Sermon for Sunday, March 19, 2023 || Lent 4A || John 9:1-41
(Part Three of Sermon Series on John 3:16 – Part One – Part Two)
Today we are going to continue our four-week sermon series on John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Two weeks ago, we talked about God loving every nook and cranny of the universe. Last week, we talked about what God did because God loved the universe; namely, God gave God’s only son to show us how to enter into the story God is telling. We’ll finish up the series next week, but first we’ll tackle the next phrase: “so that everyone who believes in him.”
The thrust of this sermon is very simple: Jesus will always be present. That’s the simple idea at the heart of this sermon. But I’ve got to warn you. I’m going to over-complicate things for a few minutes before returning to this simple and beautiful idea: “Jesus will always be present.”
Continue reading “So that Everyone Who Believes in Him…” →
Sermon for Sunday, March 12, 2023 || Lent 3A || John 4:5-42
(Part Two of Sermon Series on John 3:16 – Part One)
Last week we talked about God loving the kosmos – every nook and cranny of creation – into being. We focused on the first six words of John 3:16. “For God so loved the world.” The next few words tell us what God does because God loves the world. And that’s what we’re going to focus on today.
For God so loved the world that God gave…
Let’s just pause there for a minute. Let’s pause on that verb “gave” and appreciate the truth that Jesus shares about God. God loved creation so much that God gave. God’s love propels God’s gift-giving. This giving expects nothing in return. This giving is free, not earned or purchased. This giving is an outpouring of God’s love, which is the only thing God’s love ever does. God’s love pours out; it spills from a wellspring that never runs dry; it gushes up like living water, bringing new life to creation.
Continue reading “That God Gave God’s Only Son…” →
Sermon for Sunday, March 5, 2023 || Lent 2A || John 3:1-17
Today we’re going to talk about the most famous verse in the Bible. I read it a minute ago. Did you hear it? How does it start? For God so loved the world…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
This verse, this famous verse, is tricky for three reasons. First, people tend to isolate it by itself, far from the context of the verses around it. This happens even in the way English translations of the Bible lay out the text; they make John 3:16 its own paragraph for absolutely no discernible reason. Second, people tend to focus on the second half of the verse and decide (because they haven’t read it in context) that John 3:16 is a verse of exclusion. You have to “believe” to have eternal life, and that usually means in practice that you have to assent to a certain set of doctrines that a denomination or a charismatic pastor lists out for you. And third, people tend to make God smaller than God is, in order to fit God inside our limited human understanding. Rather than expand ourselves through prayer and spiritual practice, we instead shrink God to conform to our meager expectations.
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Sermon for Wednesday, February 22, 2023 || Ash Wednesday
I’ve been preaching a lot lately about belovedness: the Beloved Community, God calling Jesus the “Beloved,” God calling us “Beloved” because we, too, are children of God. This idea of belovedness has stuck to my heart like glue, and so I can’t imagine it will leave my preaching any time soon. And that’s because belovedness is not just an idea, but a lens – a lens through which we see the world.
And as I turn this lens of love onto today’s service of Ash Wednesday, I realize just how tender this service is. I know that sounds strange. “Isn’t this service all about our sinfulness and our transience?” you might think. “Aren’t we preparing for a Lenten season of self-denial and repentance? How could this service possibly be tender?”
Continue reading “The Lens of Love” →
Sermon for Sunday, February 19, 2023 || Last Epiphany A || Matthew 17:1-9
Imagine with me the disciple Peter near the end of his life, reflecting back on that surprising journey up the mountain that we just heard in today’s Gospel reading. He’s speaking to a group of young followers of Jesus, who have just asked him to recall something about his days with Jesus and the other disciples.
Jesus knew I wasn’t a big fan of hiking. We walked everywhere, so why would I want to walk during my free time, too? I suppose that’s what growing up around boats does for you. Not a lot of places to walk around on a small fishing boat, and that’s just fine with me. But Jesus – Jesus loved to walk. He told me once he loved to walk because his mother walked all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem while he was still in her womb. And when he went hiking, he thought of her. But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. How you all let me wander.
Jesus convinced me to go on a hike once with him, James, and John. They were fishermen too, but they liked hiking more than I did. I agreed because I never wanted to be too far from Jesus, no matter what we did. Less than a week earlier, he had told us what was going to happen to him, and I was dead set against letting anyone hurt him. So I went along as more of a bodyguard than a willing participant. Well, Jesus had quite the hike in mind. This wasn’t just a stroll by the seashore. We went straight up a mountain. My knees were killing me by the time we reached the top. The view was nice, but not worth the effort. And my knees still had to make it down again.
