Archive for the ‘preaching’ Category

Bishop Phillips Brooks was well known in his life for his preaching. As rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia,  he preached to large congregations. He gave a famous sermon (still well worth a read) on Abraham Lincoln the week after his assasination while his body was visiting Philadelphia.  It is an interesting example of one pastor not only ministered to his own flock during a time of national crisis but to the entire country. Interestingly, he also wrote the words to the well-loved Christmas hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem” after having served at a Christmas Eve midnight service in  Bethlehem.

Brooks died just 18 months after being consecrated bishop of Massachusetts. He also wrote a book entitled The Joy of  Preaching that was used to teach seminarians on both sides of the Atlantic.His Lyman Beecher lectures on Preaching at Yale (1876 – 1877)  are still considered standard-setting. Here is an excerpt:

“The relation between preacher and congregation is one of the very highest pictures of human companionship that can be seen on earth. Its constant presence has given Christianity, much of its noblest and sweetest color in all ages. It has much of the intimacy of the family, with something of the breadth and dignity that belongs to the State. It is too sacred to be thought of as a contract. It is a union which God joins together for purposes worthy of His care. When it is worthily realized, who can say that it may not stretch beyond the line of death, and they who have been minister and people to each other here be something holy and peculiar to each other in the City of God forever?”  — “Brooks, Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching,” p. 216.


He preferred to preach in his academic gown but would vest in surplice and stole when presiding at the Eucharist.









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As promised, here is the text from the homily from last evening’s beautiful ceremony.

Jordan and Angie! I speak for all of us here today, your friends and family, in saying, we are honored to share this day with you. It’s wonderful to see the two of you – two people with such incredible gifts and passionate hearts– come together in the covenant of marriage with one another and God.

And, how good and right it is for us to be standing behind this house in this back yard to celebrate this moment.

It has been delightful to watch this story unfold  – how in your desire to live intentionally and incarnationally, you’ve invested so much in getting connected in this neighborhood and in restoring this house.

I was talking to your neighbor Antwan last night. He asked if I thought you were crazy for moving into this neighborhood. No I didn’t. I got that. But when I first visited this house…I started to have my doubts about your sanity. It didn’t have a floor! It was condemned to rot and be destroyed. But with your commitment, your passion, and love, we’ve watched you two take this house with all of its shortcomings and make it beautiful.

And while this house was being transformed, we’ve watched your relationship develop; you’ve experienced challenges, you’ve worked hard together. You’ve put down some deep roots and you’ve grown in love.

The passages from Scriptures you picked for today, speak to these themes of rootedness and growth:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought,for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

“I am the true vine,” Jesus said. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”

You know, we hear the word love used so often and it has so many different meanings depending on its context. But in the Gospel reading that you chose for this occasion, Jesus speaks of abiding in his love, remaining, staying, joining in his love. A love that is unselfish and self-sacrificing. This is true love. Not the fleeting emotions that can waver and shift but the kind of love that is described in the Epistle reading you chose for today – the love that rejoices in hope, is patient in tribulation, the kind of love that seeks to overcome evil with good.

We see the ultimate expression of this kind of love embodied in the life of Jesus. In his ministry among us, his suffering for our sins on the cross, and his defeat of death in his resurrection. True love is that Jesus Christ emptied himself for our sake, that just like this house, we might be his renovated and restored –something condemned, restored to great beauty.

This will be the kind of love that is demanded of you in your marriage: selfless, sacrificial love; love that calls you to lay your life down for the other.

It’s a tall task. Just as you were pushed hard at times to rebuild this home, your abilities to love one another well will be tested even more in building your marriage. You will be pushed. There will be challenges and difficulties. There will be days when you don’t feel much like loving or sacrificing for one another.

This has all been so beautifully transformed from what it was. Look around at this yard. It’s been literally transformed.

I want you to mark my words. If you allow it, your marriage will transform YOU. It will transform your lives into something even more beautiful than what you have done with this place; more stunning than what we are seeing today. Because by keeping your vows, by honoring one another, serving and laying your life down for one another, by trusting God with and for each another, your marriage will become a means by which God will make you Holy.

So REMEMBER – pray together.

Be quick to say these words if they are true:
“I am wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.”

I would also like to add, you are not in this alone. Turn around for a moment and look at all these people. All of these people love you. They are FOR you. Take a moment to soak in this.

Jordan and Angie, all of us gathered here today, your family and friends, FOR you. We are here to love and support you.

As much love and support for you as there is, it’s a drop in the vast ocean of God’s love for you. Of God’s support for you.

