Sunday, December 28, 2014

December 28, 2014 - Christmas 1B

Be with us, O Lord, for if you are with us, nothing else matters; and if you are not with us, nothing else matters. Amen.
            A happy fourth day of Christmas to you all, your four calling birds are on the way. Those of us in the liturgical churches are counter-cultural. Radio stations have stopped playing Christmas songs, many decorations have come down, and come tomorrow, it’s back to business as usual. But not in here. The decorations remain and we sing songs of the Savior’s birth. It’s a question of how you celebrate Christmas. And I don’t mean what you did on December 25. Christmas is the season in which we celebrate that the Lord is come, that earth has received her King. So how do you celebrate that transformational event? Is Christmas something that you delicately handle, wrap in tissue paper, and store in the attic for 11 months out of the year? Or is Christmas something else?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

December 25, 2014 - Christmas Day

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            A very Merry Christmas to all of you. It is a joy to spend Christmas morning with you, singing songs of our Messiah’s birth and gathering around the altar to share a Christmas meal in which Christ is present. This morning, I’d like to briefly consider the idea of revelation, as both our readings from Hebrews and John seem to focus on that element of Christmas. Scholars often speak of Christmas in terms of the Incarnation- when God Almighty took on flesh and blood and came to earth in the fullness of God’s being.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

December 24, 2014 - Christmas Eve

May Almighty God, who sent his Son to take our nature upon him, bless you in this holy season, scatter the darkness of sin, and brighten your heart with the light of his holiness. Amen.

     My first word to you this most holy night is “welcome.” There is something special about Christmas Eve. By the time we are usually crawling into bed, the magic of this night beckons us to put on our Sunday best and come to sing glad hymns of the Messiah’s birth. And I am so incredibly thankful that each of you are here this evening. Welcome to all of you.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

December 21, 2014 - Advent 4B

Lectionary Readings
*Note: This sermon was only preached at the 8am service, as Bishop Hodges-Copple preached at the principal service.

O come, O come Emmanuel. Amen.
            The Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary has been the subject of many famous paintings. A few years ago, I made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and the Church of the Annunciation was one of the most beautiful and grand places that we visited. There is something about event that has captured the imaginations and reverence of so many people. Mary is an interesting person in the faith today. One theologian has said that part of the fallout from the Reformation is that Roman Catholics have fixated on Mary while Protestants have developed amnesia about her. And I think that’s a fair assessment. Mary has never been much of a part of my spirituality, but I’ve probably been missing out by not learning more from her example of faith.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

December 14, 2014 - Advent 3B

Lectionary Readings

O come, O come Emmanuel. Amen.
            It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. The Square has been decorated since Halloween, shopping centers are jam-packed, and Christmas music fills the air. But being proper Episcopalians, we all know that we are in the middle of Advent. The word “advent” comes from a Latin word which means “coming.” It seems though that the world has skipped ahead of the coming and is already celebrating the arrival. Advent is a season of preparing ourselves for the birth of Jesus. It is a season to slow down and reflect. These four weeks leading up to Christmas are envisioned as a time to prepare to receive Jesus into our hearts and homes. John the Baptist speaks of preparing for Jesus by repenting- so we often focus on self-examination in Advent. I don’t know about you all, but I’m too busy to be slowing down. There are year-end financials that need attention, extra sermons to be written, and, of course, that we’re doing all of those things at home to make sure that Ellie has fond family memories of the season.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 7, 2014 - Advent 2B

Lectionary Readings 
*preached only at 8am service, as Advent Lessons and Carols were celebrated at 10:30am

O come, O come Emmanuel. Amen.
            One scholar has called Exile the “loss of the known world.” That is the context of our reading today from chapter 40 of Isaiah. Scholars tell us that the first 39 chapters of Isaiah were written leading up to the invasion of Israel by the Babylonian Empire and the early years of their captivity in Babylon. The rest of Isaiah was written as Israel was anticipating the return to their ancestral home. Today’s reading begins with that second part of Isaiah and contains some of the most powerful words in all of Scripture- “comfort, O comfort my people.”

