Sermons


Is anyone else as shocked as I am that King David is known as a hero of the faith?  I mean, give me a break.  There’s really no getting around how badly he messed up.

He’s at war.  His eye falls upon the wife of one of his officers.  I imagine he’s something like a major in our world.  David lusts after his wife, he takes her, and he tries to cover it up.

When that fails, he arranges to have the officer murdered.  And he doesn’t seem to care about collateral damage.  A lot of other people die so that his death can seem to be of natural, or at least war related, causes.

It’s hard to think of anything much lower than this. (more…)

It’s summertime.  For many of us, this is a time for vacation and renewal.  This may not be true if we make our living in agriculture or in tourism.  But I think it’s true for many of us.  And it’s probably true for our congregations.  Our “program” year often starts in September and ends in May.

I read some time ago that Americans, on average, sleep an hour less each weeknight than experts recommend, and half an hour less on weekends.  By the end of the year, we are short two full weeks of rest.  (And how can you tell if you are sleep deprived?  They say that if you need to use an alarm clock to wake up on time, you are!)  Americans spend more time at work than any other industrialized nation and have less vacation time too.  I’m told that the vacation times we give most workers in this country are illegal in Europe!

There’s an image in T S Eliot’s “Burnt Norton,” the first of his “Four Quartets,” that sticks in my mind.  Down in the half-light of the London Underground, people are running busily to and from work.  And he talks about them being like stray scraps of paper, blowing in the wind. (more…)

I normally begin my preparation for my sermons in a lectionary study group with Lutheran pastors.  Generally speaking, we use the same readings on Sunday (sometimes with some slight variation in verses or one reading which is different).  But today they are celebrating the birth of John the Baptist, and we are not.  And our readings are completely different.  So after we looked at their readings, I made them look at our gospel reading:  “On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to [the disciples], ‘Let us go across to the other side.’”

I’m not really sure why, but my mind stopped as soon as I heard those words, “Let us go across to the other side.”  I can’t speak for you.  But it seems to me that my temptation is always to stop where I am, in my comfort zone, and not cross over into the unknown.  And I think that Jesus is always calling me into the unknown. (more…)

[This is something I have used for Palm Sunday/Good Friday off and on for years.  With retirement looming June 1, I’m not sure I’ll have the opportunity to use this again.  So I’m sharing it here.  Permission is given to use this, but only if I’m given credit as the author.]

After dinner, you and your friends go for a walk, and stop in the park.  You ask them to wait for you, while you go away by yourself and think about what’s coming down.

It’s not a pretty picture.  It fills you with dread.  Your soul is so filled with sorrow that it almost leads you into despair.  If only there were some other way …  “Father, take this cup from me …  But no, this is why I’m here:  to do your will.”

In your distress, you return to your friends, seeking some comfort from them, from their presence — there is so little time.  And they’re sleeping for God’s sake.  Couldn’t they be there for you this once? (more…)

Ok – this started out as an idea that didn’t quite gel.  Then I got a real start at my clergy writing group.  And it evolved into this sermon:


So, here are these Greeks, these Hellenists, these outsiders to the Jewish faith.  They’ve been hearing about Jesus.  There’s just something about Jesus … (more…)

Preached (without any notes at all) about evangelism and spiritual direction this morning.

Talked about how we all have had bad experiences of being evangelized that color how we think about what many Episcopalians refer to as the “E’ word.  I shared how in college some guy came on campus talking about the pigs and the Christians (are you a Christian, or are you a pig?) …  After a couple of minutes of this I left.  But not before telling the speaker that I considered myself a Christian.  And for the first time in my life he had made me embarrassed to admit it.  (Two people in the congregation had had good, as well as bad experiences of being evangelized.  Everyone had bad experiences.) (more…)

This is my sermon for the Vigil tomorrow night:

My father named me Jacob, after the patriarch — for all the good that does!  What good is a name like that to a shepherd?  People today forget that Jacob himself really was a shepherd.  They refer to their leaders as shepherds.  But they mean it figuratively.

They look at real shepherds with contempt, and go out of their way to avoid contact with us.  They call us thieves behind our backs — and even sometimes to our faces.  But they wear our wool and eat our meat all the same.

Shepherds live hard lives in some ways, exposed to the hot summer sun and the cold winter winds, fighting off wild animals, working throughout the day and night when necessary.  I’m told we also smell.  I wouldn’t know.  But they say we pick up the odor of our charges, and people of breeding turn their noses up when we are near. (more…)

I think we have a problem when we talk about Jesus as our king — analogous, perhaps, to the problem we have when we talk about gospel love.  We simply don’t use the words “king” and “love” the way Jesus used them.

For us, in every day American English, the word “love” is about what we feel.  For Jesus, the word “love” was an action verb about what we do.  We want to pair the words “love” and “hate” as opposites.  I suspect pairing the words “love” and “kill” would come closer to being opposites, as Jesus used the word “love.” (more…)

“… Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

“Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so …
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
and death shall be no more …”

I thought of these words, from Dylan Thomas and John Donne respectively, when my friend and colleague, Marcia, died just before this All Saints’ Day.  I think they capture some of the tension I feel between my sense of loss and anger when someone dies and my belief in the promise of fullness of life with God in the communion of saints. (more…)

Actually, when I wrote this sermon (for tomorrow) I titled it “Jesus Walks on the Water.”  but my sermon writing is somewhat stream of consciousness (often) and I ended up somewhere unexpected.  Reflecting on what I had written, I found myself thinking about how we, like Peter, walk on (or at least in) the waters of faith.  So here it is:

Be honest now.  What would you do – how would you react – if you were in the middle of a stormy lake, in a small boat, and you saw Jesus walking on the water towards you?

Or is this so common an occurrence that you don’t have to think about it? (more…)

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