A Sermon for the First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ + January 7, 2018

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, January 8, 2018

The First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord
First Lesson: Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Second Lesson: Acts 19:1-7
Gospel: Mark 1:4-11

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

26694861_1598507506907166_745071654_nLately, I’ve been reading a wonderful book by an author named Rachel Held Evans, who is probably most known for her blog posts and Christian-related articles. She posts a lot of her material on Facebook and Twitter, which is where I first learned about her. The title of the book that I’ve been reading is, “Searching for Sunday.” In it, Rachel writes candidly about her rocky relationship with the Church, beginning with childhood and continuing through college and young adulthood. She writes about the struggles and the frustrations of growing up in a tradition that had no tolerance for people who asked questions or expressed their concerns or doubt. She writes about the fear and disappointment of eventually leaving Church altogether and the hope of one day finding a way back.

Rachel’s story is not uncommon. I’m convinced that many young adults her age (and my age) end up leaving Church, not because they’re heathens who don’t care about having a relationship with God or serving those in need, but because they’re common perception of the Church is one of hypocrisy and intolerance. They see a Church that is more concerned with keeping certain people out than bringing people together, a Church that is more concerned with keeping its doors open than reaching out to those on the margins of society. This self-serving image of the Church is what so many people have come to associate with modern-day Christianity, and because of this, they’ve become apathetic. In other words, they could take it or leave it. They certainly have better things to do with their time off on Sunday mornings than to be told what to think and how to believe. Who can really blame them for their apathy if they think that, in order to be part of a church, they have to be willing to give up the ability to think for themselves and sacrifice what they know to be true in their hearts. Continue reading

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A Sermon for the Feast of the Nativity + December 24, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ: Christmas Eve
First Lesson: Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Second Lesson: Titus 2:11-14
Gospel: Luke 2:1-20

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

imgMerry Christmas! This time of the year reminds me of my childhood. It reminds me of all the wonderful memories that I have from seasons long past and from growing up in a warm and loving family during the holidays. It brings me back to a time in my life when I looked forward to so many exciting things during the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, and now, as a father, I get to share those same joys with my own children- decorating the Christmas tree with beautiful, colored lights and hand-made ornaments, putting up Christmas decorations outside and around the house, and getting to watch all of my favorite, must-see Christmas specials and movies on television.

At our first Theology Uncorked gathering back at the beginning of the month, I opened our conversation with a little icebreaker question. I asked the group, “What is your favorite or most unusual Christmas tradition?” We went around the table, introducing ourselves and answering the icebreaker question for the night. There were a lot of great answers. When it came time for me to answer the question, I said to the group, “My favorite tradition has to be watching ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ on television. To me, it just isn’t Christmas until I hear those beautiful, jazz arrangements of some of my favorite Christmas songs and watch the story unfold as Charlie Brown seeks to discover the true meaning of Christmas while he and his friends work to prepare for the local Christmas play. Continue reading

A Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent + December 17, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Third Sunday of Advent + Year B
First Lesson: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
Second Lesson: I Thessalonians 5:16-24
Gospel: John 1:6-8, 19-28

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

25463991_1578264392264811_890519488_nLast Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend the ordination of the newest priest in the Diocese of Alabama, Worth Stuart, who is currently serving as the curate at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Hoover.

It was a lovely ordination service. Worth’s family and friends were there to support him in his new role as a priest of the Church. The music was lovely. There were several priests and deacons from around the diocese who were present, and the hosts at Holy Apostles were gracious and accommodating. Continue reading

A Sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent + December 10, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Second Sunday of Advent + Year B
First Lesson: Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
Second Lesson: II Peter 3:8-15a
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

25317069_1571097999648117_299564482_oOne of the things that I love most about the season of Advent is that we get to sing so many beautiful hymns each week. I was reminded of this last Sunday evening during our service of Advent Lessons and Carols here at St. Catherine’s. The hymns of Advent have a lot to teach us about the importance of this season and why we spend four weeks preparing for the birth of our Savior and anticipating his return.