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30, 2014 - Advent 1B

O come, O come, Emmanuel. Amen.
            “Come, Lord Jesus.” That simple prayer is a short summary of the season of Advent. Come: Advent is the season in which we hope for rebirth. Later in Christmas we will celebrate the rebirth of hope. Just as God came to us some 2,000 years ago, we pray that God comes again to culminate the reign of peace over all the earth. Lord: In the time of the Bible, there were lords, but they were more warlords than saviors. Calling Jesus “Lord” is a subversive prayer that means that we follow not the ways of the empire, but of he who was killed by the empire. And Jesus: His name is derived from the Hebrew name of Joshua, which means “God saves.” Jesus’ name symbolizes the liberation that he will give us from all that enslaves us. “Come, Lord Jesus.” It is a simple, but extremely dangerous prayer.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 23, 2014 - Christ the King A

Almighty God, help us to hear the call of Christ the King and to follow in his service, whose kingdom has no end; for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, one glory. Amen.
            Today is an interesting liturgical day, known as Christ the King Sunday. In 1925, in the face of rising secularism and questions around the Church’s authority, Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast day as an assertion of Jesus’ lordship over all of Creation. And it’s not a bad idea to have a liturgical remembrance of this belief. Kings, of course, own all the land in the kingdom, decree all the laws, maintain order, and judge on all issues of justice. We often read about Jesus in a variety of roles in the Bible- prophet, teacher, healer, and Messiah. But the idea of a king is a bit foreign to us. Kings are so… un-American. In a democratic nation, kings can seem a bit antiquated, and even unfair- why should someone deserve to be royalty just based on who their parents were? So it is good for us to spend a day considering the fact that Christ is King.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16, 2014 - Proper 28A

Be with us, O Lord: for if you are with us, nothing else matters. And if you are not with us, nothing else matters. Amen.
            To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve never liked this passage from the Gospel that was read this morning. I find it to be disturbing and problematic. Part of the reason why I don’t like is that I identify with the servant who buries the coin and is subsequently cast into the outer darkness. I am a classic first child and growing up, my worst fear was disappointing my teachers. If I were a character in this parable, I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t have also hid the coin to not risk losing it. And because of the punishment given out for his practicality, I’ve never liked this passage.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014 - Proper 27A

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            “Choose this day whom you will serve.” Every once in a while, it’s good to rededicate ourselves to what matters most. Each Lent, the clergy of the Diocese gather for a retreat and reaffirm our Ordination vows. Some couples choose to do the same with their marriage vows. Each Sunday, we reaffirm our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed. The Hebrew people were entering a new generation of leadership. Moses has brought them out of Egypt and Joshua had been their leader after Moses’ death. And now, as Joshua is nearing the end of his life, he calls the people to remember who they are. He invites them to choose whom they will serve.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November 2, 2014 - All Saints' Sunday A

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Sometimes, the liturgical purists get upset about days like today. They will point out that All Saints’ Day was actually November 1, and November 2 is All Souls’ Day, reminding us that on All Saints’ we celebrate only those who have “saint” in front of their name, such as Peter, Paul, or Francis. All Souls’, they say, is the day when we remember all those who have died in the hope of the Resurrection. They can get a bit frustrated when we combine the two, and they certainly don’t like the hymn that says that the saints are just folk like me. And that’s fine, the Episcopal Church is a big tent and we are made richer by a diversity of opinion. But I’m not really concerned with the question “who is a saint?” But what is of greater interest to me is: “how are the saints?”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 26, 2014 - Proper 25A

Lectionary Readings (note that the Gospel expanded to include the previous Sunday's text)

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            I don’t know about you all, but I’m looking forward to November 5- the day after the election. We don’t have cable and don’t watch much tv, but still, it’s easy to be tired of the name calling and the bickering. There is so much conflict right now in our government, wouldn’t it be nice if our Scripture readings from today let us focus on something else? But it’s nearly impossible to hear this story about people questioning Jesus on taxes to the Emperor without pondering the proper role of government in our lives as Christians.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 19, 2014 - Feast of St. Luke

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Today we celebrate the Feast of our patron, Saint Luke. Whenever we remember a writer of a Biblical text, I like to point out the passages that are unique to their writings, so that we can fully appreciate their contributions to our faith and understanding of Jesus.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

October 12, 2014 - Proper 23A

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            There is a story of three well known preachers who were attending an Atlanta Braves baseball game after giving some lectures at Emory University. As they were sitting there watching the game, two men wearing yellow jackets that said “security” on them approached a man sitting a few rows in front of them. And without any words being exchanged, they picked him up and carried him away from his seat. The crowd was stunned. What had happened to make them remove this man? One of the preachers surmised, “he must not have been wearing the wedding garment.”

