Sermon 4th Sunday after the Epiphany

At the beginning of creation, God put everything into perfect balance, each part of creation connected to the whole, and everything supporting and supported by everything else.  God made conditions ideal for all of creation to grow and to thrive.  We all live within a great web of life.

But depending on conditions within the web, growing and thriving may be compromised. 

I want to tell you about the African violet I got from a friend. 

Periodically, I find that one of its leaves has dropped. If I just left it where it fell, the leaf would die.  But if I place that African violet leaf in water, it will start to root.  And if I leave it in the water long enough, the one leaf will get more leaves. 

But for this leaf to thrive and to grow into a plant,  I need to plant the leaf with its new roots and leaves in some dirt, because water, by itself, doesn’t have everything this plant needs to grow and thrive. 

So here’s a plant that I grew from one leaf.  You can see that putting the roots in dirt meant that the plant could grow. 

But dirt is not all the plant needs.  At first, as the plant put out new leaves, the leaves grew long and scraggly and were more yellow than green. 

What do you think my plants lacked? 

They lacked light!

So then I got a grow light.

With enough light, the leaves became green, and then, to my surprise, my new African violets bloomed!

So with the right soil, enough water and enough light, these African violets are growing and thriving. 

God made each one of us with the hope that we will grow and thrive, for after all, we are part of God’s creation.  We are like the leaves that fall from my African violet.  Without the essential things we need to live and grow, we just wither away.  But when we have all we need, we too can grow and thrive and live in a thriving community with one another, in the human web of life. 

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Sermon, Second Sunday after Epiphany – “We are the People of Hope”

Sermon, Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A 2023
I Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42

“Calling of Peter and Andrew” – Caravaggio 1602

“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

So begins Paul’s letter to the Christians in Corinth, a diverse and contentious group of people, called together by God into the fellowship of Jesus Christ our Lord:  called to be the church, to be God’s light in the world. 

Paul’s enthralling words remind us that God calls us too—you and me– to be saints, that is, to follow Jesus and to witness to God’s justice, power, mercy, healing, and love in this world. 

That is why we’ve chosen to be here today, because we have heard God calling us to be part of this fellowship of the saints that we know as the church. 

Here, God reminds us, through scripture and prayer and song that we are not alone in this calling to follow Jesus. 

Jesus is not just a prophet with tremendous healing power and a mighty heart, willing to go to death and beyond as he does God’s will in this world, someone to admire and emulate.  Jesus is more than all of that, as wonderful as all of that is. 

Jesus is God’s Son.

So when we follow Jesus, God’s Son,  we enter ever more deeply into the heart of God, even in the ordinary things that we do, which can grow into the extraordinary things that God calls us to do, the things that we never believed possible—Glory to God, whose power working in us, can do infinitely more than we could ask, or even imagine. 

God imagines our lives—magnificent, challenging lives that reveal God to those around us! 

God has already imagined the life that God is calling you and me  and this church, St Peter’s, into.

God wants our imaginations to expand, so that ultimately, God’s imagination for each of us and for this church, and for this world, can and will  become reality. 

The clue to how we even begin to live into God’s imagination is to have the desire to know God more deeply, to want to live in the heart and mind of God, which is what the two disciples in today’s gospel realized they wanted. 

They were followers of John the Baptist.  But when they saw Jesus walk by and heard John say, “Look!  Here is the Lamb of God” these two disciples of John followed Jesus. 

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Sermon, Epiphany, Jan. 6, 2023 – “Where should we be looking?”

The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to Matthew. 

“Adoration of the Magi – Jan de Bray, 1658

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The gospel of the Lord. 

When the wise men arrived in Jerusalem after following the star across untold miles, they had only one question for King Herod. 

“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”

That question struck me as one that we should always be asking.

“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”

“Where is our Lord and Savior in this world?” 

Where should we be looking? 

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Sermon, Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2022

Sermon, Christmas Day III, 2022
John 1:1-14

In the magisterial opening of John’s gospel, John describes a great cosmic darkness into which life and light come—the Word made flesh, Jesus. 

Ultimately, what difference does the coming of Jesus make to us several thousand years later?   Why should we care?