The popular Advent hymn, “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” for example, speaks to the expectancy of the one who will come to dwell with us, the one who is Emmanuel- God with us. Or, “Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,” the eighteenth-century hymn by Charles Wesley which looks beyond our present time to the second coming of Jesus at the end of the age. Continue reading

A Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent + December 3, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, December 3, 2017

The First Sunday of Advent + Year B
First Lesson: Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
Second Lesson: I Corinthians 1:3-9
Gospel: Mark 13:24-37

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

24337584_1564489326975651_1342812250_nToday is the First Sunday of Advent. Today is the beginning of a new year in the life of the church, and with a new year comes new life and new possibilities. You’ll notice that the Nave and the outside of the church have been decorated with beautiful greenery and special symbols of the season, such as the Advent Wreath. The greenery symbolizes for us the eternal hope that we have in Jesus Christ, and the Advent Wreath, with its four purple and pink candles, reminds us of the four central themes that we focus on during the season: hope, faith, joy, and love, one candle for each Sunday in Advent. The white candle in the center is the Christ Candle, representing Jesus – the True Light who has come forth into the world to save us. We’ll light the Christ Candle for the first time on Christmas Eve. Since today is the First Sunday of Advent, only the first candle on the Advent wreath has been lighted. This candle serves as a symbol of hope as we prepare to receive God’s greatest gift at Christmas and as we prepare for our Lord’s triumphant return.

The season of Advent is a time of waiting in hopeful expectation as we prepare for Christmas, but it’s also a time of prayer and introspection as we wait for our Lord’s return. As the psalmist writes in today’s selection from Psalm 80, “Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.” Advent provides time for us to examine our lives and ask ourselves, “Are we doing the work of ushering in God’s kingdom?” “Are we ready for Christ to return?” Continue reading

A Sermon for the Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King + November 26, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King + Year A
First Lesson: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 95:1-7a
Second Lesson: Ephesians 1:15-23
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

24133440_1556888177735766_1956799327_nAbout three years ago, while I was in seminary in Alexandria, VA, and preparing for my ordination as a deacon, I had the opportunity to attend the funeral of a beloved member of our seminary community, the Rt. Rev. Mark Dyer, who was the former Bishop of the Diocese of Bethlehem and professor of systematic theology and spiritual formation at the seminary. Bishop Mark was loved by many people. Throughout his ministry, he lived his life according to the Gospel of Jesus and remained committed to the mission of the Church. He was perhaps most known for his ecumenical work among Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Orthodox Christians. In his final years, even though his health began to diminish, he continued teaching classes at the seminary, and for those of us who were fortunate enough to have him as a professor before he was too sick to continue teaching, we lovingly referred to our time with the bishop as “Story Time with Bishop Mark.” Like Jesus, the bishop loved to tell stories. He especially loved telling stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary work in the building up of God’s Kingdom, people such as Mother Teresa and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Telling stories was Bishop Mark’s way of illustrating for us his understanding of who God is and how God continues to be present in our lives. It was his way of saying that the Kingdom of God is not in some distant, unreachable place. The Kingdom of God is here and now, and we, as followers of Jesus, have been called to make God’s dream a reality, a dream that God has had for us since the very beginning of creation. That is the inheritance that God has prepared for us- a kingdom- one where God’s dream of reconciliation is fully realized. Continue reading

A Sermon for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost + November 19, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost + Proper 28A
First Lesson: Zephaniah 1:7,12-18
Psalm 90:1-8
Second Lesson: I Thessalonians 5:1-11
Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

23758498_1550025698422014_714533808_n

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my good friend and mentor, Wells Warren, who is the priest and chaplain at St. Dunstan’s, the Episcopal campus ministry at Auburn University. I’ve known Father Wells for almost thirteen years. Many of you know how incredibly dear he is to me and our entire family. He’s been present with us through so many important milestones in our lives and a constant source of comfort and support.

You can imagine, then, how shocked and worried I was to discover a few weeks ago that Father Wells had been in a serious bicycle accident during his long ride along the Natchez Trace in Mississippi. When I first heard the news, I couldn’t believe what had happened. Then, I learned that the accident was also a hit and run, and I became very angry. I asked myself, “How could someone hit a cyclist on the road and simply drive off as if nothing had happened?” Thankfully, Father Wells survived the accident, but he did suffer some pretty serious injuries. He’s back at home now, continuing to recover and gradually getting back into his work at the church. Continue reading

A Sermon for the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost + November 12, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost + Proper 27A
First Lesson: Amos 5:18-24
Psalm 70
Second Lesson: I Thessalonians 4:13-18
Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

2924522876_f380d939ce_oLast Sunday, we had a great celebration here at St. Catherine’s during our Festival Eucharist for All Saints. We sang beautiful and uplifting hymns. We heard an inspiring anthem from our choir. Together, in communion with all the saints, we gathered at the Table to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, we welcomed two new members into the Body of Christ, Addison and Brodie Taylor. After the service, we enjoyed coffee and refreshments next door in the Annex, similar to what we do every week. I couldn’t help but leave church overjoyed and full of excitement for the future of our parish and all of the wonderful things that God is doing in our lives.