Believe in the power of what He is doing today. Believe that He is joining you together in a profound, mysterious, and amazing way. The two are becoming one. Believe that today God is imparting grace to you, spiritual power, to strengthen your marriage to overcome anything that would come against it.

Up until this point in your lives, you’ve experienced your relationship with God in specific ways. In just a moment, that’s about to change.

Jordan, God is just about to enter your life in a new and different way. Not for your sake but so that you may love and serve Angie. That you may be an outward and visible sign of God’s love for her, so that she may encounter Christ in you.

Angie, God is just about to enter your life in a new and different way. Not for your sake but so that you may love and serve Jordan. That you may be an outward and visible sign of God’s love for him, so that he may encounter Christ in you.

A profound mystery, this is a portrait of Christ and the Church. This is what it means to be married as Christians.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Prayers for Asia Bibi

At the second service on Sunday, our dear brother Sam Jackson prayed for Asia Bibi who is under a death sentence in Pakistan accused of blasphemy. According to reports, she stood firm in her faith in Christ when she was commanded to denounce him. On June 19, there was an intense discussion among Asia and some Muslim women about their faith. The Muslim women told Asia about Islam, and, according to VOM sources, Asia responded by telling the Muslim women that Christ died on the cross for our sins. She told them Jesus is alive. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told them.

On Nov. 8, Asia Bibi was sentenced to death by a judge in Pakistan, according to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts. The judge also fined Asia $1,190 (U.S.) and told her she had seven days to appeal the decision. VOM contacts said Asia’s attorney does plan to appeal the sentence. Pray for Asia and her family during this difficult time. Pray that God will turn the heart of the judge in his hand and that Asia’s appeal will be successful. Pray that Christians in Pakistan will continue to stand for Christ.

Here is video clip recorded in Pakistan today. Her husband asks us to get the word out and pray for our dear sister in the Lord to be released soon.

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A sermon on the meaning of the Eucharist.

Have you ever really needed something? I mean, really needed something? I’m not talking about needing a pen. I’m not talking about needing that morning coffee before you can feel like a stable, functional adult. I’m not talking about needing there to be a gas station at the next exit because, well you know, you didn’t get gas at that last exit with a gas station, certain there would be another one soon, you told your travelling companions as much, and now the gas light on your dashboard is about to explode. I know you’ve been there.


But I’m not talking about that kind of need.

What I’m talking about is the kind of need that could be the tipping point in your life or in relationships; a need for something so important that without it the course of your life could be significantly altered; a need that you do not have the resources to meet on your own. Have you ever been in that spot before?

That’s where the two characters are in our Gospel reading this morning. If you have your Bibles turn with me to Luke 24. It is the afternoon of Easter Sunday. Jesus has suffered death on the cross and by the power of God has been raised from the dead. The tomb is empty. Although they do not know what this means.  There are two disciples of Christ walking home to Emmaus from Jerusalem. One is named Cleopas. We learn in John 19:25 that it’s highly likely the other one is his wife. So it is Mr. and Mrs. Cleopas.

They are not numbered with the 12 disciples but are still faithful followers of the Lord.

As they are walking home to Emmaus they are discussing all that has happened when they are joined by the risen Lord. Only for some reason we’re not told, they do not recognize him. They describe to him all that has happened to Jesus and how they had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Can’t you feel their disappointment and confusion?

Upon arriving at the Cleopas home in Emmaus, Jesus is going to continue on ahead, “but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us.”

And then when he was at table with them, it says he took the bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them. And in that act, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.

If you’ve been following along with our current sermon series you’ll know we’ve been on a guided tour of our Sunday morning liturgy, taking time to stop and explain the meaning of various aspects of our service. Since meaning defines our practice it is good for us to know why we do what we do when we are together.

So let’s turn our attention to what happens at this table.

If you turn in our bulletin to that part of the service, you will see the liturgy is entitled The Great Thanksgiving, drawing on the Greek word Eucharist which simply means Thanksgiving. Other names for the Eucharist are Holy Communion and the Lord’s Supper among others.

What we should first say about the Eucharist is it is a sacrament. A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace. The Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer says that the sacraments are given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive his grace. So when we talk about what happens at the table, hold clearly in your minds that we are talking about Jesus and Grace.

It was instituted the night he was betrayed. As the words of institution in the Eucharistic liturgy declare:

“On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread….”

From that evening on, this meal has been essential to the life of the Church. References are made to it throughout the NT, particularly in Acts when it described the early church culture and practice.

