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, May 1, 2022 || Easter 3C || John 21:1-19
I can only imagine the maelstrom of thoughts roiling in Simon Peter’s head in the weeks following Jesus’ resurrection. At the last supper, he promised Jesus: “I will lay down my life for you.” He was willing to draw blood when they came to arrest Jesus in the garden. He followed Jesus all the way to the gate of the high priest’s house. And then everything fell apart. People began recognizing him and he felt afraid and in his fear he did something he never dreamed he would do, not even in his worst nightmare.
Continue reading “Peter and Jesus”
Sermon for Sunday, April 17, 2022 || Easter Sunday C || John 20:1-18
Good morning, and welcome to St. Mark’s on this glorious Easter Sunday. Today is our first Easter on-site here on Pearl Street since 2019, and I am overjoyed to see your faces. If there’s anyone here today who doesn’t know me, I’m Pastor Adam Thomas. Today is my ninth Easter as the rector of this wonderful church, and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be than celebrating with you on this special feast of the Resurrection.
Continue reading “Five Easter Encounters”
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.
Continue reading “The Com-passion Gospel”
Sermon for Sunday, April 3, 2022 || Lent 5C || Philippians 3:4b-14
Last week we talked about beginning again. I want to stay with that theme this week and talk about a fundamental piece of beginning again. This fundamental piece is the action of “unlearning.” Sometimes we learn something wrong (or at least incompletely), and we operate under that wrongness so long that it seems right due only to longevity. When we recognize this, the mature step is to unlearn what we have learned, and this means beginning again.
When I was writing this sermon, I accidentally quoted Yoda in what I just said, so I figure I might as well just present the whole scene from The Empire Strikes Back to set up this sermon. (I haven’t used any Star Wars references yet this year!) Luke Skywalker is deep in his training with Master Yoda on the planet of Dagobah. Luke is doing a handstand while levitating rocks, but then R2-D2 whistles a warning, and Luke loses his concentration. Artoo was warning him that his X-Wing starfighter is sinking completely into the swamp.
Continue reading “Unlearn What You Have Learned”
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.
Continue reading “Begin Again”
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.”
Continue reading “Bearing Walls“
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“
Sermon for Sunday, March 6, 2022 || Lent 1C || Luke 4:1-13
After a full two years of pandemic, I think we can all relate to Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. After his baptism, he heads from the Jordan River into the desert. He eats nothing, and for nearly six weeks endures the temptations of the devil. The only sustenance he has is the Holy Spirit. Luke tells us that Jesus is “full of the Holy Spirit.” I’m reminded of a funny scene in the movie The Fellowship of the Ring. Legolas the elf explains to the hobbits Merry and Pippin about Elvish lembas bread. “One small bite is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man,” Legolas says. “How many did you eat?” Merry asks Pippin after Legolas leaves. Pippin lets out a little burp and says, “Four.”
Continue reading “The Discipline of Gentleness”
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.
Continue reading “Seven Moments of Prayer”