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”

From the Beginning, with the End in Mind

A Homily for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

Text: St. Mark 6:14-29


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who claims those whom the world has rejected. Amen.

A mediocre tv show or movie might be worth watching once. We all know what a “beach read” is – a bargain book that you take with you on vacation. It might be worth reading once while listening to the waves and trying to keep an eye on the dog or the kids.

But a really good movie or book is worth re-visiting, and a great work is worth returning to time and time again. Each time through, some new detail emerges, a new theme grabs your attention. The second, third, tenth time through, you’re still catching subtle foreshadowing, shades of irony, jokes that are set up three episodes before the payoff, plot lines discretely seeded in the first pages that culminate in the final chapters. Notes that start subtly but soon dominate the score, meaningful echoes that play out at different levels.

I spent this past week re-reading a book by Michael Chabon, one of my favorite authors. I’ve read it I don’t know how many times (five?) and with each revisit, new details stick out to me, ways that he sets up themes in the first pages that dominate the rest of the novel. The ways he plays around with genre. The minor turns of phrase in this work that, with a wink and a nod, pop up in what he called his “fictional autobiography” a decade later.

Continue reading “From the Beginning, with the End in Mind”

The Prophet in the Hometown

A Homily for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Ezekiel 2:1-5; St. Mark 6:1-13


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who sends us out as prophets proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Amen.

No prophet ever, upon receiving God’s call, jumped for joy. “Woohoo! I get to speak truth to power and tell the people how their actions have afflicted our Lord! Where’s the King? I wanna go tell him his actions cause God grief. But first, let me go tell the landowners that the Lord plans to cut them down. I wonder, when I flee into exile, if I’ll go longer without food or water. I can’t wait to find out.”

Continue reading “The Prophet in the Hometown”

Little Child, Get Up

A Homily for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Lamentations 3:22-33; Psalm 30; St. Mark 5:21-43


Grace to you and peace, from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who call us to get up from our deathbeds. Amen.

Unfortunately, it’s not difficult to imagine what the woman in today’s Gospel story endured because we have all, at some point, suffered from some illness that took a physical, emotional, and social toll on us – even something as common as a cold can knock you out for a few days, depriving you of sleep and shutting you off from friends and family. But I dare say almost all of us have more experience than that – is there any among us who has not received that fateful call from the doctor that the test results came back and it’s not good news? Or spent years watching a loved one slowly fade? To place ourselves in her shoes is less a matter of imagination and more about remembering that time in our own lives.

The text tells us she “endured much under many physicians” and “spent all that she had” – and still only grew worse. It’s an all-too-common story.

Continue reading “Little Child, Get Up”

Calm in the Storms

A Homily for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Job 38:1-11; St. Mark 4:35-41


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who calms the tumultuous storms. Amen.

What shall we say about Job? This novella is one of those books in the canon of Scripture we tend to ignore. Sure, we might make passing reference to it, but we often keep it – and its tragic events – at an arm’s length.

Here’s a quick summary to jog your memory:

118-job_hears_of_his_misfortunes
Job Hears of His Misfortune, Gustave Doré

Job is doing quite well for himself, living the dream life. He’s wealthy, his estate boasting a thriving herd of sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys. His large family gets along, dining with each other frequently. The prologue tells us “this man was the greatest of all the people of the east.” To borrow a phrase from social media, he was #blessed.

Cut to the heavenly court, where the Accuser wanders in and strikes up a wager with God: Job is only pious because his life is perfect. But would he remain faithful if his posh life were taken away? What follows is a series of tragedies that in short order leave Job bankrupt, alone, covered in sores, sitting in an ash heap, waiting for death, using a broken vase as a backscratcher, as his wife tells him to just give up.

Sitting alone among the ruin, Job’s “friends” – though I use that term lightly – wander by to tell him it must all be his fault.

And it’s at this point that we all remember why we ignore this depressing section of the Bible. We’re not even at chapter three yet, folks.

Continue reading “Calm in the Storms”

Seeds of Mustard and Kudzu

A Homily for the Third Sunday after Pentecost

Texts: Ezekiel 17:22-24; St. Mark 4:26-34


Grace to you and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has sown the seeds of the Kingdom. Amen.

