Resurrected Hope

April 30, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
3rd Sunday of Easter
Acts 2:14a,36-41; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35

This Sunday I got a bit out of my comfort zone and preached without a manuscript. A couple of years ago, a parishioner of my church encouraged me to do this, but my anxiety has been an impediment. Then, this past Tuesday I had a bit of time with my bishop, Rob Wright. In our carefree conversation about this Sunday’s gospel text from Luke, he asked, “Are you going to preach from a manuscript?” I said I was and he challenged me not to. Nudged might be a better word. He didn’t push hard, but he assured me that “you’ve got this.” My wife, Alice also bolstered my confidence. I talk about scripture passages and sermon ideas with her all the time, off the cuff, so she knows I can do it. So I decided that I’d give it a try.

Now, to be clear, preaching without a manuscript isn’t the same thing as preaching extemporaneously, which is with little preparation. I did prepare. But as someone who has always relied heavily on my carefully crafted, tightly worded, sermon in print in front of me, to instead walk into church on Sunday morning with no paper in hand, no saved document to pull up on a screen, it was odd. To move out from behind the pulpit, standing at the top of the chancel steps, with nothing between me and the congregation, I was exposed.

Photo by Bruce Halliburton, 2014.

My only safety net was the Bible given to me by that same bishop on the day of my ordination. It sat on the altar rail, just a few feet away, providing assurance that if I needed to, I could turn to the text, or peek at the squirreled away 4×6 inch index card with bullet points tucked inside.

The safety net was not necessary. As expected, the Holy Spirit had my back as I shared God’s word and the story of resurrected hope found in Luke’s Easter message.The audio file isn’t as crisp as I’d like, but thanks to iPhone technology and recording apps, I captured it and share it with you here.

Happy Easter! Go try something new!




April 15, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Great Easter Vigil
Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 28:1-10


Yes, it’s great to be with you on this night of the Great Easter Vigil yet my salutation of “Greetings!” is more than just a word of welcome. I’m following the example of Jesus. In Matthew’s telling, this is the first word shared by the resurrected Christ. When I realized this, it surprised me!

It’s John’s resurrection story that usually comes to mind. In it Jesus speaks with compassion to Mary Magdalene as she weeps outside the empty tomb. She mistakes him for a gardener when he gently asks, “‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Then, calling her by name, “Mary!” she recognized him.

In Luke’s version, Jesus’ first words are shared with two unnamed disciples on the road to Emmaus. They’re discussing the recent events of Jesus arrest and death, and an unrecognized Jesus asks, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?road2emmausAfter they tell him, he proceeds to explain how obvious it is that all these things were necessary to fulfill what Moses and the prophets said about the Messiah. Even so, they still didn’t recognize him, that is, until he broke bread with them at dinner. This shared act caused their eyes to be opened to the risen Christ.

Mark’s gospel gives no words to Jesus at all. An angel at the empty tomb instructs the women to tell the others that Jesus has risen and that he’ll meet them in Galilee. But we’re told that these who were to share the good news went silent. It says: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

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Loving Like Jesus

April 13, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Maundy Thursday
Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Jesus is getting his affairs in order.

There’s no Garden of Gethsemane prayer of doubt in John’s telling of this story.

Jesus is clear about who he is, what he is doing, and what is coming next.

In the passage just ahead of today’s familiar story, it says:

Jesus cried aloud: ‘Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. (Jn 12:44-45)

What comes next is a demonstration of what “seeing him who sent me” looks like.

Jesus has had dinner with his disciples before, but he knows that his earthly life is drawing to a close. Words and signs have brought him so far, but he has a few more things to teach. Now he will give a tangible experience, an example of what it feels like to be embraced by God’s love. It’s important to remember that even Judas, the one who will betray Jesus, receives this example of love.

There’s no anxiety in this act. No haste.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (Jn 13:3-5)

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Collective Remembering

April 9, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14- 27:66

On the morning of January 2nd this year my Uncle Harris sent an e-mail to his three brothers and two sisters asking if any of them remembered which year their family moved to a new house, which was just a few blocks up the street from their old house. Providing a few memory-joggers:

  • Harris first thought it was in the 50’s, but a childhood friend suggested it was the late 40’s.
  • He said he didn’t remember going to St. John’s School from the old house, and it opened in 1946.
  • He shared a vague recollection of “a bunch of us walking the antenna down the sidewalk” to the new house. This refers to the big antenna for my grandfather’s ham radio which he used to connect, through Morris Code, with people around the globe.
  • And then there was the Hallicrafter television. They were the first house on the block to have one. He remembered that their dad brought it home – to the new house – and that it had a 6-inch screen.

Can you imagine watching shows on a 6-inch screen?

I guess the adage is true: “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

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