2011 Sermons

Easter 5 May 22, 2011

Acts 7:55-60

1 Peter 2:2-10

John 14:1-14

“I am the way, and the truth and the life.”

The professor who taught me criminal law was scarcely older than his students. He was brilliant and charming and kind. He and his family had been refugees from Hungary, whether from the Nazis or the Communists I’m not sure. They were Jewish. While still a young man, Paul Bator was diagnosed with cancer, which progressed quickly to his brain. One day he awoke totally deaf, not long after totally blind. Shortly before he died, he wrote a letter to his friends, which one of them shared with me. “Don’t feel sorry for me,” he said. “I have everything I need: chocolate and raspberries and Jesus.”

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?

2011 Sermons

Epiphany 3 January 23, 2011

Isaiah 9:1-4                                                                          

1 Corinthians 1:1-9                                                             

Matthew 4:12-23

I was talking with a friend who goes to an Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. He grew up a Baptist and has respect for that tradition, but he’s long been an Episcopalian and a very serious one. “I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t go to church, and especially Episcopal churches like mine and yours,” he said to me. “The words are beautiful, the music is beautiful; it’s the time each week I connect with God.”

“Well,” I responded, “it’s easier for me to list the reasons people don’t come to church than the reasons they do.” And I quickly gave him a dozen “don’t come to church reasons” off the top of my head: the competition of other activities, families where one parent doesn’t want to go, families where the kids are with their other parent every other weekend, the negative image churches and religion have in the media, bad experiences with churches in the past . . . and so forth. Really, when you think of all these reasons, that anyone comes to church here at Holy Cross on a Sunday morning, that we manage to keep this congregation alive and vital, is a miracle, given all the forces ranged against us.

It set me thinking, this conversation with my friend, about why I myself come to church; why even after I retire and am not paid to come, and have to go to a church that won’t be as close to what I personally love as this one is – why even then I will go to church every Sunday, pretty much no matter what. And the answer, for me as I thought about it, is really very simple:  I come to be with Jesus. I’m like those fishermen in the gospel reading this morning, to whom Jesus said, “Follow me.” It’s as simple as that. I long ago made the commitment, really out of desperation, to follow Jesus, to try to be with him.

2011 Sermons

Epiphany 2 January 16, 2011

This homily is different from the usual sort. It comes in the context of a discussion that began last week after breakfast on bullying in schools and grew, with reference to national events, into a broader concern with violence and incivility in our society and world. That discussion will continue this morning after breakfast. The homily begins with an introduction to the whole worship service; continues with the homily proper, intended as an introduction to some congregational comments; and then has a short list of some thoughts for going forward that the preacher came up with, reflecting on the readings. You are invited to add your own comments!

2010 Sermons

Pentecost 23 October 31, 2010

Isaiah 1:10-20                                                                      

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12                                                      

Luke 19:1-10

 This is God’s Message: “If you’ll willingly obey, you’ll feast like kings. But if you’re willful and stubborn, you’ll die like dogs.” That’s right. God says so.

Isaiah 1:20 (The Message paraphrase)

I was tempted, thinking about this sermon, to start out by asking for you to define salvation. This congregation has become pretty good at talking together in response to the readings – as you demonstrated last week. I thought as a follow-up question, I’d ask how many of you believe you’re “saved” – and how many of you have doubts. But then I thought, no, that’s being a little too “frontal” with you. Salvation isn’t something most of us think much about.

2010 Sermons

Pentecost 12 August 15, 2010

Jeremiah 23:23-29                                                             

Luke 12:49-56                                                                     

Our friend Bishop Walmsley is off at Grace Church, East Concord this morning, filling in for Fr. Wells who’s on vacation. I overheard the Bishop last Sunday at coffee hour grumbling (nicely, of course) about having to preach on the gospel we’ve been given this morning. “It’s that passage about Jesus dividing families,” he said. “Who wants to talk about that?” And I feel the same way. A beautiful summer day; who wants to hear about divisions in families or bringing fire to the earth? But here we are: the Lord is speaking to us and we must listen. This is holy ground.

