Monthly Archives: July 2012

A Church where the Preaching is Damn Good Every Time

A few weeks ago I was at the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. I had a great time. This is not the wrap-up post. Lots of other people have done that and done it well.

One of the many things I did while I was at GC was spend time with the loose coalition of people in TEC who know that Church in the 21st century is going to be different. We have taken up the identity of #Acts8. There is a website, the twitter hashtag, and a few times at GC we began to meet face to face. Because we started here on the interwebs, there is a YouTube video: I dream of a Church.

If you watched the video (and you should) at 3:10 you saw my friend, seminary classmate, and the genius behind “Father Matthew Presents”, the Reverend Matthew Moretz say, “I dream of a Church where the preaching is damn good every time.” While I, and others, loved the things people said that night, a group of us gathered to celebrate this idea. We were enamored of its concreteness. #wherethepreachingneversucks even reappeared as a hashtag.

Emboldened by Acts8, Father Matthew, and the idea of preaching that never sucks, I’m starting something new here. Every week my sermons are recorded and podcasted (points to sidebar). Starting this week (tomorrow!), I will offer a brief review of my sermon here. Good, bad, and otherwise.

Because, as another friend, @davidsibley, says, “I dream of a Church willing to take risks knowing that what God does not bless God will redeem.”

I believe I am a good preacher. I know I have bad weeks. I believe that even my good weeks can be better. So I invite all of you to offer comments, questions, feedback, anything that is constructive.

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Proper 12, 2011

The lessons for Sunday can be found at this link. I worked most closely with 2 Samuel 11:1-15.

David and Bathsheba have sex. And I preach on it. Because we need to hear this story. We need to hear all of the stories.

There will be a few moments of silence before the sermon starts. Thank you for your patience.

Listen: Proper 12, 2012

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Millennials: The End isn’t Coming (short of Jesus’s return)

First, the Church isn’t about to end, be it with a whimper or a bang. We are the inheritors of a tradition that has survived the Ascension of Jesus, outward persecutions, inward persecutions (those heresy debates with permanent conclusions), the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and more. All of this changed the Church. The 21st century and the digital swell will be no different because God is more faithful and creative than we can imagine.

Second (and like unto the first) Millennials aren’t going to manage what the Reformation could not do. The Church will survive us, in fact we could be good for one another.

We creatures called Millennials are just starting to come into our own. The oldest of us have, by most dating, just turned 30. We are at the point where we have been at the tables long enough to know we should be listened to; where we either no longer are alone or know we should no longer be alone; where we can begin to speak about who and how we tend to be.

Not everyone is thrilled by this, of course. We are strange and new and, even if we don’t want to do things in a new way (often true), we do want to do things in old ways that work for us.
We still have much to learn. I know this; I believe that most of us know this. But there are also things that we have to share.

We firmly believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (We tend tone quite orthodox.)
By and large we aren’t worried about the Church dying out because we don’t plan to go anywhere.
We know that the Church isn’t perfect. For many of us that is why we stay.
We know that the Church can be better than we currently are.
We aren’t asking for perfection.
(Also many of us can make the internet do all sorts of things. Not all of us and not every non-Millennial type needs this, but as the melts in your mouth not in your hand candy coating.)

We are not the end of the Church. We are not the future of the Church. We, I, desperately want to be a part of the Church. Because we love this Church. Because we have found Jesus in the liturgy, in and despite our craziness, and we want others to have that same experience.

That is what makes me sad when witness again my generation being ignored.

I say this in part because I do worry about what decisions would be made without the voices of my age-peers spoken and received. (I worry when other groups are not present.)

I say this because I am not interested in creating the Church I might have better liked when I was 14. I am far more interested in reforming the Church today’s 14 year olds might need us to be.

I say this because the more fully my age-peers are in and formed by the Church, the better we the Church will be in the years to come. We are here now, we are capable; being involved, being encouraged and allowed to exercise our gifts in this Church ought only to improve both of us. Surely we can all agree that this mutual investment would be mutually good.

I say this because it is my sincere prayer that I will be able to graciously hand over authority as I can and need to. Set the example of sharing and passing on authority and join me in hoping that we as a Church only get better at this.

