NIMBY and the Reign of Christ

Sermon for Sunday, November 20, 2022 || Reign of Christ C || Jeremiah 23:1-6

Today is the final Sunday of the church year, the day on which we celebrate the Reign of Christ. Next week, we begin a new church year with the season of Advent. Both today’s event and the season of Advent share a similar theological lens. They both celebrate a present reality that is always happening AND a future reality that fulfills or completes the present one, a future reality that we long for and hope for, but has not yet come to pass. 

We tend to shorten these two realities into two camps: the “already” and the “not yet.” The upcoming season of Advent is a time when we celebrate the constant presence of Christ (that’s the “already”) while we also wait in hope for the second coming of Christ (that’s the “not yet”). And today, on this day we celebrate the Reign of Christ, we recognize God’s kingdom as the ever-present reality undergirding all of Creation (that’s the “already”) while we also recognize the continual need to partner with God to make that reality even more present across our broken world (that’s the “not yet”).

Today is also the day where the Greater New London Clergy Association, a group of several dozen pastors, priests, and rabbis from the region, (we all) decided to preach on the same topic – the housing crisis in Southeastern Connecticut. So I thought to myself: how am I going to talk about the housing crisis and about the Reign of Christ in the same sermon? And the answer hit me very quickly. The biggest obstacle to solving the housing crisis is also something that runs absolutely counter to the Reign of Christ.

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Pretenders

Sermon for Sunday, November 13, 2022 || Proper 28C || Luke 21:5-19

You all know that one of my favorite Bible study exercises is reconstructing the questions Jesus wishes he would have been asked. So often in the Gospel, Jesus does not answer questions directly. People ask him questions, and frequently, his answers don’t line up with what they ask. This pattern happens often enough in the Gospel that I’d bet it was a hallmark of Jesus’ conversational style. And let me be clear, Jesus doesn’t dodge questions or spin them towards talking points like a politician. Rather, Jesus answers the deeper questions he hopes people would ask.

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The Uncommon Lives of Saints

Sermon for Sunday, November 6, 2022 || All Saints C || Ephesians 1:11-23

The Rev. Adam Thomas

Today we celebrate the feast of All Saints. (The actual day was last Tuesday, November 1st, but we celebrate this holy day on the following Sunday.) I’d like to take this opportunity to talk with you about the saints, especially about how they can inspire us to follow Christ more closely.

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Intercession

Sermon for Sunday, October 30, 2022 || Proper 26C || 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

The last three Sundays, I stumbled my way into a sermon series on prayer. Three weeks ago, we talked about prayers of thanksgiving shaping our lives. Two weeks ago, we talked about prayer as a response to God’s constant invitations. And last week, we talked about making sure God is the subject of our prayers and not our own egos. Which brings me to today. Today we’re going to talk about a specific type of prayer – intercessory prayer. So, with four Sundays in a row all on one topic, I’ve decided to call this month my “Accidental Sermon Series About Prayer.”

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Intentions, Revisited

Sermon for Sunday, October 23, 2022 || Proper 25C || Luke 18:9-14

Today’s sermon is a natural follow-up to last week’s, so here’s a quick recap. When we pray, we never initiate a prayer; we only ever respond to God’s invitation to pray. Everything we do in response to God’s movement in our lives is a form of prayer. Everything – literally everything – begins with God. And in our lives of faith, we can inhabit right relationships with God and one another when we humbly recognize our true place in the great web of relationships. Here’s a hint: it’s not in the middle.

But our egos try to convince us otherwise. Or maybe I shouldn’t pluralize that. Let me try again. MY ego tries to convince me otherwise. My ego tells me that of course I’m in the middle, that of course my identity should be centered above all others, that of course any experience that didn’t happen to me is not valid. There are centuries of unjust social structures that buttress these things my ego tells me. And so I have to practice reminding myself that my ego is lying to me, that I am not, in fact, the center of the universe.

And still, that sneaky sneaky ego keeps tricking me. Here’s a recent example.