2010 Sermons

Pentecost 5 June 27, 2010

Galatians 5:1, 13-25                                                          

Luke 9:51-62                                                                      

I buried a woman once who’d grown up in Holy Cross when it was in East Weare village. Among the people who came forward to speak at her funeral was a grandson, a young man who is mildly retarded. I was a little nervous about what he might say, but his words about his grandmother were beautiful. “She called me her little tagalong,” he said. “I was always trying to follow her. I had trouble keeping up, but then she would turn and wait for me.”

I thought about what that young man said as I prayed with the gospel passage this morning. It is the beginning of the long central section of Luke’s gospel, where Luke departs from the structure of Mark’s gospel which he’s been following to this point and gives us a series of sayings and wonders set in the context of Jesus journeying to Jerusalem and his final destination on the Cross. “As the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up,” Luke begins, “he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

2010 Sermons

Pentecost 2 June 6, 2010

1 Kings 17:17-24                                                                 June 6, 2010

Luke 7:11-17                                                                       John L. McCausland

The Bible is peppered with poor widows. Like the two in the readings today, they are almost all nameless. Women in general in biblical society were without rights, including the right to own property. Indeed, they were themselves property, property of the men in their lives: first of their fathers, then of their husbands, then of their sons. And if they were widowed, they depended completely on their children, particularly their male children, to support and protect them. So these two stories tell us something important when they explain that in each case the widows had only one son, and that son was dead. Here we have two women utterly without earthly security, as good as without identity or meaning.

Why is the Bible so fond of these poor widows? I think it’s because you and I, all of us, are in reality just a few steps away from poor widowhood ourselves. Yes, of course, we have legal rights and a social safety net and material comforts beyond what all but a tiny few enjoyed in the time of Jesus. But for all of that, we really don’t have much control over our lives and the world. We have little idea what the world will be like in 50 years, whether there will even be human beings on the earth’s face. And in the shorter range, we don’t know about our own health five years from now, or the security of our children or grandchildren. So the poor widows of Scripture are Everyman, Everywoman, the human condition stripped of illusions — us.

2010 Sermons

Easter 7 May 16, 2010

Acts 16:16-34                                                                      

Revelation 22:12-14, 16-171, 20-21                                       

John 17:20-26

“I just had a general question for you,” said the email I got last week. “Is it possible to not believe in God, but to believe in Jesus Christ and in good vs. evil?”

What a wonderful question – and always good to get questions from people, especially ones like this that go right to the heart of things. And a specially wonderful question for this Sunday, which I like to think of as “God has gone away” Sunday. This is the Sunday in the Christian year between the Ascension, last Thursday, and Pentecost, next Sunday. The Ascension celebrates Jesus going up to heaven after the resurrection, to “sit at the right hand of God,” as the Creeds put it. Pentecost celebrates the sending of the Holy Spirit of God to be with us here on earth. So, in between, God has in a sense gone away.

2010 Sermons

Easter 5 May 2, 2010

Revelation 21:1-6                                                                              

John 13:31-35                                                                     

  “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

— John 13:34

 “If you love me,” says the teenager in the parked car to his girl friend, “you will do what I want.” “Oh, I just love myself!” gushes the woman on the total make-over show as she admires her new face, new clothes and new hair in a mirror. “Love makes the world go round,” runs an old song. And of course, “Don’t you love those Red Sox?” Love, love, love.

Talk about love puts me in mind of the Supreme Court Justice who wrote in an opinion that he couldn’t define pornography, but he knew it when he saw it. I can’t define love, but I know it when I see it. We don’t see it all that often – not real love. But we see it in Jesus. “Just as I have loved you,” he says, “you also should love one another.” Church is not about a bunch of ideas, concepts, rules and regulations, even biblical texts. Church is about a person: Jesus. About learning to see ourselves, to see all life, in terms of the love we see in Jesus.