Sermon for Sunday, April 3, 2022 || Lent 5C || Philippians 3:4b-14
Last week we talked about beginning again. I want to stay with that theme this week and talk about a fundamental piece of beginning again. This fundamental piece is the action of “unlearning.” Sometimes we learn something wrong (or at least incompletely), and we operate under that wrongness so long that it seems right due only to longevity. When we recognize this, the mature step is to unlearn what we have learned, and this means beginning again.
When I was writing this sermon, I accidentally quoted Yoda in what I just said, so I figure I might as well just present the whole scene from The Empire Strikes Back to set up this sermon. (I haven’t used any Star Wars references yet this year!) Luke Skywalker is deep in his training with Master Yoda on the planet of Dagobah. Luke is doing a handstand while levitating rocks, but then R2-D2 whistles a warning, and Luke loses his concentration. Artoo was warning him that his X-Wing starfighter is sinking completely into the swamp.
In August 2019, Carrie Combs and I launched the Podcast for Nerdy Christians, and we’ve had a blast ever since sharing discussions at the intersection of our faith and our nerdiness. Sometimes we joke that we created the podcast so we could talk about all the nerdy things that we can’t fit into our sermons. Then again, I recently talked about Stranger Things in a sermon, to go along with my copious Star Wars references.
Today, I want to talk about power. Like the word ‘love,’ we use the word ‘power’ to mean several things, which makes any discussion about power challenging. I’m going to move through three understandings of power, and I hope you will stick with me because the third one is the one we are aiming for. Also, I’m going to use Star Wars to illustrate the three types of power. (I’ve only used one Star Wars reference this year, so I’m well within my limits.)
This week, my friend and colleague, Carrie Combs, and I launched our new podcast!
The Podcast for Nerdy Christians sits at the intersection of those two words. We love nerdy things like Star Wars and Harry Potter, and we love Jesus. The idea for the podcast came from the article I wrote last spring about grief in Avengers: Endgame. I realized that so much of my life runs through a pair of intertwining influences: nerd culture and following Jesus Christ. I asked Carrie to partner with me in this adventure because I knew her life exhibits the same pattern. I’m so glad she said, “Yes!”
We recorded the first three episodes before launching #1 in order to prove to ourselves that we liked what we were doing. And we do! This podcast is the perfect place to talk about all the nerdy stuff I can’t put into sermons because the references are too obscure or would take too much time to explain.
Ever since coming home from the Peace and Justice Pilgrimage to Alabama I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the concept of perspective. Whose stories have I added to my own to widen my perspective of the world? What sources do I trust to provide me with information to deepen my awareness? How often do I encounter points of view that differ from mine and allow them to challenge and expand me?
I spent the first week of my sabbatical in my basement building the largest set LEGO has ever released to the public. The 7,541 piece Millennium Falcon was a joy to build. The combination of intense focus needed to complete a set so complicated and the playfulness that comes with both LEGO and Star Wars (two of my favorite fandoms) helped me transition from my norm into the time of sabbatical. Continue reading “Sabbatical Notes, Week 1: The Millennium Falcon”→
Sermon for Sunday, July 15, 2018 || Proper 10B || Mark 6:24-39
The lesson Stacey just read from the Gospel is unique. It’s the only time in his fast-paced account that Mark ever diverges from Jesus’ storyline. This strange flashback to John the Baptist’s beheading is greatly abridged in the Gospel according to Matthew, and Luke and John give the story a pass entirely. Mark is the only Gospel writer who takes the time to detail for his audience what happened to Jesus’ predecessor and herald, John the Baptist.
The flashback centers around the character of King Herod, one of the true antagonists of the Gospel. Herod is the bad guy in this story. And Mark knows his craft as a writer. He knows a well-drawn antagonist helps reveal the good things about the protagonist. Often, facets of the main character remain in shadow until a skeptical or adversarial or malevolent character brings them to the light. Lex Luthor’s greed stands in contrast with Superman’s selflessness. Javert’s dogged pursuit of Jean Valjean over a crime of compassion stands in contrast with Valjean’s dogged pursuit of charity and redemption. Emperor Palpatine’s desire to consume Luke Skywalker’s power in the Force stands in contrast with Luke’s desire to set his father, Darth Vader, free from that same consumption.Continue reading “Good Guys and Bad Guys”→
Sermon for Sunday, March 4, 2018 || Lent 3B || John 2:13-22
One of the great joys of parenthood is getting to go back and watch movies with your children that you yourself loved as a child. We’ve done this a little bit with the twins, and there are many, many more to come as they get older. When you watch a children’s movie as an adult, you realize the filmmakers have an incredibly difficult job to do. They have to make a movie that appeals to children and that keeps parents from tearing their hair out while watching it. They do this by adding into their movies a layer of humor that sails right over kids’ heads and makes parents laugh out loud. And if not humor than deep meaning; and sometimes, in those rare movies, both humor and depth.
Disney’s Zootopia is a great example. Little kids love watching all the anthropomorphized animals walking around and talking to one another. Perhaps they might understand a little of the message of the movie, which celebrates stepping outside of one’s comfort zone and living in harmony in a diverse society. But there’s no way they’re going to get the joke about the mob boss Godfather character being a tiny rodent. Or the joke about sloths being employed by the DMV. Or any of a hundred other jokes that make Zootopia one of my favorite Disney movies. I watched it a few weeks ago without my kids.
Sermon for Sunday, May 7, 2017 || Easter 4A || John 10:1-10
There was a problem with the audio for this sermon, so unfortunately, it’s just text this week.
Whenever I watched The Empire Strikes Back as a kid, I would always fast forward through one particular scene because it terrified me. Luke Skywalker is training with Jedi Master Yoda on the swamp planet Dagobah when Luke feels the cold presence of death emanating from a nearby cave. “That place is strong with the Dark Side of the Force,” says Yoda. Luke asks, “What’s in there?” And Yoda replies, “Only what you take with you.”
Luke enters the cave, lightsaber in hand. From the shadows appears Darth Vader. They duel for a few desperate seconds, and then Luke cuts off Vader’s helmeted head. The helmet comes to rest, and the black mask blows off, only to reveal Luke’s own face. As a child, this scene terrified me because Darth Vader was really scary, and the darkness of the cave and the tremulous musical score only added to my fear. As an adult, watching this scene still touches my heart with fear, but fear of a different kind: fear of the truth that Luke discovers in the cave and that I discover whenever I look within myself.
Sermon for Sunday, May 15, 2016 || Pentecost C || Acts 2:1-21
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve started describing God’s presence while writing a sermon and then realized that I accidentally quoted Obi-Wan Kenobi from the original Star Wars movie. It has happened at least a dozen times. So today, instead of accidentally quoting him, I’m just going to quote the dialogue delivered by the legendary Alec Guinness in 1977. He says this about the mysterious energy field that gives the Jedi their power: “The Force…surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” Continue reading “On the Holy Spirit (With Help From Obi-Wan Kenobi)”→