2011 Sermons

Epiphany 4 January 30, 2011

Micah 6:1-8                                                                         

1 Corinthians 1:18-31                                                        

Matthew 5:1-12

Friends of mine, active Episcopalians, are trying out a new church. They’re tired of their big, rather safe and stuffy church. They’ve been visiting another Episcopal church in the city where they live: a mission founded to minister to people released from prison. It meets, they write, “in a drafty hall with folding chairs; the music is amateurish and in many genres; the service is one of several modernized versions of the Eucharist; the sermons we have heard have been full of energy and commitment. The place has a strong bent towards social action; it is interracial and clearly gay-friendly. The people are friendly and warm, clearly connected with each other, and clearly engaged in worship.  After the sermons, the priest hands around a mike and a few people talk about the sermon or the text, so far as we can tell in pretty real ways, connecting what they have heard to their lives.”

But my friends have one concern about this new congregation: “whether there is a discipline here and if so what it is.” By “discipline,” they mean what is the standard, the criterion, by which the life of the congregation is measured and held to account. And that’s a very important question; an important question for all churches, and for each of us as individuals. Is our “discipline” just what we like? What makes us feel comfortable or happy? The way we’ve done things in the past?

2010 Sermons

Pentecost 11 August 8, 2010

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16                                                        

Luke 12:32-40                                                                     

 I’m thinking that we should replace the old Nicene Creed that we say each Sunday with something more up to date, something that better reflects what we actually believe. Something like this:

  •  We believe that a God exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.
  • God wants people to be good, nice and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  • The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about yourself.
  • God is not involved in my life except when I need God to solve a problem.
  • Good people go to heaven when they die.

This “creed” is the religious outlook of American teenagers, according to the National Study of Youth and Religion, a study of looking at a wide spectrum of congregations, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. And of course it is not just the creed of our teenagers; it is what we adults actually believe, for we are the ones teaching our children – or failing to teach them.

The authors of this study sum up our religious outlook as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

2010 Sermons

Pentecost 7 July 11, 2010

Deuteronomy 30:9-14                                                       

Luke 10:25-37                                                                     

I think this may be a troubling sermon for you. At least it is for me. There’s a good guy and a bad guy in the gospel today. The good guy is the Samaritan of course, who stops by the side of the road and cares for the man who’s been left there for dead. We know this Samaritan well; this is one of Jesus’s most familiar parables. The bad guy is – not the priest or the Levite who pass the injured man by – no, the real bad guy is the lawyer whose question prompts Jesus to tell the parable.

Why is the lawyer bad? Because, Luke tells us, he “wanted to justify himself.” That is, he put himself forward, tried to assert his own cleverness, sought to cross-examine or test Jesus. He should simply have done what the good Samaritan did, which was to obey what he knew to be God’s law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

So, what’s troubling about this? What’s troubling, I think, is that you and I are the lawyer, not the Samaritan. Putting ourself at the center, making ourselves the test of life – do I like such-and-such, does it make sense to me, does it withstand my test of self-interest – this is our default stance towards life. Maybe, if something meets our test, we go ahead and do what we should be doing according to God’s law. But often, I think, we’re just more interested in testing for ourselves and never get around to doing. And sometimes, of course, God fails our test and we don’t do his law at all.


Millennium Development Goals

Holy Cross commits 0.7% of its income to organizations that work abroad to realize the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the United Nations and endorsed by the Episcopal Church.

Bishop Arthur Walmsley, a member of Holy Cross, recently spoke about the connection between the Gospel and the MDG’s.

Excerpts from an address at Trinity Church, Concord, MA, on February 22, 2009.

The vision of the Millennium Development Goals is not new. For people who draw their faith from the Bible, it is as old as scripture. There is a Biblical mandate to serve God’s mission … and scripture offers us an understanding of the global crisis which has the potential to move us beyond the paralysis of the present to an affirmation and a way of being grounded in hope.

The doorway to this understanding starts with Jesus.