Sunday, December 31, 2017

December 31, 2017 - Christmas 1

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            If the season leading up to December 25th is “the most wonderful time of the year” then the time between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day is the most confusing time of the year. You all, of course, know that Christmas doesn’t actually begin until December 25 and lasts until January 5; but if you look around the world, it doesn’t seem like much Christmas is left. You can find trees that used to have ornaments adorning them discarded on the curb. You won’t find any Christmas sales or Christmas music on the radio – they’ve already got your money, so Christmas is no longer useful to the capitalistic machine; they’re already gearing up to sell you chocolate for Valentine’s Day or a mattress on President’s Day. Those who insist that we keep Christ in Christmas have moved on to the next culture war and are already feigning outrage about something else. The gifts, which for too many are the highlight of Christmas, have been given, and perhaps even already exchanged at the store. The parties are over and decorations have become passé. So what is left for us to do with Christmas as we bide our time until we get overly excited about getting to use a new wall calendar?

Monday, December 25, 2017

December 25, 2017 - Christmas Day

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Merry Christmas! What a joy it is to be with you all on this splendid morning on which we celebrate the Incarnation of the Lord. Sacred time calls for sacred rituals and it just wouldn’t be Christmas for some of us without coming to this beautiful church, singing hymns of praise on cause of our Messiah’s birth, hearing John’s rich nativity poem, and partaking of the Holy Eucharist. As much as I enjoy the Christmas traditions of home and family, of breakfasts and presents, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without taking the time to remember what this day is all about and worshiping accordingly. So it is my joy and honor to be spending this sacred day with each of you.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

December 24, 2017 - Christmas Eve

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            What a joy it is to see each of you on this holy night. There’s something about the Midnight Mass that is magical, perhaps because it taps into the majesty of that first Christmas when the angel announced the good news of great joy that the Messiah has come. This good news calls us out of our usual evening routines to this sacred place. One of the things that I find so interesting about the Midnight Mass is that I have no idea who about half of you are. Each Christmas Eve, I’ve noticed that we are blessed with people who don’t ordinarily come to St. Luke’s. Perhaps it’s that Christmas is the only day that makes any religious sense to you. Perhaps you’re here visiting family or friends. Maybe you’re not even sure how much you believe, but you have fond memories of attending Midnight Mass from when you were growing up, and you’ve come for the nostalgia. Whatever brings you here tonight, it is our joy to have you here. So in the name of Christ, welcome to each of you. Let us all journey in heart and mind to Bethlehem to adore the newborn King.

December 24, 2017 - Advent 4B

O come, O come, Emmanuel. Amen.
            As you’ve already figured out, this is the Fourth Sunday of Advent, not Christmas Eve. When the evening comes, we’ll then transition into celebrating that, but for at least the next hour, we remain firmly grounded in Advent. And I’m so glad to have each of you here to celebrate the fullness of Advent before rushing into Christmas. So your reward for coming to church this morning is a sermon about hell.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

December 17, 2017 - Advent 3B

O come, O come, Emmanuel. Amen.
            “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try.” John Lennon wrote those words from a religionless point of view. But to those of us inside the church, it really isn’t that hard to image there’s no heaven. You’ll recall that on the first Sunday of Advent, I mentioned that the word “eschatology” means “the last things.” And Advent has been a time that the Church has historically focused on the Four Last Things of death, judgment, heaven, and hell. But many have accused the modern Church of having a case of eschatological amnesia. In other words, we have forgotten our future. We have forgotten the end of things, and in that forgetfulness, we lose the meaning of the present.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

December 10, 2017 - Advent 2B

O come, O come, Emmanuel. Amen.
            A fascinating and captivating scene of faith was the event that led to John Boehner’s resignation as Speaker of the House. I do want to be crystal clear – this is a story of faith, not politics. The fact that Boehner happens to be Republican makes no difference; the story would work just as well had it been the Democrat Nancy Pelosi at the center of the story. It was at a joint session of Congress that Pope Francis was speaking, and Boehner was sitting where the Speaker of the House does, right behind the podium, so we were able to see Boehner’s reaction throughout the speech. He sat there with tears rolling down his face as the Pope spoke. Within a day, he had resigned from his position as Speaker of the House, one of the most powerful positions in the world.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