Sunday, October 5, 2014

October 5, 2014 - Proper 22A

Lectionary Readings

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
When I saw that this would be our reading this morning, I was both delighted and apprehensive. There is such a depth to this passage from Exodus, it is a sort of a preacher’s playground. But anytime such a familiar passage is read, it can be quite the challenge because we all have so many assumptions about the text. And this is perhaps most true for the Ten Commandments. You can find them on plaques and they are often memorized in Confirmation classes. We often read them a list of ten rules, divorced from their context and their meaning. And in that process, we lose the beauty of these ten words from God.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

September 28, 2014 - Proper 21A

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Are you an impersonator or an imitator? You can watch Saturday Night Live and see comedians do their impersonations of the President. And they’re normally fairly spot on. Going back a bit, Dana Carvey did a good George Bush, and then Will Ferrell did George W. Bush. If you weren’t giving it your full attention, you might mistake the comedian for the President, and that means they were a good impersonator- they made you think that they were someone they are not.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September 21, 2012 - Proper 20A

Lectionary Readings

*This was preached as a children's sermon.

Do you ever complain that things aren’t fair? In the story that Jesus told, some people start working at 6:00 in the morning, and they get paid for a full day’s work. That seems fair, right? Then the boss goes and hires more people at 9:00 and pays them for them for a full day’s work. And then he does the same thing at noon, and 3:00 in the afternoon, and again at 5:00. They all worked until 6 and then, Jesus says, the boss pays everyone. And the people who worked all day long got really excited when they saw the people that only worked for an hour got a full day’s pay, maybe something like $100. So they thought since that they were there all day that maybe they’d get $500 or so. But they got the same $100 as everyone else. And they got mad and screamed, “this isn’t fair!” What do you think? Was the boss fair?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

September 14, 2014 - Proper 19A

Almighty God, may you guide us to seek the Truth: come whence it may, cost what it will, lead where it might. Amen.
            What a joy and honor it is to be standing here before you all today as your new Rector. I cannot begin to tell you how excited we are to be joining the St. Luke’s community. I look forward to getting to know and serving each of you. This morning, I’d like to consider the idea of the Dream of God. That is the title of a wonderful book, written by Verna Dozier. Defining what exactly that dream is can be a challenge- you might quote from Isaiah and say that is when the wolf lies down with lamb. Perhaps it is when God can again look at Creation and say that it is all “good.” Or maybe when we all “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.” I would invite you to spend some time considering how you would define the Dream of God, and figure out some ways to make that dream a reality.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Father Bob sermon

Sermon for the Funeral of the Rev. Bob McGee
Wait Chapel- Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Saturday, September 6, 2014

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            As the Mullah Nasruddin is reported to have once said, “I’ll be surprised if I make it through this life without dying.” That was something that Bob told me a few years ago after surviving one of his near-death experiences, and it reflects the way in which his illness changed him. Some of you have likely heard the story from the Zen Buddhist tradition that Bob told in the past few years. A man walks across a field and encounters a tiger, who begins to chase after him. The man runs towards a cliff and swings over the edge, holding onto a vine. Below him, another hungry tiger has come to wait for him to drop. Two small mice then arrive and begin to gnaw on the vine, when he notices a ripe, red strawberry. Holding onto the vine with one hand, he grabs the strawberry with the other and eats it. And how sweet it tasted.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17, 2014 - Proper 15A

            Almighty God, as you know, today is my last Sunday serving as a priest at St. Francis. Prayer is always a fitting response in times of transition, so what better way to spend this final time in the pulpit than in prayer? Today's reading from Genesis isn't quite about a departure, but rather a reunion between Joseph and his brothers who assumed that he was dead. Now, Lord, I know some of us complain about our families, but you sure did have your work cut out for you with this one. Those brothers wanted to kill Joseph, but Reuben convinces them to instead sell him into slavery. Well, as you would have it, Joseph rose through the ranks of Pharaoh's courts and became his right-hand man. When there was a famine in the land, and Joseph had instructed Pharaoh to build up a stock of extra food, his brothers journey from Canaan. Instead of telling his brothers who he is, he hides his identity and accuses them of being spies. As we heard today, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and the family rejoices for being brought back together. That day, the emotions ran deep.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 3, 2014 - Proper 13A