The Kingdom of God, our Lord says, is like a mustard seed. It’s small, insignificant, easy to miss. But plant it in the ground and it will grow and grow and grow until it becomes the mightiest…

…shrub.

Well, that’s different. Uh, Jesus, why not go with the cedars of Lebanon? That’s what Ezekiel did. Those cedars – there’s a mighty plant! Their timbers supplied the navies of the ancient world, the railroads of the Ottoman Empire, and the timbers for the very Temple itself in Jerusalem. The mighty and majestic cedars of Lebanon! Any bird would be lucky to build a nest in their branches!

But our Lord Christ goes for the mighty mustard shrub.

Continue reading “Seeds of Mustard and Kudzu”

Where are you?

A Homily for the Second Sunday after Pentecost

Text: Genesis 3:8-15


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who searches for us even in our sin. Amen.

Put yourself in Eden, just for a moment. Imagine being our first parents in the Garden.

Up until just a few moments ago, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. All of creation was perfect, just as it was meant to be. The cosmos were very good.

Then the serpent came along and made some empty promises. It started out with a bite – it was only a bite! – how did it end up like this? Perfection is starting to unravel. You and your spouse had literally been made for each other – book ends of creation, crafted from soil and bone in the likeness of God. But now suspicion and blame is creeping in. And even though you’ve never covered your body before, you’re suddenly filled with a sense of shame and an urge to get dressed – if only someone would invent clothing!

Continue reading “Where are you?”

The Trinity

A Homily for the Feast of the Holy Trinity

Texts: Isaiah 6:1-8; Romans 8:12-17


Grace to you and Peace in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

To what can we compare the Most Blessed Trinity?

God’s existence as three persons united into one being is perhaps the most confusing belief in the Christian faith.

How Christ can be present in heaven and here at the Altar? That’s easy enough – he’s God.

How can water do such marvelous things? It’s not water but water with the Spirit and Word of God.

Ok, we’ve the Sacraments down.

What’s the deal with the Crucifixion? Well, through his death and resurrection, Christ destroys the power of death. That makes sense. We that every year when spring brings green life out of the barren death of winter.

But the Trinity? One-in-Three and the Three-in-One? That brings with it all sorts of caveats to try to clarify it, and it just makes it more confusing.

Continue reading “The Trinity”

What Kind of King?

A Homily for Christ the King

Texts: Ephesians 1:15-23; St. Matthew 25:31-46


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus, our Lord and King, ruler of Heaven and Earth. Amen.

Let’s step back a few weeks in the lectionary – about five weeks ago, which is around three chapters before today’s reading. Some Pharisees and supporters of King Herod come to Jesus with a trick question: is it right to pay taxes to Caesar? Jesus asks to see a Roman coin and says, “Whose image is this, and whose titles?”

Picture it: a silver coin a little smaller than a quarter with the rough image of the emperor stamped into it – and not one but several titles surrounding the rim. Throughout the empire, images of Caesar proclaimed his glory through a series of lofty names:

Princeps Civitatis – First Among the Citizens
Princeps Senatus
– First Among the Senators
Pontifex Maximus – the Chief Priest of the Roman Imperial Religion
Imperator – the Conqueror
Pater Patria – Father of the Nation
Divi Filius – the Divine Son
Augustus
– the Exalted

This is how the emperors saw themselves – and made sure their subjects saw them this way too. From temples and government buildings to the very coins in used to buy bread and wine, the empire proclaimed Caesar’s glorious lordship far and wide.

Continue reading “What Kind of King?”

Departed Saints and the Coming Kingdom

A Homily for the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost

Text: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13*


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, Who Is, and Was, and Is To Come, the First Born from among the Dead. Amen.

There is no denying it: the days are getting shorter – even if we hadn’t “fallen back” last night. Nature drove this point home rather starkly for a few hundred thousand of us in north Georgia as we spent Thursday without power. By 7, it was dark enough that I was reaching for oil lamps to illuminate the dinner table – a far cry from the long days of summer when Suzanne and I could take long strolls until 9 or 9:30 at night.

For two millennia, the Church has incorporated this natural cycle into our calendar, using the long nights as an expression of our yearning for Christ’s birth and return in glory – the themes of Advent, which we will mark in a month.

Continue reading “Departed Saints and the Coming Kingdom”