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Sermon: Sheep, Goats & St. Andrew

Sermon preached at Christ Church, La Plata & Christ Church, Wayside (Newburg, MD) on November 26, 2017

Last Sunday after Pentecost/Christ the King (Proper 29) Year A, RCL: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Ps. 100; Ephesians 1:15-23; Matthew 25:31-46

I speak to you in the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen

Today is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of Pentecost, and the final Sunday of our Church Year.  Today is a day for remembering – remembering that as this year ends, as with the End of the Age, Christ our King rules victorious over all of creation.  

In the first reading, Israel’s kings had proven to be bad shepherds.  Ezekiel declares that the Lord will assume the role of shepherd in Israel.  The Lord will also set over them a shepherd-messiah, “my servant David,” who will feed and care for the people.

In the Epistle to the Ephesians, God is praised for revealing ultimate divine power in raising Jesus from the dead.  The resurrected, exalted Christ is Lord both church and the entire universe, now and in the age to come.

Lastly, our gospel reading from Matthew is Jesus’ great story of judgment. Our Lord compares himself to a king who moves among his subjects to see how he is treated: what is done for the least of those who belong to his family is truly done to him.  In the end, the faithful are those who served Christ by ministering to those who are poor, hungry, naked, sick, or estranged.  

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Sermon: Talents? Don't Bury 'Em. Use 'Em!

Sermon preached at Goodwin House, Alexandria, VA on November 19, 2017

24th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28) Year A, RCL: Zephaniah 1: 7, 12-18; Ps. 90:1-8, (9-11), 12; 1Thessalonians 5:1-11; Matthew 25:14-30

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.  Amen.

Almost 30 years ago now, the then assistant to the rector at Grace Church, Russell Road here in Alexandria, took the reins of my Education for Ministry (EfM) class after our rector had been elected bishop in Oklahoma. [That bishop is Bob Moody, and he and his wife Lance, are moving into Goodwin House Alexandria sometime in the coming months.]  Grace’s assistant rector was Mary Sulerud (some of you may know or remember Mary; she and I served together at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in 2012-2013.)  It was Mary who provided our EFM class with an exercise to create a personal one-sentence prayer.  It invited us to 1) consider how we saw God using a superlative and a title; 2) how we viewed ourselves; and 3) what it was that we sought through prayer.  Knowing there would be times when praying would be hard and less than forthcoming, this short prayer is always there for me, if needed, to begin talking with God.  My individual prayer still is: “Almighty Father, your Seeking Servant prays for Guidance.” 

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Sermon: Be Ready!

Sermon preached at St. James’ Episcopal Church at Mount Vernon in Alexandria, VA on November 12, 2017


23rd Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27) Year A, RCL: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78: 1-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13


Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.  Amen.


Truth be told, I do love me a good wedding!  I love to attend weddings, and since being ordained, I really enjoy the opportunity to officiate at weddings.  As a long-time layperson who served on an Altar Guild, helping on many weddings, and now as a priest, I may not have seen it all, but I’ve experienced a lot: Brides who were late; groomsmen who got lost coming to the church; clothing malfunctions -- before, during, and after the wedding; jewelry being dropped in the exchange between the best man, or the maid of honor, and the priest; and members of the bridal party, and/or the parents, falling out in the aisle.  I’ve seen brides who cried, and more frequently, grooms who cried. 


Weddings bring out both the worst and the best of who we are as humans.


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Sermon: Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

Sermon preached at Christ Church, La Plata & Newburg (Wayside), MD on November 5, 2017

22nd Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 26) Year A, RCL: Joshua 3:7-17; Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37; 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13; Matthew 23:1-12

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created, and you shall renewthe face of the earth.  Amen.

As I was growing up, I compiled an arsenal of sayings from my parents that I swore I’d never say to my own children.  You know, things like, “You’re not leaving the house dressed like that!” or “Wipe that expression off your face right now!” or “Just wait until your mother gets home!”  (I heard that one from my older sister while my Navy father was out to sea!)  However, there was that Top of the List saying which reeked of the sort of adult hypocrisy that teenagers love to latch onto.  I don’t recall specific instances, for I’m sure there were several, if not many, or any teenager behaviors that elicited these exact words, but I clearly hear my mother saying, “Do as I say, and not as I do!”

