Monday, November 22, 2010

SERMON: Christ the King

The Three Crosses
by Pieter Pauwel Rubens (1620)
Date: November 21, 2010
Sermon Texts: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 23:33-43

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

[Introduction] Today we celebrate the final Sunday of the liturgical year: Christ the King Sunday. Next Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. A week from today, Christians will be able to say to one another, “Happy New Year!” and mean it. We Christians have our own calendar and celebrate our own feasts as a way of expressing the world’s deepest truth: Christ really is the King. He is king not only of our lives but of the whole world.

[Page 1] Turning to our readings today, we can see that this idea that Jesus is king is not what the world thought. Our passage from Luke’s Gospel begins with the clang, clang, clang of stakes being driven into wooden beams. The text says, “When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left” (Lk 23:33). As Jesus hangs naked on the cross with a crown of thorns on his head, those who crucified him stand around. They are the leaders of Jesus’ world. On the one side, there are the religious leaders of his nation. They, the shepherds of God’s people, scoff at Jesus: “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” On the other side, there are the Roman soldiers. They, too, mock the bleeding Jesus: “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” Even one of the criminals hanging beside Jesus derides the broken man: “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” And, even though the sign above Jesus’ head reads “This is the King of the Jews,” there is no doubt in the gathered crowds’ minds that he is no such thing. The whole world is gathered around Jesus on the cross. From the lowest criminal to the highest religious and political authorities in Jesus’ world, the whole world rejects Jesus as king.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

George Bailey is Trapped

On Wednesday nights, I host a movie discussion group at Grace Church-on-the-Hill.  The current five-week series focuses on the question, "What is the meaning of life?"  We're watching five films that touch on the topic.

Last night, we watched It's a Wonderful Life.  More than a decade has passed since I last saw the film.  As I prepared for the night and discussed the movie with the group, I realized that Life is a very adult movie.  The week prior, we had watched The Truman Show.  There are some striking parallels between the movies, but in comparison Truman is a teenage movie.  Here's why.

George Bailey is trapped.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

SERMON: God, Faith, Service

A mulberry tree

Date: October 3, 2010
Sermon Text: Luke 17:5-10

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen. 

[Introduction] Our Gospel lesson this morning is about faith and miracles. When I think about faith and miracles, my mind always jumps immediately to the so-called “faith healers” that can be seen on Sunday morning television. One famous faith healer, whose name we’ll change to “Rev. James,” proclaims that God has given him the gift of healing, and when he prays for someone, they often fall over unconscious, overwhelmed by the experience. They are “slain in the Spirit.” I don’t doubt the sincerity of these actions. I myself have experienced, in instances of intense personal and corporate prayer, extreme vertigo. But the whole scenario certainly raises some questions about faith for me.

And the questions are only exacerbated when a seminary friend of mine, who knows of my deep and abiding love of Star Wars, sends me doctored YouTube videos. This video he sent me took clips of Rev. James slaying people in the Spirit and combined it with the moving battle music from the Star Wars films. And, to top it off, the clever video editors put a glowing red lightsaber in Rev. James’ hands. In each of the original clips, Rev. James swings his arms at the people to slay them in the Spirit, but in the edited version, he’s knocking individuals and groups over with one swing of his lightsaber. “Rev. James,” the video proclaims, “Dark Lord of the Sith.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sermon: The Cup of Discipleship

Date: September 5, 2010
Sermon Text: Luke 14:25-33

Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.

[Introduction] The liturgy of our church is a scary thing. For some of us who have come to Anglicanism later in life, it is scary because it is new. The words sound funny on our tongues. We’re not sure where to pause during the Nicene Creed. We often speak out of turn. For those of you who grew up with the liturgy, it might be scary because it is so familiar. It could be that whole worship services go by without the words penetrating the haze of the busy-ness of our weeks. But for both old and new, the liturgy is a frightful thing for a quite different reason. Every week, the liturgy tricks us. It tricks us into saying words that commit us once again to the life of discipleship. It prompts us to reaffirm our baptismal vows. It calls us out of ourselves into a new kind of life. But it does all this without often asking us to count the cost.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tim Jones+: A Chink in the Curtains

My friend Tim Jones+ recently posted this at his blog, Life-Changing Prayer and has given permission for its reposting here. Where do you find the chinks?


