Category Archives: Sermon

The Cones of Shame

14th Sunday after Pentecost: August 21, 2016
Luke 13:10-17             Psalm 71:1-6

shame pointing-fingerIn you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be ashamed.
In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free;
incline your ear to me and save me.

“Ryan Lochte locks down spot in Olympic hall of shame.” So headlines an article in the Houston Chronicle in a report from Rio. The first lines stated, “Congratulations to Ryan Lochte for winning the final race of his Olympic career: the race for most embarrassing athlete.” The U.S. has had plenty of embarrassing athletes before: Tonya Harding and her goon squad in 1994; the American hockey players who trashed their village room in 1998. But Lochte and his three swimming buddies managed to not only embarrass our country, they humiliated the host country in the process, not to mention themselves.

As a noun, shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. As a verb, we think of its use as when we humiliate, mortify, embarrass, chasten, or “cut down to size” another person.

An early memory of feeling shame for me comes from my grandmother when I was a child – about 8 years, I guess. I don’t quite recall the full incident, but I must have been talking back to my mother in a very hurtful, hateful way in the presence of my grandmother. Later when she was alone with me she told me how disappointed she was with me and how horrible it was for me to speak to my mother in that way. She was visibly upset with what I had said. I don’t recall what I did next, but that feeling of shame and sorrow remain with me as a visual and visceral memory. I had been called out for something I had done, by someone I had loved. It was shame given with love, meant to make me notice that my actions had broken – or at least splintered – an important relationship. Continue reading The Cones of Shame

Pack Light

Overpacked-SuitcaseA sermon preached on the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 8, Year C based on Luke 10:1-11, 16-20.

For years every summer around this time I would be packing a trunk for either my son or daughter as they were getting ready to go to camp (Camp Washington in Lakeside, Connecticut). So with checklist in hand, I would make sure each had enough clothing, towels, bug spray, and clean underwear to last them two weeks. The trunk would be filled with all the necessities for being away from home that also often included a stuffed animal, some books to read, paper with pre-addressed & stamped envelopes (for of course they would write home), and other personal belongings he or she couldn’t live without. By their request, we would drop them off early and pick them up late. Inevitably, every time we picked Chris up, most of his clothes had not been touched, having lived in the same couple of shirts and shorts the entire two weeks. He came home happy and healthy, filled with stories, songs, and plenty of new friends. He had used all that he needed; I had packed too much.

How many of you have gone on a business trip or vacation and crammed as much as possible in a suitcase (even just a carry-on to beat the baggage fees)? We’ll be going to the Cape for two weeks in August and we’re already talking about taking two cars to hold all our stuff we want to bring. And I don’t know how many business trips I’ve been on that I’ve come home realizing I didn’t need that extra pair of shoes or projects to work on “in my free time.” Through the years I have learned to travel light, bringing just what I need, but I am always afraid as I leave the house with my carryon that I’ve forgotten something, so I jam in some last minute extras. Continue reading Pack Light

Trust & Prayer: In Gods or Idols?

A sermon preached at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilton, CT.

  • The Second Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 4, Year C
  • 1 Kings 18:20-21, (22-29), 30-39
  • Luke 7:1-10

Where do you put your trust? What helps you to pray?

saint-joe-statue-kitAbout a year ago a friend in Columbia, SC bought a little St. Joseph statue and buried it — deep and upside down — next to the “For Sale” sign on his front lawn. Now Roger is a faithful guy who has worked in church settings all his life. But he was not going to take any chances. His house had to sell. He had just accepted a new position in Houston and couldn’t rent a house for his family there while also making mortgage payments on a house they no longer lived in. So he followed the ritual of purchasing St. Joseph off the Internet to ensure his house sold. He was taking no chances, and wanted to play the odds in every way he could to make sure he would come out a winner. And of course he prayed. A lot. But just in case, perhaps St. Joseph would intercede for him with God in bringing the right buyer to the front door. He was willing to put his trust into just about anything if it would sell his house. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Continue reading Trust & Prayer: In Gods or Idols?

Resurrection and Transformation

laundry-basket-webA sermon preached at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Wilton, CT on the 4th Sunday of Easter, based on Acts 9:36-43.

There was a conference at Virginia Seminary this past Friday and Saturday called “Missional Voices.” It was a gathering of Episcopalians from around the church who have a vision of living into becoming a missional church again, much like the early church.

Missional ministry is defined by its advocates as:

“a Christian community that crosses boundaries to embody and participate in God’s mission – loving the world into wholeness – in all that we do: prayer, worship, preaching, teaching, loving service, and daily life.”

Listening to the conference being live streamed Friday, I heard details about a growing missional initiative called Laundry Love. Its founder, a former drug addict and homeless guy, named Christian Kassoff, was one of the presenters. Fully tattooed and pierced, he was nervous talking in front of an audience, but his demeanor calmed as he began to tell the story of Laundry Love.

Christian talked about his hard past and about his love/hate affair with organized Christianity. It was in living at the edges with others who are followers of Christ that he found wholeness, not in a church building. After finding sobriety, he met “T-Bone,” a homeless gentleman living in Ventura, California and regularly visited with him on the street. In one particular conversation, Christian asked, “T-Bone, how can I come alongside your life in a way that would matter?” T-Bone’s response was honest and practical. “If I had clean clothes I think people would treat me like a human being.” Continue reading Resurrection and Transformation

The Light of Christ

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)

cirio pascual 2016Why 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