Better than New

ERH Sermon photo 04 21 2019

Easter Sermon; John 20:1-18

Charles, my two-year-old son, has just learned a new phrase: “Good as new!”

It comes from a cartoon he watches where the medic, a penguin, will declare the various sea creatures that he treats to be, “good as new!” as soon as the penguin affixes a bandage or ointment to the affected spot. Charles, in true toddler form, applies this maxim liberally: Goldfish crackers on the floor? Just sweep them up — good as new! (Then he’ll swipe one out of the dustpan and pop it in his mouth for good measure!) Crayon marks on the wall? Surely a wipe will make them: good as new! Tender herbs ripped out of pots, with dirt all around? Let’s just stuff them back in — good as new!

While my Midwestern heart deeply resonates with this sentiment, that just a bit of glue or elbow grease can erase any defect, a piece of me wonders how to teach my child — as I myself am still trying to learn and accept! — that the biggest, most important things in life aren’t ever “good as new” again in the same way, but that when something else rises in its place, it can be different and new in its own way, and deeper, though perhaps heavier, for it. Continue reading

On the Other Side of the Grave

ERH Sermon photo 05 05 2019

A sermon on John 21; Third Sunday of Easter

Haven’t we been here before? Is it just me who has some deja-vu? There’s a fire, there’re lots of questions aimed at Peter, he seems to be getting defensive as the line of conversation continues — this just happened, didn’t it?

Yes, there are significant similarities with the scene outside the courts the night before Jesus’s crucifixion, it’s a generally-accepted interpretation that these parallel narratives have a relationship to each other, and that’s what I’m curious about this morning. What does it mean to link these two events, what do we learn about how God works — what do we learn about his character — through this scene on the beach in early morning?

If,perchance, you weren’t at a Good Friday service a few weeks back, just like I missed them, here’s the story we’re working with. In chapter 18 of John (vs. 15-18; 25-27), as night wears on, Peter stands with servants and officers gathered outside by — you guessed it — a charcoal fire. He’s asked three times, once by each of three different people, “you’re one of that man’s disciples, aren’t you?” “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Each of the three times, Peter quickly and easily says, “oh no, that wasn’t me.” Now Jesus had told him that this would happen, that Peter would deny Jesus, and that it would happen before dawn came, “before the rooster crowed” (John 13:38). Understandably, Peter wrankled at this prophecy when Jesus gave it at the Last Supper table, just a few hours before these events unfolded.

Continue reading

The Easy Waffle – Sermon

Whenever I start writing a sermon, I ask myself, “What is God revealing about himself in this passage? Who is God teaching us that he is?” Today, I want to ask that question of a larger section of Scripture, I want to ask, “What is God revealing about himself?” in the whole of the Gospels. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who is this God revealing himself to be? Travel with me a moment, if you would, imagining the whole of Jesus’s life before us; we’ll start from the end and move back to the beginning. Continue reading

Pool Party; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Notre Dame Baptismal FontOver the winter, Grey Wilkes learned to swim.

Having recently moved to a house with a pool, her parents wanted to make sure she could navigate the waters as soon as possible, safety fence notwithstanding. Instead of floundering in the waters, Grey has learned, should she fall in, to float on her back and then to kick her way to the edge. I wonder if our encountering the mystery of the Trinity might be a little bit like Grey learning a new response to being dropped into water; rather than reacting with fear and seeking to control the water around her, to become master of it, she now calmly floats, allowing the water to be what it is, finding her place in it, and then using her newly acquired habit to relate to those waters.

I have a tendency to come to things like the doctrine of the Trinity and to splash about, all throat-clearing and weight-shifting and brow-furrowing. “Well you see, there’re three. And there are, I mean, there is, one. God. Three. God. One.” Generally, my mind and mouth become a tangled mess, and my spirit just leaves the building completely, shaking her head and rolling her eyes as I splish and splash and in not too much time, end up drowning in words and phrases and analogies and nonsense. So I wonder if maybe we’re meant to learn a new response to mystery. Continue reading

What do we mean when we say, “He descended to the dead”?

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In a bit of a jab at my bishop and my diocesan communications director, who assigned an impossibly obtuse phrase of our Apostles Creed, I have composed on the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas blog a post which uses The Princess Bride and Monty Python and the Holy Grail as its primary texts to explicate this affirmation.  find it HERE

(image via)

Sermon, Last Sunday of Lent

IMG_1081Today’s sermon preached at St. A’s, the raising of Lazarus and Grandpa Chuck’s death.

Sermon Audio

It is because of my grandfather’s death that I stand before you this morning.

During a particularly difficult moment in my ministry, my grandpa Chuck, after whom Charles is named, fell ill and breathed his last. We were living in South Carolina at the time, far from snowy Minnesota, but I still visited him a few times in his last weeks and was even there to give him last rites the day he died.

Back home, I was struggling with my call, feeling stonewalled at every turn, denied at every door, frustrated with pouring so much effort into what seemed like a bottomless chasm. It was more than exhaustion, or a period of thankless plowing through; I was suffocating, like a flame submitted to a snuffer, gasping for enough air to keep breathing. In some ways my depression felt very much like death. Continue reading

Friday Icon

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This week, I’ve been thinking about the thief on the cross to whom Jesus promises, “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).  It’s never too late to start over.

As the shine of yoga-camp-life wears off, and we’re traveling, my new healthful routine gets to having cracks in it and my body and soul feel the un-balancing starting to set in.  Instead of starting the day with psalms and meditation, I’m eager to get going, feed the animals, start the coffee, then suddenly I’m showering and driving to work, the day long-since begun and no quiet time to speak of.

How important it is, though, when I know not what a day will bring, to spend a bit of time waiting and asking to be filled up with strength and compassion for the day ahead–though I’m blind to the future, God, the giver of all strength and compassion, is not.  Indeed, God knows exactly what I will need.  God knows what a day will hold and exactly what I will need to survive, thrive, and serve him well in it.  Why not give him a chance to fill me up before it begins?

And I must remember, it’s never too late to start over.  Of course, a new day with its morning light and freshness is a natural, comfortable moment to start over, but it can be anytime of day.  The thief on the cross started over at the very last possible moment, and it still wasn’t too late.

The Three Crosses (Rembrandt) via