Sermons

The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, November 12, 2017, Sermon by the Rector

In the gospel according to Matthew, Jesus gives five sermons. All of them have acquired names. The first and the longest is the Sermon on the Mount.[1] Then there’s a Mission Sermon,[2] a Sermon in Parables,[3] and a Sermon on the Church.[4]

Read More

The Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, November 5, 2017, Solemn Evensong, Sermon by the Rector

Tonight’s second lesson and the reading at Benediction to come, both from Luke, probably are familiar to all of us, because these words are more frequently heard in the form Matthew gives them in the Sermon on the Mount.[1] Luke and Matthew are quoting what New Testament scholars now call the “Sayings Source.”[2]—it was known as “Q” for the German word “quelle,” meaning source, when I was in seminary. The text, of which no copy exists, almost certainly did exist in the classical world. In addition to its use by Matthew and Luke; the passage we heard tonight was also quoted by Justin Martyr, who died c. 167, in a form that suggests he was using the Sayings Source, and not Matthew or Luke.[3]

Read More

All Souls' Day, Sung Mass, Homily by the Rector

The mother of one of my good friends died at the end of September. I had visited with them in April. Her death was unexpected, but it was a release from the suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In that sense, it was a blessing that many of us have prayed for when someone in own our families has had this terrible disease.

Read More

The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, October 22, 2017, Solemn Mass, Sermon by the Rector

Today is the fourth Sunday when our gospel lesson is taken from Matthew’s account of the days between Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his betrayal. While preparing a sermon two Sundays ago, I noticed that Matthew and Luke’s narratives of Jesus’ entry and of his last days in Jerusalem begin differently from Mark’s.

Read More

The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 15, 2017, Solemn Evensong & Benediction, Sermon by the Rector

In Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented,[1] the narrative is dark from its beginning. When Tess returns home unmarried and with child—well, it’s a sad English novel.

Read More

The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 15, 2017, Solemn Mass, Sermon by the Reverend Dr. Peter R. Powell

A king has a son who is getting married, and he invites people to the banquet. He sends out his slaves, presumably on the day of the wedding, to remind them that they were invited, but no one comes.  He sends out the slaves again to entice them to attend by sharing the menu with them. The food is already prepared, come and eat. No one comes. Not only do they not come, but they mistreat and kill the king’s slaves. He responds by killing everyone who had been invited and destroying their city. Presumably their city is his city and refers to the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. So, the king has wiped out what we can assume were the leading citizens of his kingdom and pulled his city down around him.

Read More

The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 18, 2017, Solemn Mass, Sermon by the Rector

Let me begin by reminding you and me that starting last Sunday, our gospel lessons until Advent are taken from Matthew’s narrative of Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem, the days between his triumphal entry and his betrayal. Today, as it were, is Jesus’ second day in Jerusalem.

Read More

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, October 1, 2017, Solemn Mass, Sermon by the Rector

In the gospel lesson for last Sunday, Jesus and his disciples were in Judea, beginning to make their way to Jerusalem. For today, and for the next eight Sundays of this church year, they are already in Jerusalem. In today’s lesson Jesus is teaching in the temple.

Read More

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 17, 2017, Said Mass, Sermon by the Rector

In Matthew, Jesus gives five sermons.[1] The most famous is the first and longest, the Sermon on the Mount.[2] It begins with these words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”[3] The second is the Mission Sermon. In it Jesus gives his twelve disciples the authority to do what he has been doing: casting out unclean spirits and healing the sick.[4]

Read More

The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 10, 2017, Solemn Mass, Sermon by the Rector

While on a visit to Georgia last month, I had a day to do some work on family genealogy. I ended up in the county where my mother’s mother was born, Twiggs County. It’s in the geographic center of Georgia—a very rural area. The original county courthouse survived the Civil War, but it burned in 1901. Very, very few of its records survived the fire.

Read More

The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost, August 13, 2017, Said Mass, Sermon by the Rector

Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John all share the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand.[1] Mark, Matthew, and John, but not Luke, follow this story with the account of Jesus walking on the sea.[2] No one is really sure why Luke omitted it. Scholars call the omission of this and other passages in Mark that Matthew included, “the great omission.”[3] And I’ll leave it at that.

