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

Praise God

If you’re here this morning feeling triumphant and joyous and free because of the Supreme Court’s decisions this past week, praise God.

If you’re here this morning feeling queasy and uncertain because of the Supreme Court’s decisions, or because of hate that’s been manifested in our state and even across the street in the last few weeks, praise God.

If you feel like finally, finally, God is answering your prayers, praise God.

If you feel like, in light of this week, God must be taking a nap, praise God.

I do truly pray that there are people in these pews today of all those convictions, because there is merit in all those convictions, and familial love and diversity is a hallmark of the Kingdom of God.

God doesn’t look the way that any of us think he does. God doesn’t act the way any of us suppose he should. God doesn’t look like you. God doesn’t look like me.

God looks like Jesus Christ.

God is Jesus Christ.

Praise God, our Lord Jesus Christ.

And you know what today is? Continue reading

When Easter doesn’t feel like Easter


van Gogh’s The Raising of Lazarus

This sermon is offered as part of the Eastertide Sermon Series at Evensong here at Trinity, exploring facets of Jesus’ resurrection.  Today I preach on the resurrection as hopeful; using as my focus a line from the Te Deum, which was just offered by our choir: Jesus “overcame the sharpness of death.” Continue reading

What’s Scripture got to do with it?

Mathis_Gothart_Grünewald_019The Resurrection: In Accordance with The Scriptures (part of a sermons series with the Rev. Canon Dane Boston)

This afternoon, in continuing the series begun so brilliantly by my colleague last week as Dane preached on Jesus’ bodily resurrection, I will focus on how Jesus’ resurrection is Scriptural. Continue reading

A Witness to Biblical Literalism

Growing up, I sensed a lot of fear at school and at church when people asked questions about whether the Bible was “literally” true.  Whether Adam and Eve existed was a litmus test for salvation, I thought, and people who didn’t use the exact numbers in the Old Testament to calculate that the world was 6,000-10,000 years old weren’t Christians at all.

Then I went to Duke University, where lots and lots of smart people studied and taught, and almost no one believed that Moses had parted the Red Sea, or that David had anything to do with the psalms that bear his name.  Having been raised with a very strong sense of God giving people unique gifts to use for his glory, all these very smart people confused me.  I could tell that knowledge wasn’t a curse, or something to be afraid of–I knew that they had been given a great gift in their intellect.  Their questioning had somehow led them away from God–“beyond” God, some might say of themselves–and I had trouble holding together the inquiring mind I’d been given and the mystical Christian faith I’d known and practiced for almost two decades.

Duke’s motto is “eruditio et religio”–knowledge and religion.  I wrote extensively while an undergraduate about the relationship between these two forces as they interacted on Duke’s campus.  When I graduated, the then-Dean of the Chapel, Sam Wells, inscribed the Bible given to me upon graduation from this “secular” university (each student is offered a leatherbound NKJV as they graduate), “May you always find knowledge and religion united in your heart.”

Now a few years out from my Master of Divinity at Duke and more than a year out from my ordination to the priesthood, I had a flashback of the fear I knew well from my formative years in Ohio.  The surprise was that it came from the other “side” of the tracks, this time.  Defensiveness surfaced when it was suggested that Jesus came back to life in a physical, literal way after he died on Good Friday.  Such a supernatural, inexplicable occurence was tamped down by explaining, “the myths are still true in the deepest way.”

The church is happening here, folks.  We’re talking about what’s “literally” “true” and what’s myth and what “myth” means.  We’re not agreeing, but we’re staying in the room together and we’re smiling at each other and looking each other in the eye (and praying together).

I see fear on both “sides” of this Biblical Literalism debate, and I think there’s hope on both sides, too.  Everyone’s got a dog in the fight, because the fight is about the basis of our faith.  Everyone’s been wounded in this fight by ignorance, impatience, and hard-heartedness from others.  Knowing that everyone’s a little bit afraid and nervous and sincere, I wonder if we can find a way forward together by putting down some of our armor and some of our weapons.

(I’m no N.T. Wright, but it’s my goal during the 50 days of Easter to read Surprised by Hope; join me, if you’d like!)