Sermon for Wednesday, February 22, 2023 || Ash Wednesday
I’ve been preaching a lot lately about belovedness: the Beloved Community, God calling Jesus the “Beloved,” God calling us “Beloved” because we, too, are children of God. This idea of belovedness has stuck to my heart like glue, and so I can’t imagine it will leave my preaching any time soon. And that’s because belovedness is not just an idea, but a lens – a lens through which we see the world.
And as I turn this lens of love onto today’s service of Ash Wednesday, I realize just how tender this service is. I know that sounds strange. “Isn’t this service all about our sinfulness and our transience?” you might think. “Aren’t we preparing for a Lenten season of self-denial and repentance? How could this service possibly be tender?”
Continue reading “The Lens of Love” →
Sermon for Sunday, February 19, 2023 || Last Epiphany A || Matthew 17:1-9
Imagine with me the disciple Peter near the end of his life, reflecting back on that surprising journey up the mountain that we just heard in today’s Gospel reading. He’s speaking to a group of young followers of Jesus, who have just asked him to recall something about his days with Jesus and the other disciples.
Jesus knew I wasn’t a big fan of hiking. We walked everywhere, so why would I want to walk during my free time, too? I suppose that’s what growing up around boats does for you. Not a lot of places to walk around on a small fishing boat, and that’s just fine with me. But Jesus – Jesus loved to walk. He told me once he loved to walk because his mother walked all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem while he was still in her womb. And when he went hiking, he thought of her. But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. How you all let me wander.
Jesus convinced me to go on a hike once with him, James, and John. They were fishermen too, but they liked hiking more than I did. I agreed because I never wanted to be too far from Jesus, no matter what we did. Less than a week earlier, he had told us what was going to happen to him, and I was dead set against letting anyone hurt him. So I went along as more of a bodyguard than a willing participant. Well, Jesus had quite the hike in mind. This wasn’t just a stroll by the seashore. We went straight up a mountain. My knees were killing me by the time we reached the top. The view was nice, but not worth the effort. And my knees still had to make it down again.
Continue reading “The Vision” →
This weekend, I preached at the Celebration of New Ministry for a friend and colleague instead of preaching at St. Mark’s. Here is the sermon I offered at the service on Saturday.
I’m so glad to be back at St. Ann’s worshiping with you today. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Adam Thomas. I’m the pastor of St. Mark’s Church in Mystic, and I was the priest-in-charge consultant here at St. Ann’s while you all were discerning the evolving nature of the parish’s relationship with the Rev. Anita Schell. That process began way back in pre-pandemic days of 2019 and continued doggedly through the scary and interminable months of the worst of the pandemic. And now here we are – four years on from Anita’s arrival – celebrating a new ministry.
If that sounds strange to you – celebrating a new ministry after the priest has been here longer than many priest-parish relationships last in the first place – if that sounds strange to you, then believe me, I’m right there with you. I had to puzzle out what I thought about it in order to write this sermon. And what I realized is that today we have the opportunity to celebrate two seemingly opposite realities, that, in the end, are both ways that we encounter God’s movement in this world. Our God is a both/and kind of God, and today we celebrate a both/and reality here at St. Ann’s.
Continue reading “New Ministry” →
“You are the light of the world.” Jesus says these words to his disciples as a great crowd listens in to his teaching that we now commonly call “The Sermon on the Mount.” You are the light of the world. In John’s account of the Gospel, Jesus says, “I am the Light of the World”, but here in Matthew, he’s not talking about himself. He’s talking to his followers and to the readers of the Gospel and (a few thousand years later) to us.
You are the light of the world. And Jesus keeps going with two more images – the city on the hill and the lamp on the lampstand – as things that, like the light, should never be hidden. And then he says, to make sure everyone understands his meaning: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Continue reading “You are the Light” →
Sermon for Sunday, January 29, 2023 || Epiphany 4A
On this day of our Annual Meeting, I’d like to spend this sermon time fulfilling a request from a number of people over the last few months. Today, I am going to share with you some of the elements of the funeral homilies I have preached over the last year. Because funerals are mostly attended by family and close friends, very few of the members of our church have heard me preach at a funeral. And yet we are all grieving in one way or another the deaths of so many of our church family – 23 of whom we have buried in the last year. A funeral homily is my chance to set the life (and new life) of the person who died within the greater context of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So today, on this day of our annual gathering, we are going to remember those who have died, and I am going to share with you some thoughts on heaven and the eternal love of God.
