The Uncommon Lives of Saints

Sermon for Sunday, November 6, 2022 || All Saints C || Ephesians 1:11-23

The Rev. Adam Thomas

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.

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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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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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Listen to My Voice

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?

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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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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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The Lord is Near

Sermon for Sunday, December 13, 2021 || Advent 3C || Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18

Today’s lesson from Philippians begins with one of the most beloved verses of scripture: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” There’s a good chance your grandma had this embroidered on a throw pillow. Or, maybe you are a grandmother, and you do have this verse embroidered on a throw pillow. I am definitely going to mention this beloved verse during this sermon, but mostly we need to tackle a few words that come up a verse later. How we encounter these few words can completely change the way we read this passage and, indeed, our walks with God.

Those few words are these: “The Lord is near.” Now, I’m going to say them again in just a moment, but first I want you to settle yourself. Take a deep breath. Get ready to listen to your body. Here we go:

“The Lord is near.”

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Necessary Gifts

Sermon for Sunday, November 7, 2021 || All Saints B || John 11:32-44

I’m going to start today’s sermon with the end of it. Here it is. Are you ready? Jesus’ commands include in them the gifts needed to carry them out. Got that? I’ll say it again: Jesus’ commands include in them the gifts needed to carry them out. This is a statement of faith that I think comes with quite a bit of evidence in the Gospel, especially in the passage I just read, the raising of Lazarus. I’m talking about commands and gifts this morning because in a few minutes, we are going to reaffirm our Baptismal promises. I’ll get back to Baptism in a bit, but first, here’s the evidence for that statement of faith: Jesus’ commands include in them the gifts needed to carry them out.

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