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

The Kingdom of Heaven

Last week, I saw the Kingdom of Heaven on Rosemont Avenue.

That’s the name of the street where I live up in North Oak Cliff, and I want to offer a witness here this morning. The Kingdom of Heaven broke into the 600 block of North Rosemont Avenue, for a moment I glimpsed heaven there. Sure, it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling, I smiled, and I nodded at how light and joyful a place the world could be. But it just as easily couldn’t have happened. It was just as possible, and maybe even easier, for nothing exceptional to have happened at all, for the Kingdom of Heaven to stay hidden and quiet and unseen, but there were two things that happened to enable this witness I’m giving you this morning.

First, somebody invited the Kingdom of Heaven to be part of their own daily life, and then second, somebody else saw and talked about what happened.

I heard the story from that witness, and now I share it with you. This neighbor had just gotten home from a long trip last Sunday night, and she found a note on her front door when she arrived: 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

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

Shielded by a Consuming Fire

preached at St. Augustine’s Oak Cliff on Sunday, August 21, 2016.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” God tells Jeremiah as he winds up to bestow a difficult call. I hear psalm 139 in this passage, the prayer which extolls God’s intimate knowledge of each person, how fearfully and wonderfully each one of us is made. Indeed, God created Jeremiah to be a prophet even as little Jerry’s bones were still being knit together and made calcified. More than being a determinist proof-text to affirm that no one ever really makes any life decision, we hear here that God cares so deeply for each life created that he dreams up how that person might make the world into God’s kingdom and then plants little seeds of that work right in to our very marrow.

I wonder if it’s something like Michael Phelps.

Continue reading

Will Good Really Win?

 

Rembrandt_-_The_Three_Crosses_(second_state)_-_WGA19086

It’s been a hard week to have the tv on, or listen to the radio, or even to read the morning paper. Each day has carried fresh horror and violence, from religious extremism to the effects of mental illness, from random and tragic natural disaster to carefully planned and executed extinguishing of life.

One of my coping mechanisms when faced with a relentless barrage of bad news is to escape to another world — that is, to Netflix.

This past week, I’ve been in 1950’s Madrid, observing life at a department store, cheering on the seamstresses and delivery boys who work day and night, and shaking my fist at the selfish and scheming minority shareholders in the company who leaks scandals to National Enquirer to hamstring their opponents and make furtive phone calls from the smoky back rooms of bars.

Late in the season, I realized that this series’ power over me had less to do with scintillating dialogue or all-consuming love stories; the real center of this show is the fight between good and evil. A piece of me knows that because it’s a television show, and because it’s the love-lorn-style drama it is, that eventually, good will prevail. It’s a long road, and I know it will take till the very last episode, but somehow, the honest and good will win over the dark, and evil and scheming.

Back in the real world, I wonder, when a child at Disneyworld encounters an alligator — will good really win?

When a member of Parliament loses her life in broad daylight — will good really win?

When yet another friend is diagnosed with cancer — will good really win?

And these are to say nothing of the ache still present in Charleston a year later, and the raw wound in Orlando today.  And refugees from Syria, and mothers and babies in South and Central America living at the mercy of Zika.

How on earth will good ever win?

This is the same question that Elijah asks God in our Scripture passage this morning. Continue reading