Continue reading “The Funeral Homily” →
Sermon for Sunday, January 22, 2023 || Epiphany 3A || 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
This sermon is about the danger of fundamentalism, but it’s going to take me a few minutes to get there. I need to start like this: something’s going on in the Church in Corinth. We don’t know exactly what because we only have Paul’s side of the story. But we know that within a few years of its founding, fractures have appeared between the church’s members. Later in the letter, Paul references a few issues that divide the people: issues around what to eat, issues around who is most important in the church, and issues around which spiritual gifts are the best. Paul addresses all of these before culminating in his great poem about love – you know, “Love is patient, love is kind,” etc.
But here at the beginning of the letter, Paul talks about another type of division that goes beyond the ideological. Paul has heard that the members of the Church in Corinth are assigning themselves to camps based on certain individuals. There’s Paul. There’s Apollos, who was another church planter in Paul’s orbit. There’s Cephas – that’s Simon Peter. And there’s Christ.
Okay, I’m going to get in the weeds here for a minute. Fair warning. I promise it’s important.
Continue reading “I am of Paul” →
Sermon for Sunday, January 15, 2023 || Epiphany 2A || I Corinthians 1:1-9
The action of giving thanks is a profound spiritual discipline. It may not seem so at first because we often think of spiritual disciplines as arduous additions to our lives, while we already tend to do a lot of thanking. We thank the cashier at the grocery store. We thank the person holding the door open for us. We thank our kids when they do something especially considerate. We’d be hard pressed to find a day in which we didn’t say “thank you” to someone. But the idea that a spiritual discipline must be an arduous addition to our daily routine sort of misses the point. A spiritual discipline need only be intentional, not necessarily arduous. And it’s even better if we build that intentionality off of something we’re already doing – like giving thanks.
Continue reading “The Intention of Giving Thanks” →
Sermon for Sunday, January 8, 2023 || Epiphany 1A || Matthew 3:13-17
We have a pair of baptisms today, so I’d like to take the sermon time to do a quick session of Christianity 101: An Introduction to Baptism. It’s fitting to do this on a day when we will participate in these two baptisms and when we’ve just read about Jesus’ own baptism by John in the River Jordan.
So what’s really going on in baptism? The traditional understanding tells us that baptism serves as the initiatory rite of the church and marks the cleansing of our sins. Both of these definitions are accurate (let me be clear), but I think if we stop there we will be prone to misunderstanding. We need to dig a little deeper. Here’s one thing to remember about baptism: the sacrament of baptism affirms and celebrates a state of being that already exists. The action of baptizing doesn’t create anything new; rather, the sacrament marks our participation in something God is already doing.
Continue reading “Intro to Baptism” →
Sermon for Sunday, January 1, 2023 || Feast of the Holy Name || Philippians 2:5-11; Luke 2:15-21
This sermon is about emptying ourselves of all the junk inside us so there is more room for God to fill. And boy do I have a good example to start with. My family moved this week. We bought a house here in Mystic and moved out of the rectory. Our new house is quite a bit smaller than the rectory, so we needed to downsize in a hurry. Every Tuesday and Friday for the last few weeks, we have filled the garbage and recycling cans and watched the truck’s grabber arm scoop up all our accumulation. We’ve made several trips to Goodwill with books and toys and games and clothes. We’ve put pieces of furniture up on Facebook Marketplace. And still our new house is full.
How did we end up with so much stuff?! When I moved out of my dorm after grad school, I could fit everything I owned in my compact car. But I needed the 17-foot U-Haul for the move out of my townhouse in West Virginia, then the 20-foot U-Haul for the next move, then Leah and I needed the 26-foot U-Haul when we moved to Mystic. Then the kids were born, and our stuff, you know, **Explosion Noise**.
Continue reading “The 26-Foot U-Haul” →
Sermon for Saturday, December 24, 2022 || Christmas Eve || John 1:1-14
Tonight, I’d like to share with you a great mystery. It is the mystery of God’s movement in creation in the singular way that we call the Incarnation; that is, the presence of God coming among us in the flesh and blood person of Jesus of Nazareth. Notice, I said I’d like to share this mystery with you. I’m using the verb “share” on purpose, because it is way above my paygrade to try to “explain” this mystery.
This isn’t the type of mystery one can explain. This isn’t like the kinds of mysteries my mother loves to read – Whodunnits. In those books, a mystery is set forth: say, how does the killer manage to murder someone in a room locked from the inside? The plot revolves around the detective attempting to solve the puzzle. In the end, the detective figures out that the bell rope used to call for the maid is replaced with a poisonous snake, which somehow slithered unnoticed out of the room in the ensuing hubbub of discovering the body. Mystery solved. No more mystery.
The mystery of God’s presence in creation is not this kind of mystery. The mystery of God cannot be solved. It cannot be grasped. But the mystery of God can be embraced. My prayer for all of us this Christmas is that we embrace this mystery of God’s movement, even as God embraces us with God’s love.
Continue reading “O Magnum Mysterium” →