Sermon for Sunday, July 4, 2021 || Proper 9B || 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
There’s an old standby in American culture that when a job interviewer asks you about your biggest weaknesses, you end up turning the question around so that you actually talk about your strengths. What are your biggest weaknesses? “Oh, I suppose sometimes I work too hard. Sometimes I’m just too welcoming of others’ feedback. Sometimes I care a bit too much.” Now, it is true that someone’s weakness can be their strength taken to an extreme. But I wonder if we all know this particular interviewing convention because revealing our actual weaknesses is something that our culture trains us simply not to do.
And so when we read Paul’s words from this morning’s lesson, they probably sound wrong to our ears: “[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’”
Continue reading “Grace-Full”
Sermon for Sunday, June 27, 2021 || Proper 8B || Mark 5:21-43
I’d like to talk this morning about hands, specifically about why I think God gave us two hands. But before I let you in on why I think God gave us two hands, I invite you to think back to a time when you remember holding someone’s hand.
Perhaps, the hand you held was your child’s. When I was little, my parents would each hold one of my hands and do what we called, “1-2-3-whee!” (which is where you swing the kid by their arms as you’re walking). I absolutely love holding my children’s hands when we are walking, and they are finally tall enough where I don’t have to stoop to do it.
Perhaps, the hand you held was a parent’s hand as she lay dying. Your mother held your hand back…until she didn’t. You kept clinging even when the muscle tension left her fingers, and you can still feel her papery skin held in your hand all these years later.
Continue reading “Two Hands”
Sermon for Sunday, June 20, 2021 || Proper 7B || 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
They say that when a couple has a second baby, their hearts expand to love the second just as much as the first. The love is not divided in half, so that the older child now only gets 50% (although from that child’s perspective it might feel that way). Somehow, using the exponential property of divine mathematics, love always expands to include every beloved. Leah and I did not have the opportunity to experience this second child expansion because our second was born about 30 seconds after our first. We got the double whammy, and, in the moment the nurses placed both babies in my arms for the first time, I could feel in my heart my ability to love expand. All of a sudden, I had all this extra love inside me and it started leaking down my cheeks. For those first few sleep-deprived days, I spent hours just staring into the tiny faces of the babies. They were the physical embodiment of my heart opening wider than I thought possible.
This is the moment in my life that I think of when I read our lesson today from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. After speaking of all the hardships he has had to endure to remain in relationship with the churches he has founded, Paul says: “We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return…open wide your hearts also.”
Continue reading “God’s Divine Math”
In the two years since my sabbatical, I’ve thought a lot about the concept of perspective. Whose stories have I added to my own to widen my perspective of the world? What sources do I trust to provide me with information to deepen my awareness? How often do I encounter points of view that differ from mine and allow them to challenge and expand me?
In two of our readings today, we see that part of the life of faith is the capacity to change our points of few. About Jesse’s eldest son, God says to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” And Paul speaks about being caught up in the life of Christ: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.”
Continue reading “P.O.V.”
Sermon for Sunday, June 6, 2021 || Proper 5B || Mark 3:20-35
At the end of the Gospel story I just read, Jesus broadens his family to include everyone who does God’s will. His relatives either think he is in danger or think he has gone mad, so they come to collect him. But Jesus won’t go with them. Instead of hewing to his blood relatives, Jesus looks out at the crowd and says, “Who are my mother and my brothers? …Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Whoever does the will of God. Jesus expands his family to include everyone who does the will of God. When I read that this week, I found it extremely unhelpful. I found it unhelpful for two reasons that have nothing to do with the reality of God’s will, but with our all-too-fallible human use of God’s will as a concept. Let’s talk about God’s will this morning. We’ll start with the two reasons I find it unhelpful, and then we’ll take a stab at how we might conceive of God’s will as a way to enliven our walks with Jesus.
Continue reading “Word. Love. Dream.”
Sermon for Sunday, May 30, 2021 || Trinity Sunday B
I did not understand the concept of ambivalence until my kids were about three years old. (That would have put me at 34 years old if you’re counting.) Before then, I had a vaguely negative idea about ambivalence. If I had used the word in a sentence, I might have used “ambivalent” as a synonym for “uncomfortable” or “aggravated.”
