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.”

Continue reading “The Lord is Near”

Albums and Playlists

Sermon for Sunday, October 15, 2017 || Proper 23A || Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14

People don’t listen to albums anymore. In the age of digital music and playlists and Pandora and Spotify, you can tailor your listening experience exactly the way you want to. Don’t like a particular song? Don’t download it, or at least uncheck it from the list being exported to your device. Now the observation that people don’t listen to albums anymore is not new; the music industry has been in flux since I was a teenager when the invention of the mp3 changed all the rules.

But such an observation struck me recently when I went to YouTube and watched the new tour of one of my favorite bands. U2’s seminal album The Joshua Tree is thirty years old this year, and at their concert, they played the entire album straight through from “Where the Streets Have No Name” all the way to “Mothers of the Disappeared.” Because I had consumed many of the tracks via U2’s “Best Of” albums, I had never heard The Joshua Tree as a unit. And I was stunned. I had never noticed the intense longing the album as a whole conveys. Taken singly, the songs are fine – some are even extraordinary – but as a whole, The Joshua Tree is an astounding, beautiful, and heartbreaking work of art. Continue reading “Albums and Playlists”

Preparing to Serve (May 17, 2012)

…Opening To…

The liturgy of the Eucharist is best understood as a journey or procession. It is the journey of the church into the dimension of the Kingdom. (Alexander Schmemann)

…Listening In…

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you, and remain with you always. Amen. (The Blessings, adapted from Philippians 4:7)

…Filling Up…

Our twelfth and final moment in the worship service comes after the prayer that concludes the Communion. The priest (or bishop if present) blesses the people, usually making the sign of the cross in the air. Many people in the congregation will “cross” themselves in response, but this isn’t necessary. If it isn’t part of your devotion then don’t feel compelled to follow suit. Crossing oneself is a physical sign of spiritual alignment. By touching the four “cardinal directions” of your body (North at the forehead, South at the navel, East and West at the shoulders), you motion with your physical body in order to orient your spirit toward God.

But I’m getting off track. The Blessing is the final prayer of the service. The service began with the promise of transformation in the symbol of the cross and ends with the blessing of God, which shows that transformation has begun. God’s blessing always leads to change in our lives, wonderful growth that we couldn’t possibly imagine.

The service concludes with the dismissal. “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Thanks be to God.” With the dismissal, we orient our bodies away from the altar and toward the door at the back of the church. The world outside awaits. Everything we did during the service has made us ready to enter the world as the people of God. The church is like a gym. You go there for exercise, but you play football on the field, not in the weight room.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you strengthen me in body, mind, and spirit through my worship of you. Help me to take all that I have learned in the service about ordering my life and apply it to my life outside the four walls of the church. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, nourished by the bread of life that you sent to the world, Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.