Babel, Undone

A Homily for Pentecost

Texts: Genesis 11:1-9; Acts 2:1-21


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El Greco’s Pentecost, 1596

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sends the Holy Spirit upon us that we may be one. Amen.

Confession time: I’m not good with languages. My pronunciation is terrible, I have no ear for accents, and, worst of all, I don’t devote the time to studying them that proficiency demands. It’s a shame, too, because I’ve always actually really liked languages, especially the history of how they evolve and borrow from one another. Over the past twenty years, I’ve studied French in middle school, Spanish in high school, German in college, and Greek and Hebrew in seminary.

In fact, I took a full two years of German in college. When my parents were stationed there my senior year, I excitedly went to visit them in Heidelberg, and I was confident that my semesters of anguish would producing stunning results. First night in country, we went out to eat at a local restaurant; I placed my order in my most polished Deutsch:

Ich moechte einmal Radler und ein Jaegerschnitzel bitte.

…only for the waiter to respond in perfect – but frustrated – English. So much for that idea. Continue reading “Babel, Undone”

Saint Lydia, Prevail Upon Us

A Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Text: Acts 16:9-15


 

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has sent us faithful witnesses to proclaim the Gospel. Amen.

Question: How many of you attended a church with a woman serving as pastor before you were 18? Show of hands.

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If you grew up in the old LCA or ALC, you wouldn’t have seen a female pastors until after 1970. Even in the theologically diverse realm of “General Protestant” military chapels during the 1990s and early 2000s, while I met the occasional female chaplain, they were far and few between. It wasn’t until I got to college that I joined a ministry with women serving as fully ordained pastors. In fact, when I started seminary in 2010, even though some predecessors of the United Methodist Church began ordaining women in the late 19th century, my class was the first at Candler to be majority-women.

And if we look around the world, we see that women in ministry are the exception, not the rule. Given that half of the world’s Christians are Catholics and that a wide variety of Protestant denominations actively bar women from ordained ministry, the reality is that the majority of Christians have never heard a woman preach in the pulpit.

In other circles of the Church, women are not only kept out of the pulpit but kept off of congregational councils and committees, prohibited from teaching men in Sunday school, confined to “women’s ministries” like wedding planning, and relegated to a “second-class” status. Continue reading “Saint Lydia, Prevail Upon Us”

Revelation, as Told by Saints Peter and Flannery

A Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Texts: Acts 11:1-18; St. John 13:31-35


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Peter’s Vision, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, who has given us a new commandment. Amen.

“Love one another.” Such a simple, straightforward commandment. And yet like all of God’s Law, this one convicts us of our own sinful shortcomings, revealing how rarely we live into the life that our Lord intends for us. It seems odd that the lectionary should place this passage on Maundy Thursday and then, this year, bring it back around so quickly. It’s been, what, a month since we read it last?

But perhaps there’s some wisdom in this: to keep this perfect Law ever before us, a reminder of our need for God’s forgiving grace and a guide of how Christ intends for us to live in response to our redemption. As if to say, “On Maundy Thursday, you were forgiven your sin, given the new commandment, and fed with the Bread of Life. Let’s check back in. How have y’all done living into the gracious new life of Christ?” Continue reading “Revelation, as Told by Saints Peter and Flannery”

Hear the Good Shepherd’s Voice

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Texts: Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; St. John 10:22-30


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

We’ve been dropped at the end of a familiar story: “I am the Good Shepherd,” says our Lord. (Indeed, this is Good Shepherd Sunday, and over the three years of the lectionary cycle, we make our way through the entirety of this extended metaphor. This time last year, we read that more famous portion of the text.) The Lord is our shepherd – not just any shepherd but the Good Shepherd. Christ isn’t some mere 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 ensnarled, who fights off bandits and wrestles wolves to save the lambs. Far from the clean-faced and bed-sheet-clad shepherds of modern Nativity plays, Christ is the shepherd who smells like the sheep and lays down his life for the flock.

Hearing this imagery, the crowd is… Continue reading “Hear the Good Shepherd’s Voice”

“Tend My Sheep”

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

Text: St. John 21:1-19


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Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the Great Shepherd who sends us out to tend to the flock. Amen.

Christ is risen, has sent Mary to proclaim this Good News, appeared to the apostles, and even to Thomas. So – as many pastors have asked – now what? Or, in concretely Lutheran terms, “What does this mean?” Continue reading ““Tend My Sheep””

The Tomb is Empty!

A Homily for Easter

Texts: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; St. Luke 24:1-12


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Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, the victorious one who has conquered the grave. Amen.

Friday looked like the end. The week had been pure chaos. It started with the triumphal entry, with all of Jerusalem in turmoil, before descending into confrontation and betrayal, one last supper, the arrest and sham trial, the torture and the cross, death and the tomb.

We’ve all been there, caught in the violence and chaos of this world. We know what it feels like to stand near the foot of the cross – in the jail, at the hospital bedside, in the funeral parlor, on that unexpected phone call at early dawn while it is still dark. We’ve stood at the graveside, thinking, knowing, feeling that this is the end – that the world has irreparably changed. Continue reading “The Tomb is Empty!”

A Good Day?

A Homily for Good Friday

Text: St. John 18:1-19:42


 

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Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus Our Lord, the crucified one. Amen.

It’s all gone wrong, hasn’t it?

Somewhere over the course of the week, things have undeniably gone astray.

Sunday, we were cheering a triumphant Christ, and today, we’re mourning a man lynched by an angry mob with the blessing of a brutal empire. Even by the end of worship last week, the shouts of, “Hosanna!” and, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” faded away and the words “Crucify him!” echoed deep in our hearts.

Sunday’s palms are already to turning to ash.

Things certainly started out on a promising note. A protest, rich in messianic imagery, carved its way through the City of David. The King, it seemed, had returned at last. And as the Passover approached, expectation was high that God would once again deliver captive Israel.

The entire Gospel – No! The entire covenant! No! All of history! – had been leading up to this week – so much so that St. John devotes nearly half of his Gospel to the events in Jerusalem.

We were finally at the crescendo and something exciting was about to happened – the world was about to turn.

And then…

suddenly…

it didn’t.

Everything came crashing down. Continue reading “A Good Day?”

Eat. Drink. Love One Another.

A Homily for Maundy Thursday

Texts: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; St. John 13:1-7, 31b-36


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Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who gave unto us a new commandment: love one another. Amen.

It’s been quite a week – the turmoil has been steadily building since Sunday. We saw Jesus enter into Jerusalem during what must have been the city’s most chaotic time, just before Passover as pilgrims from across the world flood into the holy city, in a political rally that set Rome’s teeth on edge. The soldiers were sharpening their spears already on Sunday, and the tension has only grown.

After the Triumphal Entry, the Gospels show us a more confrontational Christ: cursing fig trees, turning over the money changers’ tables in the Temple, openly arguing with the Sadducees and the Pharisees, preaching more apocalyptic sermons, even predicting the destruction of the Temple, that jewel in Jerusalem’s crown, that staple of Judean identity. The religious leaders must be furious – if this upstart rebel isn’t silenced, the Romans will see to it that the Temple actually is torn down.

It’s just in the past few days that the plot to kill Jesus finally came together, coming to a head yesterday. Last night, on Spy Wednesday, we read that missing portion of tonight’s text, in which Judas Iscariot went out to betray Jesus.

In the midst of so much chaos, Jesus sat down with his closest disciples for a meal. Continue reading “Eat. Drink. Love One Another.”