Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sermon Round-Up: Chickens and Stars, Lent 2

Due to a Church swap this week, I was behind the altar but not in the pulpit across town. So no sermon.

Here are some of my favorites from around the interwebs. A lot about chicken and stars:

Priest Lightcap reminds us that Jesus is the “the mama hen who will place herself between the teeth of the fox and her chicks” and that there are a lot of chicks in our world in need of mama hens. Go read this sermon and then remember that Episcopal Relief and Development is a small way to help heal a hurting world.

Bishop Fisher preaches on the foxes among us and what we need to tell them.

Priest Pankey preaches on what Abraham knew and had to trust. Reading this I was reminded that there are more stars in the sky than our eyes can see.

And two where people where directed to the books we have out in the pews (it always makes me really happy):

Priest Arnold who reflected on Jerusalem and invited people to pray Psalm 122 together.

Priest Linman discusses why it is important that the City of God be a City and directs people to Hymn 582.

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Small Churches, Big Buildings, and Millennials

In the last few days, I’ve seen at least two articles speculate about how Millennials might just be important to the future of the Church and radically change the nature of the Church. Apparently, my age-peers and I are not the natural heirs the Baby Boomers and do not want to merely continue what was built. (1)

May I invite you to take a deep breath?

As I have said before, we are not going to be the end of the Church.

Mr Vaters writes:

Some people have written off the current generation spiritually.
That is a mistake – for the church and for the Millennials.
There’s growing evidence that this new generation will bring the greatest opportunity for Small Church ministry in 2,000 years.
Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worship – what Small Churches do best – will matter more to them than it did to their parents.
But this opportunity comes with one, big condition.
They won’t give up quality to gain intimacy.
(emphasis in original)

Mr Vaters gets several things right about Millennials in this article. There is a generational tendency toward genuine relationship and–I disagree slightly here–genuine worship. Vaters does go on to discuss the need to be healthy and, as his blog exists as a platform to promote his pro small church (this is not a complaint, just an observation), I expect him to find a connection between small churches and Millennials.

On his blog Thom Rainer in a post titled “The Death of the Mall and the Future of Church Buildings” makes some similar observation, “Among the Christian Millennials there is a desire for greater intimacy in church. They are in many ways triggering a new small group revolution. And though they may not have an explicit aversion to large church facilities, neither are they attracted to them.

I tend to think that Rainer (and may I recommend his book Simple Church) is closer to the mark here–the size of a Church is probably going to become a neutral factor.

It is a romantic notion to think that size guarantees healthy live-giving relationships and intimate or genuine worship. As with all romantic notions, this is often wrong. The Church, of any size, can be a place of beautifully broken people who occasionally act that brokenness out on one another.

Millennials, or any other person, may find much to love in a Church that can offer relationships grounded in Gospel, proclamation of God who is gracious and loving, and space where all of our brokenness is loved.

Having been around more than one size of Church, I know that our ability to do this has less to do with our size and more do to with our health. I know that our health has everything to do with our devotion to the Gospel, our constancy in loving our community, praying for each other, our discipline in coming together to celebrate the Risen Lord.

This isn’t anything new. When we are at our best the Church is doing this, from the very beginning: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day The Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47

(1) This is supported by Dr Rodger Nishioka’s presentation to ECCC Mosaics and Millennials: Ministry with Young Adults

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SR Knowing Our Story

Link: Knowing our story

Summary of what I was saying and why:
After everything that last week was, I didn’t know where I was going with with this week’s sermon. But I kept hearing echoes of remember who you are. Coupled with the reading from Deuteronomy and the experience of growing up in Montana this became about knowing our story.

Theology: Identity
Jesus Count: low
Good News: we are the people of God

What did I change on my feet?
The entire introduction. Truthfully that appeared between arriving at Church and the collect. Thanks be for the Holy Spirit.
What didn’t work/what did I miss?
I missed a line toward the end: “we are the people Jesus died and, more importantly, lived for; we are the beloved of God.”
What did work?
You can’t see the people nodding as I talked about being a 5th generation Montanan or hear the conversation afterwards, but this worked in ways I never imagined.

Other sermons I liked:

Priest Sherer preaches on Lent and the St Theresa quote “God desired me, so I came closer.”

Priest Sinclair who preaches on the message of ‘if’.

Priest Giroux wins my eternal favor with the lines “Some of the early church fathers were party poopers. These are the people who brought us the idea that the human body is disgusting, dirty, and evil.” And then he works in a story about a puppy.

(Don’t see your sermon or a sermon you liked? Maybe I don’t know about it. Leave me a comment with a link and I’ll take a look.)

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Knowing Our Story, a sermon for Lent 1 2-17-13

The lessons for Sunday can be found by clicking here. I worked most closely with Deuteronomy 26: 1-11.

Knowing our story helps us tells us who we are. Our story tells us why we do the things we do. Our story, the story of the people of God, reminds us that we are Beloved.

(I was using the backup plan B for my recording technology. I believe everything worked out. Thank your for your patience.)

Listen: Lent 1, 2013

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Ash Wednesday, 2013

The lessons for Ash Wednesday can be found by clicking here. I worked with The Exhortation.