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Holy Eucharist is the principal act of worship on the Lord’s Day, or so our Book of Common Prayer tells us. As some of you may remember, when the current Prayer Book was published, there came with it a shift from Morning Prayer as the normative Sunday worship experience to that of weekly Eucharist. And with that shift, came a change of identity of who we are as Episcopalians. We are people of God who gather weekly around the altar to receive the gifts of God. Part of what makes us distinctively Anglican is the way in which our worship is patterned around the Table.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 20, 2014 - Proper 11A

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Life isn’t fair. It’s a truth we all know, but that doesn’t make it any easier. How do you respond to the fact that life isn’t fair? By having a me versus the world mentality? By pessimism? By blaming God and others when things don’t go your way? While those might be some of the first responses, they are not the sort of response suggested in today’s readings. It has been said that parables are earthly stories with heavenly meanings. Today’s gospel narrative about the farmer who awakens to find that an enemy has sowed bad seeds among his crops isn’t fair on several levels.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Heart of Worship

I recently read two articles that have been conversing with each other in my head over the past few weeks. The first comes from the local Greensboro paper about the use of social media and technology in worship. The second argues that we have "ruined" worship by making it about us instead of God. While these two articles do not overtly contradict each other, there is a clear difference in the theologies of worship that is operative in each.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 6, 2014 - Proper 9A

O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
          In our first reading this morning we heard the wonderful story of the first meeting of Rebekah and Isaac. Isaac needed a wife from his own people, and Abraham had instructed Laban to find a woman with a compassionate heart for his son. He finds the prescribed woman at the well one day, and they lived happily ever after. Except, they didn’t. As the story continues, we learn that Rebekah is unable to conceive a child. And though this was disheartening to the couple, it also put God’s promise into jeopardy. Abraham was promised that his descendents would be as numerous as the stars, and Isaac was the heir. The entire fate of the Hebrew people was dependent upon this marriage between Isaac and Rebekah. As we all know, life is never quite as simple as “happily ever after.” Life, for all of its joys and blessings, is also full of trials and challenges. Most of us can handle good news, but how we respond to the struggles of life will not only say a lot about who we are, but will also dictate how we experience life.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 15, 2014 - Trinity Sunday A

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

          Sometimes, you’ll hear preachers lament about having to preach on Trinity Sunday. After all, it is the only Sunday of the Church year in which we focus on a doctrine instead of an event. And it doesn’t help that there is no direct reference to the Trinity anywhere in Scripture. But that doesn’t mean that today’s readings aren’t important. Sometimes the doctrine of the Trinity is glossed over and people will wonder “what difference does it make to me when I have cancer that God is three-in-one?” or “how does the Trinity affect my day to day life?” And these are valid and faithful questions.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

June 8, 2014 - Pentecost A

Descend, O Spirit, purging flame, brand us this day with Jesus’ name! Confirm our faith, consume our doubt; sign us as Christ’s within, without. Amen.
            One theologian said, “It is not that the Church has a mission to fulfill; but rather that God’s mission has a Church.” Too often though, we reverse it and obsess about finding our mission. Our Prayer Book states that “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” I think that pretty well covers it. You might point to some passages from the Bible or quote Augustine or CS Lewis to further explain what the mission of the Church is. But however you explain it, the “what” of mission really isn’t that hard to figure out, it is the “how” that leaves us searching for answers.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

May 25, 2014 - Easter 6A

In the name of the Risen Lord. Amen.
            “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” That line comes from today’s reading from 1 Peter, and is, in my opinion, one of the most important verses in the Bible. Another translation puts it slightly differently- “Whenever anyone asks you to speak of your hope, be ready to give an answer.”  If, when you walk out of church today, someone stopped you and asked “what gives you hope” or “why do you believe,” how would you respond? This is one of the most important questions that we can consider in our faith. This Easter season, as we celebrate the power of the Resurrection in our lives and in our world, how would we describe that Easter hope to others?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

