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Pentecost 5-23-21: Sermon for the First In-Person Sunday Morning Eucharist Since Onset of Pandemic

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How good it feels to have our first Holy Eucharist in-person after so long! Look around! We are still here! Having survived what we have suffered, we gather today boasting with St. Paul, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4: 8-10). It feels good.

I’ve heard what you are asking. You want to know what is next. It is question I have not been able to answer for more than a year. You are eager to move forward and discover what new thing the Holy Spirit has for us as the Spirit does its ongoing work of leading us into all truth. I am happy to announce that this Feast of Pentecost is a turning point in our common life. Today is the official start of our physical regathering in-person in our beautiful stone church building.


Recent Sermons

Easter Sunday 4-18-21: Disbelieving and Still Wondering

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As Luke explains the growth of Jesus’ followers in their faith in the resurrection: the risen Jesus asks them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” In a striking phrase, Luke describes how “in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.” The gospels are full of stories of how Jesus’ earliest followers day-by-day worked their way towards an understanding of the resurrection, where death would never be the final word for them ever again.

It can seem, however, like common sense to believe in death’s victory over life rather than life’s victory over death. (more…)

Easter Sunday 4-04-21: Jesus’ Resurrection and Ours

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Last Easter Sunday, we could hardly believe that we couldn’t celebrate Easter together. I encouraged you to lean into the Easter experience, hard, to get through the unknown number of weeks that the pandemic would go on. I imagined with you that our first fully regathered service together might be as far off as fall of 2020, but that that would be an Easter service beginning with “Alleluia, Christ is Risen.” And you would respond, “The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia.” It was a good plan.

So it is with mixed feeling that a year later, on another Easter Sunday, we seemingly find ourselves here again. But it is not the same. We are not the same. I’m proud of us. Who knew as we leaned into the Easter message last year that it could carry us this far for so long? (more…)

The Third Sunday in Lent 3-07-21: Jesus Cleansing the Temple and the Dynamics of Guilt and Shame

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus made a whip out of cords, walked into the outer courts of the Jerusalem temple, and drove out the merchants and money changers yelling “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” He also poured out the coins of the money changers, overturned their tables, chased away the sheep and the cattle. Our Jesus was pretty upset. It is hard to find any other story quite like this one about Jesus. What was it that would make this nonviolent man so desperate that he would shout and turn over tables in the national temple during the feast of the Passover? He may well have provided a clue in the well-known story of him welcoming the children as the adults were pushing them away. Immediately after saying, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me,” he sternly warns, “If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones…. it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).

Jesus pulls out the whip because the temple he saw was not what it was supposed to be for the people. They needed the temple to be the temple. (more…)

The First Sunday in Lent 2-21-21

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is our first Sunday of Lent, that season of the church year where we prepare for Easter through spiritual practices. The worship service is more austere and there is a great deal of language about sin, death, and repentance. You may have noticed this morning–practically just as we said “hello”–we confessed in words, stronger than usual, that we have “erred and strayed like lost sheep…. We have left undone those things which we out to have done, and we done those things which we ought not to have done…”

The word “sin” has disappeared from public life and popular culture. We don’t hear it much at all from our politicians any longer. It’s a word we hear less frequently in many churches these days maybe because the language of sin can sound old, outdated, or even medieval in our progressive age and out of step with our inherent goodness. (more…)

The Third Sunday after Epiphany 1-24-21

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers Peter and Andrew. They were fishermen throwing a net into the sea. Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Peter and Andrew dropped their net and followed him. Apparently there was no debate, no pondering of the decision. Their response was so immediate that one suspects that they had long wanted to be found. Have you ever played “Hide and Seek” with a kid? The kid runs away and hides. What is so fun about that? It’s all about being lost and then found. Kids get very upset if you play the game and then don’t go looking for them. They want to be found. Peter and Andrew wanted to be found. We want to be found. (more…)

The Second Sunday after Epiphany: Learning to Listen with Samuel, 1-17-21

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Eli the old priest of the Jerusalem temple said to the young Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if God calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” According to the Bible, the word of God is something to learn how to hear. Eli the priest doesn’t tell Samuel what God is saying. He teaches Samuel how to hear that voice for himself. That is a priestly task. As much as people like me are often all too ready to tell others what God is saying, that ancient priest, coaches Samuel in how to hear the word of God for himself. It is a skill to be acquired.

In our day, there is a near constant call to become more assertive, more self-confident and, above all, to speak up and tell your story. (more…)

Past Sermons