Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category

Sermon for Christina and Christopher Rea Wedding on Saturday, September 30, 2017

October 1, 2017

Windowselection+034_editedI’ve gotten to know Chris and Chrissie over the past few months. The thing I like the most about them is their unique combination of toughness and tenderness. They come here today to stand in front of God and in front of you to make solemn promises. It has taken them a long time to get to this place here and now.

From a religious perspective they come from different backgrounds. I know they wondered, “What kind of church is this and what kind of priest is this?” But we talked it through, and here we are ready to do this. (more…)

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Sermon for Fr. Herbert Sanderson’s Funeral

August 11, 2017

HSandersonA great Christian has died and we gather together to thank God for Herbert and his Witness. When I say Witness I mean something that is hard for many people to understand today.

Everybody knows a witness is someone who has seen something important. Later on, a witness might be summoned to a court of law to give testimony.

Whatever Herbert was doing, he was always giving testimony. It was just the way he was. Herbert Sanderson was a fine musician, a PhD clinical psychologist, a priest, a father, and a husband. And whatever he was doing at any given time, he was testifying. (more…)

A Sermon on the Binding of Isaac

July 3, 2017

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The beginning of chapter 22 in The Book of Genesis is called by Jews the Akedah. We call it the Binding of Isaac. For a hundred years it has also been known as the Sacrifice of Isaac. But this isn’t right because Isaac was not sacrificed. The story is the subject of interest and study by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars. The Binding of Isaac is also of great interest to modern secular scholars.

There is a famous book by the literary critic Erich Auerbach called Mimesis. It is subtitled The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. In Mimesis Auerbach compares the Binding of Isaac story to Homer’s description of Odysseus’s scar in the epic poem The Odyssey.

The scar on the leg of Odysseus is disclosed pretty far into the story. How Odysseus got the scar is laid out in an intricate series of flashback narratives. Auerbach’s thesis was that Homer was writing entertaining fiction, but in the Bible the author of the Binding of Isaac was writing what he believed to be absolutely true about God.

The author of the Binding of Isaac set down an important story in the history of Israel. The Binding was a very well known story. It had to be included in the Book of Genesis. There was no way to avoid it. But how to tell the story?

The author believes that Abraham was a real person. He believes that God told Abraham to kill his son. The author believes that there is one God, and that one God is the God of the Hebrew people. How do you tell the story?

The story is told in 14 verses. 14 verses. This is totally different from the leisurely, fully developed, and completely explained soap opera of Homer’s epic tale.

14 verses. It’s a terrible story. Is the author just trying to get through it as fast as possible? What’s going on here? If you’re a Jew or a Christian how are you going to defend it? (more…)

Homily for Jane Gale’s Funeral Service

May 18, 2017

Windowselection+034_editedI cannot imagine Jane Gale without this building. The Gales’, Thompsons’, and Warrens’ were connected by marriage and family. And these families were all connected in the founding and support of this church. Eliakim and Phebe Warren and their children came to Troy first. Later the Gales’ were joined to the Thompson family. And then the Gale-Thompson family became connected to the Warren family. (more…)

Annual Rector Report; Given as the Sermon at the 10am Eucharist on the Third Sunday in Easter, April 30, 2017

May 3, 2017

SPCEtchingToday is the Annual Meeting and Election. I want to share with you our successes of this past year. I would like to express my gratitude to everyone. I would especially like to thank some of the people who went above and beyond to help St. Paul’s. I want to say something that connects today’s lessons to the Gospel. To finish, I want to bring you a hopeful message about plans for the future. (more…)

2017 Easter Sermon

April 17, 2017

SPCInteriorFlagsIn the Name of the Father . . .

Christians all over the world gather today to celebrate and proclaim our oldest credal statement: Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen Indeed!

This Easter greeting is standard in the Eastern Orthodox churches and often accompanied by three kisses on the cheek. I started out Roman Catholic and as a kid in Chicago I don’t remember the Easter greeting. I remember Ash Wednesday, fasting in Lent, giving up something for Lent, and Easter baskets. That’s about all I remember about Easter from my childhood.

When I joined the Episcopal Church I had to learn the Easter Greeting. There was that awkward moment when a church lady said, “Christ is Risen!,” and then gave me that church lady look. Then she fed me my line, “The Lord is Risen Indeed!” and I repeated it back to her, and she looked at me like she was very disappointed in me.

