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 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 Sunday, November 6, 2022 || All Saints C || Ephesians 1:11-23
Today we celebrate the feast of All Saints. (The actual day was last Tuesday, November 1st, but we celebrate this holy day on the following Sunday.) I’d like to take this opportunity to talk with you about the saints, especially about how they can inspire us to follow Christ more closely.
Continue reading “The Uncommon Lives of Saints” →
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.
Continue reading “Calling to You” →
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.
Continue reading “Thinning the Crowds” →
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.
Continue reading “The Fountain and the Cistern” →
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.
Continue reading “I Choose You“ →
Sermon for Sunday, May 8, 2022 || Easter 4C || John 12:22-30
Two weeks ago in our Gospel reading, we heard Jesus say, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Last week Jesus told Simon Peter (and by extension, us the readers) “Follow me.” And today, we hear him say something else from earlier in the Gospel. He has just talked all about being the Good Shepherd, who calls the sheep by name, who brings the sheep out of the sheepfold, who lays down his life for the sheep. And then he says this. He says, “My sheep listen to my voice.”
The trouble for people reading or hearing the Gospel way back then is the same trouble we have today. None of them and none of us have ever audibly heard Jesus say anything. And yet, we follow. We believe. We listen. The question we’re going to ponder together for the next few minutes is “How.” How do we listen to Jesus’ voice? How do we listen to someone who lived nineteen centuries ago and who inhabited the other side of the world and who spoke a language that no longer exists?
Continue reading “Listen to My Voice” →
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.
Continue reading “The Shadow of Your Wings“ →