Sermons

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

What we know as the tenth chapter of John stands between Jesus’ healing of the man born blind—chapter nine—and the raising of Lazarus from the dead—chapter eleven.

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 7, 2017, Solemn Mass, Sermon by the Reverend Dr. Peter R. Powell

Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

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

The disciples whom the Risen Jesus met on the road to Emmaus—perhaps a man and a woman[1]—know all about Jesus, but—and I’m not sure how to understand this—“their eyes were kept from recognizing him.”[2] Dr. Mark Davis translates the Greek here as, “their eyes were held from him so not to recognize him.”[3] (An echo of the Exodus where repeatedly Pharaoh’s heart is hardened so God can perform the miracle that he wants to perform?[4]) (By the way, the title Davis gives to his comments is, “Two Idiots and a Lord Walk into an Inn.”)

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

Two important words that accompany the different accounts of the resurrection are fear and joy. In Mark’s gospel there was only fear when the women left the tomb. In Matthew there was fear and great joy. In Luke fear and joy. And in John, fear and joy—for everyone except Thomas. John the evangelist narrates the story in a way that covers a lot of what we would call theology.

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Easter Day, April 16, 2017, Solemn Mass, Sermon by the Rector

At the supper before the Passover, Jesus told his disciples, his friends, that he was going away and that in “a little while . . . you will see me.”[1] Yet nothing Jesus did or said prepared his friends for the reality of his death, and nothing Jesus did or said prepared his friends for the reality of his risen life. Peter and the unnamed disciple whom we know only as the disciple Jesus loved left Jesus’ grave when they found it open and seemingly empty except for some cloths. They did not understand what they had seen; so they left.

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Maundy Thursday, April 13, 2017, The Holy Eucharist, Sermon by the Rector

The historic gospel reading for this Eucharist is from the very beginning of John’s account of the supper before the Passover, what we call John chapters 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17. These five chapters are together the longest narrative by far in any of the gospels—and tonight we heard only the first fifteen verses of the account.

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The Burial of the Dead, Monday in Holy Week, April 10, 2017, Linda Kay Bridges, 1949–2017, Sermon by the Rector

Jesus’ words about being the Shepherd of the sheep are found between two of the most powerful narratives in John’s gospel, the Healing of the Man Born Blind[1] and the Raising of Lazarus.[2] The man born blind asked nothing of Jesus; but Jesus healed him and sent him to wash. His healing will not be welcomed by his parents or his community. He doesn’t even know what Jesus looks like, but Jesus again seeks him out. Then Jesus explains to some Pharisees who are watching them that he is the Shepherd of the sheep. He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”[3]

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The Sunday of the Passion, April 9, 2017, Liturgy of the Palms, Procession through Times Square & Solemn Mass, Sermon by the Rector

Fifth-century pope Leo the Great is credited with assigning Matthew’s passion narrative to the Sunday before Easter and John’s passion narrative to Good Friday.[1] In the seventh century Mark and Luke’s narratives were assigned to Tuesday and Wednesday of what we call Holy Week.[2]

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The Fifth Sunday in Lent, April 2, 2017, Solemn Evensong, by the Rector

The promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that their descendants would dwell in the land of Canaan[1], lived on after Jacob died in Egypt.[2] On Wednesday night gone, our reading from Genesis ended with Jacob’s son Joseph requiring a promise by that his body would be embalmed and would be carried into the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when God visited them and fulfilled the covenant.[3]

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The Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 26, 2017, Solemn Mass, By the Rector

The man born blind did not ask Jesus for anything. He did not know who smeared dirt on him and sent him to wash. I can’t help but think that in the moment he was manhandled, it would have seemed to him to be just another one of the humiliations like those he had known all his life. Yet at the heart of this story, New Testament scholar Sandra Schneiders points out, is the unnamed man’s commitment to the law of God given to Moses, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”[1] The truth—lower case “t” for the sense of what is true, not false, and capital “T” for the one who is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life”[2]—sets him free in more ways than he could have imagined before he could see.

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The Eve of the Annunciation, March 24, 2017, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

I pulled out the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament the other day to look up the entry for a word that I’ve been paying more attention to since last Easter. The gospel for Easter morning, of course, is John’s account of the resurrection—Mary Magdalene, Peter and the disciple we know only as “the disciple Jesus loved” at the tomb. Quite honestly, I was looking for something to help me with John—on which I think I have preached for 28 Easter mornings in a row—so I turned to Matthew. It’s the only other gospel where the risen Jesus himself speaks on the morning of the resurrection. And I got lucky.