December 3, 2017 - Advent 1B

O come, O come, Emmanuel. Amen.
            Advent is arguably the most important liturgical season we have and also the easiest to miss. The most important because it comes first. The liturgical year starts not in January, but on the first Sunday of the Advent. The Church’s calendar could have been deemed to start with Easter or Pentecost, both of those would have been fine places to begin our calendar. But in her wisdom, the Church has realized that Advent is the proper place to start because it names the reality in which we Christians find ourselves – preparing to celebrate the radical claim that  the Creator of the universe took on human flesh and lived among us while also waiting for the culmination of his reign.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

November 23, 2017 - Thanksgiving A

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Thanksgiving Day is listed as one of the major feasts of the Church year in the Prayer Book, and it’s rare for a secular or national holiday, which Thanksgiving is, to be officially recognized by the church calendar. But there is great wisdom in making sure that there is a religious component to this national day of gratitude, tradition, and family. As you likely know, the word “Eucharist” is a Greek word that means “good thanks,” so coming together to partake of God’s sacred meal of thanksgiving before we gather around a table later today to give thanks is most appropriate.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

November 19, 2017 - Proper 28A

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life. That is perhaps one of the more well-known prayers contained in our Book of Common Prayer. It was written by Thomas Cranmer for the first Prayer Book in 1549 and is rooted in a passage from Romans. This morning, instead of preaching on a specific passage of Scripture, I’d like to use this wonderful prayer to speak about Scripture as a whole.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

November 5, 2017 - Proper 26A

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            It’s been said that preachers only have one sermon. Each week, we just put a different spin on the thing that is most important in our theology. There’s a lot of truth in that. I think that I have more than one point that I preach about, but probably not more than three. I wonder if you have an idea of what those might be? I’d love to hear how my sermons are heard, so feel free to send me a message and let me know what you hear as the central claims of my preaching. Today, in considering this portion of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, one of my primary preaching points will be on display.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

November 2, 2017 - Feast of All the Faithful Departed

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            When I was in Israel a few years ago, I saw many memorable archeological and religious sites. But of the things that most stuck in my mind was a modern exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. They have a 1/50th scale model of the city of Jerusalem as it stood in the 1st century. At over 20,000 square feet, it provides an incredible way to visualize the ancient city. As our tour guide was using a laser pointer to show us different aspects of the city, he came to a part of the city wall and said “Now, ignore that wall; it wasn’t there during Jesus’ lifetime.” But yet, as we stood there looking at the model, that wall was very clearly there.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November 1, 2017 - Feast of All Saints

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            “Blessed feasts of blessed martyrs, holy women, holy men, with affection’s recollections greet we your return again. Worthy deeds they wrought, and wonder worthy of the Name they bore; we, with meetest praise and sweetest, honor them forevermore.” Those words come from a 12th century text about the saints of the Church. The Feast of All Saints is the day on which we offer our thanks and praise for the witness of the Saints. We do so not because they are perfect examples of how to live, but rather because with all of their diversity of stories and gifts, they were all reshaped by God’s redeeming love. In short, the Saints are people who, being rooted in the difference that Christ made in their lives, made a difference in this world.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

October 29, 2017 - Reformation Sunday (Proper 25A)

Readings: Isaiah 40:6-8, 43:15-21; Psalm 90: 1-6, 13-17; Romans 3:21-28; Matthew 22:34-40

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire and lighten us with thy celestial fire. Amen.
            Today is a once in every half a millennium occurrence. As you’ve likely heard, October 31 will be the 500th anniversary of Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther published, though most scholars agree that he did not nail to the door, his 95 Theses against abuses of the Roman Catholic Church. And thus began a period of reformation in the Church. Ten years later, when Henry VIII requested that Pope Clement VII grant him an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon the seeds were sown for the English Reformation, which was a distinct and separate reformation than the one initiated by Luther. So Anglicans have always had a complicated relationship with the Reformation.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

