Monthly Archives: December 2013

Preparing Mansions (A Sermon for Advent 4A)

I’ll be preaching a version of this at my mother’s church this Sunday, but I was able to try it out first at Union last week as a final project for a guided reading. All statistics regarding homelessness come from this article, which I could not recommend more urgently.

Advent 4 / December 22, 2013 / Year A

Isaiah 7:10-16, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-25, Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18

Preached: December 11, 2013, Lampman Chapel, Union Theological Seminary

In some lectionary churches, including my own, we start the service with a collect. It’s a prayer that calls us into worship, focusing our thoughts–preaching and worship professors at Union might call this stating our “intention.” In the Episcopal church, many of these collects were written by Thomas Cranmer, who wrote much of The Book of Common Prayer, but some of them come from older, ancient liturgies. The collect for this lectionary, which is not this Sunday but next Sunday, December 22, the fourth Sunday in Advent is this:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Collects always follow that same format: a request, an intention, an invocation of a triune God. On this particular Sunday, I will be preaching at my Mom’s church in Westfield, MA. She’s the rector of an Episcopal church there, and so it will be she who reads this collect as we begin worshiping together. And then I will have the daunting task of preaching to her congregation. (And you all have the particular privilege of hearing my first attempt.)


The petition in this collect is a bit of a doozy. We are basically saying, “God, clean us out so that when Jesus comes he will “find in us a mansion prepared for himself.”” It’s reading week here at Union, I still have about 40 pages left to write, and I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to get it all done. Christmas is coming, kind of like a Mack truck and I don’t know about you, but I feel a bit like a deer in the headlights. I honestly cannot remember, for example, the last time I did any laundry.

So I’m sorry, God, but there are no mansions available. No mansions in this body.  Continue reading