He must increase, and I must decrease.

Sermons and audio

John the Baptist Pointing to ChristThe greatest human who ever lived (according to Jesus) came into the world to point to something beyond himself, something greater than himself. The Church when it is really being the Church does the same thing.

As we hear the story of the early ministry of John the Baptist, and as we turn the corner on this year’s Advent season, our time of waiting is coming to an end and the promised restoration is on the horizon. Christ is among us for those who have eyes and ears to see and hear. God grant us the grace to point others to Jesus in this moment.

 

A short service of Lessons and Carols from St. George’s School

Religion / Sermons and audio

Dtw9n EWkAU8W 2One of my favorite events each December is attending (and participating) in the Service of Lessons and Carols in the chapel at St. George’s School here in Rhode Island. My first one was soon after I was ordained the Episcopal Bishop of Rhode Island and it’s become our family tradition each year since.

This year, with the school rightly limiting people’s access to the hilltop it wasn’t possible for people from the community to participate. The school chaplain very kindly invited me to record one of the readings and they’ve included it in the service which is presented this year on YouTube. The Head of School spoke to the board yesterday about how hard it has been to not celebrate the holidays in the school’s traditional way this year. Watching the video and not having the experience of a crowded chapel, filled with candles and redolent with poinsettia blooms, I agree. This isn’t the way any of us would have it – but there’s no good options and this is a way to keep the tradition alive.

On the plus side, it means that more people will have a chance to hear the music presented by the students and faculty and to see the chapel in all its candlelit beauty.

Perhaps you might set aside a little time this weekend and join in the tradition too.

Comfort, comfort ye my people! The Second Sunday of Advent

Sermons and audio

Hope writing on beach GyFKokKdThis week’s reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah is taken from the opening of the second section of the sayings. Up to this point the book’s focus has been on the consequences that face the people of God as they turn away from caring for one another, caring for the Creation, and following God’s way for them. That first section ends with the death of King Hezekiah, a complicated figure who tried to find a way forward in a difficult moment of the people’s history. This second section is written to people in exile and defeat.

God is reminding them, and us, that God has acted to save the people, to restore them to the land, to fulfill the promises made to their ancestors. In the bleak moment when these words were first written, that memory and those promises must have seemed very distant.

In our day, when we face pandemic that is overwhelming our nation’s health care system, when we see signs of global climate change accelerating, it’s hard to hear these promises too. But they’re just as true now as they were then. God will act. There will be a return and a restoration. We have reason to hope even though others may despair.

And it’s the role of Church in our day to make that proclamation, to carry these good tidings to those who are losing heart.

A day of wrath? Or the dawning of a re-made Cosmos?

Sermons and audio

Glowing wooden crossFor some the Day of the Lord will be a day of wrath and judgement. For the poor and the outcast, the Day of the Lord is a promise that justice will be done.

On this First Sunday in Advent, we hear the words of hope that God will come fully revealed and will live among us forever. The nations will be healed and the promises fully kept.

We long for that day. This year in particular, we long for that dawn.

To say Jesus is Lord is to pledge an allegiance to one King and to reject another

Sermons and audio

MC 03292016 animals Black face sheep 9The earliest creedal statement of the Christian Church is thought to be “Jesus is Lord.” We see it now on bumper stickers or in lights in churches. It has become part of the background imagery of American popular religion. But when the Church began to proclaim it, it was a costly statement that rejected the armies of Caesar and lifted up a crucified man in his place.

That a cursed and crucified man, rejected by the crowd, could be the Lord of Lords and King of Kings is a reminder that earthly success doesn’t correlate at all to God’s favor. It’s often the other way around…

As we celebrate Jesus’ kingship this weekend, let us remember what it implies about our lives today.

Sermon for the 24th Sunday after Pentecost

Sermons and audio

Graphicstock back light silhouette of a man standing on a hill overlooking filtered vintage future power achievement concept B6d55RJ5kZPaul’s Letter to the Church in Thessalonica is likely the first of his surviving letters, and as such, is the earliest Christian writing known. He writes to a group of believers that are struggling to understand their experience as members of the congregation are dying – something that was not expected given the teaching of the Apostles that Christ had overcome death.

Paul encourages them to encourage one another. By so doing, they will not lose heart, or hope and will wait patiently for Christ’s return and the revelation of what it means in their time.

We are facing a difficult moment too. I think we need to take Paul’s advice to the church of his time into our hearts in our time. We need to keep our hope that this moment will pass too.

Sermon for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Sermons and audio

IMG 0894In this week’s gospel reading, Jesus tells a parable about wise and foolish maidens and a wedding banquet. In the parable the wise ones prepare for the eventuality that the wedding banquet will be late in starting. The foolish ones don’t – and when it does start late, they are not able to enter.

We are in a moment today when we are asked to prepare for what is expected to be a challenging winter. And yet there are people who are trying to act as if everything will be okay, or that we can ignore the necessary preparations because in the end God will make everything okay.

But that’s not how it works, and that’s not the wise thing to do.

(I apologize about the audio quality in this video. I have a new microphone and something is clearly wonky. I’m working on getting it sorted, but after four tries today I gave up and used the best recording. I hope you’ll understand.)

Love is the way to a more perfect union

Current Affairs / Sermons and audio

Is there something for the Church to say to the Nation in this moment? The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Michael Curry preached a stem-winder of a sermon that does a pretty great job of answering that question.

In the second part of the sermon he says:

We don’t think of it this way very often but love for each other is a value on which our democracy depends.  On the Great Seal of the United States, above the bald eagle are banners on which the Latin words, e pluribus unum are written. Those words, e pluribus unum, literally mean, “one out of many.” One nation from many diverse people.

But do you know where those words come from? They come from the writings of Cicero who lived during the time of the Roman Republic. Cicero said, “When each person loves the other as much as himself, it makes one out of many.” Cicero who gave us those words said that love for each other is the way to make e pluribus unum real. Jesus of Nazareth taught us that. Moses taught us that. America listen to Cicero, Jesus, Moses. Love is the way to make e pluribus unum real. Love is the way to be America for real.

As we enter the final days of this election season, I can’t think of a better mantra for us as citizens. Love is the way. Love makes the many into one.

Sermon for All Saints Day 2020

Sermons and audio

Crosses carved in the wall Mk7ZddOdThe Cross transforms the suffering in our lives and allows the experience and the associated pain to transform us into a new creature fit for a new creation.

The lives of the Saints show us how this happens and demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit to allow them, and us, to overcome the momentary afflictions and become radiant beings of light.

The 21st Sunday after Pentecost: There’s no single way to holiness.

Sermons and audio

IMG 0017When Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment in the Law, he quotes from two different places in Hebrew Scripture. He refuses to simply weigh one part of the Law, as more important than another, saying for instance that the moral demands of the law are greater than the ceremonial aspects. In doing so he makes two paths to God equivalent.

I don’t know that we’ve yet to fully grasp the implications of that teaching.