October 22, 2017 - Proper 24A

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Here in the United States, we have a complicated history with paying taxes. Taxes really were at the core of what led this nation to declare independence from England. The Stamp Act of 1765 and the Boston Tea Party are but two examples of the ways in which taxation led to the American Revolution. After all, “taxation without representation” was the rallying cry in the colonies. Though most of us want to have good roads and schools and want social services to be provided to those in need, far fewer of us actually enjoy paying taxes. There’s the issue of not always supporting every cause our tax dollars are spent on. We have loopholes that some people use to pay less than what most people would call their “fair share,” and with tax reform on the Congressional docket, the questions of what is necessary and what is just will be a topic of public discourse. And our current tax code is about 3,000 pages long. Yes, in every way, taxes are a complicated issue.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

October 15, 2017 - Proper 23A

Lectionary Readings

In the name of God  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            What’s wrong in Salisbury? What’s wrong with politics? What’s wrong with education, or healthcare, or the church? There is no shortage of articles and opinions out there on those questions. It’s easy to come up with a list of all the problems in the world. I won’t list any examples, but I’m sure you all could help me in coming up with a pretty comprehensive list. Whether it’s casual conversation with friends, the news, or even sermons – so often we talk about all the things that are wrong.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

October 8, 2017 - Proper 22A

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            God has a great plan for your life. That’s the gist of the modern-day heresy known as the “prosperity gospel.” You can find many books on the topic in the Christian “self-help” section of bookstores or you can watch this message preached on television. The claim goes something like this: God will bless you with health and wealth if you have faith and give money to the church. This is a heresy because it confuses humans for God and makes grace something that is earned. So if the phrase “God has a great plan for your life” makes you uneasy, that’s a good thing. But we can’t get around the fact that it’s true – God does have a great plan for your life.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

October 1, 2017 - Proper 21A

Lectionary Readings

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            “By what authority are you doing things?” In other words, “Who do you think you are?” It’s a question that we train our children to ask. Math teachers tell students to “show your work” and when you get to high school or college, any paper you turn in had better have footnotes that cite your sources. When you walk into my office, right on the wall I have my diplomas and ordination certificates, so you know by what authority I am doing these things. And the same is probably true when you go visit your doctor, financial planner, or lawyer – their credentials are front and center so that you can put your mind at ease that they have the authority to be doing these things.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

September 24, 2017 - Proper 20A

Lectionary Readings

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Today’s collect is a beautiful prayer, asking that God enable us not to be anxious about earthly things but to hold fast to that which shall endure. It’s something that we all struggle with – not sweating the small stuff and focusing on what truly matters. But as we know from psychology, this is easier said than done. Someone tells you all the great things that you’ve done, and then they offer a bit of constructive criticism by saying “but,” and it’s as if everything said before “but” was just a lie to soften the blow.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

September 17, 2017 - Proper 19A

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            In today’s passage from Romans, St. Paul writes to a fractured Christian community. There were fights about the proper style of worship and who was right about issues of faith. People were casting judgment upon one another, calling each other names, threatening to leave their congregations or kick others out of the congregation. They quarreled over little things that didn’t matter so much while ignoring the more important issues like unity, taking care of the needy, and being humble. And I’m just so thankful that in the 2,000 years since then, that we’ve figured out how to live together in harmony and concord. Isn’t it so wonderful that Christians all get along with each other, that no one in the church is ever passive-aggressive, that forgiveness and forbearance is a hallmark virtue of all Christians, and that we never judge each other?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

September 10, 2017 - Proper 18A

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            You’ve probably heard the advice “dress for success” or “dress for the job you want.” And that’s generally good advice. While clothes don’t make the man, or woman, they do have an impact. I remember when I was a kid, when I would wear my Ken Griffey, Jr. baseball jersey, it seemed as if I was more confident as I stepped up to the plate than when I wore a regular t-shirt. What we wear does send a message – it sends a message to the world about how we present ourselves and it sends a message to ourselves, as clothing is an extension of ours self-image and priorities.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

September 3, 2017 - Proper 17A

Lectionary Readings

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            It’s a joy to gather each Sunday to worship the Lord. He, of course, was born of a virgin under a bright shining star. He brings salvation to all his people and peace to the whole earth, and this Good News is for all. Praise to our Messiah, Caesar Augustus, for all he does for us!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