“If it ain’t about Jesus, then it ain’t about nothing at all.” With all due apologies to everyone who successfully taught me grammar, it’s worth remembering. Because Lent should be all about Jesus.

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

Listen: Ash Wednesday, 2013

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SR: The Flawed Inner Circle

Link: The Flawed Inner Circle

Summary of what I was saying and why:
Last week I had to announce that my parish is closing. As I was trying to write that letter I knew that part two, sort of unofficially, would be this sermon. I knew how the letter would end. I knew that part of our truth is that we are closing but we have not failed. As I was trying to find the words to explain and help my parish believe that truth while thinking about the sermon I still needed to write, this is the sermon that showed up.

Theology: Salvation
Jesus Count: high
Good News: Jesus saves us.

What did I change on my feet?
Not much of this one got written down, so all of it and none of it.

What didn’t work/what did I miss?
I don’t know. This week, I just don’t know.

What did work?
I also know that I preach what I need to hear and I really needed to hear this this week.

Other sermons I liked:

Priest Pankey looks at the Transfiguration through one of the top questions I also get: prayer.

Bishop Doyle thinks about the Transfiguration after Diocesan Convention.

Priest Giroux who ties the Baptismal Covenant to the Transfiguration.

And because it is Ash Wednesday today and George is a fabulous preacher:
Priest Baum talks about vegans, judgment, kindness, and Jesus.

(Don’t see your sermon or a sermon you liked? Maybe I don’t know about it. Leave me a comment with a link and I’ll take a look.)

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Power that is Passed On: thoughts on a Papal Resignation

I woke up this morning, as I usually do, to NPR and the news. This morning I wasn’t completely sure a little time travel hadn’t been involved. The Pope resigning? But a quick check of the date (not April 1st) and other news sources (yep, the same thing) indicated, if not something completely new under the sun, then a return of something old and uncommon in a potentially new way.

I am no great fan of Pope Benedict XVI. I don’t think that will shock many people. Even less do I suspect that BXVI or much of the Roman Catholic hierarchy care about my opinion.

After today (already too full of discussion of potential papal intrigue), I have found a new measure of respect for BXVI.

After my mind started working, I thought of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. This prize is awarded to African heads of state or government who rule well and who democratically transfer power to their successor. I read about this prize when it was first announced and some of the theory behind it is that there is no retirement plan for African Heads of State. Once you hand over leadership of Bostwana you don’t get a cushy adjunct Professor position at Georgetown and a book deal. So, instead you don’t hand power over and things spiral down. Mo Ibrahim decided to help this problem.

In a world where our bodies can outlast our minds, much less our ability or desire to attempt a demanding job like Pope;* in a world where power and having power are important; I found new respect for BXVI today.

Now even more than before people and history are watching. How this is accomplished, what he does next, this things will be analyzed and repeated.

But whether this is deemed a success or failure in 50, 500, and 5,000 years, I hope we will also remember the courage it took to attempt. To change the precedent. To imagine a future where power is passed on.**

*Speculation about the details of BXVI’s health are both his to release or not and thus both an invasion of privacy and a waste of our time.
**Yes, I know that speculation has already started about how much BXVI may be able to shape the process of electing his successor. I would remind those who are stuck there that (1) every Pope has done that to some degree (2) such is the nature of hierarchical structures. And further suggest (3) back off the cynicism just a little (a tiny bit).

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The flawed inner circle: a sermon for the last Sunday after Epiphany 2-10-13

The lessons for Sunday can be found byclicking here. I worked most closely with Luke 9:28-36.

Jesus brings Peter, James, and John up the mountain where Moses and Elijah appear as Jesus is transfigured. This is an inner circle of amazing flawed people. Which might be why Jesus picked them.

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

Listen: Epiphany Last, 2013

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SR: Dogs, cats, and love

Link: Dogs, cats, and love; a sermon for Epiphany 4 2-3-13

Summary of what I was saying and why:
1 Corinthians 13 is a passage we usually hear at weddings. I wanted a way to approach the passage and love that didn’t give everyone immediate wedding flashbacks, especially because not everyone is married. So, as we have a bit of dog culture in The Episcopal Church, my dog is in this sermon.

Theology: love
Jesus Count: low (very low)
Good News: love isn’t the same

What did I change on my feet?
I cut some things, but not a whole lot.

What didn’t work/what did I miss?
I was missing a tie in with the Gospel.

What did work?
I think the dog/cat/love looks different connection worked. I liked pulling 1 Cor 12 forward into how I understood this passage.

Other sermons I liked:

Priest Valori talks about the prophets God is calling us to be.

Priest Baum takes Jesus seriously when he reads Isaiah.

And a quote from Priest Romanik’s sermon, “If love does not exist at the heart of who we are, if we do not recognize that this place is created by love, then all that we do on Sunday mornings, the prayers, the preaching, the music, the teaching, is just noise.”

(Don’t see your sermon or a sermon you liked? Maybe I don’t know about it. Leave me a comment with a link and I’ll take a look.)

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Dogs, Cats, and Love: a sermon for Epiphany 4

The lessons for Sunday can be found by clicking here. I worked most closely with 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

My dog does not appear in my sermons very often, but this week you get to hear about life with Griz, cats, and 1 Cor 12. And love.

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

Listen:Epiphany 4, 2013

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