Sermon for Sunday, January 17, 2021 || Epiphany 2B || John 1:43-51
Imagine with me the memories of the disciple Nathanael, thinking back to that fateful day when Philip invited him into Jesus’ circle.
This is a story about seeing. But first I need to tell you about my best friend Philip. Philip was always the one who was quick to believe. Every few months he would come to me way too excited about a new guru he had heard about or a get-rich-quick scheme or an investment opportunity. He always gave me the hard sell: You don’t know what you’re missing! How much money do you have! We can pool ours together and buy a full share! This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal! Well, Philip’s deals were more like once-in-a-fortnight deals, considering how often he fell for them.
I was in the middle of exercising late Wednesday afternoon when I received panicked texts from a friend and from my mother at the same time. Do you see what’s going on at the Capitol right now? We are very shaken.Are you all okay? I immediately switched over from YouTube to live coverage on CBS and left it on until well past sundown, unable to tear my eyes away from the ugly spectacle. In one way, the events of Wednesday were shocking: after all, a hostile force has not breached the Capitol since the War of 1812. But in all other ways, Wednesday was the natural outcome of years of lies, incitement, manipulation, demagoguery, and (most pertinent for this sermon) heresy. That’s not a word I use very often, but it is important, especially in tumultuous times like these, to use the right words for things. I’ve been thinking and praying for three days about how to address the events of Wednesday in this sermon, and the only way I can wrap my head around them after so little time is to begin with the heresy on display this week and then counter it with Gospel.
Sermon for Sunday, January 3, 2021 || Christmas 2 || Luke 2:41-52
They say that every therapist should be in therapy. Likewise, every priest should participate in spiritual direction. Without trained professionals helping us pastors notice God’s movement in our lives, one of two things happens. We either forget to rely on God, thus emptying ourselves of all nourishment even though a feast is perpetually spread before us. Or we decide we don’t need to rely on God, because we are doing just fine on our own (thank you very much!) and the same starvation results. We pastors are a rather thick bunch, usually quite stubborn when faced with the Almighty, because the Creator-of-All-That-Is rarely seems to fit the predictions of our seminary studies.
The people at the churches where I have served as a pastor know how much I love LEGO. New sets were always my favorite birthday and Christmas presents growing up (still are), and I still have about 99% of my childhood LEGO bricks from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Back then, LEGO minifigures all had yellow heads and hands. They all had the same two black dots for eyes and small smile. The first minifigures debuted in 1978, and variable facial expressions appeared first in 1989, and….
Yikes. I had to stop myself from going on a long ramble about the history of LEGO minifigures. Here’s a great infographic from LEGO which tells it way better than I can.
Sermon for Sunday, December 20, 2020 || Advent 4B || Luke 1:26-38
Last year, my children got really into singing Christmas carols. We had the Pentatonix Christmas albums on repeat pretty much all of Advent. The Pentatonix are a high energy a cappella group, and their version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” opens one of their albums. It’s a really catchy track and it gets stuck in your head. It got stuck in my then five-year-old son’s head a lot. And he would walk around the house singing it. But he didn’t have all the words just right. He sang the first few lines correctly; you know, “Hark! The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn king.’” But then he would sing, “Peace on earth and mercy wild.”
Did you know that you have been sent by God? It’s true. We don’t often think about this reality because our lives stumble down winding roads on their way to various intermediate destinations that we might not even be aware of when we arrive at them. That last sentence was itself a circuitous adventure. But I really mean this. Each one of us, God has sent. Here. Now. This is not an ego thing. This is not someone claiming to be “God’s Gift” because he thinks he is “all that and a bag of chips,” as we used to say. No. This is the Gospel truth. God has sent each of us for a purpose that is written on our hearts, just waiting for our passion to speak it to the world.
I hate running. I hate it. Unless running is happening in the context of a soccer game, then it is far down the list of things I want to do. Still, in the fall of 2019, Leah and I committed to going to the gym, and since I didn’t know anything about the machines or the free weights, I spent my gym time running on a treadmill. I didn’t exactly dread my workouts, but I sure didn’t look forward to them either. I spent all winter running three miles three times a week in order to be ready for the Mystic Irish 5K. Well, of course it was canceled at the beginning of the pandemic, and after that I lost what little motivation I had. Thankfully, Leah had just begun a new weight-lifting regimen using a book recommended by a friend. I watched her lifting some makeshift weights (the YMCA was closed by that point), and it actually looked fun. I decided to try it too, and so we purchased a really neat set of free weights that can size from five pounds all the way up to 50 pounds.
In August 2019, Carrie Combs and I launched the Podcast for Nerdy Christians, and we’ve had a blast ever since sharing discussions at the intersection of our faith and our nerdiness. Sometimes we joke that we created the podcast so we could talk about all the nerdy things that we can’t fit into our sermons. Then again, I recently talked about Stranger Things in a sermon, to go along with my copious Star Wars references.
When I first started writing novels, I did not plan for writing fiction to become one of my primary spiritual disciplines. I had no idea my novels would help me better envision God’s relationship to all of creation. And I definitely did not expect my hours and hours and hours of fantasy world-building would grant me a deeper understanding of what we celebrate today, the Reign of Christ.
Today, in lieu of a sermon, I’d like to offer an “instructed” service of Morning Prayer. We’ve done this in the past with services of Holy Eucharist, which was our principal act of communal worship before the pandemic moved us online. While we could continue to worship God following our normal Eucharistic service, our inability to share Holy Communion with one another at a distance led me to shift our weekly gathering to the other type of service found in the Book of Common Prayer. This is the service of Morning Prayer, one of two services of what is called the “Daily Office.” Today, we are going to walk through the elements of the service as we engage in them, and I will share a few historical, liturgical, and theological thoughts as we go.