August 27, 2017 - Proper 16A

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” These opening sentences of the 12th chapter of Romans are grand, poetic, and inspiring, but also quite dense. Paul exhorts those hearing his words to be transformed. But what does it really mean to be transformed?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

August 20, 2017 - Proper 15A

Lectionary Readings (with Romans expanded to include verses 33-36)

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Unless you’ve been living under a rock, which I wouldn’t blame you for doing that, you’ve probably noticed a bit of tension in the air recently. It seems as if we’re entering a Cold War with nuclear weapons with North Korea. The effects of climate change are becoming more and more noticeable, especially in coastal areas. Parts of Africa are reeling from violent civil wars and severe droughts and famines. Young people are literally dying in the streets of Salisbury from both gun violence and opioid addiction. And the scourge of racism has raised its sinful and ugly head in Charlottesville. And that’s just the stuff that makes the newspaper. You all have tension in your personal lives – some of you are dealing with the declining health of parents, some of you are fighting cancer, some of you had a water pipe burst in your home.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

August 6, 2017 - Feast of the Transfiguration

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Do you all remember where we were in Romans last week? At the end of chapter 8, St. Paul proclaimed “For I am convinced that nothing, not things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor rulers, nor death, nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That’s really the pinnacle of Christian faith and hope – the peace that comes from being confident in the invincible love of God. It’s sort of like being at the top of the drop tower ride at Carowinds – you have a majestic view and feel as if you’re on top of the world when you’re 100 feet in the air. But then comes the drop.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 30, 2017 - Proper 12A

In the name of God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
If you read Romans straight through, you’ll find that in chapter 8 Paul is coming to an emotional and rhetorical crescendo; and he concludes with quite the statement – “For I am convinced that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is what Paul has been building towards in Romans with all of his discussions about sin, the flesh, the Spirit, and grace. The reason why that passage is so often heard at funerals is because it is so full of hope. And while these words do provide consolation at funerals, this passage speaks hope to our everyday lives as well.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

July 23, 2017 - Proper 11A

In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            What if I told you that your debt had been forgiven? All of it – the mortgage, the car, the student loans, and the credit card. Well, I don’t actually have the ability to forgive that debt, but as we continue working our way through Romans, we see that St. Paul is suggesting that Jesus Christ does liberate us from being debtors to the flesh. Our faith is supposed to be transformative, to radically change the way we interpret and live in the world. I can’t promise you that faith will cancel out what you owe the bank, but faith can make it so that what you owe is just money, not your entire life.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

July 16, 2017 - Proper 10A

In the name of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            As we continue to work our way through Romans this summer, today we enter the eighth chapter, which is the crescendo of Paul’s argument in the letter. This chapter is so crucial that the lectionary has divided it into three parts; so for today and the next two Sundays we’ll be reading our way through chapter 8 of Romans.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

July 9, 2017 - Proper 9A

In the name of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” For all of his high soaring rhetoric, today Paul puts his finger squarely on the human condition – I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. I don’t know about you all, but when I hear those words, I think “Yeah, been there, done that.”

Sunday, July 2, 2017

July 2, 2017 - Proper 8A

In the name of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            I’m not all that familiar with the music of Bob Dylan, but it seems that many Biblical scholars are, because nearly every commentary I read about today’s passage from Romans mentioned his song “Gotta Serve Somebody.” The song lists people from all walks of life and notes that every single one of us will have to serve somebody. Here’s a bit of it: “You may be an ambassador to England or France; you may like to gamble, you might like to dance; you may be the heavyweight champion of the world; you may be a socialite with a long string of pearls. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody. Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” That, in a nutshell, is what St. Paul writes to convey in today’s passage from Romans.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

June 11, 2017 - Trinity A

In the name of God: Spirit, Father, and Son.
            You’ll notice that I changed the standard order of that prayer – Spirit, Father, Son instead of Father, Son, Spirit. The Trinity is a foundational concept in our Christian faith, but it’s also one that is so familiar that we tend to not give it much thought. But today, Trinity Sunday, is a day to focus on the mystery of the Three-in-One and One-in-Three.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

