Choose this day, will you have faith in God’s Providence, or will you take control?

Sermons and audio

The Jordon RiverMoses puts a choice before the people as he stands looking back into the wilderness from which they have traveled and they stand, on the bank of the River Jordon, looking past him into the Promised Land. It’s an incredibly poignant moment. He is about to be taken from them, and they will wait for many generations until his true successor, the Lord’s Anointed Messiah is revealed to them.

Moses makes it clear what is at stake. The nation is being asked to choose between life and death. They are asked to choose to follow what they have learned in the wilderness, or to forget the experience of living a life totally dependent on God’s provision and care, and to strike out on their own to make a life for themselves in a way that will ultimately lead to their death.

Choose what? Why?

But what exactly is it that they are being asked to choose? As I read this, it is the same choice that Lewis points out is often at the core of what we struggle with in this modern world. It is a choice between living a life of relationship and faith, and a life of control and domination.

The direct link to the sermon video is found here.

God’s Way is not the way of the Rulers of this World. What the Sermon on the Mount teaches us about how to live in community.

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Sermon on the mountThe Reign of God is not like the Kingdoms we know on Earth. God’s Reign, proclaimed by Jesus is not based on retribution and extravagant violence like the Empires we know now. God’s Reign is characterized by justice, truth and repentance. Rather than seeking our own way, we collectively seek to know God’s will.

This is described in the Sermon on the Mount as systematically as much as it is anywhere else in Scripture. The Sermon on the Mount is the longest speech we have from Jesus and it functions in the Gospels much as the Letter to the Romans does in the Epistles. It becomes a scaffold on which all the statements about the Kingdom of God can be mounted and compared – and becomes a sort of answer key to help explain the more cryptic statements that are found in other parts of this Gospel. (And in Mark, Luke and John’s Gospels too.)

The challenge for us is how do we apply this broad vision and teaching to our own lives in our specific contexts. There are some suggestions in the sermon linked below.

The direct link to this sermon is found here.

Blessed are the ones who recognize the Reign of God in their midst in this moment

Sermons and audio

Rosselli, Sermon on the MountWe read the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount this week in our Gospel lesson. I remember the day years ago when I was invited to preach for the women of the Northern Province of the Moravian Church on this topic. It caused me to spend weeks in study about the context and true meaning of Jesus’ words in the part of the Sermon on the Mount. He’s teaching us what the Reign of God will look like, he’s telling us what will be coming into the world. It’s a prophecy as much as anything else.

The word that is translated as “blessed” in the reading today can indicate that an experience or a person is standing in the presence of God. Or it can mean that God is especially present in the moment or in the person. When Jesus uses the word repeatedly as he does in this passage, it feels to me like he’s sketching out a map of where God’s presence is in the everyday world. When you find yourself in the presence of one who thirsts for righteousness, know that the Reign of God has come near to you.

The direct like to the video is found here.

The Adventure of the Kingdom of God!

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Brooklyn Museum The Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew Vocation de Saint Pierre et Saint André James Tissot overallIn this week’s version of the Call of the Disciples (Matthew’s version – we heard John’s last week), the way Matthew views the events of Jesus’ life colors the way that he tells the story of the Gospel. For Matthew, there’s no such thing as a random bit of scripture being included as filler. Everything has a purpose, and every seeming digression is being done to place a particular event into a larger context of God’s actions in history.

When Andrew and Peter, James and John respond to the Jesus’ call to them, we get a sense that all the familiar things are about to be transformed. This isn’t the way a teacher gathered disciples – at least the way that Matthew tells it. This isn’t the way that people treated their families. This isn’t the way people with authority act and it’s not the way that world expected God to intervene in it. Something extraordinary is happening – and it begins with this call.

The direct link to the video is found here.

Be Present, Be Mindful, Something Extraordinary is Happening

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Lamb of God MosaicWe hear St. John the Evangelist’s account of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist today. Last week we heard St. Matthew’s version. The accounts are similar, but not identical. That’s not surprising for a number reasons; different eyewitnesses, different authors and different purposes in telling the story for instance. But what is striking in this account is what happens the next day. Andrew hears something that St. John says of Jesus, perhaps in passing. But Andrew hears it, and being present to the moment, acts. And because he acts, his life, the life of family, and all of our lives are changed.

It is so easy to not be present today. There are errands to run, worries to rehearse and distractions aplenty. We can be so caught up in what seems important in the short term that we totally miss what is life changing in the long term. We fall into the trap of imagining we’ll always have another chance to talk to someone or get another chance to have an experience that we treasure. But that’s not always true, sometimes in very difficult ways.

Andrew is present to the moment when John makes his pronouncement. Perhaps it was a dramatic moment and his words surrounded with a flourish. Perhaps it was just a whispered aside. But either way, Andrew hears and sees and follows. And then tells others what he has found. Would that we were so able to live to each moment of our life that we could do the same.

The direct link to the video is found here.

Jesus baptism fulfills all righteousness so that when we can’t, we can still hope.

