Great Chasms

Sermon for Sunday, September 25, 2016 || Proper 21C || Luke 16:19-31

This past summer marked the 10th anniversary of a fateful decision in my life. I had just started my hospital chaplaincy in Dallas and the two-year long relationship I expected to fill my free time had evaporated mere days before. So I picked up the game. Several of my friends played World of Warcraft, and they encouraged me to give this immersive online fantasy game a try. I did. And I got immersed. I got addicted. And I became detached. Continue reading “Great Chasms”

Can’t Buy Me Love

Sermon for Sunday, September 18, 2016 || Proper 20C || Luke 16:1-13

There was a group of fabulous philosophers active in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Born and raised in Liverpool, England, their names spread quickly throughout the world, and their words continue to influence people to this day. One of their early well-known treatises speaks the same message as Jesus’ words this morning. They write:

Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.

These lines of the Beatles #1 hit bring the song to a very different conclusion than you might expect from hearing the beginning. The first two verses say, in part: “I’ll buy you a diamond ring… I’ll get you anything… I’ll give you all I’ve got to give if you say you’ll love me too.” Continue reading “Can’t Buy Me Love”

Claiming our Mission

Sermon for Sunday, September 11, 2016 || Proper 19C || Luke 15:1-10

The unsavory elements of society come to listen to Jesus, and he does not send them away. The scribes and Pharisees watch from a distance so as not to rub shoulders with such disreputable people, and at every turn Jesus’ behavior confirms their opinion of him. Either he does not understand the basic tenets of society, which force the unsavory elements to the margins where upstanding folks can ignore them. Or he does not care that he risks his own reputation by welcoming them into his presence. Either way, his behavior allows the scribes and Pharisees to write him off.

But there’s a third option that I doubt ever enters their tightly closed minds. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus knows exactly what he’s doing. Maybe he does care; maybe he cares about the people and not about his reputation. Perhaps the reason he welcomes those on the margins is that he has accepted his life’s mission, and he is living that mission to the fullest. Continue reading “Claiming our Mission”

Jesus’ Sales Pitch

Sermon for Sunday, September 4, 2016 || Proper 18C || Luke 14:25-33

The date is March 29, 2010, just over one month since I moved to Massachusetts. The rain is so heavy that I feel like I’m driving through a carwash. I can barely see out the windshield, and I keep thinking that I’ve missed Furnace Brook Parkway. But just when I decide I need to turn around, I spot the sign, turn left, and five minutes later, I make a mad dash for the dryness and warmth of the Coffee Break Cafe.

The rain still manages to soak my jeans during the ten seconds I’m out in the elements, but the moment I step into the café, I forget the torrential downpour. I forget the dangerous drive. I forget the soaked jeans and the English language and my name and how to walk correctly. The woman I planned to meet stands before me wearing houndstooth rain boots, holding a steaming cup of tea, and smiling. And I forget everything about myself except for the fact that she is there to meet me – me of all people. Continue reading “Jesus’ Sales Pitch”

Spiritual Deadheading

Sermon for Sunday, August 28, 2016 || Proper 17C || Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

I hope it hasn’t escaped your notice that the gardens here at St. Mark’s look fantastic right now. Over the course of the summer, a group of dedicated parishioners came together to restore every one of the gardens here at the church — and there are about a dozen. Now that the weeds are plucked and the mulch is poured, the hard work of maintaining the gardens has begun. I don’t know much about gardening myself, but I watched the gardeners work and I listened to them strategize. And I learned a horticultural word unknown to me: deadheading; that is, the process of removing dead flower heads to encourage further growth and blossoming. Continue reading “Spiritual Deadheading”

The Freedom of Sabbath

Sermon for Sunday, August 21, 2016 || Proper 16C || Luke 13:10-17

A month ago, Leah and I loaded the twins into the minivan and began an 853-mile road trip to my favorite place on earth. Kanuga is nestled into 1,400 acres of western North Carolina’s beautiful mountains and is the site of my family’s annual vacation; though after more than twenty years of attendance, you might call it a pilgrimage. Every year during the final week of July, my family has trekked to this wonderful Episcopal conference center. We love going because it is so peaceful and because we’ve made lifelong friends there and because — until recently — there was no cell phone reception and no wireless internet. Continue reading “The Freedom of Sabbath”

Peace Beyond Propaganda

Sermon for Sunday, August 14, 2016 || Proper 15C || Luke 12:49-56

Whenever we have a baptism at St. Mark’s, we also have the opportunity to reaffirm our Baptismal Covenant. This covenant includes five promises that serve as a roadmap for a life as a follower of Jesus Christ.

The last of these promises asks: “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”

We answer each promise with the same refrain: “I will, with God’s help.” If you’re like me, however, you might be experiencing some cognitive dissonance trying to reconcile that last promise against Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel reading. Continue reading “Peace Beyond Propaganda”

Born Again, parts 3 & 4: Break Open and Pay Attention

Sermon for Sunday, July 17, 2016 || Proper 11C || Luke 10:38-42

bornagain34During the summer, I am preaching without a text, so what follows is an edited transcript of what I said Sunday morning at the 8 a.m. service at St. Mark’s.

A couple of weeks ago, I started a four part sermon series that was to culminate this morning. Last week, I paused during the series to talk about the events of the previous days, the violence in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas. I still want to say what I was going to say last week, but instead of preaching a double length sermon because it’s pretty hot in here I’m going to try to condense them and do a couple minutes on for last Sunday and today. Continue reading “Born Again, parts 3 & 4: Break Open and Pay Attention”

Dangerous Unselfishness

Sermon for Sunday, July 10, 2016 || Proper 10C || Luke 10:25-37

dangerousunselfishnessDuring the summer, I am preaching without a text, so what follows is an edited transcript of what I said Sunday morning at the 8 a.m. service at St. Mark’s.

This morning I’m supposed to do part three of our four part series about being born again as followers of Jesus Christ. But instead, I need to talk about what has happened this week in the United States. I’m not qualified to comment on the killing of black men by police officers; nor am I qualified to comment on the killing of police officers by snipers at peaceful demonstrations. What I am qualified to talk about is my own experience growing up in the Deep South as a white guy.

So I’m going to tell you about the four times I’ve been stopped by the police. Continue reading “Dangerous Unselfishness”

Born Again, part 2: New Hands, New Feet, New Eyes

Sermon for Sunday, July 3, 2016 || Proper 9C || Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

bornagainpart2During the summer, I am preaching without a text, so what follows is an edited transcript of what I said Sunday morning at the 8 a.m. service at St. Mark’s.

Last week, we started a sermon series on being “born again.” We talked about this new life of Jesus Christ, this unreasonable life of love and service. And today, we are going to move on to the next part of the series – and I’ve added a couple things by the way – new hands, new feet, and new eyes. We’ll get to those in just a few minutes.

But first, I want to talk to you about something that happened to my cell phone a couple of years ago. (This is going to tie in, it’s okay.) After one of those updates, the version of the operating system changed, and when the phone restarted, it restarted in Greek. Continue reading “Born Again, part 2: New Hands, New Feet, New Eyes”