May 11, 2014 - Easter 4A

In the name of the Risen Lord. Amen.
            “What difference does the Resurrection make in your life?” That was a question that I heard asked at a gathering recently. It’s a good question for us all to consider this Eastertide- what difference does the Resurrection make in your life? Notice that the question isn’t “what difference does the Resurrection make in your death?” This isn’t about the Final Judgment or some philosophical pondering on what happens to us once we cross the horizon of death. No, this is a question about your life; a question about this very moment. What difference does the Resurrection make in your life?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

May 4, 2014 - Easter 3A

In the name of the Risen Lord. Amen.
            This passage from Luke is my favorite of the Resurrection appearances of Jesus and is one of the longest of the Resurrection appearances and provides no shortage of material for the preacher, and it is found only in Luke. If you read the verses immediately before and after this passage, it reads as a cohesive unit- “But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened… while they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 27, 2014 - Easter 2A

In the name of the Risen Lord. Amen.
            Have you ever wondered why there is no St. Judas Episcopal Church? Now, perhaps, you think the reasoning for that is rather obvious. After all, Judas betrayed Jesus and handed him over to the authorities. And he even did it with a kiss, a cruel perversion of a usually loving act. But you can find plenty of churches founded on the namesake of Thomas, Peter, and Mary. And so, in light of the transformation of the Resurrection, with all things being redeemed, why is it that there is no St. Judas?

Friday, April 18, 2014

April 18, 2014 - Good Friday

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
            Good Friday is, perhaps, one of the most challenging days on which to preach. As that opening prayer suggests, Jesus’ glory comes through his cross. St. Paul writes in the opening of his letter to the Church in Corinth- “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Later, in Galatians, he will write “May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And the enigma that we’re stuck with is- how do we boast in the cross of Jesus? How is it that this horrific, bloody, humiliating public execution is to be the bedrock of our hope and salvation?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Palms and the Passion

As I mentioned in yesterday's sermon, I don't like the conflation of Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday. After church, several people remarked that they, too, thought it makes for a disjointed and confusing liturgical day. The practice of joining these two foci does date back to the Middle Ages, so it is not without historical warrant. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13, 2014 - Palm Sunday

Almighty God, as we enter this most holy week, we ask that you fill us with expectation as we remember Jesus’ humble entry into Jerusalem. May our journey towards the cross and tomb bring us closer to you. Amen.
            Easter is my favorite Sunday in the Church Year. Palm Sunday is my absolute least favorite; I hate it. Actually, it’s not so much Palm Sunday that I can’t stand- I rather like Palm Sunday. It’s Passion Sunday that I detest. Blending the Palm Sunday narrative with the Passion makes no theological or logical sense. It’s confusing, distracting, and assumes the worst of laity: namely that you’re just going to skip Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Whenever I preach on Palm Sunday, I mention this. And with the exception of the year that I was coming back from Israel the day before Palm Sunday, I’ve preached every Palm Sunday since I’ve been at St. Francis. So I’m going to take that as a sign that, by consistently assigning me to preach on this day, Michael agrees with me. If you’re interested in a sermon on the Passion and Crucifixion, I suggest that you come back on Friday at noon. Today, we’ll focus on Palm Sunday.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rethinking "Reservations Required?"

Disputation of the Holy Sacrament - Raphael, 1510

Nearly two years ago I wrote a post called "Reservations Required?" about the debate around open and closed Communion. In it, I briefly summarized the straw man argument for each side and shared by own rationale for preferring a closed Communion (meaning only baptized Christians should receive Eucharist). That was 2012 and since then, the debate has not been settled and I have heard of more and more parishes opting to make statements such as "all people are welcome to receive Communion." I have even heard of some parishes that have become known as "open Communion parishes," in a way that strikes me as exclusive rather than inclusive, as in "we are enlightened and hospitable, and if you disagree, then you must be neither of those things."

