Speak, O Lord

A Homily for the Second Sunday after Epiphany

Texts: I Samuel 3:1-20; St. John 1:43-51


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who calls us to follow him. Amen.

In seminary, my Old Testament professor would almost always open class with a devotional prayer, and almost always that prayer was a contemporary song based on a passage of Scripture, and almost always one of two songs in particular: “Thy Word” by Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith (inspired by Psalm 119) or “Speak, O Lord” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend, which is largely inspired by today’s reading from First Samuel.

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory

We were encouraged to sing along with this prayer, and I have to say, I did not care for it the first time. Or the second. Or the third. By the fourth time, I rolled my eyes. By the time my roommate started singing it in the living room, I would turn up the volume of the television to drown it out. But, what can I say, it did eventually start to grow on me – sappy piano melody and all – and now I can’t read the words Eli handed to Samuel without thinking of Dr. Strawn and a hundred seminarians singing along.

Continue reading “Speak, O Lord”

The Creator Enters Creation

A Homily for the Second Sunday of Christmas

Text: St. John 1:1-18


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Word who was with God and was God in the beginning. Amen.

In the beginning, some thirteen billion years ago, the universe exploded into being from nothingness, the echo of the Big Bang still reverberating to this day. Through the æons, stars were forged in the cosmic furnaces, erupting forth as light in the darkness, burning brightly and dying in explosions, leading to the birth of new stars and planets. When life emerged on this, our home, it bore in itself the stuff of stars – as stars emerged and passed away, sewing the matter that would become this pale blue dot, so to did life rise and fall, returning dust to dust, a cycle of life and death giving way to new life. And even so, as humanity emerged, we were nurtured by this star-stuff – the air we breathe, the food we eat, the blood that pumps in our veins was forged in the same cosmic furnace as the stars. As physicist Neil DeGrasse-Tyson put it, “We are in the universe, and the universe is in us.”

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Lights & Caves

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

Texts: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; St. John 1:6-8, 19-28


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

I am, generally speaking, not scared of the dark.

But there was one time.

My high school youth group went on a retreat to the mountains of southeastern Tennessee, doing all the things you normally do on such excursions: white water rafting the Ocoee River, high and low ropes courses, rappelling down the face of a 100 foot cliff…and caving. Mind you, not a leisurely stroll through a large cave with handrails and a paved path, like at Carlsbad Caverns, but a get-on-your-hands-and-knees, wade-through-waste-high-water, crawl-through-mud, filthy sort of caving. We entered the cave in grungy clothes but otherwise clean with helmet-mounted lamps and emerged an hour later, covered head to toe in miry clay.

About midway through the excursion, God only knows how far underground, the guide instructed us to do the unthinkable: turn off our lamps. Every single one. In the span of about five seconds, some fifteen lanterns clicked off and we transitioned – dropped, more like it – from an illuminated chamber to pitch black.

And it.

 Was.

Terrifying.

Continue reading “Lights & Caves”

On the Anniversary of My Ordination

A Homily for the Ordination of a Presbyter by the Rev. Mitchell Lewis*

Texts: 1 Peter 5:1-4; St. John 21:15-19


I am Andrew’s father, a United Methodist pastor in the North Georgia Conference. And I appreciate Bishop Gordy allowing me to stand in this pulpit tonight as you prepare to set Andrew apart for the work of a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

When Andrew was 2 years old, I began a 27 year career as an Army chaplain, from which I’ve just retired. So you can do the math. My first assignment was at Fort Leonard Wood, and we took Andrew to a Lutheran preschool in St Robert, Missouri. I’m not sure if that started him down the road to Wittenberg or not.

Throughout his life, Andrew sat under all sorts of preaching and teaching in chapel worship and youth groups. He heard Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Catholics, non-Denominational evangelicals, parachurch groups, and so forth. The Army chaplaincy is a real smorgasbord of Christian religion. And there was a point, when I was assisting a Lutheran congregation on post, that Andrew probably heard the phrase “simul justus et peccator” every Sunday.

Continue reading “On the Anniversary of My Ordination”

Freedom and the Theology of the Cross

A Homily for Reformation Sunday

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


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, and from the Holy Spirit who has called and renewed the Church throughout the ages. Amen.

Were we able to pluck Martin Luther from the 1500s and drop him into a car in our parking lot or in front of a computer screen today to worship with us, I doubt he would recognize what we are doing here today: broadcasting the service over the radio into people’s cars? While others watch a pre-recorded service on YouTube? First we’d have to explain what a camera is, what a microphone does, the basics of both radio waves and the internal combustion engine, what a computer is, and how a network of various wires connects almost the entire globe.

Continue reading “Freedom and the Theology of the Cross”

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”

Homebound Apostles

A Homily for the Second Sunday of Easter

Text: St. John 20:19-31


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, who calls and equips the entire church for ministry. Amen.

In years past, I’ve preached this text as a reminder that the modern Church is apostolic, sent out like those first disciples to proclaim our faith in the Risen Christ while also remembering our kindred in distant lands who live in fear of violence. “Come out from behind your locked doors,” I said.

But today, that is truly terrible advice. Continue reading “Homebound Apostles”

Spy Wednesday

A Homily for Spy Wednesday

Text: St. John 13:21-32


Grace to you, and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Son of Man who has been glorified. Amen.

When last we parted ways on Sunday, our “Hosannas!” had faded to chants of “Crucify him!” We enter Holy Week, knowing that things are not going to turn out the way we think.

The disciples had been warned that this was going to happen, but they continued to ignore it. They still expect something amazing, some climactic showdown between Jesus and the Roman Empire, one decisive victory, and as they gather for dinner in the upper room, they unknowingly share in one last supper and receive Christ’s final teachings before his crucifixion. We know something’s amiss, and even the disciples are starting to piece it together. Continue reading “Spy Wednesday”