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Gagarin KreschenieHristovoThis first Sunday in the season of Epiphany is traditionally marked by hearing the account of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordon River. Each year we are reminded of the surprise that Our Lord went to John to be baptized. There are lots of ideas about why he did that, and thoughts about what it means. To tell the truth, we don’t really know what it fully signifies. In St. Matthew’s Gospel Jesus asks to baptized despite John’s reluctance because it will fulfill all righteousness. But that trades one riddle for another one doesn’t it?

Something important clearly happened when Jesus was baptized. All of the Gospel accounts include as signifying his identity as the Messiah who has come to fulfill the promises and mark the occasion as the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

In this sermon I try to unpack some of what this might mean, particularly within the way Matthew presents the account. And I find reason to hope that we can trust that God, though Jesus, can complete what we lack as we, in our way, try to fulfill all righteousness ourselves. 

The First Sunday of Epiphany from Episcopal Diocese of RI on Vimeo.

The direct link to the video is found here.

Happy New Year and a blessed Feast of the Holy Name to you and yours!

Sermons and audio

IMG 0584Many, maybe even most churches will be observing this New Year’s Day by reading and singing Lessons and Carols. But there are probably a few out there who will be keeping the calendar’s Feast of the Holy Name, the eighth day after Christmas, when we mark that Jesus was circumcised according to the custom of his people. Jesus is Jewish, something that I’ve been surprised is not understood by more people. And that’s something that, in this season of rising anti-semitism, we Christians should keep reminding people.

In this week’s sermon that is being posted on New Year’s Day (which is the Feast of the Holy Name) I talk a bit about the role of ritual and discipline in our lives as well as the role of the Law in Jesus’ day and in our day today. I have some thoughts about how you might use these teachings to shape the year that we are beginning. 

I hope you have a blessed New Year and since it’s still the Feast of Christmas, Merry Christmas!

The direct link to the video is found here.

Christmas 2022; The Light of Creation entered our World in the deepest part of the night.

Sermons and audio

The Christmas Star atop a treeWe talk in prayer and poetry of the night of Christ’s birth being filled with light. But it is was night, so what does that mean?

Light was created first – and on the first day. But the Sun and the Moon, the great lights in the sky, were created on the fourth day. How could there be light for Earth without the Sun and the Moon?

The ancient writers believe that the light of the first day is different than the light that shines from the sun and the moon. The light of the first day is the light of World, the Firstborn, the One whom St. John tells us came into the world as the Logos at Christmas.

It seems to me that we can’t see that light directly. It’s something that shines in the darkness, and illumines everything, but not in the same way that sunlight does. The Light shines and illumines even the parts of our existence where the light of Sun and the stars can not.

The direct link to the video is found here.

You SHALL name him Jesus

Sermons and audio

Four lit candlesAs Christmas approaches and Advent comes to a close, we finally hear a story from the Gospel that is directly connected with the birth of Jesus. This year we hear the story of Matthew’s experience of the miraculous events surrounding Jesus conception and his birth.

While I was certainly familiar with the story, this year, as I studied and prayed, I noticed something I hadn’t previously though. In a way that is different than the Annunciation to Mary, the Angel that appears to Joseph isn’t inviting Joseph to take his part in the story. Joseph is commanded. He is told that he SHALL name the child Jesus. The name is full of meaning, but the fact that Joseph names the child means that Joseph is formally adopting the child as his own and bringing Jesus into the lineage of King David. It’s a moment when we see God at work in human history in a way that we rarely witness. 

There’s much to ponder as we consider the details of story of Jesus’ birth. I speak a bit about the implications of the Jesus’ parentage and how he was conceived. I speak about the details are different than any other story of divine presence in the birth of a human in both the Bible and in the myths and stories of that age. And I invite you to think a bit about what this means about our new nature as we have died to the old self in baptism and risen to a new life that is found in Jesus.

Before you write me… As I was editing the video I discovered that something went wrong with the audio for the first minute of the recording. I’m sorry but I just didn’t have time to go back and re-record. You don’t miss much. I was talking about the weather (it’s rainy) and read the opening of this week’s Gospel lesson (linked here). Hopefully I can figure out what went wrong before I record my Christmas Sermon this week.

In any event, as Advent comes to an end and Christmas approaches, may you all find the Light of God in your lives and may God grant you a very Merry Christmas indeed.

The direct link to the video is found here.

Are you ready to be transformed?

Sermons and audio

Kids blocks spelling joy as symbol for fun and playing SBI 300187242We’ve come to Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, the one where we light the pink candle on our Advent wreath. All the lessons we read this week are about the coming transformation of Creation, and of ourselves. We read of the vision of the new Creation in the first lesson, we are exhorted to be patient in the second and we are told the signs of its coming in the third this week.

There truly is reason to rejoice and be hopeful. And yet, we’ve been longing and waiting for a very long time. What are we to do next?

I think the answer to that question is found in Jesus’ answer to the question that John the Baptist asks of Jesus through his disciples. Jesus tells him that God’s Kingdom is already present in our midst, we just need to look and we can find it. Jesus tells us what to look for, and in so doing, he gives us a set of directions that we can use in our day both to look for the Kingdom and in our small way to make it manifest to others who seek it.

The direct link to the video is found here.