Homily for Sunday, July 12 – The Pressure Sparrows Feel

Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Creator God, in the loveliness and intricacy of your world may we see the beauty of your infinity.  

Canadian birds have recently made an appearance in the New York Times (and the Smithsonian Magazine, the CBC News, ABC News, Popular Science, NPR and even the Technology Times of Pakistan). All of these news outlets have recently run stories about Canadian birds, specifically, about the white-throated sparrow.

In the New York Times Cara Giaimo tells the story this way: several years ago two ecologists were together in some forest in western Canada. One was Scott Ramsay from Wilfred Laurier University. The other was Ken Otter from the University of Northern British Columbia. Scott, the fellow from Ontario, noticed something strange. The birds were singing something weird. His ear had caught the song of the sparrow. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, July 12 – The Pressure Sparrows Feel”

Homily for Sunday, July 5 – Bounding over the Hills

Texts: Song of Solomon 2:8-17; Matt. 11:28-30

The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes, leaping over the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle

or a young stag.

Whenever I hear lines from the Song of Solomon I remember how a woman at a church I once attended would read them. She would pretend to swoon and would fan her face. I always believed she meant it as a joke. Texts like these read in church can make us shifty. But I also thought her little bit of acting did a good job highlighting how this part of scripture cuts through our moldy piety.

Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, July 5 – Bounding over the Hills”

Homily for Sunday, June 21 – “I Have Not Come to Bring Peace, but a Sword.”

Texts for June 21, Psalm 86: 1-13; Matthew 10:24-39

“Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth.” Many have repeated that line, but far fewer have meant it.

In 1935 an American religious leader named Howard Thurman led a “friendship delegation” to India and British Ceylon, what is now Sri Lanka. Thurman would have been 36 at the time. One day, after giving a talk at a law college, he was invited by the principal to have coffee. The two men drank their coffee in silence until the principal asked a question. He asked what Thurman was doing there. The principal knew the intention of the friendship delegation, but what he didn’t know was why Howard Thurman, a black man, would come there as a Christian. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, June 21 – “I Have Not Come to Bring Peace, but a Sword.””

Homily for Sunday, May 31

Readings for Sunday, May 31 – Acts 2:1-21; Numbers 11:24-30

Today is Pentecost Sunday. The age in which we’re living is an “age of authenticity.” This is a strange pairing. I’ll say a bit more about that in a moment, but first let’s consider a story. We’ll begin with this lovely little line from Numbers 11:19. God, speaking to the Israelites through Moses, says this: “You shall eat [meat] not only one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you.Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, May 31”

Homily for Sunday, May 17

Sunday, May 17 – Reading: Acts 17:22-31

I really like the image of the Apostle Paul going through the city of Athens and looking the place over. Did he look like a tourist or like an anthropologist? We know that he was especially intrigued with the Athenian’s “objects of worship.” He would have studied the temples dedicated to the old Greek gods. He might have run his hands over monuments connected to the Roman imperial cult. People would have hurried past him as his mind mulled over all that he saw. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, May 17”

Homily for Sunday, May 3

Sunday, May 3 – Reading: Acts 2:42-47

The book of Acts tells us about the early church. Acts is intended to be read as an extension of the story told in the Gospel of Luke. If you would have asked an early Christian how to follow Jesus after the resurrection they would have said, “Come join us and see.” In the minds of those believers there was no such thing as lone-ranger Jesus following. The distinction we sometimes make between spirituality and religion would have made little sense to them. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, May 3”

Homily for Sunday, April 26

Sunday, April 26 – Reading: Luke 24:13-35

Let’s think for a few moments about the story of the travelers on the road to Emmaus. Do you remember their marvelous response after figuring out that they had been walking with Jesus all day? Did you catch it? Thinking back, the travelers said this: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, April 26”

Homily for Sunday, April 19

Sunday, April 19 – Readings: John 20:19-23 and I Peter 1:3-9

In the gospel of John we read that after the resurrection, Jesus’s disciples self-isolate in one house. They lock the doors. The beauty (and terror) of the story is that even then Jesus shows up and shows up with reinforcements. He brings the Holy Spirit. He shares that Spirit in a way that violates our public health guidelines. He breathes on people—deliberately. Continue reading “Homily for Sunday, April 19”

A Palm Sunday Homily

Like churches around the world, the one that I pastor here in Ottawa has been unable to meet for several weeks. To encourage our congregants to still engage in worship, we have sent out simple liturgies (worship guides) for each Sunday. Worship is an active and intentional practice. It’s different from consuming media, even if those media are sermons or worship songs. Along with each of the liturgies we’ve sent, I’ve included a short homily. Below is an audio version of what I’ve shared for Palm Sunday.

Division, Wisdom, Christ Crucified—A February Sermon

Paul wrote the letter we know as I Corinthians to deal with divisions in that community. There were many sources of division there. One was related to leadership. Some said they followed Paul. Some said they followed Peter. Some said they followed Apollos. And some tried to trump everyone else, by saying “I just follow Jesus.”

Paul responds to them all by saying something like: “Come on. Get it together. Was I crucified for you? Was Apollos? Where you baptized in my name? I’m glad I didn’t baptize any of you, so you can’t get confused about where your loyalties lie.”

Then Paul seems to think for a moment before continuing. “Well, okay, I did baptize Crispus and Gaius. But still, it’s Jesus who is your true leader.” Continue reading “Division, Wisdom, Christ Crucified—A February Sermon”