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The Second Sunday in Lent, March 12, 2017, Solemn Evensong, by the Rector

In this lectionary year, we started reading Genesis at Evensong on the First Sunday after the Epiphany. We began at the beginning with the first creation story. We’ve had two Sundays away from Genesis. We picked up Genesis last Monday with what Genesis calls the story of the family of Jacob, but it’s really the story of Joseph. And that’s where we are tonight. During the fourth week of Lent, we will move from Genesis to Exodus. But this year, like most years, we will end up hearing almost all of Genesis through the Sundays and weekdays at Evening Prayer.

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The Second Sunday in Lent, Sunday Vigil Mass, by the Rector

In the background of today’s gospel lesson are words from a song of Moses found in Deuteronomy, which  “Moses spoke . . . in the ears of all the assembly of Israel.[1]I He said to the assembly, “You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.”[2] Into the world of the descendants of that assembly of Israel, the Word of God was made flesh. Salvation no longer belonged to the old covenant but is the gift to all who believe and become children of God,[3] to all who are born from above by the Spirit.[4]

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The First Sunday in Lent, March 5, 2017, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Dr. Mark Davis in his online scripture blog, “Left Behind and Loving it,”[1] suggests, for grammatical reasons, that instead of hearing the devil say, “If you are the Son of God, [then] command these stones . . . throw yourself down [from the building]; . . . fall down and worship me,”[2] we should only use the word “if” in the first two tests. Instead, we should use the word, “since.” Checking the dictionary, he’s not wrong.[3]

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The First Day of Lent, March 1, 2017, Sung Mass, by the Rector

The first record of ashes being used by Christians in association with penitence comes from sixth-century Spain.[1] Ashes were given to penitents who, because of serious public sin, had been publicly excommunicated.[2] A ritual for the imposition of ashes is found in the altar book for the bishop of Mainz, now Germany, in the tenth century as part of the liturgy at the beginning of Lent.[3] In spite of the words of Jesus that we just heard—always associated with the Mass for the beginning of Lent—at the end of the eleventh century, Pope Urban II decided ashes would be offered to everyone on this day in the Western Church.[4] Maybe not this year with the rain, but most years, in our city of New York, more people will enter churches today for ashes than on any other day of the year and for any other reason. I know of no other city where this is true. So what do ashes mean for us? What can ashes mean for us?

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The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, February 26, 2017, Solemn Mass, by the Rector

Our appointed gospel lesson begins with the words, “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart.” But this story really begins a week earlier in Matthew, when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men and women say that I am?" And the story doesn’t end when Jesus and the three disciples come down the mountain. What happens next, the healing of an epileptic boy, is very much a part of the story that begins, again, with Jesus’ question to his disciples, “Who do men and women say that I am?” Read more

The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Solemn Mass, February 19, 2017, by the Rector

Growing up Southern Baptist, I don’t remember learning Luke’s version of the last words of today’s gospel lesson. Luke’s Jesus in his Sermon on the Plain—not on a mountain—says, in the King James Bible of my youth, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”[1] I do remember learning parallel words from Matthew, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Read more

The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Solemn Evensong, February 12, 2017, by the Rector

Jacob’s mother’s brother, that is, Jacob’s Uncle Laban, sells his daughter to Jacob for seven years’ labor. When the day of the wedding comes, there is a great celebration. In the morning Jacob discovers he has been tricked—alcohol?—into sleeping and being intimate, not with the first cousin for whose marriage he had labored, but with the elder sister, Leah. Seven more years of labor follow for the younger sister. Jacob now has two wives. The one who is hated bears children; the one who is loved does not—at least not at the beginning of the stories of what will be Jacob’s four wives. Leah had four sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Read more

The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Mass, February 12, 2017, by the Rector

The Sermon on the Mount is by far the longest of the five sermons given by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel. Today’s gospel is from the middle of what we call the fifth chapter; the sermon goes on for two more chapters. Today we heard four of the six verses called, “antitheses;” we will hear the next two next Sunday.[1] These antitheses begin, “You have heard that it was said.” Jesus then continues with, “But I say to you.” Read more

The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Solemn Mass, February 2, 2017, by the Rector

The late New Testament scholar François Bovon refers in his commentary on Luke to the description of an icon in a book by a priest-monk of Mount Athos who died around the year 1744. It shows Joseph, Anna, and the child Jesus. The priest-monk, Dionysius, wrote, “Next to him [Joseph] stands the prophetess Anna, who points to Christ and holds a tablet with this inscription: ‘This baby created heaven and earth.’ ”[1] I’d like to see the icon; it is an interesting commingling of John—“In the beginning was the Word”—and of Luke. Read more