We want to be here now. We want to be fully welcomed at all levels of the Church. We want to create The Episcopal Church that people will, if not flock to, be drawn to. Together there is a long way for us all to go.

Categories: Church, Episcopal, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Proper 11, 2012

The lessons for Sunday can be found at this link: Proper 11. I worked most closely with 2 Samuel 7:1-14.

David proposes to build a temple for God that will be bigger and more beautiful than his palace. And God turns him down. Why? (Also I work in some history.)

There will be a few moments before the sermon starts. Thank you for your patience.

Listen: Proper 11, 2012

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David, dancing, and #GC77, a sermon for Proper 10, 2012

The lessons for Proper 10 can be found at this link: Proper 10. I worked most closely with 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 and the experience of having been at General Convention.

David danced. And so did we. A sermon playing with the overlay of David’s story (I can’t resist some good Old Testament history) and General Convention 77.

There will be a few moments of silence before the sermon starts. Thank you for your patience.

Listen: Proper 10, 2012

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Millennials: Rumors Abound

My parents were part of that pattern where people left the Church for a chunk of their late teens/early twenties and then came back, usually when they wanted the kids to go to Church (link). They may well have been one of the last to leave and return. We should stop accepting this pattern.*

For starters, not all of my peers’ parents came back to Church, leading to higher than previously recorded numbers of the unchurched among Millennials. Second, of those of us who went to Church, we haven’t all settled down into a life with kids (also in record numbers) and those who have are marrying outside of their religious tradition in, yes, record numbers.

Aside from all of that, Millennials are less likely to trust institutional leadership. We grew up in households headed by people jaded by the Nixon/Watergate scandals. Marketers have been selling to us from the womb. We assume you are working an angle. (Because, let’s be honest, most people are. It’s human nature.)**

I am not the expert on Millennials; in fact, I often tell people that I’m probably a bad Millennial. Here’s some research that can tell you more. (link)

  • The Church, which says that it wants us, that it needs my age-peers and I, is not any easier to figure out. (I promise.) Instead of unconditional love there is at best a mixed message.
  • God loves us, but what in the world is up with the clothes and the music and the tattoos. (I don’t have or want tattoos, but have and will defend them.) Also on this list: crazy hours, movies, lack of manners, texting at the dinner table.
  • The Church needs to do a better job of recognizing and supporting young leaders but email and cell phones are evil. (Actually email and cell phones–also Facebook, Twitter and more–are standard business, school, and relational tools. That doesn’t mean they are ideal for every situation, but neither was the telegraph.)

We are so glad you are here, what are you majoring in? (When this is the only question you ask after I’ve been coming to church for over a year, no you don’t have a college ministry.)

You don’t have to take my word on it. Other people have weighed in. I don’t feel a need to offer you a link here, just search Millennials and Church. (I’ll wait.)

The Church I grow old in isn’t going to look like the Church you or I grew up in. Those versions of the Church were part of their time and place. We need to become a Church of our time, and even a Church with our faces pressed against the future. We need to rediscover our role as Jesus’s voice and hands and feet and arms and everything not to me and my fellow Millennials, but to those people ten and twenty years younger than I am.

*I said this to the House of Bishops and Deputies listserv:
As a twenty-something Episcopal Preist, I am terrified by the thought that we are going to continue to accept the idea that it is okay for people to be away from the Church. If we take ourselves seriously as the incarnate Body of Christ, with a vow to do all that we can to support our brothers and sisters in their lives in Christ (BCP pg 303), what are we thinking?
It is not okay for the children of God to leave, even for a time. For some people it may be necessary, but the Church should regard it as a tragedy.
In the case of young adults, my age-peers, isn’t the better question, the more essential question, how can we better support young adults who need space to stretch and grow while going through a series of transitions?
And isn’t part of the answer what other denomination has a better tradition of faithful inquiry and questioning than we do?
When “you” give “us” permission to leave, “you” also give yourselves permission to let us go without effort.
**Remember? (link) I’m one of them.

Categories: Church, Episcopal | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Proper 8, 2012

The lessons for this Sunday can be found at this link: Proper 8. I worked most closely with Mark 5:21-43.

Jesus heals. Times 2. But sometimes, most times, that’s not the end of the story.

Listen: Proper 8, 2012

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