Then, I went home to discover the tragic news coming out of Texas, and my joy quickly turned into sorrow. According to news reports, a masked gunman had entered a small Baptist church in Sutherland Springs. Armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle, he shot and killed twenty-six people, including eight children, making it the worst mass shooting in Texas history. When I heard the news, my first thought was, “How could this happen?” “In a church of all places, how could this happen?” How could someone invade a house of God during worship and commit such a horrific act? My initial thoughts quickly turned into feelings of guilt and fear. I felt guilty knowing that, while we were celebrating such a wonderful day here at church, our brothers and sisters in Texas were experiencing a living nightmare, something that no one should ever have to live through. I felt afraid knowing that the same thing could easily happen in a place like St. Catherine’s, a small church in a small town, the last place where you would expect such a terrible thing to occur.  Continue reading

A Sermon for All Saints’ Sunday + November 5, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, November 5, 2017

All Saints’ Sunday + Year A
First Lesson: Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10,22
Second Lesson: I John 3:1-3
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

23315810_1536736463084271_2015911344_nThis past Wednesday evening, we had a beautiful service of Evensong here at St. Catherine’s to celebrate the Feast of All Saints. In case you’re unfamiliar with what Evensong is, it’s basically our liturgy for Evening Prayer set to music. At the end of our service, we said special prayers for all of the saints- for patriarchs, martyrs, and apostles and for men and women in every generation of the Church, both known and unknown to us, who have dedicated their lives to serving God and God’s people.  We also spent some time remembering those “everyday saints” in our lives- for friends, family members, and loved ones who have died but continue to inspire us and encourage us through their dedication and commitment to the Gospel. I couldn’t help but think of our dear brother, Charlie Boone, who passed into the nearer presence of God earlier this year.

All Saints’ Day, which can also be celebrated on the following Sunday, provides us with an opportunity to remember and give thanks for those who have come before us, but it also provides us with an opportunity to contemplate how we might pattern our lives to continue their legacy so that we might also be counted among the saints in light. Continue reading

A Sermon for the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost + October 29, 2017

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost + Proper 25A
First Lesson: Leviticus 19:1-2,15-18
Psalm 1
Second Lesson: I Thessalonians 2:1-8
Gospel: Matthew 22:34-46

Now, O Lord, take my lips and speak with them. Take our minds and think through them. Take our hearts and set them on fire for your Gospel. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Today is a monumental occasion in the life of our parish, a day that we’ll remember for years to come as the first time that we were presented with the master plan and conceptual drawings for the first phase of building our new worship space. This is an exciting time for St. Catherine’s! We are a young but growing parish, and with each passing day, we are becoming more and more known in the community as a church that exists, not for ourselves but to love and serve others. We are a church full of people who are committed to doing the work that God has called us to do in the building up of God’s Kingdom on earth. Looking forward to this day, I’ve been especially reminded of this over the past several weeks. At the beginning of the month, we had a service for the Blessing of the Animals to commemorate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, reminding us that we are stewards of God’s creation, called to care for the earth and all of God’s creatures. That same week, members of our parish volunteered their time and energy to go to Montevallo to help build a home for a family in need. On the third Saturday of this month, St. Catherine’s once again opened its doors to the members of our community in need of food through our Beans and Rice Pantry, and this past week, your Vestry held its monthly meeting, reminded me once again of how blessed we all are to have the support and leadership of such a dedicated group of people. Yes, this is an exciting time! There are so many exciting things that we’re already doing in our ministry together as a parish, and I believe that there are many more yet to come.

You may be surprised to discover that this month also marks an important anniversary for our parish. It was ten years ago, in October of 2007, that the first worship services were held at St. Catherine’s. Ten years is quite an achievement. Some of you have been here since the very beginning, and you know how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time. In many ways, today seems like the conclusion to one chapter and the beginning of another, and It seems especially appropriate that we remember and give thanks for this important milestone as we prepare to get our first glimpse at what God has in store for us in the future. Continue reading