Begotten from Before the Beginning

A Homily for the Second Sunday of Christmas

Texts: Jeremiah 31:7-14; Ephesians 1:3-14: St. John 1:1-18


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

From before time and space, Christ is. The Only-Begotten Son of God is the One Through Whom All Things Are Made. Christ is the Word spoken by God to create the entire cosmos. And now, in the fullness of time, this same Word has descended from the right hand of the Father to become one of us.

The entirety of the Incarnation defies our attempt to understand it – that the Jesus is fully God and fully human? That the Son and the Father are both fully and entirely God – not two gods or different aspects of one God but two persons of a Blessed Trinity? That God would step down from the heavenly throne to become one of us? That this God, having already condescended to become human, would choose to live not in a palace in the heart of a major empire but as a common laborer among a conquered people?

Continue reading “Begotten from Before the Beginning”

The Word Made Flesh: Christmas 2C

Some Thoughts for the Second Sunday of Christmas

Texts:

  • Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:7-14 -or- Sirach 24:1-12
  • Canticle: Psalm 147:12-120 -or- Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21
  • Epistle: Ephesians 1:3-14
  • Holy Gospel: St. John 1:(1-9 optional), 10-18

Texts in Summary:

Well first, let’s get on the same page. What are we actually reading?

It’s complicated.

It’s not terribly common for there to be two Sundays between Christmas and Epiphany, and when it does happen, the various lectionaries tend to go a bit haywire. And so, according to the Revised Common Lectionary, we are reading the Prologue to St. John’s Gospel – but this was the appointed reading for Christmas Day. That is, unless your parish reads the Lukan texts on Christmas Eve and doesn’t gather for worship on the 25th. Or if you opt for the shortened Gospel text, which begins at v 10 and only overlaps with the Christmas reading for four verses before embarking into “new” territory. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer appoints a series of options for the Gospel reading, flipping the pattern of the RCL but maintaining the Old Testament and Epistle readings. Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church is marking Epiphany this Sunday. Alas, the Revised Common Lectionary is not so common as its framers hoped.

Continue reading “The Word Made Flesh: Christmas 2C”

Signs of a Coming Kingdom

A Homily for the First Sunday of Advent

Texts: Jeremiah 33:15-16; St. Luke 21:25-36


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ our Lord, who is coming again in glory. Amen.

Have you ever gazed up at the heavens and marveled at the lights piercing the inky black expanse?

I’m not much one for finding stellar constellations, those mythic signs traced through the stars – not for lack of trying but for lack of ability. But without fail, I can find Orion – the great hunter with his tell-tale belt and Canis Major steadfastly by his side. As a teenager in Kansas and on long, late-night rides through the Georgia countryside in college, and now, watching him rise over the trees in my neighborhood, I know that Orion’s appearance in the evening means one thing: winter is coming.

Continue reading “Signs of a Coming Kingdom”

A Righteous Branch: Advent 1C

Sermon Thoughts for the First Sunday of Advent

Texts:

  • Old Testament: Jeremiah 33:14-16
  • Psalm 25:1-10
  • New Testament: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
  • Holy Gospel: St. Luke 21:25-36

Texts In Summary:

As we move into Advent, we begin at the end – with a dose of eschatology and apocalypticism. In November, the lectionary cycle ended with a distinct turn towards the end of things, and we pick up there as well, like a snake devouring its own tail.

Continue reading “A Righteous Branch: Advent 1C”

Woeful Shepherds & Good Shepherd

A Homily for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23


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

There were two men, one wealthy and with many flocks, and one who had a only one small ewe – not so much a piece of livestock but a pet. “Like a daughter to him.” A traveler called upon the rich man – who, hesitant to part with one of his own sheep, stole the poor man’s ewe, butchered it, and served it to his guest.

Upon hearing this story, King David – himself a former shepherd – grew angry, condemning the hypothetical rich thief. “The man who has done this deserves to die!” the king raged. “He shall restore the lamb fourfold because he did this thing, and because he has no pity.”

Continue reading “Woeful Shepherds & Good Shepherd”

Hope in the Ruins

A Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Texts: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:5-10; St. John 12:20-33


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who fulfills the covenant even when all hope seems lost. Amen.

Things had looked so promising just a short time ago.

King Josiah was on the throne and Judah was turning again to the Lord as the king and priests worked for justice, piety, and reform. The scroll we now call  Deuteronomy, telling again of God’s Law, had been discovered.  Josiah was a new David – but better!