It is hard to get the Easter message right. It is not just a period of ashes and fasting followed by an Easter Egg Hunt. It’s not just Palm Sunday followed by Easter Sunday and remembering the right words to say when someone challenges you with, “Christ is Risen!” (more…)

re: A question about repentance

April 8, 2017

PalmSundayPulpitI preached a sermon on Sunday, March 19, 2017 (Lent 3A), in which I offered an interpretation of St. Paul’s understanding of the “Wrath (of God)” (Romans 5:1-11), and the kind of forgiveness that Jesus promises us in the example of the Woman at the Well (John 4:5-42).

Later that day I received a question by email asking about the role of repentance. The person asking was taught that forgiveness follows repentance. This is the way most people think about God’s forgiveness. Basically, that it is a transaction. I’m not so sure.

I responded pretty much like the following and I have permission to publish it.

St. Paul recognizes the problem of human sin and self-deception (Rom 7:15), but he struggles to come up with a way to reconcile the consequences of sin (misery), God’s anger, and God’s mercy and love.

The Johannine texts (those books attributed to John the Apostle) seem to be a later stage in the development of a more nuanced understanding of the inter-related dynamic of hatred, scapegoating, and violence. For instance, in the case of the story of the Samaritan women at the well (John 4) we have a situation in which Jesus is handling what looks like a pastoral problem.

The woman seems to be held in general disrepute, and Jesus offers her living water. This living water will sustain and preserve her forever. This is a reference to the Holy Spirit. The work of the Spirit directs people to live lives according to the will of God. The Holy Spirit affirms people in their status as beloved children of God. The Holy Spirit guides people toward honest self assessment. The Holy Spirit provides healing and upholds people in their faith in the Lord.

The living water is nourishing to the point of creating in us proper desires that are completely satisfying, and it opens us up to the recognition of our deepest and worst sinful desires (without falling into despair or resorting to denial).

Repentance is crucial to moral and spiritual health. In the past it was generally assumed that a person only needed to do some basic self-reflection to arrive at what exactly is in need of repentance. With the knowledge we have now about unconscious motivation, I would suggest that experiences of God’s Grace and the promise of forgiveness tend to produce genuine gratitude and repentance. This is more in line with the way Jesus deals with the woman caught in adultery and the woman at the well.

My own experience in talking with people confirms this. Remorse (not true repentance – “a turning around,” but regret and self-loathing) is late in coming, and often provoked by the experience of bad events or circumstances. This process gives support to the false notion that God actively punishes people by bringing misfortune.

So, finally I come down on the side (mostly) of reminding people they are forgiven, and trusting true repentance will follow.

Sermon for Jennifer Duncan RIP

August 1, 2016

East Window DetailIn the Name of the Father . . .

Jennifer was fighting for her life for a good while, and the whole family has been on a war footing against the disease.

(more…)

Sermon for Katie and Ryan Clapp Wedding on Saturday, May 21, 2016

May 25, 2016

I suppose some people are getting really tired of hearing me talk about being married for 45 years. On the 23rd of June Marianne and I will have completed 45 years. My reason for bringing this up again is not to brag, but to say something about marriage. When we got married I wasn’t much of a catch. I had dropped out of high school after the tenth grade. I was 18 and was working as a guard in the county prison. Marianne had finished high school and was working as a counselor in a crisis center for runaway teens. Neither one of us had any family to rely on. We were on our own and sort of stuck with each other. I bought this ring and a matching one for Marianne and the two of us went off to North Carolina and we got married. (more…)

Sermon for Bridget and David Trimmer Wedding on Saturday, June 27, 2015:

June 28, 2015

Bridget and David – you really look like basically good people. Young, attractive, friendly, and very nice.

And as I have gotten to know you, I know you are basically good people.

Marianne and I have been married (as of this past Tuesday) 44 years. Marriage has a way of making it difficult to hide yourself from yourself. Marriage is not for wimps. Marriage is for heroes. I used to think I was basically a good person. Marianne has helped me to be more honest with myself about what motivates me. This has been very good so that I can be better behaved.

But God calls us not only to be better behaved. God wants us to be holy. (more…)