The Eucharist was so normative, in fact, that it was only directly addressed at length when the practice was being misused, for example in our epistle reading this morning. Had the Eucharist been an uncommon practice, we would expect there to be more written to teach about it and encourage its use.

So what happens to the bread and the wine in the Eucharist? Much ink has been spilled over the centuries on this topic. From our earliest readings of the church fathers, for example Justin Martyr who ministered in the early 100’s AD, we see that they took a fairly simple view of the elements: by the word of the Lord that they were turned into spiritual nourishment for our souls. As time went on, doctrines were established to describe exactly what was happening to the Eucharistic elements. The Roman Catholic Church had a view, the Reformers had several views.

There is not time to describe the various views but we should note that if you’ve come from a tradition that does not celebrate Communion regularly and does not consider it to be a sacrament, that is a specific tradition. It contends that the Lord’s Supper is essentially an opportunity for the Christian to stop and meditate on Christ and to remember the gift of salvation offered by him on the cross. It is a contemplative moment of remembrance. This view focuses on the words “Do this in remembrance of me” in the words of institution. I offer this explanation because meaning determines practice. With this memorial meaning, it is understandable why churches who hold this view practice or celebrate the Lord’s Supper only occasionally.

The Anglican view is quite different – which is obvious since we do this every time we are together. While holding to the important sense of remembering, we also take into consideration Jesus’ words, “This is my body. This is my blood.” Even in holding this view of the elements, thankfully, the Anglican Church has largely steered clear of getting overly involved in the discussion of HOW bread and wine become his flesh and blood. It is simply enough that Jesus promised that they would.

This is not a mathematical formula or something that can be contained in a test tube or analyzed in a Petri dish. This is a Holy Mystery: it is the mystery of the real presence of Christ.

CS Lewis, good Anglican that he was, wrote, “To seek to capture the Eucharistic mystery is like taking a red coal out of the fire to examine it: as soon as you do, it becomes a dead coal.”

So what happens with us in the Eucharist?

First, we must come to the Lord’s Table hearts are open to Christ. How important it is to receive Christ and open our lives up to him and him! Had Cleopas and his wife not opened their doors to the risen Lord and invited him to stay the night, they would only have known that this was a wise and godly man – a great teacher. They would not have known he was the Lord.

For once they opened the door to host him, notice what happened: Jesus became the host. It would have been customary for the male of the family to say the blessing for the meal. But we’re told Jesus took, blessed, broke and gave the bread to them. They invited him in and he took it from there and revealed himself as Lord. So we must invite Christ in to be Lord of our lives.

Secondly, in the Eucharist, we are invited to come to the Lord ’s Table where he makes himself present to us in a very unique way. As Jesus revealed himself at the table of Cleopas, he reveals himself to his followers each week at this table.

Remember, Jesus is present to us in other ways, as in through the working of the Holy Spirit who Christ says in John 15, “dwells with us an in us and instructs us in living the Christian life.” He is with us in the church, as Matthew 18:20 says, “wherever two or three or gathered together in his name, there I am among them.” And he promises us in Matthew 28:20 that his abiding presence will be with us, “always, to the end of the age.”

But in the Eucharist, the bread and wine bear his presence in a unique way, a filling way, a way unlike the other modes.

Thirdly, remember that this is a meal. It is an extraordinary meal because it is hosted by the risen Lord. So it has all the same potential for power, life and revelation as the meal the Lord hosted with Cleopas and his wife in Emmaus. That is to say, it has the same potential to excite us and enliven us as it did them to realize they were at table with the risen Jesus Christ!

But it is an ordinary meal because this is the ordinary, normative way that God has ordained for Christ to meet and commune with his people. Through our participation in this meal we have fellowship and communion with Christ. That’s why it is called Holy Communion. This is a communion so intimate that Christ not only communes with us, not only is he with us, but Christ literally gives himself to us to be spiritual food to nurture us, to sustain us, and yes even to transform us.

Fourthly, by giving himself to us he extends to us his grace. So remember what I said about the sacraments being a means of grace – that grace comes to us as his presence in the bread and wine. Well what exactly is grace? It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot. I think we can often see grace as some passive inoperative something that makes us okay with God.

But grace has force. God’s force. It has power. God’s power. It moves heaven and earth because God can move heaven and earth. The prayer book defines it as, “God’s favor toward us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.” Strengthens our wills to do what? To act! To live this Christian life, to please God! So you see Grace is potent.

