A Homily for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Isaiah 25:1-9
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who prepares a feast for us. Amen.
It’s been sort of like living out Murphy’s Law this year, hasn’t it? If it can go wrong, it probably has. I won’t belabor the point because I think we’re all pretty much tired of 2020’s parade of horribles at this point, but let’s just consider the natural disasters: a string of tornadoes that destroyed one of our companion churches in Nashville, wild fires running the length of the Pacific coast that have sent smoke across the entire lower 48, a hurricane season so active that we’ve run out of names (and then some), a derecho that leveled buildings and destroyed crops across ten states, all of this in the midst of a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen in over a century.
(Any one of these would make for a far-fetched action movie starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a body-builder-turned-scientist racing against time. All of them at once can only be described with a sigh and a bitter remark about what else 2020 might have in store.)
Continue reading “God’s Restoring Judgment”
A Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Texts: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Philippians 2:1-13; St. Matthew 21:23-32
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the truly obedient Son. Amen.
In my mind, I am amazing. No, really, I’m studious, disciplined, innovative, and generous. In my imagination, I wake up every morning at 5:30 to pray, exercise, and study. I stick to a mostly-vegetarian diet. I’m quick to give away money to anyone in need, ready to stand out on the street protesting for justice, and then I spend my evenings quietly reading while drinking tea.
Or at least, I will. Starting just after this next episode. Or tomorrow. Ok, when we get to Advent and start the new liturgical year: consider it a resolution.
The truth is, despite my best intentions, I stay up too late re-watching the same tv shows I’ve already seen five times, which means I’m definitely not up at 5:30. Despite the large number of prayer books on my shelf, the only times I’m able to really stick with the Daily Office are when I’m on retreat. And I never happen to have that spare single dollar bill on me to give to those in need.
Continue reading “I Go…Or, I Want To…”
A Homily for the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Texts: Jonah 3:10-4:11; St. Matthew 20:1-16
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who unfairly pours out divine grace upon us. Amen.
“Life isn’t fair.”
Someone has probably said that to you – at least once – at some point during your life. Maybe a parent, a teacher, a coworker. It’s practically a cliché at this point; as someone complains about the injustices of the world, be they minor or major, to tell them, “Life’s not fair.” As if to say, “Welcome to the club, bub,” or “Deal with it,” and end the conversation there.
How unfair the Gospel may seem sometimes.
Continue reading “Grace Isn’t Fair”
A Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Text: St. Matthew 18:15-20
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who has called the entire Church. Amen.
“…whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
If these words sound familiar, it’s because we’ve read them before – and recently. It was two weeks ago, when Simon confessed that Jesus is “the Messiah, the son of the Living God,” and Jesus bestowed on him a new name: Peter, the rock, and promised him “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” (This, by the way, is why Saint Peter is so often depicted in pop culture as pearly-gatekeeper, a sort of celestial maître’ d, checking off whatever fictitious character happens to find themselves knock knock knockin’ on heaven’s door.)
Continue reading “To Forgive”
A Homily for the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
Text: St. Matthew 15:21-28
Grace to you and peace, from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, whose table is overflowing. Amen.
Our text this morning is a difficult one, full of ancient tensions between insiders and outsiders. The Hebrew Bible, situated as it is at the intersection of royal politics and religious identity – and those in a kingdom situated at the crossroads of empires – wrestles with the question of how to respond to the outsider.
The prophets employ polemical rhetoric to mock and condemn Israel’s enemies and foreign militaries – but then again, Naaman the Aramean army officer, comes to Elisha seeking healing and from then worships only the Lord God of Israel.
In the twin books of Ezra and Nehemiah, those returning from Exile in Babylon forswear marriage with foreign women – but the stories of Rahab and Ruth place foreign women in crucial roles, and Saint Matthew puts these alien wives in the Messiah’s lineage.
This sort of back-and-forth was still a live question in Jesus’ day. First-century Judea was home to Jews but also Greeks, Romans, Samaritans, and others, and had Gentile neighbors in every direction. Continue reading “Crumbs From an Overflowing Table”
A Homily for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Text: St. Matthew 14:22-33
Grace to you and peace from God our Heaven Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who walks across the face of the deep. Amen.
Preachers and the folks who write Bible study curriculum have gotten a lot of mileage out of this story, reading it in completely opposite ways.
Some have criticized Simon Peter for his doubt, spending page after page tsk-tsking Peter for his fear, for his lack of trust. Jesus says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” and authors, safe in their armchairs far away from the crashing waves, have taken this as an opportunity to rake poor Simon over the coals. He’s supposed to be the rock upon which the Church is built, but he sinks like a stone. Continue reading “Sinking Beneath the Waves”
A Homily for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
Texts: Isaiah 55:1-5; St. Matthew 14:13-21
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who invites us to dine at the abundant feast. Amen.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Thus saith the Lord through the prophet Isaiah.
Some of our kindred in the Church use this verse as a proof-text to explain God’s wrath. We simply cannot understand, they say, how a loving God despises his creation because God is so much loftier than us. It doesn’t matter how good you may be, how many people you fed, how little wrong you did, God still despises your every action unless you’ve prayed a certain way and been baptized by immersion as an adult and attend a specific type of Church. Why? Because God’s ways are higher than our ways, and we simply cannot understand the righteousness of the divine temper tantrum. So stop asking questions.
Continue reading “With No Money, Come and Buy”
A Homily for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Texts: Romans 8:26-39; St. Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the one who gives us faith like a mustard seed. Amen.
Small things become big things. Faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain. A little bit of yeast can leaven an entire loaf of bread. Mmmmm. Bread. Especially with some spicy brown mustard and, while we’re at it, a slice of good cheese. Toss the whole thing in the oven to make it toasty and melty. You’re making me hungry, Jesus. Bring on the appetizers of the Kingdom of God.
We understand these parables. Right?
Continue reading “Mustard, Yeast, and Kudzu”
A Homily for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Texts: Romans 8:12-25; St. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the Merciful One who sows good seed. Amen.
One day during my childhood, while we were living in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I was surprised to see small, colorful pebbles laying in the flowerbed outside our house. What could they possibly be? (I’m not even sure I knew the word “fertilizer” at that age.) And, at least as I remember it now, a week or so later, the same flowerbed had small shoots of green emerging from the soil.
Aha! So those small pebble-looking things were seeds! (Wrong.) But what were they growing? I reached down, grabbed the greenery, and yanked. Low and behold, it was attached to a bulb! Those small seeds had grown into something bigger than my fist! (Wrong again.) Amazed, I took my discovery in to show my mother, who was horrified that I had uprooted her one of her new tulips.
Continue reading “Pulling Up Weeds”
A Homily for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Texts: Isaiah 55:10-13; St. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who will not cut us off but instead delivers us from the thorns. Amen.
Imagine walking along any street in the Georgia summer. The cicadas are calling from the trees; pine towers overhead while magnolia limbs hang low, diving into the dirt and erupting out again. The humidity presses in around you, reminding you of the promised blast of air condition and tea when you get home. You pass an empty lot, erupting in deep green that covers last square inch, climbing up the trees, covering the abandoned shed, threatening to crush it under the unbearable weight.
For the farmers listening to Jesus, thorny weeds threatened to choke out their crop. For farmers living in the southeast, the threat is kudzu.
How lush the hillside covered in this once-heralded vine appears at first glance! But it has that look of uncanny uniformity, every leaf looking exactly the same, choking out any other grass, bush, shrub, or tree that ever took root in that same soil. Continue reading “Of Thorns, Kudzu, and Wealth”