Sermons

The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Transferred), Solemn Mass, by the Rector

While I was in seminary, James Dunkly, a New Testament scholar who served as Nashotah House’s librarian, was the preacher for a feast of the Annunciation during Lent. In his sermon he made reference to the composer Franz Joseph Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli—Mass in the Time of War. I remember he held my attention—and enough so that I still remember him preaching about Mass in the time of spiritual war. Today we celebrate this feast of the Annunciation in the time of victory. In the words of the hymn we sang yesterday at Solemn Mass, “Death is conquered, we are free, Christ has won the victory.”[1] But before we go there, I want to look back at a sermon I remember preaching on the Annunciation.

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The Second Sunday of Easter, Said Mass, by the Rector

New Testament scholar Francis Moloney, in his remarks on the appearance of the Risen Jesus to the disciples on the evening of the resurrection, makes reference to “Jesus’ unfailing love for both Peter and Judas”[1]—and he puts the word “Judas” in italics so that a reader like me does not miss his point. When I read these words, I thought to myself, “We’re in John where Jesus is in charge of his own betrayal.”

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The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Duke University Professor Joel Marcus in his commentary on Mark’s gospel—my favorite commentary on Mark—calls today’s gospel lesson “Epilogue.”[1] “Epilogue” is a word I think I first encountered in a ninth-grade English class, when we had to read Shakespeare for the first time. Here’s the epilogue that I can almost remember from having to memorize it almost fifty years ago:

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The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, Solemn Liturgy of the Day, by the Rector

Mark’s narrative of Jesus’ arrest and death has no moment of human compassion. Jesus already knows who has betrayed him.[1] He knows his disciples will desert him, and despite Peter’s denial, Jesus knows and says to Peter, “This very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”[2] Jesus knows he will suffer and die,[3] but he does not know he will be abandoned by his Father on the cross.[4]

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The Fifth Sunday in Lent, Solemn Evensong, by the Rector

On Friday morning, when I began to try to write something about Holy Week for this week’s newsletter, I soon found myself trying to sort out the origins of the Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day. I pulled out the liturgics notebook I have from my last year in seminary. I didn’t find anything quickly that was useful—probably a comment on my handwriting more than anything else.

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The Burial of the Dead, Jon Alan Bryant, 1947-2018, by the Rector

The burial of the dead and the continual commemoration of the departed are part of the deep biology of humankind. The available evidence strongly suggests that Neanderthals buried their dead[1]—though there is a big dispute now about whether they buried their dead with flowers.[2] (Who knows?)

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The Third Sunday in Lent, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

In John’s gospel Jesus never performs an exorcism, never heals by casting out Satan.[1] In John, Jesus never responds to requests to perform miracles so that people will believe.[2] John the evangelist—the narrator—speaks of the “signs” Jesus performed; Jesus himself in John only speaks of his “works.”[3] And in John there is only one work that matters. Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”[4] The late British New Testament Professor C.K. Barrett wrote, “The works [of Jesus] make visible both the character and the power of God”[5]—and I would add, God and Jesus being One.

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The Second Sunday in Lent, Solemn Mass, by the Reverend Dr. James C. Pace

As I have told you many times, I grew up in the Episcopal Church. I grew up around, through, and within its liturgies of life, death, and everything in between, and they have changed my life. I can remember even as a small boy, that I loved the season of Lent. I loved the purple vestments and altar frontals. They were elegant, royal. My mother was the altar guild directress at St. Mary’s Church in Palmetto, Florida. My dad was the treasurer, lay reader, and a chalice bearer. And a few days before Lent began, dad would bring out this really tall step ladder and carefully traipse it into the sanctuary, and together, we would drape the huge crucifix above the altar with a really thin purple veil. It was a sheer veil that covered the corpus of Christ. When it hung there, it cast an eeriness over us all. At least it did to me. The body of Christ on the cross looked shrouded. I loved the season of purple. And though I lapse into such recollections all too frequently now, it is good to remember how the church and its liturgies shape our lives.

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The First Sunday in Lent, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism is taken up by both Matthew and Luke, Matthew being the more familiar since Western Christians have, until the 1970s, usually read Matthew whenever possible in preference to Mark, Luke, or John.[1] So, it’s a little hard for me to think about today’s gospel from Mark without thinking of the conversations the “tempter” in Matthew, the “devil” in Luke, has had with Jesus. But Mark only says this, “[Jesus] was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.”[2]

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The First Day of Lent, Sung Mass, by the Rector

Very briefly. Our first lesson from the book of Isaiah comes from the period when the Jewish people have returned from exile in Babylon.[1] The temple and the walls of the city are being rebuilt. And the Hebrews relearning their story. The passage proclaims that the Lord does not desire fasting from his people, but kindness and justice—themes that are never hidden in the Hebrew Scriptures or in the New Testament. God is never pleased simply by the observance of rituals and rules when people are hungry, when people have no shelter.

