Sermon for Septuagesima Sunday - Matthew 20:1-16
Well, I have two sermons for you this morning. Written anyways. I didn’t know which way I would go because I really loved the one I wrote and then Thursday came. You always think you know what you are going to say on Sundays. You look at the words of the texts, you hear Jesus speak, and you get something all ready and then what has happened in our parish, in Nevis and Akeley, comes. Three people dead. Tragedy. It was a great sermon. Great for the bin. Because right now we need, I need, Christ to speak to us in some other way. We need to hear his call to us.
Gesimatide. What a wonderful word. A word for a three Sunday period when the church leaves the joys of Christmas and Epiphany, but hasn't quite reached the perils and penitence of Lent. Where we take one last glimpse at all that is basic to our faith in Christ before we delve deep into the frailty of Ash Wednesday and the trudge of a journey through 40 days in the wilderness awaiting the new "Promised Land" in Christ.
Sermon for the Transfiguration of Our Lord - Matthew 17:1-9
It is an amazing thing to look into the face of God. I am not talking about some manifestation of what I think him to be, or what we presume to be his work among us through the face of another. I am talking about the actual face of the Lord. God himself. The holiest of the holy. The perfect of the perfect. The most merciful of anything you could ever imagine. Which is an amazing thing to say since we look around the world and find very little of any of that. Within our faith, or religion (whatever you want to call it), what often is missing in the Western World is this question of transcendence. Of something above and beyond us. The wonder of the Almighty. Of a God that is so beyond us that he is uncontrollable.
Sermon for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany - Matthew 8:23-27
Our psalm said – Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. I am not very good at that. I tend to be an anxious person. If I were in that boat on the Sea of Galilee that day, with the waves and wind swarming all-around me, I would not ascribe glory to God. I would be shaking Jesus like nobody’s business to try and wake him up. I would awaken the Lord, not ascribe glory to him. That is human nature, though. When control leave us and we discover ourselves weak and vulnerable, despair can creep in and we turn every which way to find safety and comfort. More often to ourselves more than anything. Hoping that we might overcome some great obstacle or danger in front of us on our own. American ingenuity and all that. Or we do end up turning to despair because we think everything is hopeless. We can’t fix it so why try. Let’s turn back and go the way we came. God doesn’t care about us, he wants us to perish. Control over our lives often leading to great and grave danger.
Sermon for the third Sunday after Epiphany - Matthew 8:1-13
Three men, not like anything or anyone we believe them to be. Unclean. Outsider. Less-than. As these three are brought together in our readings we end up getting a better idea of the fourth man. The Jesus-man. The God-man. The one who comes for the least, the lost, the outside, the unclean, the sinner. The one who comes to save the enemy, to love the aggressor, to be broken under the weight of those who are supposed to hate him, or even stay away from him, and he finds them, grabs them, and brings them to his Father.
Sermon for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany - John 2:1-11
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. You are not Jesus. I want to make that clear so let me say it again. It might seem like an easy truth, but you are not Jesus Christ. And that is a good thing. It is a good thing because it makes it more joyous when we come to the miracles of Christ and realize they are his works, done in his way, for a reason. No worries for you to try to live up to the water-to-wine Jesus example. Because John actually does not use the word “miracles”, nor “wonders”. He uses the word “signs”. He wants us to see a sign pointing to Jesus. To create faith in him. To believe in who He is for you. To trust in this One who takes you, the ordinary sinner, and makes you new.
Sermon for The Feast of the Baptism of our Lord - John 1:29-34
Baptism is this weird thing in the church. We often don’t know what to do with it apart from the ritual itself. It’s there. Our churches have the fonts in them, but there is this hovering confusion with it. Seeing it as a pledging to a fraternity. Do the deal and your in. Get the kid wet, things will be good. Then we tend to cast it aside for a while. We let it sit there. We maybe use the phrase “baptized child of God” every now and then. We go and witness to someone else’s baptism, but otherwise it becomes this past thing that it happened, that’s it. We’re good.
Sermon for the Festival of the Epiphany of our Lord - Matthew 2:1-12
Epiphany means the “ta-da” of God. A manifestation. An a-ha. A Here-I-am-for-you moment. All the spotlights, all the signs pointing to God with hopes that you will see and believe. This whole Matthew 2 story is one to draw us into the journey of faith. To give a voice to you, you gentiles. You people of the nations. You who should not be named let alone belong in the Kingdom of God. To give you a place. Notice the magi call him “The King of the Jews”, and yet these magi are not Jews. These are gentiles, and more so. Magi is the word used to name them. Literally – magicians. Sorcerers. Some say astrologers. They were the court advisors to the princes of Babylon. They could have been similar to the same folks whom the prophet Daniel was placed in charge over during the Babylonian exile 600 years before Christ. The ones the king sought for guidance on what has, is, or will happen. These magi possibly would have had a taste of this Jewish heritage, this Messiah talk, “King of the Jews”, through the overwhelming influence of Judaism on Babylon itself. From Babylon and Persia we get the Rabbinic tradition. We get the various Targums and manuscripts. Huge commentaries on the various texts of Jewish Scripture. Babylon, along with the vast empire of Persia, modern-day Iran, Syria, elsewhere, helped keep Judaism alive throughout the Middle East. Strange that we rely on those who conquered the Kingdom of Judah to keep the faith and traditions alive. Strange to think that those who would lead the downfall of the people of God, now 600 years later, seek the very King who is to provide salvation to all people.
Sermon for the Frist Sunday after Christmas - Luke 2:22-40
Christmas is God’s “Hello” and “Goodbye” to his world all wrapped into one. He comes into this world as a major hello. Here I am. See me in the most vulnerable state you can. See me as a baby. As one who is expected to sit still, obey, and be quiet. But also one who is needy, who is often desired above all things, who is cradled and coddled and ogled over. An infant. A child. Don’t think I don’t notice you all eyeing little Henry and begging for the chance to hold him. Now think Jesus. God as a child. Suddenly this baby is here and the child is this “Hello” of God into the world.
Sermon for the Nativity - John 1:1-14
It is hard to try and preach on Christmas, because everyone knows the story. Everyone likes the Nativity scenes, and has either been part of the Luke 2 narrative in a Christmas program at church, or they read it as a family every year. Caesar, census, fields, shepherds, angels, Gloria, baby, manger, Mary, and Joseph.
At least with Christmas Day we get the rest of the story. We get John explaining to us the whole story in a theological way. In a way we might try and understand the idea of incarnation. God-con-carne. God, the creator of all things, putting on flesh. God who has no form necessarily, becoming a human being, taking on a form. Giving flesh and blood to his voice. Needing his voice, his sermon to become physically present among a people who would rather have him be silent.