It seemed as though the people, from the king to the priests down to the humblest of farmers, would finally keep their end of the covenant God had made with Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, and David – the covenant that had been broken in every generation. Judah would finally know God.

Maybe – just maybe – Judah would avoid the fate of their northern neighbor, Israel, that had been destroyed by the Assyrians a century before.

Judah had barely survived then, and a century later, Josiah ascended to the seat of his ancestor David, a righteous heir to shepherd the people!

And it lasted – that time of hope and fidelity – for a while.

Continue reading “Hope in the Ruins”

Ecclesia Semper Reformanda Est

A Homily for Reformation Day

Texts: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 3:19-28; St. John 8:31-36


luther-Copy

Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has justified us by grace through faith. Amen.

Most of us know this story by now, either from confirmation or history class…especially after the build-up to the five hundredth anniversary festivities two years ago and the Vespers series* we just finished. But once more with feeling: On October 31st, 1517, a German Augustinian friar, deeply disturbed by the sale of indulgences, posted ninety-five theses, or topics for discussion, on the church door in the university city of Wittenberg to spark an academic debate among his fellow scholars. In doing so, Martin Luther launched the Reformation, and the world was forever changed. Of course, the historical reality is much more nuanced than that, with centuries of developments before and after that fateful day, but the October 31st story makes for convenient short hand. Continue reading “Ecclesia Semper Reformanda Est”

“Heaven and earth will pass away, BUT…”

A Homily for the First Sunday of Advent

Texts: Jeremiah 33:14-16; St. Luke 21:25-36


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who is coming with power and great glory. Amen.

I’m going to be uncharacteristically brief today, my friends, because this week hurts. There is no way around it. Yesterday, we commended our brother Bill Moses to God’s care, and many of you have gone by the hospital to say your goodbyes to our sister Anne, who is nearing the hour of death. Sisters and brothers, I am not ashamed to say that I have cried this week.

Two weeks ago, Saint Mark recounted Jesus’ predictions of destruction and chaos, of a world rising up in revolt. Last week, on the Feast of Christ the King, Saint John showed us Christ’s trial before Pilate, a God subject to imperfect human laws, subject to powers and principalities, subject even to death.

And these chaotic scenes resonate deep within us. This week, it has certainly felt like the world was shaking, as though chaos reigned supreme. It has felt as though these things have the final say. Continue reading ““Heaven and earth will pass away, BUT…””

Sheep with a Shepherd

A Homily for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Mark 6:30-34


goodshepherd dura europos.jpg
Christ the Good Shepherd, Dura-Europos

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

When we last saw the twelve apostles, they had been sent out two by two on their second mission trip. After a rough trip to Jesus’ hometown, he sent them out to do exactly what he had not been able to do among his own kin. And immediately after they went out, we heard about John the Baptist’s violent end at Herod’s hand. The apostles’ mission was perilous and by no means a guaranteed success. They were sent out with no food, no money, no change of clothes: only each other and a (difficult) message. Failure was a very real option.

Today, we join them on their return. By all accounts and despite all odds, things went well. Verse 13, which we read two weeks ago, tells us that the Twelve “cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” And verse 30, at the outset of today’s Gospel, depicts their reunion with the Lord: they “gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.”

Imagine their excitement; the twelve just worked wonders! They’ve glimpsed the Kingdom of God erupting into this world! They’ve received a foretaste of the Feast to come! Continue reading “Sheep with a Shepherd”

Know the Lord: Exile and the Covenant

A Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Texts: Jeremiah 31:31-34; St. John 12:20-33


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who fulfills the covenant even when all hope seems lost. Amen.

Things had looked so promising just a short time ago. King Josiah was on the throne and Judah was turning again to the Lord as the king and priests worked for justice, piety, and reform. The book of Deuteronomy, telling again of God’s Law, had been discovered. Josiah was a new David – but better! It seemed as though the people, from the king to the priests down to the humblest of farmers, would finally keep their end of the covenant God had made with Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, and David – the covenant that had been broken in every generation. Judah would finally know God. Maybe – just maybe – Judah would avoid the fate of their northern neighbor, Israel, that had been destroyed by the Assyrians a century before. Judah had barely survived then.

But now! Maybe now they would know peace and tranquility! Continue reading “Know the Lord: Exile and the Covenant”