morning to verify that this large donation was actually made. Was it?” With a broad smile the Pastor replied, “It will be!”


The holiness to which we are called needn’t be accompanied by the shedding of our blood; sometimes, owning up to the truth can be crucifixion enough. The Church’s own evolving understanding about holiness is what caused her to extend the commemoration of All Saints from only martyrs to all those who have followed Christ at some kind of expense to themselves. Miracles needn’t be performed by us in order for us to be holy. When a fellow office-worker makes a joke at our expense, holiness would be to just laugh rather than to strike back. When our spouse dismisses something as irrelevant that we think is important, holiness would be to refuse to brood over that dismissal. When someone frustrates us on the road while driving, holiness would be not laying on the horn and letting him know that he has offended us. This is what holiness can look like in the ordinariness of our ordinary days.


Sometimes, our discipleship to Jesus Christ can feel like death by a thousand tiny paper-cuts. Instead of focusing, like Peter in this morning’s Gospel reading, on what we might get out of our striving for holiness, this week let us follow the example of the Saints whom we commemorate today and embrace our discipleship in the many small opportunities which constitute our days… which, for most of us, will be the only opportunities for holiness coming our way.




Glory to Jesus Christ!

Sermon given by Father James (Bohlman)

On Sunday June 4th, 2017

At St. Mary Magdalene Church

Rincon, GA

(and for the missions in Helena, GA & Big Island, HI)


Acts 2: 1-11

John 7: 37-52; 8:12


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Glory to Jesus Christ!




A policeman was in court being cross-examined by a defense attorney during a felony trial. The lawyer’s approach seemed to be to attack the policeman’s credibility.


Lawyer: "Officer -- did you actually see my client fleeing the


Policeman: "No sir. But I subsequently observed a person matching the description of the offender, running several blocks away."

Lawyer: "Officer -- who provided this description?"

Policeman: "The officer who responded to the scene."

Lawyer: "A fellow officer provided the description of this so-called offender. Do you trust your fellow officers?"

Policeman: "Yes, sir. With my life."

Lawyer: "With your life? Let me ask you this then officer. Do you have a room where you all change your clothes in preparation for your daily duties?"

Policeman: "Yes sir, we do!"

Lawyer: "And do you have a locker in that room?"

Policeman: "Yes sir, I do."

Lawyer: "And do you have a lock on your locker?"

Policeman: "Yes sir."

Lawyer: "Now why is it, officer, if you trust your fellow officers with your life, that you find it necessary to lock your locker in a room you share with these same officers?"

Without missing a beat the Policeman replied: "You see, sir, we share the building with the court complex, and sometimes lawyers have been known to walk through that room." The courtroom erupted in laughter, and a prompt recess was called.


We have all had the experience of having the unexpected happen to us, causing us to realize that we had been mistaken about what we thought we understood… God himself being one of those things! Just because we assume that God approves of how we live doesn’t mean that he actually does; just because we assume that we are filled with the Holy Spirit this morning, doesn’t mean that we are. The chances are good that if we have the same problems on this Pentecost day of 2017 as we had on Pentecost 2016, then we are not paying attention to what the Holy Spirit has been showing us needs to change about us.


In the Church's annual liturgical cycle, Pentecost is "the last and greatest day." It is the celebration by the Church of the coming of the Holy Spirit as the achievement and fulfillment of the entire history of salvation; at the same time it is also the celebration of a beginning: Pentecost is the "birthday" of the Church as the presence among us of the Holy Spirit, and of our new life in Christ. In the Gospel reading for Pentecost Matins, Christ breathes upon his disciples, bestowing the gift of the Holy Spirit upon them by saying, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.” And in the reading from Acts this morning we also heard, “And there appeared upon them cloven tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”


When, during our Baptism, we were chrismated with Holy Chrism, we too were filled with the Holy Spirit. And yet, there are days in which many of us just don’t “feel” that presence of the Holy Spirit, and we somehow then translate that feeling to mean that that “absence” is somehow God’s fault. But what about our part? During how many minutes in each of our days are we “absent” from our relationship with God by not talking with God, by not praying to God? Have we ever wondered why so many of our workdays feel like a slow and mindless slog towards the weekend? Maybe it’s because we relegate prayer to Sundays only. Through the grace of the presence of the Holy Spirit, prayer is a connection with God: When we stop praying, the connection to God is broken; this does not mean that God goes away, but that we abandon God. And then, when we pray again, the connection is re-established. The chances are good that if we have not changed this past year it is due to a failure on our part to pray.


It had been raining for days and Fred just had to get out of the house, so he got into his car and drove to his favorite bar. Parking in front of the establishment he noticed a bedraggled old man on the front porch who was leaning against the wall; the man had a fishing rod and his line went off the porch and into the nearest puddle. As Fred approached the front doors he asked the old man, “What are you doing?” Without looking up the old man replied, “Fishin’.” Fred thought, “Poor old fool”, and being moved by sympathy Fred invited the old man into the bar for a drink. The two men sat at the bar and ordered their drinks; when the drinks arrived they clinked glasses and sat sipping silently. Fred thought he should make some kind of friendly conversation with the old guy so he teased him by asking: “So, how many have you caught, fishing out there on the front porch?” Without even looking up the old man replied, “You’re the eighth one today.”


If we are as smart as we think that we are, then why do we say what we say? Why do we do what we do? And why do we even come to church? Is it to have God confirm for us what we already assume… that we are as good as we need to be? Our following of Jesus is about much more than attending church services or holding ethnic festivals; it is about allowing the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts just as the Holy Spirit entered that upper room and descended upon the Disciples. In short, Pentecost is about our allowing the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts and to help us to change, to become better, to become more like God himself. The fact of the matter is that not being as bad as we could be does not mean that we are as good as we should be!


In all States in the United States of America there are laws on the books which now make no sense; nonetheless, in that they are still on the books, they are still the law. For example, in Texas the law still on the books states that the entire Encyclopedia Britannica is banned because it contains a formula for making beer at home.  Another law states that when two trains meet each other at a railroad crossing, each shall come to a full stop, and neither one shall proceed until the other has gone first. Really?! How do they decide which one goes first… toss a coin?  In Texas it is also illegal for one to shoot buffalo from the second story of a hotel.  And finally, in Texas the law states that owners of horses may not ride them at night without tail lights. 


No matter what the law says, God will never force us to do what we choose to not do. Since God never violates our freedom to love him or to not love him; the tricky thing is that the Holy Spirit will not come in where he is not invited. So today’s feast poses to us the question: Do we really long for God to reside in our hearts as in the Upper Room? In today’s feast of Pentecost, the church offers us the incomparable revelation that the Godhead…the Holy Trinity…even while being the Totally Transcendent One…is imminently present with us. It is no accident that back at Christmas the church referred to Jesus as Emmanuel…God-With-Us. In today’s descent of the Holy Spirit, God tells us, yet again, that he is “with us”: The question for us this morning is… Will we, this morning, open our hearts and let him come in? Are we with God?




Glory to Jesus Christ!


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