The Discipline of Gentleness

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.”

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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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Catching People

Sermon for Sunday, February 6, 2022 || Epiphany 5C || Luke 5:1-11

Imagine with me the Apostle Peter, who is in Rome near the end of his life, thinking back on that day when he met Jesus by the lake of Gennesaret.

“He sounds like my kind of fellow,” I remember saying to a traveler at my stall, just days before I met Jesus in the flesh. The traveler was gossiping with the rest of my customers about the goings-on in his hometown of Nazareth. According to him, an angry mob nearly threw Jesus off a cliff for something he said in the synagogue. That was the first thing I heard about him. Like I said, my kind of fellow.

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For the Common Good (with a lot of help from Dr. King)

Sermon for Sunday, January 16, 2022 || Epiphany 2C || 1 Corinthians 12:1-11

One of my favorite songs was released the year after I was born. The song comes from U2’s 1984 album The Unforgettable Fire and bears the title “Pride (In the Name of Love).” In one of the verses, Bono sings:

Early morning, April four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky.
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride.

U2 continues with the chorus: “In the name of love / What more in the name of love.” They repeat these words over and over again, astonished and overwhelmed by the lengths to which love calls us to go.

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You are Mine, My Love, My Joy

Sermon for Sunday, January 9, 2022 || Epiphany 1C || Isaiah 43:1-7; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Every year on the Sunday after the Epiphany, we hear the story of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan. The Gospel writer Luke skips the moment of the baptism, preferring instead to focus on what happens next. Jesus comes up out of the water, towels off his hair, and puts on his clothes. And then he starts praying. I’ve read this passage a hundred times and I’ve never noticed that Jesus is praying when we get to the part of the story Luke wants to tell. In my imagination, I see Jesus kneeling by himself on the riverbank, eyes closed, hands held palms up in his lap like a little bowl. His posture is that of someone who has just sat down in church and spends a quiet moment with God before the collective worship begins. 

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Magnify the Lord (updated)

Sermon for Sunday, December 19, 2021 || Advent 4C || Luke 1:39-55

Last week we talked about the beautiful promise that “The Lord is near.” This week, let’s take that a step further and talk about how God invites us to make God’s nearness known, keying in on a special word in Mary’s song, which I’ll get to in a moment. But first, when I was in college, I never had time to watch TV or play sports or go on wild spur-of-the-moment car trips. I was too busy singing. The University Choir rehearsed four times a week and sang every Sunday morning during the church service. When I joined freshman year, I could barely piece two correctly pitched notes together, but the choir director, God bless him, would take anyone who was willing, including me. Four years and hundreds upon hundreds of hours of singing later, my voice managed to match pitch most of the time, and hey, it didn’t sound too bad.

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A Particular Vision of Reality

Sermon for Sunday, November 21, 2021 || Reign of Christ B || John 18:33-37

Today is the last Sunday of the church year. Next week we begin again with the season of Advent. But first, we pause for a Sunday and celebrate the reign of Christ. This reign is the reality that God’s loving blueprint for all creation is sovereign, is the foundation and framework upon which everything is built. Comprehending such an expansive understanding of the reign of Christ is precisely why we celebrate it today. The trouble is, ever since this feast day was created in the early 20th century, we’ve celebrated a cramped, constricted vision of Christ’s reign. For most of the history of this holy day, people have called it “Christ the King” Sunday. I did too for the first several years of my priesthood. But at some point, I switched my language from Christ’s “kingship” to Christ’s “reign,” and that’s when the more expansive understanding of Christ’s role exploded in my heart and mind. I’d like to take you through that switch this morning.

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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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First of All

Sermon for Sunday, October 31, 2021 || Proper 26B || Mark 12:28-34

You all know that one of my favorite things to do in sermons is to look at the way Jesus responds to questions people ask him. More often than not, Jesus ignores the question and answers the one he wished were asked, usually a much deeper question than was originally posed. But not today. In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus directly answers the question the scribe asks him: “Which commandment is first of all?”

Jesus responds by paraphrasing the book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 6: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

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