According to Margaret Visser in her most excellent book The Gift of Thanks: The Roots and Rituals of Gratitide, “Grace [in Christ] is overflowing, abundant, always enough. It is experienced as a dynamic, energetic supply, a joyful enabling; God’s grace is generous to the point of extravagance; where a quiet virtue such as patience is needed, grace provides the strength to be patient.”

Fifthly: This is the mystery of the sacrament: by the power of the Holy Spirit the Eucharist becomes a channel for Christ’s resurrected life to be active and operative in the lives of those who receive it in faith. The sacrament works. Through it we receive Christ’s life as grace. The bread and wine carry the freight of what God promises in them, namely the sustaining power of Christ’s body and blood – his living presence.

This is what CS Lewis was describing when he spoke of his experience of Holy Communion as a place where “the veil between the worlds” gets thin: “Here a hand from the hidden country touches not only my soul but my body…. Here is big medicine and strong magic.” He defines magic as some objective efficacy – a power that comes from God to work in his life for good.

That objective efficacy is God’s active and operative grace which comes by his giving of himself to his people to strengthen us and uphold us. In this he becomes our forgiveness, our strength, our salvation, our spiritual food and drink, our comfort and our life.

I know I am not alone in my experience of finding strength and nourishment at the Lord ’s Table. A number of years ago, I was going through a particularly dark season of life. The Eucharist became an essential part of my week. I would often come to the table exhausted, disheartened, filled with doubts, just low. But when the liturgy of the Eucharist came and the priest said, “Lift up your hearts” I lifted my heart as high as I could to the Lord, hoping he would hold it there and encourage it, and give me what I was needing. And then in that posture while receiving the body and blood of the Lord, I was touched, strengthened and given new resolve.

There are others I know and have counseled who likewise have experienced the blessings of the new covenant – a new relationship with God through the working of the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Thankfully, nowhere in Scripture does the Lord’s Supper happen in an idyllic setting – at its very inception that night in the Upper Room the dark clouds of impending suffering were already gathering on Golgotha. What I think this means is that we can bring to this meal all of our fears, our hurts, our illnesses, our wounds, our doubts, our struggles, the pain of broken relationships. We can bring to this table our concerns for a broken world that is so far from the shalom – the peace – that the Lord desires.

I started off the sermon with the question, “Have you ever really needed something? Have you ever needed something so important that without it the course of your life could be significantly altered; a need that you do not have the resources to meet?

In Jesus Christ, our greatest longings our deepest needs have been met. Like Cleopas and his wife, we too have hoped for someone to redeem us. We too have longed for a hero, a savior to rescue us. In the goodness and love of God, Jesus Christ has come to fulfill our deepest needs and longings.

Do you need healing? Come to his table.

Do you need comfort for your grief? Come to his table.
Do you need strength in the face of temptation? Then come to his table.
Do you need to fortify your faith in a season of doubt? Come to his table.
Do you need humility? Do you need patience? Do you need courage because you’re in over your head? Come to his table.

In Jesus Christ, our greatest longings our deepest needs have been met. That’s why this is called the Great Thanksgiving. It is a chance to celebrate – literally celebrate – all that God has done for his us.

Us. Us is a good word and brings me to my next point. For you see, not only is the sacrament for us individually. It is for us a community. This Holy Meal becomes the means by which God enables the church to be the Church. It forms us into the people of God. As the saying goes, “the family that prays together stays together.” It could also be said the family that eats together stays together.” We’re not talking about special holiday meals that we celebrate with our families. Remember this is the ordinary, normative way God has ordered his people to receive from him. This is part of our normal pattern of life.

There is much evidence that the regular routine eating patterns of families has inestimable benefit. If it is true that routine meal times are important in our families, how much more so important is the Eucharist for us as the family of God? It draws us together as the Body of Christ. It is the sign that declares you are my brother and you are my sister. We are members of God’s family – he is our Father. So it this meal recognizes that the grace I receive from the Lord is not only for me, it is for you too. It is for us all.

Lastly, as Christians were are always the gathered and scattered people of God. We gather together on Sunday mornings for the sake of being renewed and enlivened to be sent back out again. If you recall from our Gospel this morning, when the Cleopases realized who Christ was, they immediately sprung to action to return to Jerusalem – 7 miles one way. That’s 14 miles walking in a day! Makes my feet hurt thinking about it. Yet they could not help but go and reveal what God had done.

It’s the same for us as we come to worship him on Sunday mornings. There is a double movement to this thing: A centripetal force pulls us in, and a centrifugal force sends us back out again. We are at once the citizens of heaven, welcomed home, then pilgrims sent back to continue the journey.

