Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sermon: Lent 1B

[NB: listen to the sermon by clicking here)

What are you giving up for Lent? That’s the question of the day, isn’t it? What you’re giving up to share in Jesus’ 40 day desert fast?

That’s where the whole “giving something up” thing comes from. Folks read the story in today’s gospel about Jesus going into the desert to fast for 40 days and thought that it might be a good way for us to find ourselves in his story by fasting for the 40 days of Lent.

But, of course, not everyone’s going to book 6 weeks off work to go sit on a rock in the woods and pray. People aren’t going to go without creature comforts, much less bare necessities for a month and a half. In fact, if you did I’m sure your family would start to worry about your neural functioning.

So, Christians, through the centuries, did what we did to most church rituals that made us look crazy or caused discomfort: we house-trained it. At first it was no food on Fridays and Wednesdays. Then it morphed into no MEAT on Fridays and Wednesdays. But then came the Wednesday night chicken wing special and folks said, well, maybe we’ll just have meat-free Fridays. Now...?

Now...people give up chocolate, coffee, beer, something fairly minor, just to get in the spirit of Lent rather than create some real discomfort in their lives.

But recently, the wheel has turned in the other direction. Some folks now...(whole thing here)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sermon: Ash Wednesday

(You can listen to the sermon here)

I heard an interview recently with a scientist who said that we, everyone and everything, are made up of dust. Ancient dust. Dust from stars that have long ago disappeared. From planets long since destroyed. Dust from people whose names gave been forgotten. And that our dust is and will be the building blocks of future creations.

Isn’t that fascinating? I think it is. If also a little humbling. I like to think of myself as unique, a specific, individual creature. I was created out of the woman who bore me, and am a contemporary creation. I look forward, not backward. My flesh and blood is a lively blast of chemical reactions. My value to the world comes from what I do, what I contribute. Not from the raw material that isn’t unique to me, or over which I have little control.

As much as I would like the opposite to be true, I have to admit that the scientist is right. I know the bible would agree with her. I am dust, and to dust I will return. The same goes for you. The same goes for everything that lives and breaths.

I don’t know about you but my dustiness is not something that I like to dwell upon. But I find that I have to. In my job I’m always...(Whole thing here)

Monday, February 06, 2012

Sermon: Epiphany 5B

[NB: You can listen to the sermon by clicking here]

“…woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel.”

Those words rung in my ears on a viciously hot July night in 1999 at Christ Lutheran Church in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, when this scripture passage was read and preached by my bishop before he invited me to kneel, laid hands on my head, and I received the rite ordination. 

It was like I was being joined – stitched – to a long line of preachers who held this message in their hands so reverently that they couldn’t help but share what had been so lovingly entrusted to them.

And while this journey of preaching the gospel has taken me on many adventures – including the one I am on now – I still wonder, in those quieter moments, if I am up the task that is put in front of me. I worry that the words I use and the words you hear are saving words that we call “gospel.”

As many of us know, the word “gospel” means “good news.” And those of us who’ve been around the church for a while might think we know what that word means. But I’m not sure that’s true. Because I find myself asking, “Good news” for what? From what? What is the bad news that is in your life, and then what is the good news that I am called to proclaim as a response to it?

How would you define the word “gospel”? What is “good news”?

For my master’s thesis I had to come up with a definition of the gospel. And because I allowed four years of graduate study in theology to get the better of me I defined the gospel as this...(whole thing here)

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sermon: Epiphany 4B

“...any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I, the Lord, have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”

Yikes! Makes me want to watch my words even more carefully than I do!

But that’s what the people had asked for. They wanted someone to speak for God, because they worried that hearing directly from the Most High God might cause them to clutch their chests and do a face plant into the dirt.

A prophet, in the bible, as most of you know, isn’t someone who merely foretells the future. The prophet isn’t a fortuneteller. The prophet isn’t someone who sits at tables on the street, who, for a small fee, will tell you how your how much money you will make or who you will marry.

In the bible, a prophet is someone who speaks for God. A prophet is a preacher. The prophet’s mouth opens and it’s not the prophet’s words that people hear. It’s God’s words that reach their ears. They figured it was easier to hear from God through a human vessel, rather than endure the thunder and fire of the Almighty.

And God, knowing the human fondness for putting their words into God’s mouth lays down the...(whole thing here)