For the Common Good (with a lot of help from Dr. King)

Sermon for Sunday, January 16, 2022 || Epiphany 2C || 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

One of my favorite songs was released the year after I was born. The song comes from U2’s 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire and bears the title “Pride (In the Name of Love).” In one of the verses, Bono sings:

Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky.
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride.

U2 continues with the chorus: “In the name of love / What more in the name of love.” They repeat these words over and over again, astonished and overwhelmed by the lengths to which love calls us to go.

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You are Mine, My Love, My Joy

Sermon for Sunday, January 9, 2022 || Epiphany 1C || Isaiah 43:1-7; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Every year on the Sunday after the Epiphany, we hear the story of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan. The Gospel writer Luke skips the moment of the baptism, preferring instead to focus on what happens next. Jesus comes up out of the water, towels off his hair, and puts on his clothes. And then he starts praying. I’ve read this passage a hundred times and I’ve never noticed that Jesus is praying when we get to the part of the story Luke wants to tell. In my imagination, I see Jesus kneeling by himself on the riverbank, eyes closed, hands held palms up in his lap like a little bowl. His posture is that of someone who has just sat down in church and spends a quiet moment with God before the collective worship begins. 

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A Ten Year Sermon Clip Show

I didn’t preach yesterday, so in the time-honored tradition of TV shows trying to fill out their seasons in a low-budget way, here’s a clip show of the last ten years on WheretheWind.com. I chose one sermon from each year to highlight that was either extra meaningful to me, showed an evolution in my preaching, or was especially timely and important. May God bless you in this new year.

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The Stone Manger

Sermon for Friday, December 24, 2021 || Christmas Eve || Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20

Two and half years ago, I stood in a long line of pilgrims in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. As I inched forward I took in the beautiful mosaics being painstakingly recovered on the walls and floors. I tried to count the oil lamps and candles hanging above the altar. Ahead of me was a short set of stairs that bent away to the left under the sanctuary. This was my destination, along with the pilgrims from my group, not to mention the hundreds of others from other groups who had descended upon the Church of the Nativity that morning. Finally, I reached the top of the stairs. I had to duck to enter the low-ceilinged chamber. The pilgrims ahead of me shuffled along, each stopping for a brief moment to touch something on the floor. I, too, approached. There…there was the spot – marked by a gold many-pointed star. There was the spot (the Church remembers) where Jesus was born. I touched it like everyone else. And I felt…nothing.

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Magnify the Lord (updated)

Sermon for Sunday, December 19, 2021 || Advent 4C || Luke 1:39-55

Last week we talked about the beautiful promise that “The Lord is near.” This week, let’s take that a step further and talk about how God invites us to make God’s nearness known, keying in on a special word in Mary’s song, which I’ll get to in a moment. But first, when I was in college, I never had time to watch TV or play sports or go on wild spur-of-the-moment car trips. I was too busy singing. The University Choir rehearsed four times a week and sang every Sunday morning during the church service. When I joined freshman year, I could barely piece two correctly pitched notes together, but the choir director, God bless him, would take anyone who was willing, including me. Four years and hundreds upon hundreds of hours of singing later, my voice managed to match pitch most of the time, and hey, it didn’t sound too bad.

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The Lord is Near

Sermon for Sunday, December 13, 2021 || Advent 3C || Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18

Today’s lesson from Philippians begins with one of the most beloved verses of scripture: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” There’s a good chance your grandma had this embroidered on a throw pillow. Or, maybe you are a grandmother, and you do have this verse embroidered on a throw pillow. I am definitely going to mention this beloved verse during this sermon, but mostly we need to tackle a few words that come up a verse later. How we encounter these few words can completely change the way we read this passage and, indeed, our walks with God.

Those few words are these: “The Lord is near.” Now, I’m going to say them again in just a moment, but first I want you to settle yourself. Take a deep breath. Get ready to listen to your body. Here we go:

“The Lord is near.”

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Theological Geography

Sermon for Sunday, December 5, 2021 || Advent 2C || Luke 3:1-6

When I was in high school, I was a huge geography nerd. Geography was one of my specialties on my high school’s quiz bowl team. I knew every capital of every country in the world, all the major rivers and seas and mountains – you name it. One time in a competition, I had to fill out a map of the countries and capitals of Central and South America in less than two minutes. Let me stress…I cannot do that anymore. But I still find geography fascinating, and today’s Gospel lesson has a geographical bend to it. John the Baptist quotes the Prophet Isaiah, who proclaims that God will raise up valleys and lower mountains and make roads straight and even.

In today’s Gospel reading, and, indeed, in the whole season that spans Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, geography takes on a very theological dimension. That’s what we’re going to talk about this morning: theological geography. I hope you’re as excited as I am.

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A Most Ingenious Paradox (updated)

Sermon for Sunday, November 28, 2021 || Advent 1C || Jeremiah 33:14-16

Did anyone stay up late last night to watch the ball drop in Times Square? I didn’t. If memory serves I have stayed up until midnight on New Year’s Eve exactly once in my life. I think it was my senior year of high school, and I’m pretty sure my friends had to keep waking me up. So, I was definitely asleep for the ball drop last night. But did any of you stay up? Show of hands?

No one?

Did I open up the wrong sermon?

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A Particular Vision of Reality

Sermon for Sunday, November 21, 2021 || Reign of Christ B || John 18:33-37

Today is the last Sunday of the church year. Next week we begin again with the season of Advent. But first, we pause for a Sunday and celebrate the reign of Christ. This reign is the reality that God’s loving blueprint for all creation is sovereign, is the foundation and framework upon which everything is built. Comprehending such an expansive understanding of the reign of Christ is precisely why we celebrate it today. The trouble is, ever since this feast day was created in the early 20th century, we’ve celebrated a cramped, constricted vision of Christ’s reign. For most of the history of this holy day, people have called it “Christ the King” Sunday. I did too for the first several years of my priesthood. But at some point, I switched my language from Christ’s “kingship” to Christ’s “reign,” and that’s when the more expansive understanding of Christ’s role exploded in my heart and mind. I’d like to take you through that switch this morning.

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Necessary Gifts

Sermon for Sunday, November 7, 2021 || All Saints B || John 11:32-44

I’m going to start today’s sermon with the end of it. Here it is. Are you ready? Jesus’ commands include in them the gifts needed to carry them out. Got that? I’ll say it again: Jesus’ commands include in them the gifts needed to carry them out. This is a statement of faith that I think comes with quite a bit of evidence in the Gospel, especially in the passage I just read, the raising of Lazarus. I’m talking about commands and gifts this morning because in a few minutes, we are going to reaffirm our Baptismal promises. I’ll get back to Baptism in a bit, but first, here’s the evidence for that statement of faith: Jesus’ commands include in them the gifts needed to carry them out.

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