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!

 

 

Us and Them = Othering

October 23, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
23rd Sunday After Pentecost – Proper 25
Joel 2:23-32
; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14

(Gospel Text provided below)

As I reflected on today’s parable, it brought to mind an unexpected Facebook interaction I had last month. Rest assured, it had NOTHING to do with the presidential campaign, so you can all breathe easy.

As you may know, on the 3rd Sunday of each month the young parishioners of Christ Church spend the first part of the 10:30 service over in the youth center, for Service & Prayer. During this time we begin with prayers of thanks, and then we make sandwiches to be taken to Emmaus House or one of the other food ministries in our diocese.

14341748_10208999235850840_1526923341_nThe 3rd Sunday in September was September 18th. That was the day we had the blended bi-lingual service. Consequently, we had even more youngsters at Service & Prayer that morning. To capture the moment, I took a few pictures as the kids were busily spreading peanut butter and jelly… a much messier undertaking than you might expect. That afternoon I sent the pictures to Robin Miller, who handles our Facebook page, so she could post them. I asked her to include this message:

Service & Prayer Sunday… Making sandwiches and trail mix for the homeless. Hands and hearts in action!

Read the rest of this entry »

Leaving the Ninety-nine

September 11, 2016

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA
17th Sunday After Pentecost – Proper 19
Jeremiah
 4:11-12, 22-28; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10

(Gospel Text provided below)

lost-found-woohooToday we hear the familiar parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin. In Sunday School lessons and discussion groups our conversation usually focuses on the experience of being lost and being found. We ask questions like, “Describe a time when you were lost or separated from a family member?” or “What feelings did you experience when you were found after being lost?” Or perhaps the focus is on one’s assurance that someone cares enough about them to actually look for them.

This is a very understandable inclination. We can identify with the lost sheep because sometimes we feel lost ourselves. We want a God who will come and look for us, who won’t give up on us when we go astray. And, when we are found, we like the idea that God rejoices and celebrates our return! WooHoo!!

And while all of that is well and good, and these are comforting messages, I’m not sure that’s really what these parables in Luke’s gospel are getting at. When we look at the parable and its context more closely, we see that it isn’t a story about the lost sheep or lost coin. Like most stories in the gospels, it’s actually a story about Jesus. 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 »

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