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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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 Com-passion Gospel

Sermon for Sunday, April 10, 2022 || Palm/Passion Sunday C || Luke 22:39 – 23:49

Today we begin Holy Week, our first one on-site here at St. Mark’s since 2019. The last two years we’ve had video presentations of the Passion Gospel, but this year we will hear it read live at the end of the service. The Passion Gospel tells the harrowing tale of Jesus’ arrest in the garden, his sham trial before the council and the Roman authorities, his enduring of the whipping and mocking, his slow walk to the site of his own execution, and finally, his death upon the cross. We call this story the Passion because the ‘passion’ comes from the word ‘suffering.’ We could just as easily call it the Compassion Gospel because in it Jesus does not just suffer in a vacuum; he suffers with and for the people he came to serve. I have to be clear here, though. Jesus’ suffering did not happen in order to fulfill the whims of a bloodthirsty God. His suffering happened because he would not abandon his people when his mission of love and justice ran into the fist of an oppressive empire.

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Begin Again

Sermon for Sunday, March 27, 2022 || Lent 4C || 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

This sermon is about the spiritual discipline of beginning again. In our lives of faith, God invites us to cultivate the posture of the beginner, no matter where we are on our spiritual journeys. The capacity to begin again is so important because it keeps us filled with curiosity and wonder as we approach each day of our lives. In today’s second lesson, Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” 

I’ve always loved this verse, and even more when you take out the few words the English translation added to conform it to our grammar. What it really says is, “If anyone is in Christ – New Creation!” It’s as if Paul is so excited to talk about newness that he can’t get the words out fast enough. This new creation is not a single instance of newness. That would be a replacement, like changing out the air filters in your car. No, this new creation is a continual refreshment, a constant renewal of our spirits as we walk with God throughout our lives.

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Bearing Walls

Sermon for Sunday, March 20, 2022 || Lent 3C || 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

There are many sayings that people think are in the Bible, but they are not actually there. “God helps those who help themselves” is a notable example. The crazy thing about that one is that it’s pretty much the opposite of what we find. Rather, Paul says, “Encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Then there’s the oft-quoted, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Nowhere to be found. How about “Money is the root of all evil?” This one’s closer. It’s “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). But none of these hold a candle to what has to be the most popular saying that people think is in the Bible but isn’t. Do you know what it is?

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

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As Far as the East is From the West

Sermon for Wednesday, March 2, 2022 || Ash Wednesday || Psalm 103

The Rev. Adam Thomas

The Book of Psalms includes some of the most wonderful poetry ever written. And today’s Psalm includes arguably the most beautifully poetic verse in all the psalms. The verse is this:

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has [God] removed our sins from us.

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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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Our Great “Why”

Sermon for Sunday, January 30, 2022 || Epiphany 4C || 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

I spend a good amount of time every January attending to the operational and organizational side of the church as we develop a budget, analyze various metrics, review staff roles, and seek out new vestry members. I wouldn’t consider any of these activities to be in wheelhouse, so I find I have to attend to them in a very focused way.

This can cause a particular problem. I call it the January Problem. The January Problem is this: I can focus so carefully on the “what” and “who” and “how much” that it’s easy to lose focus on the “why.” So today, I’d like to extricate myself from the January Problem and focus on the “why” by talking about two interrelated concepts: love and mission.

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The Meditation of My Heart

Sermon for Sunday, January 23, 2022 || Epiphany 3C || Psalm 19

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Many preachers begin each of their sermons with this verse from today’s psalm. I can hear my father’s voice in my head praying these words time and again as I grew up. He always pluralized the second half, saying, “The meditation of all our hearts.”

I’d like to talk about meditation today and invite you all into the practice that I began when I was on my sabbatical in 2019. I honestly cannot say where I’d be in the midst of all the anxieties and pressures and hardships and sorrows of the last two years without this practice of meditation.

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