Second Chances

Sermon for Sunday, October 24, 2021 || Proper 25B || Mark 10:46-52

The Gospel passage I just read is one of my favorites. I know I say that a lot, but it’s always true. I guess I have a lot of favorite passages. I have a special connection to the story of Bartimaeus, as this passage was the subject of my first big paper in my New Testament class in seminary, circa December 2005. I wrote all about the actions that Bartimaeus does, and the paper became the basis for the first sermon I preached on this story back in 2012. Then in 2015, I took the ideas in that sermon and preached from Bartimaeus’s perspective. Then in 2018, I took the conclusion of my thoughts as Bartimaeus a step further and preached about his request to Jesus: “Let me see again” (with “again” being the operative word).

So it seems that every three years, I have added something new to my sermon about Bartimaeus. It’s like when the original Star Wars trilogy came out in 1977, 1980, and 1983. Every three years, we encounter Bartimaeus again; each time, he says to Jesus, “My teacher, let me see again.” And again, we get the opportunity to talk about mercy. Mercy is all about second chances. Mercy is all about “again.”

Continue reading “Second Chances”

The Way of the Cross

On the Wednesday of Holy Week, for the seventh year in a row, I have had the pleasure of presenting the Way of the Cross along with several teens from my churches. The teens present each station as a stationary tableau, each full of potential energy, but each remaining still. It’s quite a moving service, and the teens always do an amazing job. To accompany their presentation, I wrote a series of musical stations, which I present below in a slightly compact form.

I hope they bless your Holy Week observation as much as singing them blesses mine. Continue reading “The Way of the Cross”

Don’t Wait for Death

Sunday, May 28, 2017 || Easter 7A || John 17:1-11

One Sunday last October, I made a strategic error in my preaching. I held my guitar the whole time, but never played more than the opening riff of “Blackbird” at the beginning. For the rest of the sermon, many of you expected me to, you know, actually play a song. But I didn’t. I just held the instrument. I’d like to correct that today, so I’m telling you right now: I plan to end this homily with a song.

The song I’m going to offer you is one I wrote many years ago during my last semester of seminary. I wrote it in response to the Gospel lesson I just read, a passage which takes places right before Jesus is arrested and brought to trial. The passage is the beginning of a long and complicated prayer, which Jesus offers on behalf of his friends, most of whom are about to deny and abandon him. The prayer is long because the Jesus of John’s Gospel is always verbose. And the prayer is complicated because Jesus seems to be praying it from the future. Continue reading “Don’t Wait for Death”

You are my Child

I wrote this song for part of the sermon last Sunday, January 13, 2013. I based it on the line in the Gospel: “You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.” I believe that because we are God’s children by adoption through the Spirit, God says this to us as much as to Jesus. This song is written from God’s perspective, speaking the truth to us that God delights in us always. (See below for the lyrics.)

“You are my Child” Lyrics

You turned away so they could not see you cry;
Maybe tomorrow you’ll stand up to those guys
`Cause they picked you last for the football team
And made so much fun of your lifelong dream
To become a famous scientist some day.
You want to crawl home and go straight to bed
Because of all the hurtful things the bullies said,
And this is when I hope you hear me say:

You are my child, and I love you (yes, I do).
You might not believe me, but still it’s true,
I will never stop delighting in you
`Cause you are my child.

You slip your dress on and then you turn around;
Reflected back, your smile fades to frown.
You look at the models in the magazine,
And you realize you’ll never be a beauty queen
If you have to make your body look that way.
You stare into the mirror for a day or two,
And you can’t see the beauty staring back at you;
This is when I hope you hear me say: (Chorus)

You’ve gone to church on and off for several years,
But you have never quite shaken all your fears.
You’ve always been afraid you’re not good enough;
That’s why you put your faith in so much other stuff,
And feel a hole inside that grows each day.
But look inside and see me filling up that space
And know I long for you to look and see my face,
So raise your eyes, behold me as I say: (Chorus)

You cannot earn my love, nor can you lose it
I give it freely, all you need do is choose it. (Chorus)