Law and Grace

A Homily for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Romans 7:15-25a; St. Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who give us an easy burden and a light yoke. Amen.

“I do not understand my own actions.”

Who among us has not felt like Saint Paul at one point or another? For we do not do what we want – what we really, truly want in our in-most being, to do the will of God, the very end for which we were created.

Oh, we start out with good intent, sure enough.

This is it! This is the time I’m going to hold my temper in check and not yell at the neighbor.

This is the time I’m going to buy that young woman on the street corner a sandwich and tell her about the resources at the shelter.

This is the year I’m finally going to read my Bible every day.

This is it! This time, I’m actually going to join the protests and speak up for justice.

But then we do the thing we hate. Continue reading “Law and Grace”

How Long? Not Long

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Text: Psalm 13


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who strengths us to endure the trials and tribulations of this world. Amen.

“How long, O Lord?” the psalmist asks.

It’s the cry of the elect throughout the ages.

“How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” Continue reading “How Long? Not Long”

Go Before the Lord to Prepare His Ways

A Homily for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Text: St. Luke 1:57-80


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Ecce Agnus Dei: John the Baptist and Christ, Ettal Abbey, Ettal, Germany

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, a mighty Savior raised up for us from the House of David. Amen.

 

What can we say about John the Baptist, that wild man of the wilderness? He who ate locusts and wild honey, wearing ragged clothes?

It’s a bit unusual to encounter outside of Advent and Christmas – our lectionary cycle usually gives him a Sunday or two in December as the forerunner of the Messiah and then a few weeks later, on the first Sunday after Epiphany, we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, recalling when John baptized his younger cousin in the river Jordan. But why now, almost exactly six months away? Continue reading “Go Before the Lord to Prepare His Ways”

Division and Unity

A Homily for the Third Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Romans 6:1b-11; St. Matthew 10:24-39


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has united us into one body.

If I may summarize last week’s Gospel reading:

Congratulations, apostles! You’ve just won a no-expenses paid vacation to the small towns dotting the Judaean countryside! You’ll confront demonic powers that seek to destroy you, and while there, you’ll be handed over, beaten, flogged!

This week, it continues: Continue reading “Division and Unity”

Sheep Among Wolves

A Homily for the Second Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Romans 5:1-8, St. Matthew 9:35-10:23


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus the Lord, the one who strengthens us to endure until the end. Amen.

We are justified, Paul tells us, by grace through faith in the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. But to what end? In this season after Pentecost, reading the Epistle to the Romans in light of Christ’s Ascension, the Spirit’s descent upon the Apostles, and last week’s Trinity Sunday command for the Church to go forth, what does our salvation really mean?

It’s not some object to be put up on a shelf like a trophy in order that we might boast about how special we are. Rather, in Christ’s death, we are invited to live into the peace of the coming Kingdom, a restored creation. In our justification, we are given the grace to be the people God created us to be, to live the lives that our Lord always intended for us. Continue reading “Sheep Among Wolves”

An Incarnate Ascension

A Homily for the Ascension of our Lord

Texts: Acts 1:1-11; St. Luke 24:44-53


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus, the Risen Lord, who ascended into heaven and will return again on the last day. Alleluia. Amen.

Forty days after the Resurrection, after having walked the earth – an assurance that the Resurrection is a physical, bodily event, that we too shall be raised not just as disembodied spirits floating in the air but in a real, fleshy way – our Lord ascended. And this too was a physical event; just as he stepped down from heaven and became Incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary, taking on humanity in its fullness, so too did he ascend in his incarnate body.

It must have been quite a sight to behold, the Son of Man taken away on the clouds.

If this were a movie, the music would swell. We’d get tight shots of the apostles’ faces as they watch. John would have a serene look of contentment, Peter would cry a little, Thomas would look on in wonder. And then, just as the score reached its crescendo, Christ would disappear into the clouds and we would have a hard cut to black, a title card, and the credits.

The end.

But this isn’t a movie, and this isn’t the end of the story. Continue reading “An Incarnate Ascension”

Not Alone

A Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Texts: 1 Peter 3:13-22; St. John 14:15-21


Grace to you and Peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, who will not leave us abandoned. Amen.

Last week, we read Christ’s words to the disciples: Do not let your hearts be troubled.

Spoken on the night before his crucifixion, his words stand in stark contrast to the situation at hand: everything was about to get much worse.

When Philip asked how we might know the way, just hours before Pilate would sneer, “What is truth?” on the eve of his death, Christ boldly asserts, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Today, we pick up on the very heels of that narrative. Continue reading “Not Alone”

The Good Shepherd

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Texts: Psalm 23; St. John 10:1-10


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Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the Good Shepherd. Amen.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we set out to read through a familiar passage – one we’ll read in its entirety over the three years of the lectionary cycle.

Today, Christ tells us he is our shepherd – and, spoiler alert, next year, he’ll clarify that he’s not just any shepherd but the Good Shepherd.

Christ isn’t merely some hired hand who runs off at the first sign of trouble but rather the very one who seeks out the lost sheep, who wades into the swift waters to rescue the drowning, who crawls through the briar patch to free the ensnared, who fights off bandits and wrestles wolves to save the lambs. Continue reading “The Good Shepherd”

Breaking Bread

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

Text: St. Luke 24:13-35


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, who is known to us in the breaking of the bread. Amen.

Chuck Reese, editor of the magazine The Bitter Southerner, once said:

When a small town community in the South prepares to come together to honor someone who has passed away, something clicks in the brains of the community’s cake bakers. They get to thinkin’. They remember li’l acts a’ kindness done for them by the departed. They remember what she loved ta eat. The li’l things she said ta them o’r the supper table. And then they take all that information and bake the exactly right cake. And the cake stands on the table a’ the funeral home kitchen not merely as solace for the grieving, but as a tribute to the one who’s gone away.

In the South, food is not just something we eat. Continue reading “Breaking Bread”