Calling to You

Sermon for Sunday, October 16, 2022 || Proper 24C || Luke 18:1-8

“Jesus told his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” So Luke tells us before sharing the story of a woman whose primary attribute is her unflagging persistence. But I wonder how many of us might like to tiptoe past Jesus’ reason for telling the story in the first place – his desire for his followers (then and now) to pray with dogged persistence, to pray always.

We might like to tiptoe past this notion because it seems so unrealistic. How could we possibly pray all the time? Maybe Jesus is thinking that if he starts as high as “always,” then when we bargain him down, we’ll still be praying sometimes.

Or maybe not. Jesus doesn’t really seem to be one for haggling. Maybe he really does yearn for us to pray always, to pray with the same unflagging persistence as the widow demonstrates in her quest for justice. If that’s the case, then the popular understanding of prayer isn’t going to cut it; that is, an understanding of prayer as simple wish fulfillment. We need a bigger definition of prayer.

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See All the Gifts

Sermon for Sunday, October 9, 2022 || Proper 23C || Luke 17:11-19

I’d like to talk today about the action of giving thanks. In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus heals ten people of the skin conditions that have marginalized them from their society. One of them  returns and thanks Jesus for healing him. And Jesus commends him for his faith. If you remember from last week, faith sharpens our vision and motivates our actions. This person, who is healed of his leprosy, acts on his faith in Jesus by giving thanks to him. We can learn from his example and find God’s abundance in so many surprising places in our lives when we intentionally practice thanksgiving. At the end of this sermon, we’re going to sing a song about thanksgiving that I guarantee is going to get stuck in your heads, so…fair warning.

But for the bulk of my time with you this morning, I’d like to take you through a framework for intentionally giving thanks that you can use every day. Your program has a bookmark of this framework stapled to it, which I invite you to take home with you today. This framework splits our thanksgivings into five categories: the Now, the Always, the Never, the Past, and the Future. I know that sounds vague and strange, but stick with me. We’ll give each one about a minute, starting with the Now.

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Mustard Seed Faith

Sermon for Sunday, October 2, 2022 || Proper 22C || Luke 17:5-10

“Increase our faith!” That’s what the disciples say to Jesus at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading. They are worried that they won’t have enough faith to do what he has commanded in the bit right before our reading today, namely forgive someone seven times. The disciples don’t think they have enough faith to do something like that, so they say: “Increase our faith!”

But Jesus doesn’t seem to be concerned with how much faith they have. He reaches for the smallest item available, a tiny mustard seed, and says, If you had this tiny amount of faith you could do amazing things. By using such an exaggeratedly small thing, Jesus says that the amount of faith doesn’t matter. Thinking of faith as a unit of measure makes no sense. I wouldn’t say, “Last year I had 25 faith, but this year I have 27.” Faith isn’t a statistic.

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In Whom I Put My Trust

Sermon for Sunday, September 25, 2022 || Proper 21C || Psalm 91; Jeremiah 32

What does it mean to put our trust in God? I wrote this question to myself when I began writing this sermon on Tuesday after reading today’s psalm over and over again. As I began writing, I didn’t have an answer to this question, which seemed weird since I talk a lot about God and about faith. But when I put the question to myself – what does it mean to put our trust in God? – I had to stop and think really hard about what I mean when I say I trust God. Obviously, I finished writing the sermon, so I figured out something to say, but I wanted you to know that when I first typed that question on a blank document, I didn’t really know I was going to answer the question.

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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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