June 4, 2017 - Pentecost

In the name of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            It has been argued that in the collective consciousness of humanity, as we have evolved we have also had different questions that haunt us. In times when minor illnesses could lead to death and infant and mother mortality rates were considerably high, our ancestors primarily struggled with the fear of death. Death was a constant companion, and really, there wasn’t much to be done about it, other than hoping for good luck. But as medicines improved and life expectancies lengthened, the fear of death was no longer the thing that made us most afraid.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 28, 2017 - Easter 7A

In the name of the Crucified and Risen Lord. Amen.
            As the reading from Acts began: “When the apostles had come together, they asked Jesus, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’” I’ll admit that I struggle in my discipleship, in putting my full trust in God, in acting as if Jesus really is the Lord of all Creation. And it gives me such solace to have this passage from Acts that shows us that Jesus’ very own disciples are with me in those struggles. They had been with Jesus for three years of teaching and ministry, they were there during Holy Week, they saw the Risen Lord for 40 days. The Bible tells us that during these days with the Resurrected Lord that Jesus opened the Scriptures to them. They didn’t learn about Jesus, they learned from him. And at the culmination of Jesus’ ministry on earth they say “This has all been fantastic, Lord, just one more question – is now the time when you’re going to get to the whole business of being the Messiah that we were hoping for?”

Thursday, May 25, 2017

May 25, 2017 - Feast of the Ascension

In the name of the Crucified and Risen Lord. Amen.
            Ascension Day is the forgotten feast of the Church. Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost get plenty of fanfare. Epiphany, in many cultures, is associated with gift giving and is an important holiday. All Saints is remembered, if for no other reason than explaining that Halloween is linked to All Hallow’s Eve. Trinity Sunday, even if lesser known, falls on a Sunday, so it’s never forgotten. But that leaves us with Ascension Day – always a Thursday as it’s always 40 days after Easter. But to forget the Ascension is to forget an important part of the Good News of God in Christ.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 21, 2017 - Easter 6A

In the name of the Crucified and Risen Lord. Amen.
            In today’s reading from 1 Peter, we read “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” Well, if I’m asked to give an accounting of my hope I’ll be sure to mention the remarkable and faithful children and youth of this parish. What wonderful testimonies of faith we just heard from our graduating high school seniors – their witness ought to bolster our hope for what God is doing in and through their lives and this community of faith which we call St. Luke’s. So, thank you, Nellie, Ruth, and Jason for giving us hope, and know that St. Luke’s is always home to you and that this, your family, is always proud of you.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

May 14, 2017 - Easter 5A

In the name of the Crucified and Risen Lord. Amen.
            What does your faith cost you? Have you ever thought about that?  The title of a very well-known book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is The Cost of Discipleship. In it, Bonhoeffer writes about cheap grace and costly grace. Cheap grace is forgiveness with repentance, membership without commitment, baptism without discipline. Costly grace though is much harder. Costly grace is what we see on display in our reading from Acts, where Stephen gives up his life. In light of that sacrifice made by Stephen, the question before us this morning is: what is the cost of our discipleship?

Sunday, May 7, 2017

May 7, 2017 - Easter 4A

Lectionary Readings

In the name of the Crucified and Risen Lord. Amen.
            Context always matters. When you only know part of a story, it can be easy to overlook its significance. There’s a story from the great Sufi master, Mullah Nasrudin. One evening he was out in the street on his hands and knees searching for something. A man comes along and asks “What are you looking for?” The Mullah responds “I lost my house key.” So the man joins him in search for it, but with no luck. The man asks “Are you sure you lost it around here?” And Mullah Nasrudin replies “Oh, no, I lost it a few streets over.” “Then why are you wasting my time by searching for it here?” the man wants to know. Nasrudin replies, “Oh, well, the light is so much better over here.”

