Listen to Him! A Sermon for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany

Have you ever had an experience where in the middle of it, while you were enjoying it, you thought to yourself, Wow, if only this could last forever! What was happening then? Were you out in the middle of some adventure, climbing a mountain, or watching a glorious sunset? Were you laying on the beach, enjoying the beautiful weather as you escaped a Wisconsin February? Were you sitting around with family and friends, in a moment of intimacy and joy? Were you eating the meal of a lifetime, savoring combinations of tastes and exquisite preparation? Were you at a concert or visiting a cathedral or art museum? Continue reading

Torn-Apart Heavens: A Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord, 2015

Today is an exciting day in the one hundred and seventy five year history of Grace Church. It is also a day tinged with just a little bit of sadness and regret. We are celebrating the success of our Giving Light Giving Hope capital campaign that has raised nearly a million dollars and laid the foundation for renovations to our spaces that will equip us to engage in mission and ministry in the coming decades of our rapidly changing world. Continue reading

Wanna save your life? Lose it! A sermon for Proper 19, Year B

September 16, 2012

  Last week I mentioned the importance of geography in Mark’s gospel. We saw Jesus travel to Tyre, west of his customary stomping grounds in the Galilee. After his visit to Tyre, he traveled in a roundabout fashion, via Sidon, to the Decapolis (the ten cities) which lay east of the sea of Galilee. Again, it was Gentile territory. In today’s gospel, he is on the road again. Now he has moved north of Galilee to the region of Caesarea Philippi. It too was gentile territory, but more importantly perhaps, its name proclaims its significance. Continue reading

Why are you afraid? Lectionary Reflections on Proper 7, year B

This week’s readings.

Two familiar stories this week: David and Goliath and Jesus calming the storm. In spite of their familiarity, strange things lurk in them. In the story from Samuel, it is Goliath himself who is strange (Samuel Giere, on workingpreacher.org, links Goliath to those other strange beings, the Nephilim, mentioned in Genesis 6 and elsewhere in the Biblical tradition). His height and power frighten the Israelites but David saves the day.

The gospel story picks up where last week’s reading ended. After Jesus spends the day teaching the crowd (the series of parables recorded in Mark 3), Jesus tells his disciples that they will cross the lake. As they do so, a sudden storm comes up, threatening the boat, while Jesus sleeps peacefully. The disciples waken Jesus, he calms the storm, and they continue to the other side.

Mark’s telling of this story draws parallels to other stories in the gospel. He writes that Jesus “rebuked” the storm, suggestive language that calls to mind Jesus’ exorcisms. At several points in Mark, the disciples are said to be full of fear, and there remains a sense of fear, or at least awe, at the very end, when they ask, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

We may occasionally fear the sorts of things mentioned in these stories–an encounter with a much more powerful adversary, or an experience with a hurricane, tornado, or blizzard that makes us fear for our lives. But we also live with other fears, and sometimes they are much more profound, and more debilitating than the fear we experience from a storm. In the latter case, adrenaline rushes help to see us through.

But what about those other great fears–the fear of economic insecurity, unemployment, loneliness? David announced that his victory over Goliath would prove God’s power, and so it did. But who will announce to the world, or to us, that our faith in God can conquer our fears? Jesus said, “Peace, be still” as he calmed the storm. Those ought to be words of comfort to us as well, when our minds and hearts race as we fear for our lives, livelihoods, and futures.

The reign of God is like a shrub: A sermon for Proper 6, Year B

June 17, 2012

Perception is reality. What you see is what you get. We’re used to it by now. There was a news story this week that another reality TV show is staged. We expect it from politicians and celebrities, from Hollywood. In the reading from II Corinthians Paul writes, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” But we see, I’ve got to see it to believe it. There’s even something of the contradiction in today’s reading from I Samuel. Conrad Bauman pointed it out to me this morning. When Jesse’s first son is presented to Samuel, Yahweh tells Samuel, “humans look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then when David comes before Samuel, we are told, “He was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome.” Continue reading