Sermons

The Fourth Sunday of Easter, Solemn Evensong, by the Rector

Over a year ago, I started adding explanations for any additions to or reordering of the appointed readings. After hearing today’s lesson from Exodus, you might be surprised to read this note: “Other details of the priestly vestments (Exodus 28:5–29, 39–43) are omitted by the lectionary.” In other words, we heard a total of 14 verses that describe the vestments. There are 30 more. I am glad of that omission.

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

If I may call it the “Sunday Lectionary Lottery,” I think it’s fair to say that Matthew is still the winner—as he was in the historic one-year lectionary, originating in sixth- and seventh-century Rome,[1] which held sway until the liturgical reforms of the 1960s produced the three-year lectionary scheme. The runner up, if you will, is Luke. For some years now, I’ve thought the big loser was Mark. But I’m close to thinking that the big loser is John. He didn’t get his own year. I’m not sure why Anglicans, Lutherans, and others still use a lectionary structured by the theological framework of the Roman Catholic Church, but we and they do.

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The Third Sunday of Easter, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

There is widespread scholarly agreement that John’s gospel originally ended with the last words of what we call the twentieth chapter. That chapter begins, “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”[1] That morning the Risen Jesus made himself known to Mary Magdalene and that evening to all the disciples save Thomas.

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The Burial of the Dead, Norman Richard Austill, 1955–2019, by the Rector

In the last winter of the Second World War, a Church of England Benedictine monk published what remains one of the most influential books on Christian worship. His name was Dom Gregory Dix. The book was The Shape of the Liturgy.[1] That said, it turns out that much of Dix’s scholarship has not stood the test of time. But its influence was such that it directed the next generation of scholars to a better understanding of what we know and what we don’t know about the origins of the Christian Eucharist. One very important thing has stood the test of time: words Dix wrote about his faith.

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Easter Day, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

The literal Greek at the beginning of today’s gospel lesson is wonderfully vivid to my American English ear. It begins, “And on the first day of the Sabbaths”—perhaps a phrase used in Hebrew or Aramaic for the word “week”—“while the dawn was deep,”[1] [the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee, who stood at a distance from the cross, seen him die, and laid in the grave,[2]] went to the tomb, found the stone rolled away, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord. And it happened that they saw two men standing before them in dazzling apparel—angels. Fear—awe—overtook them. They bowed their faces to the ground—worship. The [angels] said to them, words that can reach through grief, “Why do you seek the Living One among the dead? He is not here; he has been resurrected. Remember what he said to you when he was . . . in Galilee.”[3] Then we have a statement by the evangelist of the faithfulness of the women who were Jesus’ disciples: “[the women] remembered [Jesus’] words.”[4]

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The Great Vigil of Easter, by the Rector

In Matthew, an angel of the Lord has rolled away the stone, and the angel is sitting on the stone, when Mary Magdalene and—in Matthew—“the other Mary”[1]—arrive to see the tomb. The guards who were sent to guard it are there too, but the guards “trembled with fear and became as dead men.”[2] Before either of the women can speak, the angel says to them, “You are not to be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus . . . He is not here; for he was raised just as he had said. Come, see the place where he lay.”[3]

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The Liturgy of Good Friday, by the Rector

Jesus said, “I thirst . . . It is finished . . . And having bowed his head, he gave over the spirit.”[1] In John on the cross, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is laying down his mortal life, before rising and ascending to the eternal life he has shared with his Father from the beginning.

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Maundy Thursday, The Holy Eucharist, by the Rector

Many of you may not know that Rick Austill, an active member of our local congregation, died unexpectedly Sunday night. He was only 63 years old. He was at a restaurant for supper with close friends. He went downstairs to the restroom. The next thing his friends knew was that the EMTs had arrived. They followed the ambulance to Bellevue Hospital Center. They were with Rick when he died, not long before 10 PM.

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The Sunday of the Passion: The Liturgy of the Palms, Procession through Times Square & Solemn Mass, by the Rector

In Luke, when Jesus is nailed and raised on the cross between two wrongdoers. The three are naked, beaten, bleeding, and in great and terrible pain.[1] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[2] Jesus had nothing to say to the rulers who came “to the place named Skull”[3] to see him suffering—who said, “He saved others; let him save himself, if this is the Messiah of God.”[4]

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The Fifth Sunday in Lent, Said Mass, by the Rector

Matthew and Luke follow Mark in telling the parable of the vineyard. When what are called “The Dead Sea Scrolls” were discovered at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945, another version for this story was found, perhaps earlier than the one Mark, Matthew, and Luke knew.[1]
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The Fourth Sunday in Lent, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Prudence Mackintosh is a longtime writer for Texas Monthly, a magazine published in Austin. She and her family were members of the parish in Dallas where I had an internship during my second year of seminary and where I would serve for two years after I was ordained. She and her husband, John, had three sons. I think it was while I was there for an internship that I heard her read one of her stories to a large group.