But then, I watched an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with my kids, and I learned all about ambivalence. Daniel Tiger is the modern day equivalent of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood from when I was a child; many of the animated characters are drawn directly from the old show. And even though Mr Rogers himself is not in it, the new show has the same tone and the same dedication to learning about feelings that the original show had. Each episode of Daniel Tiger includes a short, snappy song – like a jingle – that sums up the theme of the episode. What I learned that day watching with my kids is that the concept of ambivalence is neither negative nor positive, and that’s sort of the point. Ambivalence is feeling multiple emotions at the same time.
As Daniel Tiger sings, “Sometimes you feel two feelings at the same time, and that’s okay.”
Continue reading “Ambivalence and the Holy Trinity”
Today is the day of Pentecost, the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit inspiring the first disciples of Jesus to spread his message of love and reconciliation to people of all nations. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit happened for the disciples in the wake of Jesus’ ascension. In the Gospel lesson today, Jesus tells his followers that when he is no longer physically present among them, he will send the Holy Spirit to lead them into all truth. Today, on the day of Pentecost, we celebrate this sending of the Spirit. And we believe that the Holy Spirit did not just descend on those first disciples, but fills each of us with the creative imagination of God.
I can think of no better feast day of the church to share Holy Communion for the first time since March 8, 2020. Every celebration of Holy Communion is a miniature Pentecost because we believe that the Holy Spirit descends upon the gifts of bread and wine, filling them with the presence of Christ and making them his Body and Blood. Later in this service, we will pray: “Gracious God…send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant.”
Continue reading “Staying in Touch”
Sermon for Sunday, May 16, 2021 || Easter 7B || Psalm 1
Human beings do not particularly like ambiguity. We want good data. We need to know where we stand. We crave certainty. The trouble is, there’s no such thing as certainty and the ground tends to shift beneath our feet and even data is often skewed by the biases of the collectors. And still, we have this elemental desire (unreasonable as it may be) for everything to fall into perfect categories so that we can understand our place in all of this.
Continue reading “Psalms of Uncertainty”
Sermon for Sunday, May 9, 2021 || Easter 6B || Acts 10:44-48
One of my favorite questions to ask people is this: “What is a food you used to not like but now you like very much?” Pretty much everyone can answer this question, even if they have to reach all the way back to childhood. For me, the answers are many. I was not an adventurous eater as a child, but ever since I got married, my tastes have broadened. I started eating avocados and beans and hummus and shellfish. Recently, Leah invited me to try muscles. And to my surprise, I found I liked them a lot.
The reason I like asking this question about food is that it gets people into a mindset that we don’t often put ourselves into willingly. The question forces us to think about a time when we changed our minds. You used to think asparagus was gross…and now it’s among your favorite vegetables. What changed?
Continue reading “Of Asparagus and Introspection”
Sermon for Sunday, April 25, 2021 || Easter 4B || John 10:11-18
On Monday morning last week, the buds on the maple tree in front of my house appeared. They weren’t there last Sunday, and then – BOOM – there they were in all their potential glory. I knew they were coming in the vague sense that it was spring and that’s what happens to trees. But I hadn’t spared much thought as to when. And then, suddenly, there they were: skeletal sticks one day, green buds the next, like a quick costume change between scenes of a play.
At least that’s what I saw from my perspective. What about the tree’s perspective? What would we see if we imagined our way into that majestic maple? We would feel the slow return of warmth and sunlight that would get the sap moving again after the near dormant days of winter. We would explore deeper with our roots, seeking nutrients and water. We would spend weeks gathering and converting energy to power all the tiny interactions within our complex body to send forth those little green buds. Over the course of one night, the buds would slowly unfurl from the ends of their little flagpoles.
What looks to me like a spontaneous greening, the maple spent all winter preparing for. What looks to me sudden and surprising was for the maple slow and deliberate. What a difference our perspective makes.
Continue reading “Other Sheep”