        “Do as I say.  Not as I do!”

As self-centered and uncompromising as only teenagers can be, no one, particularly a teenager wants to hear that!  All these years later, I still feel a sense of indignation and outrage at the notion that my mother, or even my father, wanted to hold me to a standard of behavior they could not bring about for themselves!

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Sermon preached at Christ Church, La Plata & Newburg (Wayside), MD on October 29, 2017

21st Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 25) Year A, RCL: Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:16, 13-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-41

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.  Amen.

Jesus said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

With 613 commandments to choose from, Jesus replies in the words of Israel’s creed, the Shema, found in Deuteronomy, Chapter 6, verses 4-5, and in The Book of Leviticus, Chapter 19, verse 18.  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

If the Pharisees had hoped for an unorthodox reply, they were sorely disappointed.  The astonishing wisdom of Jesus silences his opponents—but he has not finished with them yet.

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Sermon preached at St. Christopher’s, Springfield, VA on October 22, 2017


20th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24) Year A, RCL: Exodus 33:12-23; Psalm 99; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-2


Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.  Amen.


I wonder if you’ve ever been asked a question that, if you stopped long enough to think about it, you realized there was no way you could answer without getting yourself into trouble?  That's what we call a “loaded question.”  A loaded question is one that is worded in such a way that a person cannot answer it without appearing to be wrong, or even guilty.


Here are a couple of examples of loaded questions:


• Have you quit cheating at cards?  If you answer Yes," you’re admitting that you have cheated.  If you answer "No," you admit that you’re still cheating.


Here’s another (and I’ll ask this because my big sister is here today):


• Do you still pick on your little brother?  See, it’s like the other question.  You’re either going to admit you USED TO pick on your brother, OR admit that you STILL pick on him. 


Our gospel today has a good example as it contains a question about paying taxes.  But Matthew tells us right up front that the question put to Jesus was to trap him in his own words.  Yes, it’s a “loaded question.” 


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Sermon: The Ten Commandments

Sermon preached at Christ Church, MD in La Plata & at Wayside (Newburg), MD
on October 8, 2017
18th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22) Year A, RCL: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts,
always acceptable to you, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

I wager to guess that no other document has been so influential to Western culture than the Ten Commandments. In Western civilization, the Decalogue has a position of inescapable significance. For Jews, Roman Catholics, and Protestants, this is the only formulation of religious principles that are held in common. In many Christian churches, knowledge of the Ten Commandments is a requirement for membership. The civil law of many lands has some root in this covenant law of God given to Israel at Sinai.

Scholars suggest that the Israelites were not the first, nor the only, people to have a written law. Other ancient law codes have been discovered for other civilizations such as the Sumerians, the Akkadians, and the Babylonians.

That there was no written law in Egypt could be explained by the status of the Pharaoh. He was considered a god, and therefore his spoken word at any given moment was law. Law, in ancient times, as well as today, served to regulate and control interpersonal relationships, to maintain the stability of community life, and to guarantee justice as justice was perceived. For Israel, the law bound together a heterogeneous group of slaves into a nation, a community that endures to present day. The law became the outward expression of the covenant, so we call it Covenant Law (Capital “C,” Capital “L”). Obedience to the law was Israel’s response to covenant. It was the outward and visible sign of their being a “kingdom of priests” and a “holy nation.”

The way the Ten Commandments are stated is rare, in fact, hardly found outside of Israel in the ancient world. The laws are in the form of absolutes, “You shall” or You shall not.” A more common expression of law was conditional: “If you do this and that, then I will do that or this.”

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Sermon: "By What Authority?"