It is why we pray at the conclusion of Communion the words of the Prayer of Thanksgiving and Mission: “We give you thanks and praise for accepting us into your family. Send us out with your blessing, to live and witness for you in the power of your Spirit, through Jesus Christ, the first born from the dead. Amen” Acceptance – drawing in; Sending – pushing out. We are then blessed and dismissed to go and serve the risen Lord!

This double-movement of worship and mission is nothing short of a journey to the inner heart of God so that we can then go and wash the feet of the world.  Please pray with me.

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I’ve been receiving a number of comments about the sermon from Sunday on 2 Corinthians 6:14 – 7:1. It’s not surprising that this passage would stir up a response. It is a hard passage but St. Paul is clear in his admonition.

Here’s a link to the audio.

And below is the text.

Bringing Holiness to Completion

If you know my wife, Martha, you know how sincerely she loves the beach. If you know me, you will know how sincerely I love the mountains. So I am happy to report that God has been quite faithful – to me. Our family vacation this summer was to the mountains of NC. It was great to get away to the sand-less, cooler, less humid, uncrowded, beautiful Appalachians.

It was a bit of a homecoming as Martha and I met during our undergraduate years in the mountains. It was a blast to take our sons on hikes we used to love – even to the mountaintop where I asked Martha to marry me. While Martha and I were soaking in the memories, our sons were so impressed, all they had to say was, “What time is lunch?”

While we were there, we visited a trail which had been the scene of a break up. I was graduating soon and was planning to find a job in computer software in RTP. She was graduating soon and was applying to be an inner city missionary in South Central Los Angeles. We had to make some very difficult decisions. More on that later.

We’ve been talking for most of this summer about how God intervenes and even interrupts our lives for the sake of bringing about change and deeper conversion to Christ. That’s certainly been a theme in this community during this summer. This morning we’re going to continue looking at 2 Corinthians.  If you have your Bibles, please turn to 2 Corinthians 6:14. Here, St. Paul strongly and clearly commands the church in Corinth, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.”


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Some more good one’s from Rodenmayer’s compilation:

-338- Before Preaching
O Lord, Who on the mount didst preach to Thy
disciples, enable me, I pray Thee, rightly to deliver
Thy message to Thy people. Open their
ears, that they may hear the words which belong
unto eternal life. Enlighten my mind and
grant me simplicity of utterance. Deliver me
from the fear of man, and from all self-seeking, pride and vain-glory. O living Word of God,
speak In me and speak by me, to Thy Father’s
glory, and the salvation and sanctification of Thy

-339- Before Preaching God’s Word
o Lord, I humbly place myself before you, for
you have made me what I am, and have called
me to do what I am trying to do. I have no
words to say that have any worth, except those
that you give me to say. Help me to hear you!
words, enable me to speak your words, and help
this people to hear them, that the Living Word
of Christ may be truly spoken, really heard, and
actually grafted in our hearts.

-340- Before Preaching a Sermon
O God, our Father, who hast called sinful men
to speak forth the saving truth of thy holy Gospel,
help me now, I beseech thee, to be a faithful
messenger to the people thou hast committed
to my charge; give me honest conviction clear
speech, and a pure intention, to thy great’ glory
and the salvation of souls; through Jesus Christ
our Lord.

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These little treasures were taken from The Pastor’s Prayerbook, selected and arranged by Robert N. Rodenmayer (OUP, 1960).

– 149 – Before Preparing A Sermon
O God the Holy Ghost, Who enlightenest the minds of Thy children; send down upon me I pray Thee, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, to lead me into all truth, that I may so feed the flock committed to me with the words of eternal life, as with them, to attain unto that place where, with the Father and the Son,  Thou livest and reignest ever, One God, world Without end.

-150 – On Writing Sermons

O Thou in whom peace abides from age to age give me now a quiet mind and a listening heart that the word which thou wouldest speak in this church thou mayest make known to me, and the will which thou wouldest reveal to thy people here thou mayest lodge in my soul this day and for evermore; through Jesus Christ our

-151- Before Pastoral Visiting
Grant, 0 Lord, I pray, that this day I may go forth as Thy messenger. Quicken my sympathy and understanding. Give me Thy comfort for the sick and sorrowful, Thy cheer for the glad, Thy love for the lonely, Thy riches for the poor, Thy peace for the anxious. Make me friendly, patient, courageous and wise. So use me, I pray, as to turn many to righteousness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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