In a World Where You Can Be Anything…

Sermon for Sunday, July 10, 2022 || Proper 10C || Luke 10:25-37

A few years ago, Leah bought a T-shirt for a school fundraiser, and every time she wears this T-shirt, it makes me smile. The T-shirt says, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

It’s an incredible statement…an incredible statement that sounds a little fluffy, a little too optimistic for our gritty, grimy world. A little too full of gumdrops and rainbows and unicorns. A little too trite. I read the words again – In a world where you can be anything, be kind – and I consciously resist the urge to think of them as trite. “Sure, sure…be kind,” this urge tells me, “everyone should always be kind.” 

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Epic Quest (updated)

Sermon for Sunday, July 3, 2022 || Proper 9C || 2 Kings 5:1-14

Today’s sermon is about our lives of faith, specifically about how we have a tendency to get overwhelmed when we look at the whole thing in one go and then fail to even begin. We have a test case for this tendency – the person of Naaman from our first reading today. A few years ago, I called this tendency “Naaman Syndrome” because I like making up biblical diseases.

Naaman, the central figure of today’s story from the Hebrew Scriptures, has superiority issues. And for good reason. He is, after all, the commander of the army of the King of Aram. He has the resources to travel with an entourage, not to mention bags and bags of precious gold and silver. He has the political clout to rate an audience with Israel’s king. And to top it off, Naaman has chariots! (No, seriously. The mention of chariots is a big deal. My Old Testament professor in seminary used to joke that Israel had “chariot-envy,” because it didn’t have any. So to mention this guy has chariots – watch out, he’s the real deal.)

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Called to Freedom

Sermon for Sunday, June 26, 2022 || Proper 8C || Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Back in college, I had a habit of writing verses of scripture in silver Sharpie on my guitar case. Every time a verse really grabbed me and burrowed itself into my heart, the verse wound up on the case until there were fourteen in all. The one at the very top of the case is from today’s lesson from Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants to one another.”

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The Harmonies of Liberty

Sermon for Sunday, June 19, 2022 || Proper 7C || Galatians 3:23-29

Lift every voice and sing   
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Great American poet James Weldon Johnson wrote these words in 1900 to celebrate the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Five hundred Black children sang it at a school in Jacksonville, Florida, with music written by Johnson’s brother. The brothers then moved to New York and forgot about the song. Lo and behold, within twenty years, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” had spread throughout the South and soon became known as the African-American national hymn.

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The Candle Flame of Hope

Sermon for Sunday, June 12, 2022 || Trinity Sunday C || Romans 5:1-5

This is another sermon about hope. I’ve been preaching about hope a lot lately because hope seems to be in short supply these days. I look inside myself and I see my hope candle guttering. It’s still lit – miraculously  – but the small flame is floating in a sea of wax. I want to believe that my hope candle will never actually extinguish, that no matter how much or how little wax is left, the wick will always hold a flame. I want to believe that, and I think I do…which is ironic because it seems like I need hope to believe I will always have hope. And maybe that’s how it works. Perhaps hope reignites itself like a mythical phoenix rising from the ashes.

I want to talk about hope on this Trinity Sunday because the Holy Trinity is both the source of our hope and the culmination of our hope. 

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12 Moments, An Instructed Eucharist

This past Sunday, in lieu of a sermon, I presented an instructed Eucharist based on my pamphlet, 12 Moments. I commend it to you. You can watch what I said during three times of instruction during the service be viewing the YouTube video below. Or you can download the 12 Moments pamphlet by clicking here.

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Maranatha Meditation

Sermon for Sunday, May 29, 2022 || Easter 7C || Revelation 22:20

(If you usually read the sermon instead of watching the video, I’d encourage you to watch this one because I sing the response after each piece of the meditation.)

I’d like to do something a little different with today’s sermon. Today we’re going to have a meditation on the very last prayer in the Bible. This prayer is simple, only three words: “Come, Lord Jesus.” In the original Aramaic language of Jesus’ day, the prayer was even simpler, only one word: “Maranatha.” I love this prayer word because of how much air you can breathe when you say it. Ma-ra-na-tha. Certain practices of silent Christian meditation use this word, Maranatha, as their focal word, the word used to center the practice.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.

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Revelation, the Good Parts Version (updated)

Sermon for Sunday, May 22, 2022 || Easter 6C || Revelation 21:10, 22–22:5

Have you noticed that we’ve been reading the Book of Revelation ever since Easter? Every Sunday since Easter, the New Testament lessons have come from the Book of Revelation. You probably haven’t noticed this because we’ve only read from the few chapters that don’t sound like a cross between a science fiction movie and Dante’s Inferno.

Our schedule of readings trims down the Book of Revelation to “The Good Parts Version,” the parts that don’t make us either bewildered or squeamish. In all the bits we’ve read since Easter, not once did we hear about wars or plagues or bowls of wrath or the four horsemen. Not once did we hear about dragons with seven heads and ten horns and seven diadems on their heads or beasts with ten horns and seven heads and ten diadems on their horns.

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With Open Hearts and Outstretched Arms

Sermon for Sunday, May 15, 2022 || Easter 5A || Acts 11:1-18

I need to warn you right off the bat that I’ve preached this sermon before. Not these exact words (I wrote these words earlier this week). But this sermon, and the ideas behind it, I have preached on multiple occasions over my fourteen years of priesthood. I’ve preached this sermon so many times because I think it is so easy to miss the second (maybe third) most important moment in the entire New Testament. Well, maybe fourth most important. Whatever, it’s in the Top 5.

You might be flipping through your program looking for what I’m talking about right now. After all, it’s just a random Sunday in the middle of the season of Easter. What could we have possibly read this morning that is important enough to make the Top 5 moments of the New Testament? Would you believe I’m talking about the end of the First Lesson from Acts Chapter 11? Now you’re looking at your program and trying to remember what ____ read. Wasn’t it about Peter eating things he didn’t think he was supposed to eat? And there was a sheet acting like a picnic blanket or something?

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Listen to My Voice

Sermon for Sunday, May 8, 2022 || Easter 4C || John 12:22-30

Two weeks ago in our Gospel reading, we heard Jesus say, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Last week Jesus told Simon Peter (and by extension, us the readers) “Follow me.” And today, we hear him say something else from earlier in the Gospel. He has just talked all about being the Good Shepherd, who calls the sheep by name, who brings the sheep out of the sheepfold, who lays down his life for the sheep. And then he says this. He says, “My sheep listen to my voice.”

The trouble for people reading or hearing the Gospel way back then is the same trouble we have today. None of them and none of us have ever audibly heard Jesus say anything. And yet, we follow. We believe. We listen. The question we’re going to ponder together for the next few minutes is “How.” How do we listen to Jesus’ voice? How do we listen to someone who lived nineteen centuries ago and who inhabited the other side of the world and who spoke a language that no longer exists?

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