Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category

Homily for Jane Gale’s Funeral Service

May 18, 2017

I 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

Today 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

In 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

I 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 open 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…)

Sermon for Pentecost – May 24, 2015

May 25, 2015

Acts 2:1-21 This is that.

A little over fourteen years ago I came out of seminary from The General Theological Seminary (GTS) in Manhattan. Mark Richardson taught systematic theology and Tom Breidenthal taught moral theology. Mark Richardson is now dean of the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, which is an Episcopal Church Seminary in Berkeley, CA. Tom Breidenthal is presently the Bishop of Southern Ohio, and one of the four nominees to become the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (the election of the next PB is next month in Utah)

It was a pretty unusual arrangement, because both Profs. Richardson and Breidenthal used the same systematic theology textbooks. (more…)

Christmas Sermon 2014

December 25, 2014

Christmas Sermon 2014 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Troy, New York

[Gene Tobey sings “I wonder as I wander.” (All verses)]

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
 How Jesus the Savior did come for to die For poor on’ry people like you and like I… I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all. But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
 And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
 A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing, 
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing, He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King. (1.)

I wonder … I wonder what brought you to St. Paul’s this damp Christmas Eve …
If I wandered among you and asked you, I wonder if any of you would answer that you were here because of a baby … I can see that many of you are part of our regular St. Paul’s family, and no doubt you are here because St. Paul’s is your church and where else would you be on Christmas Eve? (more…)

Easter Sunday Sermon

April 7, 2010

Easter 2010 Sermon

There is a long-standing tradition of using a bible text for a sermon. I’m going to use six different texts for today’s sermon. Don’t worry, I promise we won’t be here all day.

This is my personal New Testament [hold up], and these are the verses that make the main points of the Bible.

1. (Romans 3:23)   I am a sinner no better than all the rest.

2. (Romans 6:23)   The wages of sin are death.

3. (John 14:6)   Jesus is the way.

4. (Romans 10:9)   If I confess on my lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in the Risen Christ, I will be saved.

5.  (2 Cor. 5:15)   Jesus died for all.

6. (Rev. 3:20)   The Risen Lord Jesus is standing at the door knocking. If I invite him in, he will come in and we will have dinner together.

In the church, the local church, this particular church – I often hear concerns that compete with the main message of the Bible. And then there is something else that may apply to this church more than some others – something I hear over and over:

“What a beautiful church!   Shame you don’t have a bigger congregation.”

“What a beautiful church!   It must cost a lot to maintain it.”

“What a beautiful church!   Do you mind if I walk my dog in the church yard?”

I am a sinner no better than all the rest.

I could die in my sins.

Jesus is the way.

Confessing and believing I am saved.

Jesus died for all.

The Risen Lord stands at the door knocking.

Last Thursday night we had a service here. It was the Maundy Thursday service. There were just a few people in the congregation, but we had a full choir. So, I stood right over there in the sanctuary and preached to the choir! I just about ignored the congregation, and I stood there and preached to the choir.

My message was this: God washes feet. I’m not sure what the choir heard, but that was my intended message. I said something about the nature of the Divine Love, and how it was a servant-like love. But my message was basically that God washes feet.

My father is Jewish. I wonder what my great-grandfather in Russia would have said about this. “God washes feet?” “Who knew?”  (I’m sorry. I don’t know what a real Russian Jew sounds like. I grew up in New York. Jews sound to me like Mel Brooks.)

If God washes feet, his clergy should wash feet. I think everybody should wash each other’s feet. If everybody washed everybody else’s feet the world would definitely be a better place. Instead of making and selling weapons and drugs we should wash feet.

The choir sang. The Deacon and I washed some feet; we shared Holy Communion; we stripped the altar; we turned the lights off and went home. It was a lovely service.

Before the service Betty and Carl came in. I was sitting over there at the side chapel. Betty came down the middle aisle with her husband Carl in tow, and they came over to me. Betty introduced herself first and then Carl. She said, “Carl just loves this church. He thinks this church is the most beautiful church in the world.” Carl was silent, and just nodded his head in agreement. Betty continued, “Carl just loves this church. He feels such a sense of peace when he is here. I was wondering if you do blessings?

She said, “I was just diagnosed with cancer today.”

So I took them over to the communion rail and anointed them and prayed for healing.

I ran into a guy I know at the coffee shop up the street. He said, “Pastor Mike, right?” I said, “That’s right, and you are Jeff. You’re an architect, right?” He said, “Yeah, that’s right. Good memory. Now, you’re the pastor of what church in Troy?” I said, “St. Paul’s Episcopal – down at the corner.” Jeff said, “What a beautiful church!    How many do you have there on Sunday?”

I went to visit a lady at a nursing home last week. She said, “I sure do miss St. Paul’s Church. What a beautiful church!    How much do you have in the endowment fund left?” I told her, and she said, “Oh, that’s too bad.”

A mother emailed me two weeks ago. Her infant boy needs brain surgery on the 26th of April. The little guy has a serious condition where his skull isn’t making room for his growing brain. The mom said that the Episcopal church that she and her husband used to go to just lost their priest. The priest moved away to another part of the country. She wanted to know if I would baptize their baby. She had seen pictures of St. Paul’s. She said it looked like such a beautiful church!

Actually, I was a little worried about the politics and protocols involved. The other Episcopal church was in another deanery in the diocese. I’m the Dean of the Metropolitan Deanery.  I thought I better call the Dean of that Deanery, and also call the lay warden of the other church. I didn’t want to step on any toes. The Dean said, “Michael, whatever you want to do is fine. You do what you think is best. If you can arrange the baptism, that’s fine. If you need me to handle it I will. Just call me if you can’t fit it in your schedule. (Very gracious)

The warden of that church said, “It would be such a blessing and a comfort to the family if you could baptize that baby. We have been praying for them. Right now, we’re going week to week with substitute clergy. The family reached out to you and if you can be of help to them, please do so.” (This also was very kind and gracious.)

I’m a sinner no better than all the rest.

I could die in my sins.

Jesus is the way.

Confessing and believing I am saved.

Jesus died for all.

The Risen Lord stands at the door knocking.

Next Saturday, I am going over to that home (in a foreign land out in the far reaches of East Greenbush, NY) and I’m going to baptize that baby, and we’re going to have Holy Communion, and the Risen Lord will be standing knocking at the door, and we’re going to invite Him in to have dinner with us.

May we leave here this fine day keeping in mind what is important, and also what is less important.  Amen.