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Calling to You

Sermon for Sunday, October 16, 2022 || Proper 24C || Luke 18:1-8

“Jesus told his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” So Luke tells us before sharing the story of a woman whose primary attribute is her unflagging persistence. But I wonder how many of us might like to tiptoe past Jesus’ reason for telling the story in the first place – his desire for his followers (then and now) to pray with dogged persistence, to pray always.

We might like to tiptoe past this notion because it seems so unrealistic. How could we possibly pray all the time? Maybe Jesus is thinking that if he starts as high as “always,” then when we bargain him down, we’ll still be praying sometimes.

Or maybe not. Jesus doesn’t really seem to be one for haggling. Maybe he really does yearn for us to pray always, to pray with the same unflagging persistence as the widow demonstrates in her quest for justice. If that’s the case, then the popular understanding of prayer isn’t going to cut it; that is, an understanding of prayer as simple wish fulfillment. We need a bigger definition of prayer.

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See All the Gifts

Sermon for Sunday, October 9, 2022 || Proper 23C || Luke 17:11-19

I’d like to talk today about the action of giving thanks. In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus heals ten people of the skin conditions that have marginalized them from their society. One of them  returns and thanks Jesus for healing him. And Jesus commends him for his faith. If you remember from last week, faith sharpens our vision and motivates our actions. This person, who is healed of his leprosy, acts on his faith in Jesus by giving thanks to him. We can learn from his example and find God’s abundance in so many surprising places in our lives when we intentionally practice thanksgiving. At the end of this sermon, we’re going to sing a song about thanksgiving that I guarantee is going to get stuck in your heads, so…fair warning.

But for the bulk of my time with you this morning, I’d like to take you through a framework for intentionally giving thanks that you can use every day. Your program has a bookmark of this framework stapled to it, which I invite you to take home with you today. This framework splits our thanksgivings into five categories: the Now, the Always, the Never, the Past, and the Future. I know that sounds vague and strange, but stick with me. We’ll give each one about a minute, starting with the Now.

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Mustard Seed Faith

Sermon for Sunday, October 2, 2022 || Proper 22C || Luke 17:5-10

“Increase our faith!” That’s what the disciples say to Jesus at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading. They are worried that they won’t have enough faith to do what he has commanded in the bit right before our reading today, namely forgive someone seven times. The disciples don’t think they have enough faith to do something like that, so they say: “Increase our faith!”

But Jesus doesn’t seem to be concerned with how much faith they have. He reaches for the smallest item available, a tiny mustard seed, and says, If you had this tiny amount of faith you could do amazing things. By using such an exaggeratedly small thing, Jesus says that the amount of faith doesn’t matter. Thinking of faith as a unit of measure makes no sense. I wouldn’t say, “Last year I had 25 faith, but this year I have 27.” Faith isn’t a statistic.

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In Whom I Put My Trust

Sermon for Sunday, September 25, 2022 || Proper 21C || Psalm 91; Jeremiah 32

What does it mean to put our trust in God? I wrote this question to myself when I began writing this sermon on Tuesday after reading today’s psalm over and over again. As I began writing, I didn’t have an answer to this question, which seemed weird since I talk a lot about God and about faith. But when I put the question to myself – what does it mean to put our trust in God? – I had to stop and think really hard about what I mean when I say I trust God. Obviously, I finished writing the sermon, so I figured out something to say, but I wanted you to know that when I first typed that question on a blank document, I didn’t really know I was going to answer the question.

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Your Neighbor’s Cloak

Sermon for Sunday, September 18, 2022 || Proper 20C || Jeremiah 8:18–9:1; Luke 16:1-13

That was a weird story I just read, wasn’t it? A really weird story. I’m not going to pretend I really get it. Some of the stuff Jesus says, I’m like, “Yep. Right there with you Jesus. Love my neighbor as myself. Got it.” But not this story. The parable of the dishonest manager is just a really confusing parable. And it’s perfectly okay for us to be confused by a passage in the Bible. If we understood everything the Bible said on our first read through, it would not hold the depths of truth that it does hold. So, it’s okay if I finished reading that parable and you were sitting there scratching your heads. I don’t really get it either.

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