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 30, 2017 - Easter 3A

In the name of the Crucified and Risen Lord. Amen.
            If you were here last Sunday, you know that I wasn’t. I was on vacation and worshiped over at First Methodist, after all, the Wesley brothers were Anglican priests. I’ve taken the Sunday after Easter off for several years in a row now, and each Sunday after Easter the Gospel text is always the story of Jesus appearing to disciples, minus Thomas, who doesn’t, at first, believe that the Jesus is Risen. Since I haven’t preached on that text in several years, as I sat in a pew over at First Methodist and listened to a fine sermon by their pastor, I couldn’t help but have some ideas on how I would have approached that text. When I got home, I wrote down the ideas that came to me and came up with six different sermon themes based on that text.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 16, 2017 - Easter

In the name of the Risen Lord. Amen.
            As it is every Easter, my first word to you this morning is welcome. In the name of our Crucified and Risen Lord, welcome. As Martin Luther once said, “Our Lord has written the promise of Resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” How right he was. It is a blessing to gather on a gorgeous day, in a beautiful church full of wonderful people in their Easter best to celebrate the Resurrection.

Friday, April 14, 2017

April 14, 2017 - Good Friday

In the name of the Crucified God. Amen.
            One recent theologian, when writing on the Crucifixion has written “The cross must always be interpreted and re-placed at the center of Christian faith. There is a centrifugal force at work in human nature; we want to spin out and away from the offense of the cross.” And she’s correct – all you have to do is compare Good Friday attendance to Easter Sunday attendance to see that the Cross is a challenge. Another theologian has said “The Cross is not and cannot be loved.” The Cross is bloody, it is repulsive, it is a disgusting instrument of violence. And yet, St. Paul is able to say “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” The Cross really is at the crux of our Christian faith.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

April 13, 2017 - Maundy Thursday

In the name of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            “Behold what you are; become what you receive.” That is a paraphrase of part of a sermon given by St. Augustine in 408. Behold what you are; become what you receive. There are a lot of things that could capture our imaginations on Maundy Thursday. Jesus gives us a new commandment, that we love one another. We see what Gospel leadership looks like in the washing of feet. The starkness of betrayal will move us as the altar is stripped and we leave in darkness and silence. We also celebrate the Last Supper tonight; often it is referred to as the “Institution of the Holy Eucharist,” as our Lord tells us to “do this in remembrance of me.” When we focus in on the Eucharist, indeed we see all of these Maundy Thursday themes at play. So this sermon will focus on our reading from 1 Corinthians and the Sacrament of our Lord’s Body and Blood.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

April 9, 2017 - Palm Sunday

Let us pray – True and humble king, hailed by the crowd as Messiah: grant us the faith to know you and love you; that we may be found beside you on the way of the Cross, which is the path of glory. Amen.
            “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.” Those are the opening verses to an ancient hymn of the earliest church which St. Paul quotes in his letter written from prison to the church in Philippi. These seven verses that we heard from Philippians this morning may well function as one of the earliest creeds of the Church, and they give us insight into what is at the core of Christianity and this week, which we call “Holy.”

Sunday, April 2, 2017

April 2, 2017 - Lent 5A

Almighty God, may you guide us to seek your Truth: come whence it may, cost what it will, lead where it might. Amen.
            “Can these bones live?” “Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die - do you believe this?” These are questions of hope. Can we trust in something that seems impossible? Can we believe in something that seems to be contrary to our everyday experiences of death? Can we live our lives with a foundational story of abundance and life instead of one ruled by fear and death? This morning, that is question before us, can we be a people of hope?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

March 26, 2017 - Lent 4A

Almighty God, may you guide us to seek your Truth – come whence it may, cost what it will, lead where it might. Amen.
            It’s hard to believe that we’re more than halfway through the season of Lent already. The focus of the sermons in Lent has been on disrupting the religious routinism that it is so easy to fall into. Religious routinism is about treating our faith as, well, routine: something done without much thought or passion. Things that are routine are dull, predictable, and monotonous – words that should never describe the vibrancy that faith is supposed to be about. But because our lives are so full and busy and because our world is so complex, sometimes we slip into routinism because that’s all we can manage. This Lent, we have considered some ways to break out of routinism – by committing to wakefulness, interconnectedness, mightiness, and today we will consider the commitment to humbleness.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