I was reading along, not expecting to find a startling spiritual image in a twentieth-century novel by a writer not exactly known for his praying.

But W. Somerset Maugham’s character, Larry, the aimless and likeable protagonist in The Razor’s Edge, is recounting the chats he had with a hulking uncouth Polish miner. It turns out that Kosti (a simplified Polish name for the unlikely spiritual guide) had a secret love of spiritual writers (indeed, the man only had the courage to reveal his hidden longings when drunk). He ends up being a kind of spiritual mentor to Larry.
“It was all new to me and I was confused and excited,” Larry told a friend of his conversations with Kosti. And what Larry said next was what struck me: “I was like someone who’s lain awake in a darkened room and suddenly a chink of light shoots through the curtains and he knows he only has to draw them and there the country will be spread before him in a glory of the dawn.”
I wonder what that image meant to Maugham, the author. Certainly something, sometime had felt to him like at least a glimmer or a glimpse: “A chink of light shoots through the curtains.”
And to know that to draw the curtains means seeing a “country … spread out before [us] in a glory of the dawn!” I wonder what intimations he had of the spiritual possibilities.
I know that I can go along, not expecting much, not staying much on the lookout, but then I come awake, maybe for just an instant or so, to a world just out of view, one with a spreading glory, just beyond the curtains of everyday occupations.
No wonder Paul spoke in Ephesians 3:18-19 of how he hoped those hearing him would “have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”
That glory seems to appear to us sometimes through a chink or in a corner or crevice. But sometimes I have the wherewithal to wonder what more lies beyond the glimmer. I might even go looking.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sermon on the Feast Day of St. Mary the Virgin

Date: August 15, 2010
Sermon Texts: Isaiah 7:10-15; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 1:46-55

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in you sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.

Someone asked me this week what success looked like.  We had a good, long conversation about it.  For as long and good as it was, it was still far too short.  I confess that I brought the question into my office with me as I started preparing this sermon.  What does success look like?  What does it mean to be successful?  There are, of course, a lot of different answers to that question, all of which depend on a person’s situation and perspective.  But, in today’s readings, as we celebrate and remember St. Mary the Virgin, I think we have the beginnings of a Christian answer to the question.

Sermon: Jesus Makes Space at His Feet

Date: July 18, 2010
Sermon Text: Luke 10:38-42

Last week, the Gospel passage ended with Jesus’ command, “Go and do likewise.”  In the parable of the Good Samaritan, I said that the lawyer (and we) should see ourselves, in the first instance, as the man beaten and left in the ditch to die, and I encouraged us to hold our hand open to let God rescue us.  I should say, now, that only the first foot dropped last week.  In the first instance, we are to recognize that we are in need of God’s rescue.  The second foot is what Jesus says at the end of the parable: “Go and do likewise.”  Go and rescue others from their ditches.  Go bring people back to Jesus and His Church.

Our Gospel passage today falls right on the heels of Jesus’ “Go and do likewise.”  St. Luke tells the story of someone who heard the “Go and do” and took it too seriously and too far.  This is Martha.

Sermon: The Good Samaritan

This is the first sermon I preached at my new parish home, St. Matthew's Riverdale.

Date: July 11, 2010
Sermon Text:
Luke 10:25-37

It wasn’t too long ago, when I was in high school. And I was in love. There was a girl in my church’s youth group who seemed to me, at the time, to be everything I could have ever wanted.

I remember trying to get this girl just to like me back. I didn’t know what to do. Nothing seemed to work. I talked to people. I even read a best-selling Christian book on high school dating. After months of frustration, sitting at the kitchen table, I finally blurted out to my mother: “I don’t understand. What I have done wrong? I’ve done everything right. And it’s not working out!” My mother did what good mother’s do and gave me a hug. But, the unspoken question lay there on the table: “Really, what do I have to do to make her love me?

Contra Factum - out of retirement

It's been long, too long, since I've posted here at Contra Factum. I intend to rectify that as I clean up the remnants of old blogs around the web. Soon, this will be the one-stop shop for all things Jason, including sermons, photos, news stories, etc.