Your Neighbor’s Cloak

Sermon for Sunday, September 18, 2022 || Proper 20C || Jeremiah 8:18–9:1; Luke 16:1-13

That was a weird story I just read, wasn’t it? A really weird story. I’m not going to pretend I really get it. Some of the stuff Jesus says, I’m like, “Yep. Right there with you Jesus. Love my neighbor as myself. Got it.” But not this story. The parable of the dishonest manager is just a really confusing parable. And it’s perfectly okay for us to be confused by a passage in the Bible. If we understood everything the Bible said on our first read through, it would not hold the depths of truth that it does hold. So, it’s okay if I finished reading that parable and you were sitting there scratching your heads. I don’t really get it either.

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Gone Astray

Sermon for Sunday, September 11, 2022 || Proper 19C || Luke 15:1-10

There’s a great moment in Handel’s Messiah where the composer musically paints a flock of sheep scattering. The text comes from Isaiah 53: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.” Handel begins with the whole flock together: 🎶 “And we like sheep.” 🎶 Then every voice runs off on its own line for the “going astray” part: 🎶 “Have gone astr-a-a-a-a-a-ay.” This musical painting of sheep dashing off and getting lost happens over and over again. It’s a brilliant musical illustration of the verse and a pretty apt description of what happens to us when we “turn to our own way” and lose ourselves.

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Thinning the Crowds

Sermon for Sunday, September 4, 2022 || Proper 18C || Luke 14:25-33

Being a follower of Jesus is many things: life-giving, love sharing, mission-oriented, peace and justice focused, God-centered. Being a follower of Jesus is many things, but one thing following Jesus is not is trendy. When I was a teenager growing up in Alabama, W.W.J.D. bracelets were all the rage. Do you remember W.W.J.D.? “What Would Jesus Do?”  Everyone seemed to be wearing one of those bracelets. They came in all sorts of colors. I think mine was red, but I can’t quite recall. Those bracelets were both a fashion statement and a signal that you were part of the club – the huge proportion of students at my high school who were part of a church, mainly southern baptist or pentecostal. This was Alabama, after all.

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The Fountain and the Cistern

Sermon for Sunday, August 28, 2022 || Proper 17C || Jeremiah 2:4-13

This is a sermon about idolatry. I want to plant that concept in your minds now because I’m going to talk about something else for a few minutes, and I don’t want you wondering where I’m going. Okay? This sermon is about idolatry.

When I was in Israel back in 2019 – it feels like a lifetime ago – I kept noticing something on the roofs of buildings that my American brain couldn’t quantify. They were these big black containers set up on metal stands and hooked up to pipes, cords, and a big solar panel. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what these containers were for. Then when someone told me, the answer was so obvious, I felt pretty silly that I hadn’t worked it out for myself. The containers were cisterns for water storage. In that arid part of the world, such a system was pretty important for maximizing what little rains came.

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I Choose You

Sermon for Sunday, August 21, 2022 || Proper 16C || Jeremiah 1:4-10

If you go back in my sermon archives on my website wherethewind.com, you will find several sermons like the one we are about to share. It’s a sermon about God using us, not in spite of our perceived shortcomings, but because of them. I find I need to preach this sermon to myself about once a year so that I can hear God’s promises anew. I need to preach this sermon because the marketing departments of the world are so good at targeting our perceived shortcomings and selling us things to make up for them. But that’s not how God works. So, to start off this version of the sermon, and inspired by Katy Roberts’s personal sharing a few weeks ago, I’d like to tell a little story about me and the Prophet Jeremiah.

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Comforting Words / Challenging Words

Sermon for Sunday, August 14, 2022 || Proper 15C || Luke 12:49-56

There’s an old saying in church that Jesus came to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” We see this throughout the gospel when Jesus cares for and lifts up those on the margins of his society while at the same time denouncing the excesses and abuses of those in power. Jesus comforts and challenges in equal measure, depending on the needs and station of his subject.

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In a World Where You Can Be Anything…

Sermon for Sunday, July 10, 2022 || Proper 10C || Luke 10:25-37

A few years ago, Leah bought a T-shirt for a school fundraiser, and every time she wears this T-shirt, it makes me smile. The T-shirt says, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

It’s an incredible statement…an incredible statement that sounds a little fluffy, a little too optimistic for our gritty, grimy world. A little too full of gumdrops and rainbows and unicorns. A little too trite. I read the words again – In a world where you can be anything, be kind – and I consciously resist the urge to think of them as trite. “Sure, sure…be kind,” this urge tells me, “everyone should always be kind.” 

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Epic Quest (updated)

Sermon for Sunday, July 3, 2022 || Proper 9C || 2 Kings 5:1-14

Today’s sermon is about our lives of faith, specifically about how we have a tendency to get overwhelmed when we look at the whole thing in one go and then fail to even begin. We have a test case for this tendency – the person of Naaman from our first reading today. A few years ago, I called this tendency “Naaman Syndrome” because I like making up biblical diseases.

Naaman, the central figure of today’s story from the Hebrew Scriptures, has superiority issues. And for good reason. He is, after all, the commander of the army of the King of Aram. He has the resources to travel with an entourage, not to mention bags and bags of precious gold and silver. He has the political clout to rate an audience with Israel’s king. And to top it off, Naaman has chariots! (No, seriously. The mention of chariots is a big deal. My Old Testament professor in seminary used to joke that Israel had “chariot-envy,” because it didn’t have any. So to mention this guy has chariots – watch out, he’s the real deal.)

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Called to Freedom

Sermon for Sunday, June 26, 2022 || Proper 8C || Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Back in college, I had a habit of writing verses of scripture in silver Sharpie on my guitar case. Every time a verse really grabbed me and burrowed itself into my heart, the verse wound up on the case until there were fourteen in all. The one at the very top of the case is from today’s lesson from Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants to one another.”

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The Harmonies of Liberty

Sermon for Sunday, June 19, 2022 || Proper 7C || Galatians 3:23-29

Lift every voice and sing   
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Great American poet James Weldon Johnson wrote these words in 1900 to celebrate the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Five hundred Black children sang it at a school in Jacksonville, Florida, with music written by Johnson’s brother. The brothers then moved to New York and forgot about the song. Lo and behold, within twenty years, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” had spread throughout the South and soon became known as the African-American national hymn.

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