Read More

The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, August 6, 2017, Solemn Mass, Sermon by the Rector

The story of the transfiguration appears in Mark, Matthew, and Luke.[1] You’ll recall that Matthew and Luke have Mark in front of them when they write; but each uses Mark to tell his own story, not Mark’s. That said, Matthew is generally closer to Mark than Luke is—Luke is always looking forward to his second book, the Acts of the Apostles.

Read More

The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 30, 2017, Said Mass, Sermon by the Rector

Let me begin by reminding me and you that, despite the story of King Solomon asking for a sword to be brought when two women came before him with one infant child, each claiming the child as her own, and despite his building of the temple and his great wealth, not only was Solomon not wise, but he was unfaithful. In the First Book of the Kings we read that he had seven hundred wives, who were princesses, and three hundred concubines.[1] And the wives are blamed, of course, for seducing him away from the Lord: “Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.”[2] He notoriously oppressed his people, and when his son proclaimed he would follow in his father’s footsteps, he lost all of the kingdom except Judah and Jerusalem.[3] If our first lesson were picked because of its relationship to the gospel lesson, I am mystified by the attempt to link Jesus with Solomon. For with Matthew’s Jesus, to obey God is what life and eternal life are all about.

Read More

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, July 23, 2017, Solemn Mass, Sermon by the Rector

The Christian debate about what we call the problem of evil is front and center in the New Testament. In Matthew, it’s a shadow over not just God’s Son, but others, beginning with the infant boys of Bethlehem. As I began to work on this sermon, Dr. Mark Davis’ scripture blog[1] made a reference to a sermon he had written three years ago.[2] For most of the twentieth century, two brothers stood, together with a very few others, at the top of the field of Christian ethics, Reinhold Neibuhr, who taught at Union Theological Seminary, here in the city, and Richard Neibuhr, two years younger, who taught at Yale Divinity School.

Read More

The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, July 16, 2017, Said Mass, Sermon by the Rector

Independently of each other, Father Jim Pace and I both realized that the lectionary editors are being more than a little dishonest about the passage appointed for today from Matthew. They wanted us to omit the verses that begin with the disciples’ question, “Why do you speak to them in parables?,” and to omit Jesus’ answer, “To you”—but not to them—“it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.”[1] The question that comes immediately to my mind is, “Why doesn’t God let everyone know the secrets of the sovereign power of heaven?”

Read More

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, July 9, 2017, Solemn Mass, Sermon by the Rector

Today’s gospel lesson comes from a section of Matthew where Jesus’ words and deeds have been “largely rejected”[1] by the people he has encountered. You and I know that the rejection of Jesus will continue and will grow all the way to Calvary. But in the middle of this story of rejection, Matthew’s Jesus has words of hope and comfort for those who persevere in faith.

Read More

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, July 2, 2017, Said Mass, Sermon by the Rector

In Matthew, when Jesus finished the Sermon on the Mount, the longest and best known of the five sermons Matthew’s Jesus gives, the evangelist tells us that Jesus “went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity.”[1]

Read More

The Body and Blood of Christ, June 18, 2017, Sermon by the Rector

“Call and Response” is the name given to a form of preaching, of rhetoric, that belongs to the African-American Christian community. Its dialogue engages the preacher and the congregation; they move each other along.[1] That’s one way also to understand John’s gospel. The Word made flesh is calling; men and women are responding. And God is looking for one response: belief in his Son Jesus Christ.

Read More

Trinity Sunday, June 11, 2017, Solemn Evensong, Sermon by the Rector

When I was rector of a parish with teenagers, I often found myself saying to one or more of them, “I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve read the book.” Well, right now, I’m reading a book because I saw an episode of the BBC television production of Hillary Mantel’s 2009 novel Wolf Hall.[1] I’ve had a copy of it for quite a while. It got such good reviews when it was published. Historical fiction. It’s based on the life of Thomas Cromwell, who would become the minister of Henry VIII who oversaw, among other things, the king’s divorce from Queen Katharine, his marriage to Anne Boleyn, and Anne’s beheading.

Read More

The Day of Pentecost, June 4, 2017, Solemn Mass, Sermon by the Rector

For the last Sunday of the Easter Season, the appointed gospel from John takes us back to the supper before the Passover. That night, Jesus knows that he is going away, and he knows that he’s going to return. He shares this news with those he will for the first time that very night call “friends.”[1] Jesus also knows that he is going to die, but he does not speak of it directly.

Read More