“But who do you say that I am?” (From Proper 16A, Matthew 16:13-20) Let me tell you some of the answers I’ve heard or read. My personal Lord and Savior. The Son of God. God incarnate. He’s my life, the song I sing, my everything. Buddy, brother, friend, homeboy. Rock, comforter, coach. Teacher. Example. The copilot next to me. The list could go on and … Continue reading A Question to be Lived – A Sermon on Matthew 16:13-20
“I feel like I live with one foot in the past and one foot in the future,” he said. That’s how a friend of mine once described his life. He went on to tell me about events of the past, lost opportunities, wounds, and regrets. There was an emptiness about him. He sounded trapped and imprisoned by his own history, things done and left undone.
After that he talked about the uncertainty of his future and what might or might not be. He was scared. There were a lot of unknowns in his life. Even as he listed his hopes for what might happen and the way he wanted his life to be, he had to admit these were things he could neither control nor predict.
With one foot in the past and one in the future we straddle and completely miss the present. We become captive to what was, oppressed by what might be, and blind to what is. Our life is impoverished, small, and empty. We are absent to God, others, and even our selves. We are unavailable to those we love, to the needs of the world, and to the fullness of life that God offers. Continue reading “Today is the Moment of Christ’s Presence, A Sermon on Luke 4:14-21”
“They have no wine.”
With those words Mary speaks a truth about our lives, a truth that at some point we all experience. There comes a day when the wine gives out. The glass is empty. The party is over. On that day life seems empty and dry. There is no vibrancy or vitality. Nothing is growing or fermenting within us. Our world is colorless and tasteless. The bouquet of life is absent and we are living less than fully alive.
Mary’s words hold before us some some serious questions and wonderings. Where has the wine of our life given out? What relationships have run dry? What parts of us remain empty?
Each one of us could tell a story about the day the wine gave out. Continue reading “Wine Time, A Sermon on John 2:1-11”
“My teacher, let me see again.” It’s the obvious answer to Jesus’ question. What else would a blind man ask for? It may be the obvious answer but it is not always the answer given. No one wants to be blind. That’s not the question. The deeper question is whether we really want to see. Do we really want to see the reality of our lives, things done and left undone, who we are and who we are not? Do we really want to see the needs of our neighbor, the poor, or the marginalized? Do we really want to see the injustices of the world? Do we really want to see who Jesus is and not just who we wish or want him to be?
“Do you really want to see?” That’s the question Bartimaeus must answer. True seeing is more than simply observing with our physical eyes. It implies relationship and a deeper knowing and understanding. This happens when we see with the eyes of faith. This seeing, however, is not without risk. If we really want to see then we must be willing to change and be changed. We must be willing to leave behind what is to receive what might be.
Sometimes that risk is too much. We turn a blind eye and choose not to see. Continue reading “Seeing Our Way to a New Life”
The collect and readings for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 23B, may be found here. The following sermon is based on Mark 10:17-31.
The man in today’s gospel has plenty of stuff but something is missing. His life is full but he is empty. Despite his acquisitions and accumulations he is searching for more. He’s acquired wealth but not the life he wants. There is an urgency about the man in today’s gospel. He doesn’t just go to Jesus. He runs to him and asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
He is looking for the life that only God can give. He’s heard about it since his youth. It’s the story told in scripture. It’s the life promised to his and our ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It’s the life that drew the Israelites through the Red Sea and into the wilderness. Like those before him this man is seeking the promised land. Despite his wealth, being good, and doing all the right things he just can’t seem to get there.
I suspect most of us know what it is like to be the man in today’s gospel. There are moments in life when we sense that something is lacking. That inner restlessness, emptiness, and longing tell us there is something more.
We could each tell our own version of the man’s story. It might go something like this. Continue reading “Don’t Confuse Wealth with Life”
The collect and readings for today, the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 22B, may be found here. The following sermon is based on Mark 10:2-16.
