Shiny Jesus, and His Shiny Happy Kingdom

Transfiguration Sunday, Year A
Matthew 17:1-9
Sunday, March 6, 2011

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

In preparation for today’s Transfiguration Sunday sermon
    I couldn’t help but think of the peppy 1991 song Shiny Happy People
    by the great alternative rock band of my generation, REM.
This song is quite peppy – nauseatingly so, perhaps – but as you watch the video,
    you can’t help but smile as you see smiling, happy people
    sing and dance and come together in a celebration of happiness.
Lead singer Michael Stipe sings the repeated refrain,
    “Shiny happy people holding hands, shiny happy people laughing”
    while dancing in circles with a silly hat on his head.
It is pure, unadulterated – and terribly cheesy – happiness.
And so I think of this song today, on Transfiguration Sunday,
    as we read of Jesus standing atop the mountain alongside Moses and Elijah,
    with his face shining bright like the sun.
Shiny happy people, shiny happy Jesus, right?

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Loving our enemies – and our youth – for the sake of the Gospel

Lectionary 7 (Seventh Sunday after Epiphany)
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; Matthew 5:38-48
Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lectionary 7 Year A 2011

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

Last week’s Confirmation Class began with a thud.  I told the class,
“Alright, open up your Bibles to the book of Ruth. It might be hard to find –
    it’s a small book, buried in the Old Testament somewhere.
    Use the table of contents if you like.”
“Pastor Chris,” one of them said, “We know where it is. We read from Ruth last week.”
Oh, crud, I thought to myself.
I had prepared the wrong lesson, the one that Randy Correll,
    one of our wonderful Confirmation Ministry teachers, had taught the week before.
So, while my brain was spinning about what to do,
    I showed the class a video on YouTube of a Doritos commercial from the Super Bowl,
    something I had planned to do anyway. 
The commercial dealt with Doritos, yes, but also with resurrection,
    and I thought it would be a good way to start our class.

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It ain’t about us

Lectionary 3 (Third Sunday after Epiphany)
Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9; Matthew 4:12-23
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Sermon manuscript as PDF: Download Lectionary 3 – Year A 2011

Lectionary 3 – Year A 2011

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

Why did they do it?
Why did they drop everything and follow Jesus?
    And more than why … how?
In today’s Gospel, we hear the story of Jesus calling the first four of his disciples,
    Simon and Andrew, James and John.
These guys drop their nets, leave their boats and even their loved ones,
    and follow Jesus.
I’ll be honest … on the surface this can seem like a scene out of a bad zombie movie,
    or like something out of an old Gilligan’s Island or I Dream of Jeannie episode,
    in which someone watching a pocket watch swing
        back and forth, in front of their eyes
    falls into a trance and does whatever the holder of the pocket watch says.

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God is Doing a New Thing

Baptism of our Lord
Isaiah 42:1-9; Matthew 3:13-17
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Preached on the day following the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

Baptism of our Lord – Year A 2011

A few months ago,
    when comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held a rally on the Mall,
    a lot of people dismissed their efforts as little more than a publicity stunt
    and thinly-veiled politicking just two weeks prior to the election.
Part satire, part political demonstration,
    these comedians lampooned our nation’s broken politics,
    and assailed its hateful, vitriolic political rhetoric.
Comedians did this, because few others had the guts to do so.

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It Doesn’t Matter What You Came Here To See

Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 35:1-10; Matthew 11:2-11
Sunday, December 12, 2010

 

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

Steve Martin, the noted actor, comedian, and writer, is a funny guy.
Find videos of his performances on YouTube, and you’ll be laughing for hours,
    often at jokes and references that are not entirely appropriate for church.
Tickets sell out quickly when he does live appearances,
    because people will gladly pay big bucks to have this living legend make them laugh.
And so when Steve Martin agreed to do a live appearance at the 92nd Street Y in NYC
    it was a surprise to no one that tickets sold out quickly.
Now, this particular appearance, back on November 29, was not a stand-up comedy act.
Rather, it was billed as an interview between Mr. Martin and Deborah Solomon,
    a columnist for the New York Times Magazine,
    about his most recent book, An Object of Beauty, which is about the art world.
Perhaps not the most scintillating of settings or topics,
    but about 900 tickets were sold, for $50 each, to benefit the work of the Y.
Even if Steve Martin were standing on stage reading a phone book,
    it would probably be worth watching.

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The Question of When, and The Parable of the Piñata

First Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44
Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

“But about that day and hour no one knows,” Jesus says,
    “neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
What day, what hour does Jesus speak about here?
The day and hour when the “Son of Man” will come in judgment
    to remake and reorder the world according to God’s priorities.
That’s the day and the hour of which Jesus speaks in the first verse of today’s Gospel,
    and it is a day and an hour that even Jesus doesn’t know.
Nobody knows when these things will take place, Jesus says.
    Not angels, not Jesus, nobody.
But it will take place.
In this way, the coming of the Kingdom of God
    is like a bunch of kids hitting a piñata at a party.

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Now is the Time

Lectionary 33 (25th Sunday after Pentecost), Year C
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Luke 21:5-19
Sunday, November 14, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

Growing up with the last name of Duckworth,
    and having all sort of nicknames based on the root “Duck” –
    Ducky, Duckman, Duckhead, Duckface, Ducker, Duckaramma, Ducker Doodles –
    I take special interest in all things Duck.
And so at the end of certain political cycles my Duck feathers get ruffled, so to speak,
    as we hear about the fate of “lame duck” politicians.   
There is nothing “lame” about ducks, that you very much.

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It Gets Better

Reformation Day
Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 8:31-36
October 31, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

The Israelites just had suffered a whopping at the hands of the Babylonians,
    the Temple was looted, desecrated, and destroyed,
    a weak, figurehead monarch was set up in Israel,
    and much of the population was forcibly relocated east across the Tigris River
    into captivity in the foreign land of Babylon.
God’s chosen people, removed from their promised land, were in exile.
For a people whose identity rested largely on their special chosen status,
    a status confirmed by God’s gift of a promised land,
    this current state of affairs was a complete and utter disaster,
    for that land was now far to the west, occupied by foreigners,
        and largely a place of memories.
The covenant, that promise between God and his people, seemed broken.

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Certain Promise, Certain Hope for Uncertain Times

Lectionary 29 (21st Sunday after Pentecost), Year C
2 Timothy 3:14:-4:5
Sunday, October 17, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

In our second reading today we read excerpts of a letter from Paul
    to the younger Timothy,
    a co-worker with Paul in proclaiming the Gospel and building the church
    in the decades following the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
It was a scary time for the early church.
We can easily romanticize the early church,
    view it as some sort of frontier religion with Paul establishing Christian outposts
    in a pagan world, outposts that would later thrive as centers of a vital, new religion.
But the reality was much more grim.

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Walking the Pathway of Faith, Looking for What God Will Do

Lectionary 27 (19th Sunday after Pentecost), Year C
Psalm 37:1-9; Luke 17:5-10

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Grace to you and peace, from the one who is, who was, and who is to come.  Amen.

“Increase our faith!” the apostles begged Jesus.
Increase our faith.
How many times have we, in our lives, wanted stronger faith?
Faith to believe in God’s promises.
Faith in God to lead us into the right choices.
Faith in God to rescue us when we don’t make the right choices.
Faith in God to step off the pages of this Bible,
    and to leap out from the poetic words and lyrical tunes of 18th century hymns,
    faith in God to turn a ritual gesture of greeting –
    the peace of the Lord be with you –
    into a real, flesh and blood, bear hug of an embrace.
How many times have we wanted stronger faith, more faith … any faith at all?

I know I have.

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