Sermons

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

Christians in Egypt celebrated a feast of Jesus’ Epiphany in the late second or early third century. It celebrated both Jesus’ birth and his baptism.[1] As the celebration spread, it picked up the story from John of Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.[2]
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The Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Matthew’s wise men are better described as magi, probably astrologers, men whose profession was to study and interpret the movement of stars and planets in the heavens.[1] Matthew ignores the “generally negative view” of the Hebrew Scriptures to astrology, sorcery, or mediums.[2] The star in Matthew leads the magi to Jerusalem, where scripture will reveal where the king of the Jews, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ, has been born. God himself leads the magi to Jerusalem, to Bethlehem, and later on a safe journey to their own country.[3]

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

The Hebrew Bible begins with the word bereshit, commonly translated as “in the beginning.” The Greek form of bereshit is γένησις—Genesis. The root of the Hebrew word is a verb, three letters, בראbeht, resh, aleph—b, r, a—it means “to create.”[1] In the Hebrew Bible this word in its many forms is used only of God and God’s creative power, that is, of God’s ability to bring about something new. The word doesn’t explain how God does this; it’s not about God creating something from nothing. It is about “God’s extraordinary, sovereign, . . . effortless and fully free”[2] creative power.

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Christmas Eve, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is an Orthodox Jewish leader in Great Britain and in the Commonwealth. I read his blog Covenant and Conversation[1]. He has been writing since October reflections on the Jewish annual cycle of readings from the Torah, the Books of Moses, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible and our Bible. The readings are called “Parsha,” that is, “portion.” The first of the books in the cycle is, of course, Genesis. His article for December 10 was called, “Does My Father Love Me?”

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The Third Sunday of Advent, Solemn Evensong, by the Rector

In 1998, the summer before I came to Saint Mary’s, the late Father Raymond Brown published what would be the last of a series of essay collections on the Sunday gospel lessons.[1] I had the privilege once of hearing him speak at Notre Dame; I waited around afterwards to meet him and ask him a question. I bring this up because a question I didn’t ask him would come up as I began to use that last collection of essays.

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The Second Sunday of Advent, December 9, 2018, by the Rector

Scholarship suggests that today’s gospel lesson was the beginning of the story that Luke knew about the adult Jesus Christ. It certainly sounds like a beginning,[1] a biblical, “When in the course of human events,” as it were. In all four gospels the beginning of the ministry of Jesus is linked to John the son of Zechariah, as he is identified as he begins his public ministry in Luke.

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The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Said Mass, by the Rector

The Virgin Mary is mentioned in the New Testament only by the four evangelists, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John—note that John refers to her, not by name, but only as the mother of Jesus.[1] This mother is there as Jesus’ ministry begins in Cana and later outside the walls of Jerusalem when he dies on a cross.[2] For the record, in John, Joseph does get a mention by name.[3] In addition to Mary’s role in Luke’s gospel, she is mentioned once at the beginning of Luke’s second book, the Acts of the Apostles.[4]

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The First Sunday of Advent, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Scholars know that around the end of the ninth century or the beginning of the tenth century monastic workshops began to put the prayers and lessons for Advent Sundays at the front of the new liturgical books which they were making.[1] Scholars do not know why they did this, but because of the way books were laid out, Advent began to be thought of by Christians in the West as the beginning of the church year.

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The Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Solemn Evensong, by the Rector

We began reading from the First Book of the Maccabees this past week on Thursday night. Since the English Reformation, Anglicans have used the books we call the Apocrypha—from the Greek word for “hidden things.” (I’m not sure why they picked up that name.) They are books that were in the early Greek-language Hebrew Bible, known as the Septuagint, that was the basis of the first Christian Bibles. But these books, known in Greek, did not find a place in the Hebrew Bible—which came together among the Jews between the seventh and tenth centuries of the Common Era.[1]

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The Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Solemn Evensong, by the Rector

Yesterday afternoon I watched a movie that came out in August, Crazy Rich Asians. It was just serious enough and funny enough for me really to enjoy it. It was about family and about the prejudices, immaturities, and sins that can pass from generation to generation. It’s on the edge of not working, but once I relaxed, I enjoyed it a lot.

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The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Last Sunday, the lectionary placed us outside Jericho, where Jesus would encounter and heal a blind man.[1] He was a person who had only heard about Jesus but who believed the word that he had heard. The blind man was the good soil, if you will, of the parable of the sower.[2] He wanted to see again. Jesus does not touch him—no spitting this time as earlier in Mark.[3] Jesus said to him only these words, “Go. Your faith has saved you.”[4] But the evangelist tells us, “Immediately he regained his sight.”[5] But the good soil does not turn back to Jericho. He joins the disciples who are journeying with Jesus to Jerusalem. Today the lectionary leaps forward from the gate of Jericho to almost the end of the Tuesday before the crucifixion.

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The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost, Said Mass, by the Rector

This morning, we’re still in the tenth chapter of Mark. Jesus and his disciples enter Jerusalem at the beginning of the next chapter. Last Sunday we heard Jesus’ teaching about divorce and remarriage and ended with the disciples trying to keep children away from Jesus. But Jesus said to his disciples, “Let the children come to me . . . whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”[1] The disciples’ misunderstanding of who Jesus is continues with the very next story in Mark, the story of the rich man.

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The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

In the late Roman Catholic scholar Raymond Brown’s short book, Priest and Bishop: Biblical Reflections, in remarks about the development of a celibate priesthood in the Christian West and its value for today, the late Brown wrote, “If some of the Gospel demands, such as permanent commitment, seem very difficult to us today, I find no proof that they were not very difficult in the 1st century.”[1] Brown’s words, about the demands of the gospel being difficult in the past and in our time, have stayed with me. They remain something of a touchstone for me when I think about questions presenting difficult moral and ethical choices.

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