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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God’s Divine Math

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.”

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The Cross of Compassion

Sermon for Sunday, February 28, 2021 || Lent 2B || Mark 8:31-38

In less than a year, COVID-19 has killed 500,000 Americans. We passed that grim and horrifying milestone last week. Half a million Americans are being grieved by millions more. Half a million. I can barely conceive of that many people. It’s as if you went to Atlanta, Georgia and the entire city was suddenly empty. I almost didn’t write this sermon because I could not imagine what I could say in the face of such a statistic – a statistic tied to the very real lives and deaths of friends, families, neighbors, and strangers across this country.

But then I read today’s Gospel lesson in light of this grim reality. And this commonly read passage hit me in a new way, a way I had never seen before, a way that sheds light on how we might hold the reality of devastating loss as we also push forward to a different future than any of us expected.

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