Sermon for Sunday, March 5, 2023 || Lent 2A || John 3:1-17
Today we’re going to talk about the most famous verse in the Bible. I read it a minute ago. Did you hear it? How does it start? For God so loved the world…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
This verse, this famous verse, is tricky for three reasons. First, people tend to isolate it by itself, far from the context of the verses around it. This happens even in the way English translations of the Bible lay out the text; they make John 3:16 its own paragraph for absolutely no discernible reason. Second, people tend to focus on the second half of the verse and decide (because they haven’t read it in context) that John 3:16 is a verse of exclusion. You have to “believe” to have eternal life, and that usually means in practice that you have to assent to a certain set of doctrines that a denomination or a charismatic pastor lists out for you. And third, people tend to make God smaller than God is, in order to fit God inside our limited human understanding. Rather than expand ourselves through prayer and spiritual practice, we instead shrink God to conform to our meager expectations.
Continue reading “For God so Loved the World…” →
Sermon for Sunday, January 29, 2023 || Epiphany 4A
On this day of our Annual Meeting, I’d like to spend this sermon time fulfilling a request from a number of people over the last few months. Today, I am going to share with you some of the elements of the funeral homilies I have preached over the last year. Because funerals are mostly attended by family and close friends, very few of the members of our church have heard me preach at a funeral. And yet we are all grieving in one way or another the deaths of so many of our church family – 23 of whom we have buried in the last year. A funeral homily is my chance to set the life (and new life) of the person who died within the greater context of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So today, on this day of our annual gathering, we are going to remember those who have died, and I am going to share with you some thoughts on heaven and the eternal love of God.
Continue reading “The Funeral Homily” →
Sermon for Sunday, October 30, 2022 || Proper 26C || 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
The last three Sundays, I stumbled my way into a sermon series on prayer. Three weeks ago, we talked about prayers of thanksgiving shaping our lives. Two weeks ago, we talked about prayer as a response to God’s constant invitations. And last week, we talked about making sure God is the subject of our prayers and not our own egos. Which brings me to today. Today we’re going to talk about a specific type of prayer – intercessory prayer. So, with four Sundays in a row all on one topic, I’ve decided to call this month my “Accidental Sermon Series About Prayer.”
Continue reading “Intercession” →
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, 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.
Continue reading “Our Great “Why”” →
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.
Continue reading “For the Common Good (with a lot of help from Dr. King)” →
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.
Continue reading “Necessary Gifts” →
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.”
Continue reading “First of All” →
Sermon for Sunday, August 8 2021 || Proper 14B || John 6:35, 41-51
God created us to be beings of love and trust. We all start out that way, at least, but pretty soon the world teaches us a lesson I wish we all had the opportunity to unlearn. The world teaches us to fear, to be afraid of so many parts of life. This makes sense, because the world contains a lot of frightening things. When I was a kid we did not have active shooter drills in school like my children do now. Then the massacre at Columbine happened my sophomore year of high school, and school shootings have been a terrifying element of American society ever since. This fear is ever-present in my mind when I drop my kids off at school, hovering right below the resurgent pandemic.
Fear has a way of debilitating us, of shrinking us down and holding us hostage. Thinking about fear this week, I also had in my mind Jesus’ words from the Gospel lesson I just read. Those words started seeping into my consciousness. And I noticed that Jesus had sidled up right next to my fears and made them seem very small in comparison.
Continue reading “Fear and Trust” →
Sermon for Sunday, June 20, 2021 || Proper 7B || 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
They say that when a couple has a second baby, their hearts expand to love the second just as much as the first. The love is not divided in half, so that the older child now only gets 50% (although from that child’s perspective it might feel that way). Somehow, using the exponential property of divine mathematics, love always expands to include every beloved. Leah and I did not have the opportunity to experience this second child expansion because our second was born about 30 seconds after our first. We got the double whammy, and, in the moment the nurses placed both babies in my arms for the first time, I could feel in my heart my ability to love expand. All of a sudden, I had all this extra love inside me and it started leaking down my cheeks. For those first few sleep-deprived days, I spent hours just staring into the tiny faces of the babies. They were the physical embodiment of my heart opening wider than I thought possible.
This is the moment in my life that I think of when I read our lesson today from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. After speaking of all the hardships he has had to endure to remain in relationship with the churches he has founded, Paul says: “We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return…open wide your hearts also.”
Continue reading “God’s Divine Math” →