Sermon preached at Christ Church, MD in La Plata & at Wayside (Newburg), MD on October 1, 2017

17th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 21) Year A, RCL: Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16; Philippians 2:1-13; Matthew 21:23-32

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts,
always acceptable to you, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

        I love movies.  And my wife, Chrissie, will tell you: I love ALL movies.  But now that I search for sermon material, I like to see movies with themes about God, heaven, faith and redemption, even if it’s sometimes a stretch, as in “Wonder Woman!”  But Wonder Woman works for this week’s gospel, because Diana, Princess of the Amazons, recognizes her call to help save humankind for the terrible conflict of World War I.  She is challenged by both sides who question her authority – she, in turn, shows her authority by besting all challengers in strength and wit.  Sometimes you can prove your authority by your actions, as Wonder Woman does.  Sometimes you must make the point differently.

        “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”  In today’s Gospel from Matthew, we find Jesus teaching after having cleansed the temple.  He drove out the moneychangers, tossed around some furniture, scattered merchandise, and totally disrupted the business of others.  I recall from the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, our Lord screams, “My temple should be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.  Get out!  Get out!”  Now teaching in the temple, Jesus’ authority is questioned by the religious leaders who are supposed to oversee the temple.

        I think we all know that Jesus came to disrupt the usual order of things – and this includes authority.  The religious authorities, the Sanhedrin, try to throw the rule book at Jesus when they ask him about the source or origin of his authority. “By what authority …?”  It’s obviously not one that members of the Sanhedrin had earned through their studies and public ceremonies of institution.  Jesus’ authority is not found in religious law.  The temple powers that be hide behind their self-contained authority.  What they don’t see is that now they observe the commandments to make themselves look good, rather than the call to serve their neighbor.    

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Sermon: Values of the Sacred Fabric Unfold

Sermon preached at Christ Church, MD in La Plata & Newburg, MD on September 10, 2017
14th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18) Year A, RCL: Exodus 12:1-14; Ps. 149; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20

May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts,
always acceptable to you, O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

          This past Thursday, I was at the Washington National Cathedral, where I volunteer once a month as a Nave chaplain. I was there to attend the noonday Eucharist, and afterward, join other volunteer chaplains for a luncheon with the Cathedral’s Dean, Provost, Canon for Worship, and two Cathedral vergers.
          As I walked through the Nave, I overheard that ‘the windows had been taken out and moved to an undisclosed location.’
          In 2015, following the tragic mass shooting at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC, the Dean at that time called for the removal of two Cathedral stained glass windows that honor Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.
          It was then that the Cathedral began a process to engage in deep questions of racial justice, the legacy of slavery, and God’s call to us in the 21st century. Over the past two years, there were many passionate voices who engaged Cathedral leadership and held them accountable to the process.
          Programs that were hosted, conversations within the Cathedral community, and events around the nation brought greater focus to a key question: Are the Lee-Jackson windows, installed in 1953, appropriate to the sacred fabric of a spiritual home for the nation?
          As you probably heard, the Cathedral Chapter decided Tuesday to immediately remove the windows. Their understanding is that the windows are inconsistent with the Cathedral’s mission to serve as a house of prayer for ALL people, and represented a barrier to important work on social justice and racial reconciliation. The Chapter determined the association with racial oppression, human subjugation, and white supremacy does not belong in the sacred fabric of the Washington National Cathedral.
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Sermon preached at Christ Church, MD in La Plata & Newburg, MD on September 3, 2017

13th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17) Year A, RCL: Exodus 3:1-15; Ps. 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c; Romans 12:9-21; Matthew 16:21-28

I speak to you in the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

I wonder: Have you ever considered which of Jesus’ disciples you might be most like?  There were twelve of them; thirteen, in fact, if you count Matthias, chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot.  So, you have options.  Something is known about each of them, but not always fully for all of them.  Except for Judas, all are remembered through Feast Days in the life of our Church.  Check the Church calendar!  You can learn more about the disciples through several different books: Lesser Feasts & Fasts; Holy Women, Holy Men; or the latest iteration, A Great Cloud of Witnesses.

For the longest time, I resonated strongly with Peter when he was first called by Jesus.  Several years ago, I truly ‘dropped my net’ to follow Jesus (leaving a 26+ year career at VISA USA, the bankcard company, and excellent salary and benefits), not knowing where or to what it would take me.  I sensed that God was calling me into something new, but I never imagined (though others seemed to know, and tried to tell me) that ministry of a different kind, shape, and way, was what lay ahead for me.  

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