According to the Promise

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Text: The Magnificat

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Basilica of St. Mary
Minneapolis 2017

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who is and was and is to come. Amen.

Thus says the Lord to Abraham in Genesis 22:

I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.

The Blessed Virgin recalls this glorious promise as she sings:

[God] has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

Continue reading “According to the Promise”

The Bread of Life – How Can It Be?

A Homily for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: I Kings 19:4-8; St. John 6:35, 41-51

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Bread of Heaven. Amen.

A few months ago, a genre of video made the rounds on the internet: “Everything is cake.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: a person cutting into everyday objects to reveal that, surprise, it’s cake. Mashed potatoes? No, cake. Hamburger? No, cake. Glass of water? No, cake. Basketball? Salad? Remote control? Rainbow trout? Pile of Legos? Glass of water? Foot in a sandal? No, cake.

It was the world’s most repetitive magic trick. Everything in the video turns out to be cake. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Oh, come on. Surely that’s actually a plate of raw chicken. It even looks slimy like the pre-wrapped chicken at the grocery store. It’s not going to also…oh. Ok, yeah, that’s also cake.

How can this be? What appears to be spaghetti and meatballs, or a cell phone, or a human hand, is actually cake? What sort of magical craftsmanship?

Cake certainly cannot take such forms, but with enough fondant, food dye, and skill (and, let’s be honest, probably a low-resolution camera) you can make a cake look like just about anything.

Continue reading “The Bread of Life – How Can It Be?”

Hosanna! to the King

A Homily for Palm Sunday

Text: St. Mark 11:1-11

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the triumphant king. Amen.

All is not well in Jerusalem.

It’s a city on the brink. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flood the streets. Riots are an ever-present danger. Roman soldiers are on edge, afraid that radicalized zealots might attack at any point.

You can cut the tension with a knife.

Can you feel it in the air?

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The Moronic God

A Homily for the Third Sunday in Lent

Text: I Corinthians 1:18-25

“Alexamenos worships his god”

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Power and Wisdom of God. Amen.

“The cross is foolishness,” says Saint Paul. Or perhaps we should translate the Greek a little more closely and let the full, insulting weight sink in: the phrase is literally μωρὸν (moron). The cross is moronic. It’s a jarring phrase.

More jarring? The Roman reaction to crucifixion. One ancient piece of graffiti found in Rome mocks Christians for their mornic deity: A man stands at the foot of a cross as a donkey-headed person is crucified. The image is accompanied with the words “Alexamenos worships his god.”

It’s difficult for us to conceive of such an insulting view of the crucifixion because, for centuries, the cross has been glorified in paintings, turned into jewelry crafted out of precious metal, and decorated buildings across the world. And the images we do have often clean up the scene, presenting an idealized vision of Jesus. (So often, the expression on Christ’s face is calmer and less panicked than the grimace I make when my annual flu shot.)

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An Epiphany on the Mountaintop

A Homily for the Transfiguration of our Lord

Text: St. Mark 9:2-9

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Transfigured Lord, the Beloved. Amen.

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration, the last Sunday before Lent.

Ooooooooor is it?

Bear with me for just a moment as I let my liturgical nerd out. Lent begins on Wednesday, forty(ish) days before Easter. It’s been that way for centuries, in the Roman Catholic Church, and later in the Lutheran tradition and the Anglican Communion.

But the Transfiguration isn’t nearly so universal – sure, Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans all celebrate the feast, but it doesn’t enjoy the same steady and agreed-upon date in the kalendar. If you ask a Catholic or an Episcopalian when the Transfiguration is celebrated, they’ll point you to a day (not always a Sunday) in early August, and if you grew up using the old red Lutheran hymnal of the 1950s (or, going back even further, the old black hymnal from 1918), there’s a decent chance you might not even remember celebrating the Transfiguration – because we used to observe it in August as well, if a congregation paid any attention to it at all. (Oh how often we skip over feasts that don’t fall on a Sunday! But that’s a lament for a different time, perhaps for after we get Sundays themselves back to normal.)

Why rearrange the calendar and change a holy day?

Continue reading “An Epiphany on the Mountaintop”

Judgment in the Vineyard

A Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Isaiah 5:1-7; St. Matthew 21:33-36

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who tends to the vineyard with love and care. Amen.

Imagine planting a vineyard – not just growing a few vines along a fence, but the years of work to cultivate the soil, to carefully prune back the vine so that only the choicest grapes grow, to build a winepress and watch towers. It’s month after month of backbreaking labor, and year go by without anything to show for it – until one day, the harvest is finally at hand. Put yourself there: walking through the rows of vine, each one hanging heavy with fruit, a warm breeze blowing on your face. You pick a grape and toss it playfully into your mouth – this, this is what all those years of work have been building toward. You bite down, feel the skin give way with a slight pop…

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Peter’s Faith

A Homily for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: St. Matthew 16:13-20

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has entrusted the apostles with the true faith. Amen.

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God…”

Once more we have one of those stories that, were this a modern piece of cinema, would end like all other bio-pics. The film score would swell. A title card would appear on the screen, reading something like, “Saint Peter became the first Bishop of Rome. To this day, he has been succeeded by two hundred sixty-five popes who lead the world’s one billion Catholic faithful.” To be honest, there might actually be a movie that ends this way. (And it’s worth noting, this is roughly how the movie about Luther ended, too.)

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Born Again

A Homily for the first Wednesday of Lent

Text: St. John 2:23-3:15

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who calls us to be born of water and the Spirit. Amen.

What does Jesus mean by “born again”?

In common usage, this phrase ranks up there with (and is often seen as synonymous with) “evangelical” as a term to distinguish between types of Christians. “Well, you have your Catholics, your mainline, and your ‘born-again evangelicals.’”

Here in the South, it’s not uncommon for someone to ask, “Have you been born-again?” or “Tell me about when you were born-again.” I would wager that most everyone here has been asked this question – as surely as you’ve been asked which SEC team you root for. Continue reading “Born Again”

O Come, Emmanuel: Advent in Review

Advent was a crazy season this year. As a solo and part-time pastor, December is always chaotic, and all the more so at Redeemer. We gather together for midweek Vespers, meaning that December brings with it twice the preaching load of a normal month.

But December also brought with it three funerals, two of which followed months-long hospitalizations. Continue reading “O Come, Emmanuel: Advent in Review”