First Fruits

A Homily for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Text: I Corinthians 15:12-20


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has risen victoriously and set us free. Amen.

We have spent the past several weeks discussing ministry – both Christ’s ministry in this world and our own call to ministry as members of the Body of Christ.

But what is this all for? Are we saved by Christ’s moral teachings, as though if we could perfectly follow him, we could earn our salvation? Are we saved by answering God’s call into ministry? Is it up to us?

Continue reading “First Fruits”

Fishing In Dangerous Waters

A Homily for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Text: St. Luke 5:1-11


Grace and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who calls us to fish for people. Amen.

Let me tell you about the last time I went fishing. It was in 2002. My family was stationed at Ft. Stewart, down on the coast; the ponds on base were renowned for their massive channel catfish – weighing in around forty pounds, on the small end.

My grandpa, an avid fisherman, had just died, and we had taken a few of his rods and tackleboxes with us after the funeral. Mom and I decided to see if we could reel in one of these legendary fish – what an appropriate way to honor grandpa Ben’s memory. We loaded put the dog in the car alongside our gear, stopped by to get a fishing license, and headed out to one of the dozens of fishing ponds in the vast expanse of the training area.

We pulled up to the dock jutting out into the water and noticed something odd: about halfway down the pier, a large piece of iron grating stretched across the walkway, hanging off each side by about a foot, and stood at over six feet tall.

Continue reading “Fishing In Dangerous Waters”

A Light to Reveal God to the Nations

A Homily for Candlemas

Text: St. Luke 2:22-40


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

Waiting for the birth of a child is such a terrifying and exhilarating time. Whether it’s your own child, or a relative, or a friend, the more you learn about the birth process, the more you learn about how things can go wrong. It’s been about five years since my friends started having kids, and I’ve sat with friends and family members through any number of complications – premature birth and stints in the NICU, emergency c-sections, post-partum complications, and sadly even miscarriages.

Continue reading “A Light to Reveal God to the Nations”

Bearing Witness

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

Text: St. Luke 4:21-30


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has come to proclaim freedom to the captives. Amen.

The lectionary has dropped us today in the middle of a chapter and in the middle of a story already in progress. Think back with me to a few weeks ago. We read St. Luke’s account of Christ’s baptism where the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord in the form of a dove. And then – well, then Luke interrupted the story with a list of Jesus’ ancestors. But the next event, which starts our present chapter, follows closely on the heels of Christ’s baptism. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Jesus endures these demonic assaults, and Satan “departed from him until an opportune time.”

“Then,” as we read last week, Jesus, still “filled with the power of the Spirit” began teaching in the synagogues throughout Galilee. He entered the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown, and read from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He gave the scroll back to the attendant, sat down, and gave one of the world’s shortest sermons: “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

And this brings us up to date for today. How did the people react to such an odd sermon?

Not well.

Continue reading “Bearing Witness”

Scripture is Being Fulfilled

A Homily for the Third Sunday after Epiphany

Texts: St. Luke 4:14-21


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who fulfills the Law and the Prophets. Amen.

Two weeks ago, we read that the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan. St. Luke doesn’t tell us much else about this; unlike Sts. Matthew and John’s longer descriptions, Luke gives us a scant three sentences before the Evangelist is off describing Jesus’ human lineage. Lest we think this was merely a momentary apparition, though, Luke picks up the story again by saying that Christ leaves the Jordan and enters the wilderness (we’ll read this in about six weeks when we get to Lent). This isn’t just a quick trip out to the desert but rather a time of wrestling with temptation and Satan. And Christ does not go alone – he is, as St. Luke puts it, “full of the Spirit.” Now, today, we pick up the story: Jesus, back from the wilderness, begins his public ministry “in the power of the Spirit.”

Christ’s entire ministry is infused by the presence of the Holy Spirit. And so it is that, in the synagogue, he takes the scroll and reads from the prophet Isaiah – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”

Continue reading “Scripture is Being Fulfilled”

The Son, the Beloved

A Homily for the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord

Texts: Isaiah 43:1-7; St. Luke 3:15-17, 21-22


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Beloved, with whom the Father is well-pleased. Amen.

In his baptism, Christ’s divine identity is unambiguously revealed in glory.

