A sermon for the fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Preached at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Doylestown, PA

The parables of Jesus are simple stories, but they can be perplexing. Like the one about that wedding feast, for example, where the king sends his servants out to the streets to bring everyone they can find back to the party, and then he has one of those last-minute guests tossed out again because the guy isn’t wearing a wedding garment. Well, so what did he expect?

But the parable we heard today isn’t like that. The message of today’s Gospel is clear: love of God and love of neighbor are connected, and love of neighbor can’t be just a feeling but has to be supported with action. 

And who exactly is my neighbor? Well, the category of those we’re meant to love turns out to be much bigger and more inclusive than we might ever have imagined. 

The story itself isn’t hard to understand. The message is simple and straightforward. The only thing that’s difficult about this one is actually doing it.

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Summer work

I’m feeling a bit like this, much busier all around this summer than I expected to be, but the calendar’s more or less blank after Sept. 1. Time then to hibernate?

Refrigerator letters

It’s been a long time since I walked into my kitchen and found that someone had put colored magnetic letters all over the refrigerator door. The photo is from yesterday. The watercolor is from the ’80s, one of two surviving CDK watercolors. I have no idea how I did it. And I have no idea why we thought it was a good idea to have appliances that color.

A sermon for the fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Preached at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Doylestown, PA.

“After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.”

There’s a wonderful sign posted at the exit to the parking lot at a church where I attend a meeting every month, and the sign says, “You are now entering the mission field.” 

It doesn’t say, Goodbye, thanks for coming, have a nice week. It says, more or less, “Get ready, because you’re going out now to the place where the real work of Christian discipleship happens.” 

It’s not the only church that has a sign like that, but it’s the only one I see regularly. And every time I do, I’m reminded that nowhere in the gospel does Jesus tell his people to make a church by putting up a pretty building and posting a sign outside that says, “All are welcome.” 

In the Gospel, he sends them out. He sends them out into the mission field, out to do the same work that’s he himself has been doing. He sends them out as his representatives to bring his presence into the world. Out to be with the people they encounter. Out to heal all of those who are suffering, and out to proclaim the presence of God at work in the world. 

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She laughs

She can turn over, she can smile, and now she can laugh.

You can see why those first two milestones are important. Turning over is about growing bigger and stronger and moving ever so slowly toward independence. Smiling is about relationship, because it’s always in response to another human person.

But laughter? Isn’t it fascinating that we laugh so early—and what does that tell us about what it means to be human?

For the nation

“Help us, O Lord, to finish the good work here begun.”

For the Nation

Almighty God, giver of all good things:

We thank you for the natural majesty and beauty of this land. They restore us, though we often destroy them.

Heal us.

We thank you for the great resources of this nation. They make us rich, though we often exploit them.

Forgive us.

We thank you for the men and women who have made this country strong. They are models for us, though we often fall short of them.

Inspire us.

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America

Fourth of July fireworks at Penns Landing, preceded by a concert by the US Army Field Band. In recent years we’ve found our holiday fireworks fix up at Tinicum Park in Bucks County. I can report that America looks a lot different at Penns Landing from Upper Bucks. And there were more flags down here in Philly, though that might just reflect the presence of enterprising vendors.

“Hep” when you need it

Teaching Opa some fancy moves.

This isn’t an original thought, but as I relive the first years of life through the eyes of my granddaughter, I’m reminded that some of the most important lessons in life are learned in toddlerhood. Some wisdom for today: it’s ok to insist on doing it yourself if you can, but don’t hesitate to ask for “hep” if you need it.

A sermon for the second Sunday of Pentecost

Preached at Christ Church and St. Michael’s

In today’s Gospel, we hear something a little different from most of the stories we know about Jesus. He meets a poor soul who is possessed by demons, and he casts those demons out and sets the man free to live a normal life. And that part is nothing unusual, because so much of Jesus’ ministry was taken up with just that kind of healing.

But what’s different about this story is what happens next.

All through the Gospels, we hear about the crowds who follow Jesus wherever he goes. Sometimes the people press in so close that he can hardly move.

They follow him when he tries to go off to quiet places to pray, so it’s hard for him to ever be alone. They follow him into the wilderness by the thousands, without any concern for the fact that it’s getting late in the day and they’ve brought nothing to eat.

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