Advent 3B, Sermon, Season of Advent, John 1:6-8, 19-28

Advent, A Season of Uncategorized Life – A Sermon on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Most of you have heard enough of my preaching and teaching to know that when it comes to either/or questions my default response is “yes.” Is it this or is it that? Yes. This isn’t about playing a game, being evasive, or trying to be difficult. I am simply trying to be faithful. We encounter this kind of yes in the church all the time. … Continue reading Advent, A Season of Uncategorized Life – A Sermon on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Mark 1:1-8, Season of Advent, Advent 2B, Wilderness, John the Baptist

Advent, A Season in the Wilderness – A Sermon on Mark 1:1-8

The wilderness, John the Baptist, preparing the way of the Lord. They are three major images in today’s gospel, Mark 1:1-8. They are three signposts on the Advent journey. They are three windows into our heart. I want us to think about them in the context of last Sunday’s gospel, Mark 13:24-37. Last Sunday was the First Sunday of Advent and I told you that … Continue reading Advent, A Season in the Wilderness – A Sermon on Mark 1:1-8

Nicodemus, John 3:1-17, Lent 2A, Born from above, Henry Ossawa Tanner

Daytime Lives and Nighttime Lives – A Sermon on John 3:1-17

Nicodemus “came to Jesus by night” (John 3:1-17, Lent 2A). I wonder if that’s not true for all of us. I wonder if we don’t all come to Jesus by night. Some have said that Nicodemus was hiding in the darkness. He was embarrassed. He was scared and didn’t want to be seen or caught. Others have said Nicodemus wasn’t a true believer and that … Continue reading Daytime Lives and Nighttime Lives – A Sermon on John 3:1-17

The Contradiction of Life Veiled and Unveiled

Picture of a veiled girl
Source: D Sharon Pruitt

The older I get the more aware I become of how my life, my way of being, is filled with contradictions. It is neither all darkness nor all light. It is both at the same time. I have said things I wish I could take back, made decisions I regret, and done things that don’t reflect who I want to be. In the darkness of what I have said, decided, and done, however, a glimmer of light always shines, illuminating what could have been and holding out hope for what can still be.

I suspect each of you could say similar things about your life. Contradictions seem to be part of the human condition. One moment we are kind and gentle and the next harsh and mean spirited. We are filled with compassion for one person and indifferent to another. The contradictions of our life are revealed in those moments when we say, “I don’t know what came over me. I’m just not myself today.” They are the cause of sleepless nights, hurt feelings, and the reason we confess our sins each week. They lie at the heart of all the times we’ve said, “I should’ve, could’ve, or would’ve.” Continue reading “The Contradiction of Life Veiled and Unveiled”

Walk Away from the Manger

Shepherds walking away from the mangerThe crowds from last night’s liturgy have gone home. There’s just a few of us here this morning. The noise, song, and voices of last night’s celebration have fallen silent. The candlelight of Christmas Eve has given way to the dawn of Christmas Day.

That sounds a lot like the second half of St. Luke’s Christmas story (Luke 2:8-20). The multitude of heavenly host praising God have become silent. The angels have left and gone back to heaven. The glory of the Lord is no longer shining on the shepherds. In fact, the shepherds have gone back to their fields and sheep.

We are left with Mary, Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. They say nothing. There is only silence on this day. Maybe that’s how it should be. Continue reading “Walk Away from the Manger”

Luke, Tell Me the Story Again!

Icon of the Nativity(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Icon of the Nativity
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

There are some stories that simply bear repeating. Children want to hear the same old bed time story. Lovers tell the story of meeting and falling in love. Parents tell the story of their child’s birth. Tonight the Church tells the Christmas story. None of these stories are new. They have been told throughout the ages and will continue to be told.

It does not matter that we might know the story by heart. Even when we know all the characters by name, even when we can quote their conversations, even when we know what happens and how the story ends, some stories are worth hearing again. Not only that, some stories need to be heard again.

There is something within us that wants and needs to hear the great stories again and again. It’s not because we think the story has changed or might end differently. It’s because our story, our individual life story, has changed and we’re just not sure how it will end. Continue reading “Luke, Tell Me the Story Again!”

You are More than the Circumstances of your Life

The Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

“Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

When I look at the various situations and circumstances of my life, the joys and sorrows, the successes and failures, the hopes and the disappointments, the struggles and the accomplishments, I so want to find hidden within them a fulfillment of something spoken to me by the Lord. I don’t think I’m alone in that. I don’t think I am all that different from you or anyone else. I think we all want that, even if we don’t know it. We want to believe.

We want to believe that our life and existence are more than our circumstances. We want to discover a value and meaning that is lasting and not situational. We want to know and experience God is with us. We long for something beyond the circumstances. It’s not about denying or ignoring our circumstances. It’s about believing through the circumstances rather than in the circumstances. It is a different way of believing than what we are used to.

Most of the time we take the facts of a situation, as we see them, and, using reason, come to a conclusion. That’s our usual way of believing. It’s characterized by rational thought, deductive analysis, and scientific thinking. We allow the circumstances of our lives to determine or at least strongly influence what we believe about God, the world, others, and our selves. Continue reading “You are More than the Circumstances of your Life”

Repentance Means Becoming Human

repentance-before-godThere comes a time when we realize change is needed. Things don’t work out. Something happens. Someone says something. The tried and true ways become tired and trite. It may happen suddenly or slowly over time. Either way, we realize we can’t go on like we have. We must not only do things differently we must be different.

That’s what happened to the people who heard John’s peaching. Something about his message of change, preparation, and repentance has taken root in them. It is the Church’s Advent message that in the coming of Christ we, our lives, and our world cannot continue on in the same old ways. That message was enough to draw the crowds out to John and it is John’s message to us today.

The crowds have heard a word in the wilderness of their life. It is a prophetic word, a word of deep insight, by which they recognize that all is not well in their life and world. It is also a word of hope and rejoicing, a word of God, that says all can be well. It is a word that joins the wilderness and paradise and makes them two sides of the same reality. Continue reading “Repentance Means Becoming Human”