A Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter + April 8, 2018

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

The Second Sunday of Easter + Year B
First Lesson: Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
Second Lesson: 1 John 1:1-2:2
Gospel: John 20:19-31

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.

30125629_1695621980529051_1437411587_oToday’s lesson from the Gospel according to John picks up right where we left off last Sunday. In the evening on the day of resurrection, the risen Jesus mysteriously appears to his disciples for the first time.

Despite the doors of the house being locked where the disciples have gathered, Jesus appears. He says to his friends, “Peace be with you.” As evidence that he’s truly returned, Jesus shows them the mark of the nails in his hands and his side and he says to them once again, “Peace be with you.”

“Peace be with you.” These are comforting and familiar words to us as Episcopalians. I’m a little surprised that the disciples didn’t respond to Jesus, “And also with you.” Continue reading

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A Sermon for the Feast of the Resurrection: Easter Day + April 1, 2018

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Feast of the Resurrection: Easter Day + Year B
First Lesson: Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Gospel: John 20:1-18

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.

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 12.27.23 PM“I have seen the Lord!”

These are the first words spoken by Mary Magdalene to Jesus’ disciples soon after she discovers the risen Christ and runs to tell them all the wonderful news of what has happened.

“I have seen the Lord!”

You can imagine the excitement in her voice as she announces to the disciples that Jesus, their friend and master who was crucified, has indeed been raised from the dead.

But, if we back up a bit in our Gospel lesson for today, we know that Mary Magdalene doesn’t actually recognize Jesus at first. Rather, she sees and talks with a man who she assumes must be the gardener. Now, I don’t really know why she assumes that Jesus is the gardener. I doubt that Jesus is wearing a pair of overalls and a straw hat! All we know is that, when Mary turns from the two angels sitting in the empty tomb, she sees a man standing in the garden. The man asks Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Assuming that the gardener has done something with Jesus’ body, she says to him anxiously, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Mary’s love for Jesus is evident in the way that she cares for him, even in death. Continue reading

A Sermon for Good Friday + March 30, 2018

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday + Year B
First Lesson: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Psalm 22:1-21
Second Lesson: Hebrews 10:16-25
Gospel: John 18:1-19:42

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.

Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 12.27.51 PM“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.”

The opening verses of Psalm 22 cut deeply, especially on this day.

They’re the words of someone in pain, of someone who has felt abandoned and forgotten.

They express feelings of great sadness and remorse.

They tap into the gut-wrenching story of Jesus’ final hours. In the Passion narratives from both Matthew and Mark, Jesus actually says these words out loud as he’s hanging on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Continue reading

A Sermon for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany + February 11, 2018

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
First Lesson: 2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Gospel: Mark 9:2-9

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.

27939340_1633849510039632_1598304361_nThirteen years ago, during my last semester at Auburn University, I was invited by my college priest to attend a weekend retreat in the Diocese of Alabama called Vocaré. Being new to the Episcopal Church at the time, I had no idea what to expect when I was first invited. I was simply told that Vocaré was a great opportunity for college students and young adults to explore how God might be calling to them in their lives, and after talking with friends who had already been to Vocaré, I decided that it might also be a wonderful way to grow in my relationship with God and to meet new people from around the diocese.

So, in February of 2005, I made the journey from Auburn to Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama, and I spent three days listening to fellow pilgrims share their stories about how God was at work in their lives. During our time at camp, we were invited and encouraged to explore our own sense of vocation and to ask ourselves important questions about who we are as disciples of Jesus. We spent time sitting by crackling fires in the dining hall at Camp McDowell playing games and singing cheesy camp songs. We shared meals and intimate conversations with each other, and we were comforted and surrounded by members of the staff who were there to care for us and to lift us up in their prayers during our journey. In short, I would describe Vocaré as a “mountain-top” experience, a moment in my life when time seemed to stand still and the cares and worries of the world seemed to melt away. Continue reading

A Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany + January 14, 2018

St. Catherine’s Episcopal Church
Chelsea, Alabama
Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
First Lesson: I Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17
Second Lesson: I Corinthians 6:12-20
Gospel: John 1:43-51

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.

26943567_1605250556232861_988909064_n“Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’”

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” I love this question that Nathanael asks Philip in today’s Gospel lesson soon after Philip tells him that he’s discovered the Messiah. To me, there’s something so human about it, something so relatable. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” This question makes me ponder the number of times in my life when I probably asked a similar question, a question based on my own skepticism or prejudice toward a particular person, place, or group of people before actually taking the time to get to know them. I think this is something that most of us wrestle with pretty frequently. We have preconceived notions about people that we don’t know and places that we’ve never been, and to our detriment, we let those preconceived ideas cloud our judgments and opinions. We let fear of the unknown control our thoughts and actions, and we let it get in the way of our ability to trust others and to love as Christ has called us to love. Continue reading

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

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