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The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Mark, Matthew, and Luke all conclude their accounts of Jesus’ first words to his disciples about him being rejected, put to death, and rising with these words, “There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see that the [dominion] of God has come with power.”[1] Six days later—in Mark and Matthew, and “about eight days in Luke—Jesus takes Peter, James, and John to a mountain where they will see that the dead live. This is a recurring theme of the gospels: the dead live.

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The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Solemn Mass, by the Reverend Dr. James C. Pace

Last week I went to see my dermatologist for my usual 6-month checkup. A reminder that I grew up under the Florida sun and so I keep her very busy. But it was the first time in my 7 years with her, where, before the exam began, she asked: “May I touch you?” She’s never asked me that before. And then I got it. In a world where there is way too much “bad touch” there is now clear and certain need for consent.

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The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Solemn Evensong, by the Rector

This afternoon when I turned my attention to the late Raymond Brown’s An Introduction to the New Testament to read about the letter we know as “The Second Letter of Paul to Timothy,” knowing that I would have to confront the issue of New Testament authorship.[1] So that’s what this homily is about. There are two technical words that comes up in this discussion, I will mention them only once: pseudepigraphy (false writing) and pseudonymity (“false name”).[2] Now, I’m going to try to summarize what we know about who wrote what.

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The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Simeon is described as a man who lived in Jerusalem who was waiting for the consolation of Israel—that’s all we know about him, except for one thing, “Inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple”—and at the point in time when God wanted him there.[1]

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The Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

After being driven by the Spirit to the barren wilderness where Jesus would confront Satan, Jesus hears that John has been arrested. Then Jesus begins to preach, “The time has been fulfilled, and the dominion of God has come near!”[1] But before he begins his ministry of power—his exorcisms and his healings, he calls Andrew, Simon, James, and John to follow him. Then Jesus and his four disciples head to Capernaum.

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The Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Solemn Evensong, by the Rector

Tonight I want to set aside for the most part the first reading. It’s from that part of Isaiah generally known as Second Isaiah. Most scholars date these chapters from the time after the return of the Hebrew people to Jerusalem from the years in exile in Babylon.[1] In the passage we heard, the prophet uses the image of a ruler’s daughter who has lost all her family and all of her possessions and has been enslaved. The prophet asserts that the false religion and the wickedness of the people of the city has brought about its destruction by God.

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The Second Sunday after the Epiphany, An Epiphany Procession with Carols, Saint Thomas Church, New York City, by the Rector

Unraveling the origins of early Christian festivals means wading backwards, as it were, through how the gospel lessons, and the celebrations they inspired, were understood by the generations of Christians who came before us. In the Christian West, second-century Christian writer and teacher Justin Martyr wrote that the wise men were kings from Arabia.[1] Matthew’s gospel, of course, doesn’t mention “kings”; he speaks of “Magi”—probably best understood as Persian wise men, priests, astrologers.[2]
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The First Sunday after the Epiphany, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

A friend with whom I chat at my gym and his wife are young parents. They go to church. They happen to be Roman Catholic. Last week Epiphany came up. I don’t remember exactly how it came up, but I said something about there being shepherds and angels in Luke, but only wise men and a star in Matthew. My friend realized that I was telling him there were two different stories. I think I said something about Mary being a virgin in Matthew and Luke, but the stories are different. I reminded him about the seven-day creation story at the beginning of Genesis, followed immediately by the entirely different story of Adam and Eve.

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The First Sunday after Christmas Day, December 31, 2017, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

In the Israel of Jesus’s birth, very young women, eleven- or twelve-years-old, were formally betrothed by contract to a man, who was often somewhat older. A young woman would continue to live with her parents for a year or a more. According to the commentaries I read, the timing of the move to her husband’s house, in Mary’s case at least, had to do with the ability of a husband to provide a home for a wife.[1]

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Christmas Eve, December 24, 2017, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

The book of Genesis preserves a legend about “the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.”[1] They were called “Nephilim.” They were the children “of the sons of God and the daughters of men.”[2] In Genesis, they were among those wiped out by the Great Flood, which only Noah and his family survived.
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