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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The Candle Flame of Hope

Sermon for Sunday, June 12, 2022 || Trinity Sunday C || Romans 5:1-5

This is another sermon about hope. I’ve been preaching about hope a lot lately because hope seems to be in short supply these days. I look inside myself and I see my hope candle guttering. It’s still lit – miraculously  – but the small flame is floating in a sea of wax. I want to believe that my hope candle will never actually extinguish, that no matter how much or how little wax is left, the wick will always hold a flame. I want to believe that, and I think I do…which is ironic because it seems like I need hope to believe I will always have hope. And maybe that’s how it works. Perhaps hope reignites itself like a mythical phoenix rising from the ashes.

I want to talk about hope on this Trinity Sunday because the Holy Trinity is both the source of our hope and the culmination of our hope. 

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Maranatha Meditation

Sermon for Sunday, May 29, 2022 || Easter 7C || Revelation 22:20

(If you usually read the sermon instead of watching the video, I’d encourage you to watch this one because I sing the response after each piece of the meditation.)

I’d like to do something a little different with today’s sermon. Today we’re going to have a meditation on the very last prayer in the Bible. This prayer is simple, only three words: “Come, Lord Jesus.” In the original Aramaic language of Jesus’ day, the prayer was even simpler, only one word: “Maranatha.” I love this prayer word because of how much air you can breathe when you say it. Ma-ra-na-tha. Certain practices of silent Christian meditation use this word, Maranatha, as their focal word, the word used to center the practice.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.

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With Open Hearts and Outstretched Arms

Sermon for Sunday, May 15, 2022 || Easter 5A || Acts 11:1-18

I need to warn you right off the bat that I’ve preached this sermon before. Not these exact words (I wrote these words earlier this week). But this sermon, and the ideas behind it, I have preached on multiple occasions over my fourteen years of priesthood. I’ve preached this sermon so many times because I think it is so easy to miss the second (maybe third) most important moment in the entire New Testament. Well, maybe fourth most important. Whatever, it’s in the Top 5.

You might be flipping through your program looking for what I’m talking about right now. After all, it’s just a random Sunday in the middle of the season of Easter. What could we have possibly read this morning that is important enough to make the Top 5 moments of the New Testament? Would you believe I’m talking about the end of the First Lesson from Acts Chapter 11? Now you’re looking at your program and trying to remember what ____ read. Wasn’t it about Peter eating things he didn’t think he was supposed to eat? And there was a sheet acting like a picnic blanket or something?

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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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For the Common Good (with a lot of help from Dr. King)

Sermon for Sunday, January 16, 2022 || Epiphany 2C || 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

One of my favorite songs was released the year after I was born. The song comes from U2’s 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire and bears the title “Pride (In the Name of Love).” In one of the verses, Bono sings:

Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky.
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride.

U2 continues with the chorus: “In the name of love / What more in the name of love.” They repeat these words over and over again, astonished and overwhelmed by the lengths to which love calls us to go.

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Astonishing Words About Wealth

Sermon for Sunday, October 10, 2021 || Proper 23B || Mark 10:17-31

Jesus tells his disciples a lot of astonishing things in the Gospel. He tells them to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. He tells them to pluck their own eye out if it causes them to sin. He tells them that he will be killed and then rise again on the third day. Pretty much every time Jesus opens his mouth, he says something astonishing.

But only one time in the entire Gospel does the narrator tell us the disciples are astonished after hearing Jesus say something.* One time across all four accounts of the Gospel – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Once! And that one time the disciples are astonished by Jesus’ words comes in today’s Gospel lesson. It’s easy to miss because, for some reason, our English translation renders the word as “perplexed,” but it’s better translated as “astonished,” or “amazed,” or even “startled.” What did Jesus say to so startle his disciples?

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Seeds of Peace

Sermon for Sunday, September 19, 2021 || Proper 20B || James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a

This is a sermon about peace. To start, I’d like us all to take as deep a breath through your nose as your mask will allow. Then, on your exhale, slowly and quietly speak the word “peace.” First, the opening consonant, a simple “puh” sound, what linguists call a ‘voiceless bilabial plosive’ – ‘puh.’ Next a long ‘E’ sound, which we can spend much of our breath on. Then finish off the breath with the sibilant ‘S’ sound, a chorus of sizzling. All together now. Deep breath in. Peace.

On that exhale, we breathed peace into the world, along with our carbon dioxide. Now the trees and grass outside will take that CO2 and transform it into energy and water, their own breaths of peace in a world torn by violence (see note below). The trees and grass send their roots deep, holding the soil to the ground and preventing erosion. And those plants outside all came – a month ago or a hundred years ago – from seeds. Seeds planted in the ground with the hope of sprouting. Our breaths of peace, our embrace of a life of peace, are also seeds. They are seeds planted in the soil of our souls and in the heart of our communities – local, national, and global.

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