Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Proper 9 Year A
Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Listen here, or read below:

A couple of months ago I preached a sermon about the importance of not avoiding things that are complex just because they are complex. Jesus certainly didn’t avoid difficult topics or situations – he faced them head-on.

In Matthew’s gospel we see many occasions of Jesus challenging the scribes and Pharisees. He points out that although they followed the letter of the Hebrew law, they were missing the underlying intention of the law. Love of God and love of one’s neighbor were the most important things. Jesus demonstrated that love by healing the blind man, even though it was done on the Sabbath. By doing this, he was showing that it’s more important to have compassion than to follow the rigid rules of the religious tradition.

There are lots of examples of Jesus confronting things that would have been more easily avoided. And today I’m faced with a similar dilemma. Not that I’m comparing myself to Jesus – on that I’d fall well-short – yet, his is the example we’re called to emulate as his followers.

Now, when I preached that sermon in May, I should’ve guessed it wouldn’t be long before I was faced with a lectionary text that would make me literally practice what I preached! Today I’ve found that in Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Read the rest of this entry »

Shining Light on Suicide

March 26, 2017

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
The 4th Sunday in Lent
1 Samuel 16:1-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41; Psalm 23

When I was growing up my twin sister and I often had slumber parties to celebrate our birthday. One of these in particular stands out in my memory – the summer we turned 13.

After playing games and eating dinner and cake, it came time for lights-out, though that never meant eyes-closed. When the room got dark, the real stuff began, you know, ghost stories, séances, and in my day, the ever popular “light as a feather, stiff as a board.” This is when the whole group gathered around one willing party-goer who laid in the center, as we called upon spirits from beyond to assist us to lift her using only two fingers.

That year, in the wee hours of the morning, amid these mystical endeavors, the phone rang. One of our friends had a premonition that it was probably bad news… not really a stretch in hindsight, but at the time we gave her full creds as the enlightened one.

Sure enough, the next morning my parents called me and my siblings into their room. Their somber expressions caused me to wonder if my Grandma Caldwell had died. She was elderly and had already had several heart attacks. So, you can imagine my surprise when they shared that our cousin Carl was the one who had died. He was in training with the Air Force. His roommate had found him, seemingly asleep on the sofa, in their base-camp apartment. Carl was one day shy of his 19th birthday, and in two weeks he was supposed to get married. Read the rest of this entry »

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
15th Sunday After Pentecost – Proper 17
Jeremiah
 2:4-13; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16; Luke 14:1, 7-14

(Gospel Text provided below)

At the beginning of the summer, as we began our journey through Luke’s gospel, I said that if I had to pick a movie genre that best fit this gospel, it would be “supernatural.” Face it, the book is full of angels, healings, super-natural stuff, the whole bit. The gospel story on that day was about Jesus raising a man from the dead and it was told in only five verses.

I compared this matter-of-fact telling of the story to John’s elaborate gospel story about the raising of Lazarus. I explained that this difference in emphasis points to each author’s purpose for their gospel. John’s gospel is providing evidence in order to bring people to belief, or to reaffirm their belief, in Jesus as the Messiah. By contrast Luke’s telling isn’t intended to convert people, but instead, to shed a new light, a particular light, on Jesus’ message to an existing early Christian community.[i]

hungry-filledLuke provides an intentional message of salvation – a salvation that upends the status quo of his time. Jesus declares a ministry oriented to those without power.[ii] Where the lowly are raised up and the powerful brought down. Even more, Jesus is trying to remove those things that divide people, and restore those who have been excluded – the poor, the ill, the marginalized and the oppressed – and bring them back into the community.

At the risk of being a broken record, we see the same message from Jesus in today’s gospel lesson.   Read the rest of this entry »

The Capacity to Love

June 12, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
Fourth Sunday After Pentecost – Proper 6
1 Kings 21:1-21a; Galatians 2:15-21; Luke 7:36-8:3

Gospel Text:

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him– that she is a sinner.” Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. y. (Luke 7:36 – 8:3)

 

Before I begin, I’d like to ask you to take a moment to reflect on the gospel lesson you just heard. Think to yourself and answer this question:

When you think about the woman in the story, what word comes to mind?  

Read the rest of this entry »

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