Because as John points out, the world does not care.  The world did not know Jesus, and does not know Jesus now. 

So I ask you, “Why should we care?  Why should we accept this Word into our lives?”

Because as St Athanasius says, “For the Son of God became man so that we might become gods.” 

That is, we can only be what we are until we come across Jesus, and if we receive him, then our lives begin to expand, not only on this earth, but out into eternity. 

As John puts it, “For all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the power to become children of God, who are born not just as flesh and blood, but born of God.”

That’s why the coming of Jesus makes a difference, and why we should care.  Because receiving Jesus draws us into the life of God, into eternity beginning now, into love and into light, even in the darkness that surrounds us. 

When we choose to become children of God, our vision changes.  God gives us the great desire to see into the essence of the universe, to see into the essence of God’s creation, and to see deep into the hearts of one another. 

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Sermon, Advent 4, Dec. 18, 2022 -“God with ALL of us for the good of all of us”

Sermon, Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A 2022
Isaiah 7:10-16, Matthew 1:18-25

Fear is an awful thing. 

Fear can pounce, overwhelming us unexpectedly.  Fear can also be like a seed, planted in our minds, a seed that takes root and grows, and takes over our minds like one of those kudzu vines down south that grows out of control, covers everything in its  paths, and kills everything under it. 

We, too, must deal with the inevitable fears that come to us in this life, for if we do not, fear will take over and kill us. 

Dealing with fear can be next to impossible, though, for fear, once it takes root,  is so overwhelming. 

So here’s the good news in today’s gospel. 

God is with us, and God wants to help us deal with our fears.   Today’s lessons give us some examples. 

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Sermon, Nov. 27 – Advent 1 – Be prepared for the unexpected day by seeking to do good

The signs of ending are all around us now.  Thanksgiving has come and gone, the sweet sounds and smells and sights of the Christmas season have arrived.  Before you know it, 2022 will be history, and we’ll wake up to a new year. 

But all is not ending. 

Yes, in so many ways our lives reflect “end times,” but we Christians know that the end times point us toward new beginnings, and that even in the endings, God is making all things new. 

And that is what the season of Advent is all about.  As we stand in the debris of the old year, we seek out the hope, and look deep into the future with eyes of faith, knowing that “Christ will come again.” 

That’s one of the most mysterious, powerful and life giving things about Jesus—he died, but death did not destroy him.  He is risen, and in his risen life, is with us at all times and in all places, if only our hearts are open to him.  But  best of all, and this is the looking into the future part, Jesus will come again.

Jesus will come again, not only to the quiet welcoming places that we prepare for him in our hearts, but Jesus will come again in glory, to make all things on this earth right at last, to bring God’s just and peaceful reign to replace the messes we have made.  Heaven will come on this earth. 

So we Christians look for the completion of God’s rule here on earth, and we prepare not only our hearts, but we also work to prepare the world around us as well, in the ways that we can.  Like those who farm, we do what we can to prepare the earth for the new growth and life that is on the way when spring comes once more. 

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Sermon, Nov. 13, 2022 – Pentecost 23 – the Day of the Lord


Sermon, Proper 28, Year C 2022

Luke 21:5-19, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Psalm 98; Malachi 4:1-2a

Scripture describes the Day of the Lord as a cosmic, universal event, a time of terror, destruction, wars, and natural disasters that will take place before God’s reign on earth is fully realized. 

This understanding of The Day of the Lord also informs our understanding of the second coming of Christ, when Jesus will return in glory, vanquishing evil and bringing the fullness of God’s love, peace and rule to this earth. 

In the weeks before Advent, and during Advent itself, the lectionary presents us with various Day of the Lord passages that serve as signs of Jesus’ second coming on this earth. 

For after all, in the season of Advent, we are waiting and preparing not only for the birth of Jesus, God coming into the world as one of us, to live and die as one of us, but we are also waiting and preparing for Jesus to return in glory and for God’s reign of peace on this earth to at last become a reality.      

The Day of the Lord is a big theological idea that is interesting, but we’ve been waiting now for over 2000 years and Jesus has still not returned.

So I’m left to wonder.  Why continue to give so much attention to this concept? 

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