Tag Archives: episcopal

A 4-Watt Bulb at Christmas

Christmas 1 / December 28, 2014 / Year B

Isaiah 61:10-62:3 / Psalm 147 / John 1:1-18

Preached: December 28, 2014, All Saints’ Church, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY

(This sermon was inspired by a sermon written by my mother about this same nativity scene. I’ve re-contextualized here for the All Saints’ congregation.)

Merry Christmas!

I guess it’s a little bit like saying, I love chocolate, or I love summer, but I do love Christmas. And I especially love the part of Christmas that comes after Christmas Day. These 12 days of Christmas, when the city slows down, and we get to travel and see our families, and play around with our presents. And I love the decorations, the poinsettias, the trees with their humming electric lights, and the nativity scenes.

I really love the nativity scenes. Probably more than anything else, these mean Christmas to me. This has got a lot to do with my house growing up and my mother’s huge collection of nativity scenes. We’d get down the boxes at the beginning of every Advent and I’d carefully help her unwrap piece after piece of seemingly endless creche pieces. I love this weird little nativity family and all the different representations of it: an unmarried woman, a sweet young man, a brand new baby, shepherds, and kings, and hay-chewing animals, all in their dirty stable-house. And always, somehow, miraculously, God is in there. God chooses that dirty, smelly manger, every time.

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On Darkness and Middle School

Proper 28 / November 16, 2014 / Year A

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Matthew 25:14-30

Preached: November 16, 2014, All Saints’ Church, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY

When I was 11, I lived with my parents and my two brothers in a little colonial house on a hilltop overlooking a graveyard and an Episcopal church. The church was built in 1715; it was really old. My dad was the property manager–he opened the church up every day, he locked it up every night. He dug the graves with a backhoe, he filled them back in again after burials.

Our family operated within the rhythms of this country church. Many nights after dinner, I would get to ride along with him in the front seat of an old, silver pick-up truck, checking the perimeter of the church property, and locking all the gates. It was dark and I would often hold a Maglite out the window for him so he could see where he was going; I remember the hunch of his back as he swung closed the gates and fiddled with the locks, silhouetted by my careful beam of light.

The house was at the very edge of the township where my brothers and I went to school, which meant that we had the longest bus ride of anyone. And when I was 11 and in the 6th grade and just starting middle school, I thought it would be a good idea to be in the marching band–I played the flute–because they had pretty cool uniforms and I was generally an overachiever. What I did not realize was that marching band practice was at 6:30am, on the football field, in November and December and January. And also it involved marching.

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Is the Lord Among Us? (A Sermon for Proper 21A)

Proper 21 / September 28, 2014 / Year A

Exodus 17:1-7 , Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16, Philippians 2:1-13, Matthew 21:23-32

Preached: September 28, 2014, All Saints’ Church, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY

As most of us probably know, last week in New York there was a climate march. Most estimates say well over 300,000 people, from all over the world and from all over the country showed up for this march–the largest climate march in history. This march, which hosted all different sorts of groups, all different religions, all kinds of political affiliations, was in anticipation of a UN meeting this week about the climate. About rising overall temperatures due to the way we use up resources, here in the US and in developing countries.

We, the people of this world, need to figure out how to curb our carbon emissions so that the climate stops changing. I’m sure you’ve heard all of this before. But we need to do it so that the earth as we know it does not cease to be a habitable home for all of us. This is why so many people came to the climate march; as a bodily reminder to our world leaders that the EARTH needs to be considered, protected, and cared for.

The Israelites knew about the climate, and how we humans can feel like we are at the whim of it. They knew what it was like to go without food, and they definitely knew what it was like–wandering in the desert–to go without water. They roamed, led by Moses, in very dry lands. They were parched. You can imagine how, in the story, their thirst mingles with their not knowing where they are going, with the feeling of isolation from their homes. You can imagine how the rocks and sand taunt them, how nothing about the climate feels like home. Continue reading

Midwives in Ferguson (A Sermon for Proper 16A)

Proper 16 / August 24, 2014 / Year A

Exodus 1:8-2:10 , Psalm 124, Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20

Preached: August 24, 2014, All Saints’ Church, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY

I’m going to start this morning with a tiny little exercise; it shouldn’t take too long.

We’re going to start with a little bit of silence. Just a few moments where you don’t have to listen to anything, you don’t have to sing anything, you don’t have to rifle through any books, or leaflets, and you don’t have to listen to me talk at you.

I’ll ring a bell to bring us in and out of the silence–and during it, I have a few questions I want us to focus on:

I want you to think about whatever it is that is troubling you this morning.
What is tumbling around like a rock in your shoe, poking and prodding you?
What is making you uncomfortable?

What is frightening you?
What is making you mad?
What is making you feel useless? Hopeless?

In other words, what is weighing on you this morning?
What is weighing on your heart?

Let’s take two minutes to reflect on these things together.  Continue reading

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