“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Divorce is a question that affects all of us. Some of us have dealt with it in our own lives and marriages. Some of us have known the pain of our parents’ or child’s divorce. All of us, I suspect, know someone who is divorced or has been affected by divorce. It is a reality of our lives and our world. Sometimes divorce is necessary. Other times it comes too quickly and too easily, an escape from the hard work of being in relationship. Always, it is a spiritual and emotional tragedy with profound and lasting consequences for all involved.
The Pharisees’ question, however, is not a pastoral question. It is a legal question, a test. Marriage in first century Palestine was an arrangement between families not a choice between individuals. It was more about an exchange of property, the woman, than it was about romance, mutuality, or personal fulfillment. In asking their question the Pharisees are not concerned about a woman in an abusive or dangerous situation. They aren’t asking about a young couple who through illusion, immaturity, or naiveté made a mistake in choosing to marry. They are not dealing with a marriage that has become spiritually dead, not only devoid of but destructive of life. They are not worried about the spiritual or emotional well being of the couple. Their concern is Jesus. They have been plotting “how they might destroy him” (Mark 3:6) ever since Continue reading “A Soft Heart Heals the Divorces of our Lives”
The collect and readings for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 18B, may be found here. The following sermon is based on the second part of the day’s gospel, Mark 7:31-37.
The gospel does not tell us much about this man. We don’t know his name, where he is from, or what he does. We don’t know when or how he became deaf. The only thing we know is that he is deaf and has a speech impediment.
This isn’t simply a story about Jesus turning a particular deaf man into a particular hearing man. This is a story about each one of us. Deafness is the human story. This man could be anyone and, likely, he is everyone. He is every man. He is every woman. He is every child. He is you and me.
Today’s gospel is a story about one who was closed but is now open, one who was deaf but now hears, one who was dead but now lives. It is more about our heart than it is about our ears. It is more about spiritual deafness than it is about physical deafness. Continue reading “Openness Cures Deafness”
Someone once asked an old hermit, “Is Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?” “No,” he said. “I prefer to share him with others.”
There is wisdom in the hermit’s words. The Christian life is not about “me and my Jesus.” That’s too small, too easy, and too risky. It can quickly degenerate into “Sheilaism.” In his book, Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah writes of a woman, Sheila, who had taken various beliefs from here and there and constructed a private religion she named Sheilaism. It left her isolated from a community of faith, outside a sacred Tradition, and free to believe a thousand different things before lunchtime on any given day.
Individualism is one of the great dangers and idols in today’s society. It’s not just about Sheila. Continue reading “Communal Believing – The Nicene Creed, Part 3”
The earliest creedal statements were short professions of faith, often reflected local concerns, and were not necessarily concerned with uniformity of expression. Within the various statements, however, points of agreement were grounded in the Jesus story. Perhaps, the earliest statement is, “Jesus is Lord.” By the end of the second century such statements were steadily moving toward an increasingly standard expression of the faith.
However, the creeds were never intended to be exclusive or exhaustive doctrinal statements. They are, rather, a concise, formal, and authorized statement of basic beliefs about God. They do not offer details of Jesus’ life, teachings, or miracles. They respond to bigger questions. Who is Jesus? How did he enter this world? How did he leave this world? The creeds point us to the gospels for more details. The creeds simply state a truth rather than explaining the details of that truth. They state what is rather than how it is. The “how it is” is experienced in Continue reading “Who Believes? The Nicene Creed, Part 2”
Some of my beliefs are grounded in facts and reality. Others are based on fears, wounds, and losses. And still others arise from my own imagination, desires, and the reality I create in my head. If I am honest, I must also admit (confess) that sometimes my beliefs depend on where I am, who I am with, and the circumstances in which I find myself.
Some beliefs and truths, however, are so critical, so important, so integral to our existence and relationships that they are worth holding onto and repeating over and over. Take, for instance, the words “I love you.” How many times have we spoken those words to our children, our spouse, our parents, siblings, friends? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? We say the same three words day after day; perhaps even several times per day. There’s not much novelty or innovation to them. They are the same old words Continue reading “Repetitious Believing – The Nicene Creed, Part 1”