And I honestly wondered, am I being oblivious to the movements of the Spirit? Are there strong arguments for open Communion? I know a lot of intelligent people that support the idea of open Communion, I had just not heard of a compelling argument for that position. So I decided to log onto to a religious database and search for articles on every side of the issue. I ended up find ten articles on the topic.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 6, 2014 - Lent 5A

Lectionary Readings

Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
            “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” a heart-wrenched and grieving Martha says to Jesus. What was it, do you suppose, that Jesus was doing? The text says that “after having heard that Lazarus was ill, Jesus stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days. Why did it take Jesus so long to arrive?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 23, 2014 - Lent 3A

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Today’s gospel reading provides no shortage of material for the preacher to consider. The particular aspect of the story that I’m going to focus on is the idea of conversion. Following Jesus is something that many of us aspire to, and the Samaritan woman in this story gives us insight into that process. While this is certainly a wonderful passage of Scripture, it is one that is full of references to life 2,000 years ago in Palestine, which makes it harder for us moderns to grasp. But ironically, this is a story all about misunderstandings. So perhaps approaching this text from a place of confusion is a good place to start.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 9, 2014 - Lent 1A

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
            In February, we heard from the Sermon on the Mount on Sundays, and one of the phrases that Jesus uses in that address is “you have heard it said, but I say to you…” Today, I’d like to borrow that strategy. On Ash Wednesday, as we worshiped, I was struck by much of the language in the service. Today’s sermon was beginning to take shape in my mind, and the words of the Ash Wednesday liturgy were jarring to those thoughts. The words of that service are well founded in our theology and cultural perspective. We prayed that we might “worthily lament our sins and acknowledge our wretchedness;” Psalm 51 proclaimed that “Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, a sinner from my mother’s womb;” and the litany of prayers confessed all sorts and conditions of our depraved state of being sinners.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March 5, 2014 - Ash Wednesday

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death: Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way, that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness; for your tender mercies’ sake. Amen.
 I begin today’s sermon with that prayer, which comes from our funeral service, because Ash Wednesday is a day in which we are presented with our own mortality. Later in the service, you will come forward, towards the cross, which is itself an instrument of death, to have ashes put on your forehead. You will be reminded that “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Death will come for us all, there is no avoiding that. But how we face that reality will make all the difference.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

February 23, 2014 - Epiphany 7A

Lectionary Readings

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy…Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” I was just hoping to make it through the day without thinking uncharitable thoughts towards others, but holiness and perfection? That’s a tall task. One of the aspects of Leviticus, and any of the Law-giving statements, that is often overlooked is their context. In this handful of verses from Leviticus, we find the refrain “I am the Lord your God” five times. What is easy to miss is that these passages about Law aren’t simply a “do” and “don’t” list. As I’ve said before, the Bible is not a book of directions, but instead is a book that provides direction. And most of these rules, if that’s how we read them, are fairly self-apparent: don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal. Any godless society that is interested in having order could come up with a similar list of rules.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

February 9, 2014 - Epiphany 5A

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Little giants, original copy, random order, crash landing. We all know oxymorons when we hear them. The word itself comes from a Greek phrase meaning “sharp dull.” We often use them as a way of expressing an illogical, but very real, contradiction. Sometimes, in the case of “military intelligence,” they are meant to poke fun. Other times they express the complexity of a situation, such as a “beautiful mess.” And still other oxymorons defy reason when two things that can’t possibly go together are, nevertheless, united- “virtual reality,” “sound of silence,” or “exact estimate.” Even though these phrases are funny and nonsense, we still know exactly what they mean when we hear them.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January 26, 2014 - Epiphany 3A

In the name of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            What does it mean to follow Jesus? In today’s gospel reading, Jesus walks along the Sea of Galilee and calls out to Simon, Andrew, James, and John, inviting them to “follow me.” And the invitation is extended to us as well- follow Jesus. But when the rubber hits the road, how do we do this?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

January 19, 2014 - Epiphany 2A

Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servant you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
            I know the 1 Corinthians passage today isn’t the most fascinating Scripture reading that we have, but we can learn a lot by reading the beginning of a letter. And you can tell a lot from a letter by its mechanics. For example, how do you sign the letter? Is it a formal “sincerely” or a warm “with love?” And how do you address the letter- “my dearest so and so” or do you use all the proper titles? Just looking at the signature and address line, you’ll learn something. So as we consider the beginning of 1 Corinthians, let’s pay attention to the mechanics of the letter.