March 19, 2017 - Lent 3A

Almighty God, guide us to seek your Truth: come whence it may, cost what it will, lead where it might. Amen.
            “Is the Lord among us or not?” That is the question that stands behind both our readings from Exodus and John this morning. Is the Lord among us or not? That question will also serve as an entry to considering our third commitment in breaking out of religious routinism in this season of Lent.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

March 12, 2017 - Lent 2A

Almighty God, may you guide us to seek your Truth – come whence it may, cost what it will, lead where it might. Amen.
            You’ll recall that last Sunday, I laid out a sermon series for the five Sundays in Lent. The premise is that there are two poles to religious belief. On one end of the spectrum is religious extremism, where beliefs are held that are too extreme for the religion to handle. Violence and murder done in the name of God are examples of religious extremism. When you apply certain beliefs too extremely, being closed off to compassion, diversity, or reason, what you end up with is a distortion of religion that is problematic. On the other side of religious belief is a problem that has infected much of Western Christianity: routinism. In routinism, religion doesn’t affect the way you see the world, the way you see yourself, or the way you interact with others. Religious routinism is devoid of any meaning, substance, or vigor. And routinism is just as much a fatal flaw to religion as extremism is.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

March 5, 2017 - Lent 1A

Lectionary Readings

Almighty God, guide us to seek your Truth: come whence it may, cost what it will, lead where it might. Amen.
            Over the five Sundays of this Lenten season, the sermons will all have a common theme. Each sermon will stand as an independent reflection, but there will be a common thread that ties them all together. Traditionally, Lent is a season of focus – we focus more intently on God through prayer and reading Scripture, we focus more on making changes to benefit our soul, we focus on what matters most. Many of us would say that our faith, that God, that our Church is one of the most important things in our lives. And that is a truly wonderful thing, it’s a blessing to serve a church where people put faith first in their lives. The invitation of Lent is to go deeper into that common priority.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March 1, 2017 - Ash Wednesday

In the name of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Those are the words with which I will impose ashes on your foreheads in just a few moments. That’s an inconvenient truth one if I’ve ever heard one. And yet, outside of Christmas and Easter, Ash Wednesday is typically one of the most well attended days in the Church year. People who don’t regularly come on Sundays come out to have a priest put a cross of ashes on their forehead and remind them that they are dust. How is this Gospel? How is this Good News? Or is it?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

February 26, 2017 - Last Epiphany A

In the name of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            Have you ever had a mountaintop experience? You know, those events that somehow seem to be more real than ordinary reality? A moment where life doesn’t seem to be big enough to hold the experience? A few years ago I had the privilege of going to Israel; standing in the places where Jesus taught, died, and rose again were mountaintop experiences. The birth of our daughters were similar experiences. Perhaps you’ve had that sort of experience, too? Maybe when you saw a particular painting in the Louvre, maybe when saw the Grand Canyon out of an airplane window, maybe when attended Evensong, maybe when you fell in love? Mountaintop experiences are holy and memorable because they awaken us to the beauty, depth, and grandeur of life that we ordinarily overlook.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19, 2017 - Epiphany 7A

In the name of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            What does it mean to be a Christian? That, I realize, is a big question. But it seems that we who gather on a Sunday morning in the name of God ought to be able to answer that question. I suppose the simplest answer is “Being a Christian means believing in the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” But then we might ask, “what does it mean to believe,” and we’re right back where we started – struggling to articulate what our faith is all about. Both our readings from Leviticus and Matthew offer some insight into how we might coherently understand our faith and what it means to be Christian.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

February 12, 2017 - Epiphany 6A

In the name of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
            So you’re walking down the street and you see a $20 bill on the ground. No one else is around, so you pick it up and give it to a charity. Then you go into a store, and see the cash register unattended, so you take a $20 bill and also give it to charity. Most of us would say that the first action is completely fine, whereas the second one is morally suspect, if not criminal. The action, taking a $20 bill that isn’t yours and giving it to charity, is identical. What changed was the context, and that context makes all the difference. This is a sermon on ethics and morality, and as evidenced by that simple example, it can be a complicated matter.