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The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Sung Eucharist, by the Rector

Some years ago now, I preached a sermon on this day that began, “What if Mary had said, ‘No?’ ” It was a good opening line, but since then I’ve learned to be more careful in my reading of the New Testament. The Greek text of Luke, or a good English translation, makes it clear that the decision for Mary to have God’s Son was God’s decision, not Mary’s. So the title for today’s feast—The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary—really is an announcement to Mary of God’s decision:

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

Occasionally a story that carries a memory of Jesus’ ordinary humanity finds its way into our gospel narratives. Today’s lesson begins with people bringing news to Jesus—in other words, telling Jesus something he doesn’t already know. Pilate has killed some Galileans while they were sacrificing animals, that is, while worshiping God in the temple. It’s not gentle news, and neither is the news Jesus already knows of the tower in Jerusalem that collapsed and killed. Sin and evil, and also unexpected tragedy are part of the reality of human life.

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

Apart from God’s prophets, Joseph is one of the few major figures in the narratives of the Hebrew Scriptures whose life is marked by faithfulness and suffering, but not by any great evil. It’s easy for me to forget that Moses murdered a man;[1] I usually do remember that David had a man murdered so he could have the man’s wife for himself[2]—and in the narrative, the woman who becomes the mother of King Solomon raises no objection. Our readings omit too often stories of God requiring the deaths of people of all ages. In the New Testament, God will require the death of only one.

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

When it comes to the accounts of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, I vote for Mark over Matthew and Luke. Mark simply says, “In those days Jesus . . . was baptized by John . . . And when he came up out of the water . . . he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him . . . and a voice . . . from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’ The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.”[1]

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The First Day of Lent: Ash Wednesday, Sung Mass, by the Rector

The twelfth-century Jewish teacher and writer Abraham Ibn Ezra is credited with being the first scholar to suggest that the book of Isaiah, from which our first lesson is taken today, was written in two different periods of time—before and after the exile of the Hebrew people to Babylon.[1] Modern scholars now divide the book into three sections—the first before the exile, the second after the return, and a third and final period when the restored Jewish community was learning again how to be faithful to God in their homeland. And it is from this third period that we hear Third Isaiah—as the one or more writers of this final section are known—write about the kind of fasting God desires his people to perform.

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

In Luke, Jesus often describes unfaithfulness to God by speaking about how money and possessions shape a person’s relationship to others, and thus to God. Think of the rich man who lived so well and the poor man Lazarus who survived on the scraps of food that fell from that rich man’s table;[1] think of Jesus’ mother’s words, “[God] has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”[2] But in Luke, the faithfulness that matters is how one believes and lives out the good news that the kingdom, the dominion, of God is within us[3] and that God has called us to live out life in this dominion within in the community of faith.[4]

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The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Solemn Mass, by the Reverend Dr. Matthew Daniel Jacobson

I have two friends in Rome who I refer to as San Rocco and the dog. Iconography of San Rocco almost always shows him with the dog that tradition tells us helped nourish the saint back to health. And, this became a Roman expression for two people who are always found together —like my friends Nuccia and Loredana.[1] In case you were wondering, I let them decide between themselves who should be Rocco and who should be the dog. They are good friends that teach in the same school, co-author books, and always seem to be found together.

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

Some of you may know the collection of stories from The New Yorker by the late Joseph Mitchell, Up in the Old Hotel.[1] Mitchell was a writer for The New Yorker magazine from 1938 until he died in 1996. He suffered from writer’s block and published little after 1964.[2] I read this collection when it came out in paperback while serving a congregation in Indiana—never imagining I would come to live and work in the heart of Manhattan.

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

On the past two Sundays we have heard the story of Jesus’ attempted ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth, where he had grown up and where he and his family were known.[1] At first, the people who heard him were astonished at his teaching in a good way, but that changed when they remembered who they thought he was: “Joseph’s son.”[2] The evangelist tells us the people then tried to throw him off the brow of a hill. Instead, Jesus made his way to Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which Luke alone in the New Testament calls by another of its names, the Lake of Gennesaret. There Jesus heals by casting out demons who know who he is.[3] And there in Simon’s house, he heals Simons’ mother-in-law by rebuking a fever.[4]

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