A sermon preached at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilton, Connecticut for the Great Vigil of Easter, March 26, 2016 ( Roman 6:3-11 and Matthew 28:1-10)
Why is this night different than all other nights? That is the ultimate question to be asked by the youngest male as Jewish families gather on the night of Passover. For them, it is a series of nights to remember how their ancestors, the Israelites, were liberated from slavery. It is a spring festival, with the words “to pass,” “to spring over,” or “to spare” translated from the word pesach. Throughout history, and even today, this is a commemorative occasion, reminding the children of Israel of their deliverance out of Egypt.
For us Christians, tonight is also a night different than all nights. It, too, is a night of remembrance. We might have begun our liturgy asking, “Why is this night different above all other nights?” And the answer we could receive is very similar. It is about an all-night storytelling session about who we are and where we came from. It is about death, as well as life. But this time it is our re-membering, our re-constructing in our hearts and minds the great deliverance we have received from Jesus Christ – the Messiah who has brought all his people from the doom of death on account of sin, and from the bondage of sin itself – something much worse than Egyptian bondage.
It is a night of Alpha and Omega. Beginning and end. From darkness to light. Continue reading The Light of Christ
Christian formation is the lifelong process of growing in relationship with God, self, others and all creation. In this process, we are transformed into the people God wants us to be. The Episcopal Church has gracefully articulated how we answer God’s call in The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation.
A new resource, now available to congregations who desire to help adults grow in their discipleship as follows of Jesus Christ is now available. The Pilgrim Program is a course for those new to Christianity, seekers, inquirers, and any adult who wishes to return to the basics for the first, second, or twentieth time. Broken into two stages: Follow and Grow, each stage has four units of six sessions each (with the exception that Session One: Turning to Christ, has seven sessions). They would easily fit a Sunday morning adult class of 45 minutes or an evening program, possibly preceded by a light meal. Follow is designed to be led by a facilitator who has been an active member of a faith community for some time, while Grow’s leadership can be shared amongst the group. Continue reading Pilgrim: A Course for the Journey
Next Sunday begins a new year – in the Christian Church, that is. It is the First Sunday of Advent and I’m beginning to prepare the Godly Play lesson I’ll be sharing at St. Matthew’s in Wilton – the Circle of the Church Year. It’s always a good reminder of where we have come and where we will continue to go. God’s love, like the Advent wreath, is circular, never-ending, and full of mystery.
As I write on my Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education website (based on my book with the same name), each time we journey through the church year we are different. Over time the seasons transform us. As we pass through each day, each season, the end of one journey positions us to step into the beginning of the next. The seasons of this calendar allow us to return again and again to the expectancy of Advent or the solemnity of Lent, to reconsider our lives and the way in which we are living them.
Continue reading Full Circle Back – To Advent
A sermon preached at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas on Sunday, September 13, 2015.
Proper 19, Year B:
Isaiah 50:4-9 James 3:1-12 Mark 8:27-38
I’ll admit – I’m a Broadway musical junkie. And for the past few weeks in listening to the Letter from James all I hear in my head is Eliza Doolittle singing,
Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through; first from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
We are inundated with words. Words from politicians, words from individuals who feel they represent us, words from people seeking justice, words from people seeking help. Words telling us what to do and what to believe. Words telling us we are right, telling us we are wrong.
Words are important. They often define who we are, where we come from, and what we are feeling. Words have power. Whoever invented the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” never had a bully taunt them, a parent scold him, a fiancée break an engagement, or a doctor give her a cancer diagnosis. Words cut deep.
And we hear words in church. God’s Word – and words from those who seek to help us recognize a connection between the Gospel and our lives. Continue reading Words! Words! Words!
A sermon preached on August 30, 2015 at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilton, Connecticut
The Fourteen Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 17 B
James 1:17-27 and Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
It is from the human heart
that evil intentions come. Mark 7:21
It’s not easy to talk about and acknowledge the evil that is in our world. But we see it manifested in many forms all around us.
This summer I have been reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom. And exactly one week ago today, John and I were in Johannesburg retracing many of the steps Mandela took along with others in their struggle for freedom.
Knowing I was going to be preaching right after returning home from South Africa, I read today’s Gospel a few weeks ago to allow me to ruminate on it while away. The juxtaposition of Jesus chastising the Pharisees about their adamancy of following the Law while being immersed in how the laws of a country – in this case South Africa – wouldn’t leave me alone. Until recently, laws in South African centered around a formalized, systematic segregation of blacks, colored, Indians, and whites called apartheid. There were hundreds of laws about where one could live, what kind of education one could receive, who one could marry, where you could travel, what kind of job you could have, and on and on. Racism was an accepted governmental policy.
The history of how these laws came to be and where the roots of racism began started many generations ago. They were based on an interpretation of scripture paired with greed and fear by groups that began with Dutch and English colonialism. Their fear grew out of the belief that one race was superior to another as part of God’s creation. It became their tradition and way of life, and became ingrained in generations to come. Continue reading Evil and the Human Heart