Unlearn What You Have Learned

Sermon for Sunday, April 3, 2022 || Lent 5C || Philippians 3:4b-14

Last week we talked about beginning again. I want to stay with that theme this week and talk about a fundamental piece of beginning again. This fundamental piece is the action of “unlearning.” Sometimes we learn something wrong (or at least incompletely), and we operate under that wrongness so long that it seems right due only to longevity. When we recognize this, the mature step is to unlearn what we have learned, and this means beginning again.

When I was writing this sermon, I accidentally quoted Yoda in what I just said, so I figure I might as well just present the whole scene from The Empire Strikes Back to set up this sermon. (I haven’t used any Star Wars references yet this year!) Luke Skywalker is deep in his training with Master Yoda on the planet of Dagobah. Luke is doing a handstand while levitating rocks, but then R2-D2 whistles a warning, and Luke loses his concentration. Artoo was warning him that his X-Wing starfighter is sinking completely into the swamp.

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Begin Again

Sermon for Sunday, March 27, 2022 || Lent 4C || 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

This sermon is about the spiritual discipline of beginning again. In our lives of faith, God invites us to cultivate the posture of the beginner, no matter where we are on our spiritual journeys. The capacity to begin again is so important because it keeps us filled with curiosity and wonder as we approach each day of our lives. In today’s second lesson, Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” 

I’ve always loved this verse, and even more when you take out the few words the English translation added to conform it to our grammar. What it really says is, “If anyone is in Christ – New Creation!” It’s as if Paul is so excited to talk about newness that he can’t get the words out fast enough. This new creation is not a single instance of newness. That would be a replacement, like changing out the air filters in your car. No, this new creation is a continual refreshment, a constant renewal of our spirits as we walk with God throughout our lives.

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Bearing Walls

Sermon for Sunday, March 20, 2022 || Lent 3C || 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

There are many sayings that people think are in the Bible, but they are not actually there. “God helps those who help themselves” is a notable example. The crazy thing about that one is that it’s pretty much the opposite of what we find. Rather, Paul says, “Encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Then there’s the oft-quoted, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Nowhere to be found. How about “Money is the root of all evil?” This one’s closer. It’s “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). But none of these hold a candle to what has to be the most popular saying that people think is in the Bible but isn’t. Do you know what it is?

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

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The Shadow of Your Wings

Sermon for Sunday, March 13, 2022 || Lent 2C || Luke 13:31-35

It’s no wonder Jesus has chickens on the mind. After all, he just called Herod a “fox,” and it wasn’t a compliment. Where there are chickens, you can bet a fox is nearby. There are lots of foxes around the church, and I’m pretty sure they hang around because our next door neighbors have chickens in their backyard. The foxes have eaten well from the coop in the past – and not just chickens, but squirrels and rabbits and birds. We have found…evidence.

I’ve always loved that Jesus compares himself to one animal and one animal only in the Gospel. And that’s the chicken. Seems strange, right? Chickens are ungainly, nearly flightless birds – they can, sort of, jump and hover a bit. They’re not beautiful like hawks. They don’t sing like nightingales. They mostly squawk and peck and lay eggs. And to top it off, when we call someone a chicken, we’re calling that person a coward! Add up all of this, and Jesus seems to have chosen a pretty silly animal as a comparison.

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The Discipline of Gentleness

Sermon for Sunday, March 6, 2022 || Lent 1C || Luke 4:1-13

After a full two years of pandemic, I think we can all relate to Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. After his baptism, he heads from the Jordan River into the desert. He eats nothing, and for nearly six weeks endures the temptations of the devil. The only sustenance he has is the Holy Spirit. Luke tells us that Jesus is “full of the Holy Spirit.” I’m reminded of a funny scene in the movie The Fellowship of the Ring. Legolas the elf explains to the hobbits Merry and Pippin about Elvish lembas bread. “One small bite is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man,” Legolas says. “How many did you eat?” Merry asks Pippin after Legolas leaves. Pippin lets out a little burp and says, “Four.”

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As Far as the East is From the West

Sermon for Wednesday, March 2, 2022 || Ash Wednesday || Psalm 103

The Rev. Adam Thomas

The Book of Psalms includes some of the most wonderful poetry ever written. And today’s Psalm includes arguably the most beautifully poetic verse in all the psalms. The verse is this:

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has [God] removed our sins from us.

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Seven Moments of Prayer

Sermon for Sunday, February 27, 2022 || Last Epiphany C || Luke 9:28-36

I’ve spent the last 12 days recovering from jaw surgery. During that time, I have felt so enfolded in love and care by the prayers of this congregation. I can’t thank you enough. I’ve also done a lot of praying recently myself; mostly prayer as pain management. Also, a lot of prayer for the state of the world, prayers for peace, prayers for the people of Ukraine and the courageous protesters in Russia. So I want to talk about prayer this morning, specifically when we feel the need to pray and what that says about who we think God is.

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I Contain Multitudes

Sermon for Sunday, February 13, 2022 || Epiphany 6C || Luke 6:17-26

There is a very silly scene in the very silly movie Life of Brian by Monty Python. Actually, the movie is fairly deep, but you have to dig through the silliness to find its depth. The movie follows Brian, a person unfortunate enough to have been born in the stable next to Jesus. In the silly scene near the beginning of the film, the camera pans away from Jesus speaking his famous Beatitudes; you know, blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, blessed are the peacemakers, etc. The camera pans away from Jesus and settles on a group of people way at the back of the crowd, who are struggling to hear Jesus.

“What was that?” one man says.

“I think it was, ‘Blessed are the cheesemakers,’” another replies.

“What’s so special about the cheesemakers?” a third asks.

The first man responds, “Well, obviously, it’s not meant to be taken literally. It refers to any manufacturer of dairy products.”

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Catching People

Sermon for Sunday, February 6, 2022 || Epiphany 5C || Luke 5:1-11

Imagine with me the Apostle Peter, who is in Rome near the end of his life, thinking back on that day when he met Jesus by the lake of Gennesaret.

“He sounds like my kind of fellow,” I remember saying to a traveler at my stall, just days before I met Jesus in the flesh. The traveler was gossiping with the rest of my customers about the goings-on in his hometown of Nazareth. According to him, an angry mob nearly threw Jesus off a cliff for something he said in the synagogue. That was the first thing I heard about him. Like I said, my kind of fellow.

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Our Great “Why”

Sermon for Sunday, January 30, 2022 || Epiphany 4C || 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

I spend a good amount of time every January attending to the operational and organizational side of the church as we develop a budget, analyze various metrics, review staff roles, and seek out new vestry members. I wouldn’t consider any of these activities to be in wheelhouse, so I find I have to attend to them in a very focused way.

This can cause a particular problem. I call it the January Problem. The January Problem is this: I can focus so carefully on the “what” and “who” and “how much” that it’s easy to lose focus on the “why.” So today, I’d like to extricate myself from the January Problem and focus on the “why” by talking about two interrelated concepts: love and mission.

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