What a scene it must have been – picture the heavens opening. What a sight it was to behold. What divine splendor was on display? What radiance poured forth? Hear that voice – loud, authoritative, rolling across the waters, and yet gentle, loving, and intimate. Do you see that dove? So ordinary and plain, like the ones for sell at the market back in town, but there’s something inherently different about it.

This is the first recorded act of Jesus’ adult life, before he begins calling disciples, teaching, or working wonders, before his confrontation with the powers and principalities. Here, at the very outset of his earthly ministry, this one thing is made clear: Jesus the Christ is the Son of God.

He’s not a creature like us, nor adopted by God as the Caesars claim to be. No, Christ is the eternally begotten Son, who existed before all things.

Continue reading “The Son, the Beloved”

God Made Flesh, God Mad Vulnerable

A Homily for Christmas

Texts: St. Luke 2:1-20


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, born of the Virgin in Bethlehem. Amen.

We’ll sing Silent Night in a few minutes. It’s a beautiful song, but I’m not sure it’s the most historically accurate. Certainly the shepherds quaked at the sight of the heavenly hosts singing “Alleluia.” But if you’ve ever been present for a birth, you know that they are not silent or calm affairs. For that matter, they’re not the squeaky-clean events of Christmas cards and paintings. Where is the Christmas card with the Blessed Virgin Mary exhausted and sweating while Saint Joseph wipes away the vernix? Technology has come far enough that I should be able to buy a nativity set with a little speaker playing the newborn Christ’s hungry screams.

Continue reading “God Made Flesh, God Mad Vulnerable”

Doth Magnify the Lord: Advent 4C

Some Thoughts for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Texts:

  • Old Testament: Micah 5:2-5
  • Canticle: The Magnificat (St. Luke 1:46-55) -or- Psalm 80:1-7
  • Epistle: Hebrews 10:5-10
  • Holy Gopsel: St. Luke 1:39-45*

*The Gospel lection is flexible as to guarantee that if the psalm is used in place of the Magnificat, the Blessed Virgin’s song of praise is still read.


Texts in Summary:

As we come to the end of Advent, we make a thematic shift. The lectionary had been pointing us ever forward to the eschaton – starting with apocalyptic imagery at the end of St. Luke’s Gospel and then with John the Baptist’s call to repentance and use of fiery imagery. Now, the RCL is putting everyone in their starting positions.

Continue reading “Doth Magnify the Lord: Advent 4C”

Cultivated by Fire

A Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

Text: St. Luke 3:7-18


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our coming Lord, who is cultivating us for the Kingdom. Amen.

Is there anything quite like fire? All it takes is flicking a match against a box to strike a flame. The initial light is so weak that even a child can blow out – but that same blaze can leave a burn that will “torment you throughout the night.” And that same small, delicate flame can quickly grow into a fierce and unquenchable fire threatening to destroy everything in its path.

In the unfolding climate crisis, we have seen larger and larger wildfires consume massive swaths of the Pacific coast, the mountain west, Alaska, Siberia, and Australia. Smoke from the fires can cover hundreds of miles, turning the sky a terrifying shade of hellish red, and send haze and smog thousands of miles further. These infernos threaten to devour everything they touch. In 2016, the Chimney Tops 2 fire in the Smoky Mountains destroyed more than two thousand structures. In 2020, wildfires destroyed more than 17,500 structures in the US. And in 2018, the Camp fire in California destroyed nearly 19,000 buildings and killed 85 people.  It doesn’t take much – yes, downed powerlines and lightning strikes can start up a blaze, but even something as simple as a car driving over tall, dry grass can light a fire that will unleash scenes of hell on earth.

Continue reading “Cultivated by Fire”

A Straight Path Through Badlands

A Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

Texts: Baruch 5:1-9; Malachi 3:1-4; St. Luke 3:1-6


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who leads us into the coming Kingdom. Amen.

If you’ve ever been through badlands, you know what good news this. Badlands are areas where the topsoil has given way to soft layers of sedimentary rock – rock so soft that a single rainstorm can shift the landscape. Deep gullies drop down a hundred feet without warning and steep buttes and spires rise just as high. The terrain is so rugged that both the Lakota people and French-Canadian explorers dubbed them “bad land to pass over.” (I’ll spare us all the embarrassment of butchering the original Lakota and French pronunciations.)

Castle Trail, Badlands National Park, August 2016
Continue reading “A Straight Path Through Badlands”