Continue reading “The Vision” →
This weekend, I preached at the Celebration of New Ministry for a friend and colleague instead of preaching at St. Mark’s. Here is the sermon I offered at the service on Saturday.
I’m so glad to be back at St. Ann’s worshiping with you today. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Adam Thomas. I’m the pastor of St. Mark’s Church in Mystic, and I was the priest-in-charge consultant here at St. Ann’s while you all were discerning the evolving nature of the parish’s relationship with the Rev. Anita Schell. That process began way back in pre-pandemic days of 2019 and continued doggedly through the scary and interminable months of the worst of the pandemic. And now here we are – four years on from Anita’s arrival – celebrating a new ministry.
If that sounds strange to you – celebrating a new ministry after the priest has been here longer than many priest-parish relationships last in the first place – if that sounds strange to you, then believe me, I’m right there with you. I had to puzzle out what I thought about it in order to write this sermon. And what I realized is that today we have the opportunity to celebrate two seemingly opposite realities, that, in the end, are both ways that we encounter God’s movement in this world. Our God is a both/and kind of God, and today we celebrate a both/and reality here at St. Ann’s.
Continue reading “New Ministry” →
“You are the light of the world.” Jesus says these words to his disciples as a great crowd listens in to his teaching that we now commonly call “The Sermon on the Mount.” You are the light of the world. In John’s account of the Gospel, Jesus says, “I am the Light of the World”, but here in Matthew, he’s not talking about himself. He’s talking to his followers and to the readers of the Gospel and (a few thousand years later) to us.
You are the light of the world. And Jesus keeps going with two more images – the city on the hill and the lamp on the lampstand – as things that, like the light, should never be hidden. And then he says, to make sure everyone understands his meaning: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Continue reading “You are the Light” →
Sermon for Sunday, January 29, 2023 || Epiphany 4A
On this day of our Annual Meeting, I’d like to spend this sermon time fulfilling a request from a number of people over the last few months. Today, I am going to share with you some of the elements of the funeral homilies I have preached over the last year. Because funerals are mostly attended by family and close friends, very few of the members of our church have heard me preach at a funeral. And yet we are all grieving in one way or another the deaths of so many of our church family – 23 of whom we have buried in the last year. A funeral homily is my chance to set the life (and new life) of the person who died within the greater context of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So today, on this day of our annual gathering, we are going to remember those who have died, and I am going to share with you some thoughts on heaven and the eternal love of God.
Continue reading “The Funeral Homily” →
Sermon for Sunday, January 22, 2023 || Epiphany 3A || 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
This sermon is about the danger of fundamentalism, but it’s going to take me a few minutes to get there. I need to start like this: something’s going on in the Church in Corinth. We don’t know exactly what because we only have Paul’s side of the story. But we know that within a few years of its founding, fractures have appeared between the church’s members. Later in the letter, Paul references a few issues that divide the people: issues around what to eat, issues around who is most important in the church, and issues around which spiritual gifts are the best. Paul addresses all of these before culminating in his great poem about love – you know, “Love is patient, love is kind,” etc.
But here at the beginning of the letter, Paul talks about another type of division that goes beyond the ideological. Paul has heard that the members of the Church in Corinth are assigning themselves to camps based on certain individuals. There’s Paul. There’s Apollos, who was another church planter in Paul’s orbit. There’s Cephas – that’s Simon Peter. And there’s Christ.
Okay, I’m going to get in the weeds here for a minute. Fair warning. I promise it’s important.
Continue reading “I am of Paul” →
Sermon for Sunday, January 15, 2023 || Epiphany 2A || I Corinthians 1:1-9
The action of giving thanks is a profound spiritual discipline. It may not seem so at first because we often think of spiritual disciplines as arduous additions to our lives, while we already tend to do a lot of thanking. We thank the cashier at the grocery store. We thank the person holding the door open for us. We thank our kids when they do something especially considerate. We’d be hard pressed to find a day in which we didn’t say “thank you” to someone. But the idea that a spiritual discipline must be an arduous addition to our daily routine sort of misses the point. A spiritual discipline need only be intentional, not necessarily arduous. And it’s even better if we build that intentionality off of something we’re already doing – like giving thanks.
Continue reading “The Intention of Giving Thanks” →