Sermon notes and audio files
The faithful servants saw potential in the five and two talents they were given, but the wicked one saw nothing in the one he was given. So too, in the five books of the Law there is more than sternness and commandment: Christ is hidden there; and in all the two testaments there is more than prescriptions for life: they testify of him. And he who sees only sternness and requirements in the one God will miss his kindness and mercy, that he does not want anything that is buried not to be raised, even as he raised his Son from the dead. Sermon for Midweek of Septuagesima.
On Septuagesima Sunday we hear the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, and learn again about the grace of God. For the last laborers, who stood idle in the marketplace all day (that is, Christians who know that the work of salvation is done by Another, not by them), went forth by faith, not having an agreed-upon sum, but simply "whatever is right." They went into the vineyard by faith, and their works were not done to satisfy a contract. But they were sneered at by the first, and envied, and hated. So are Christians treated by the world. Yet the last shall be first, in the reckoning of God. Behold the inestimable value of the divine penny: Christ's work, his atoning blood, is worth more than a thousand heavens, and it is given to us freely. This is the goodness of God, in whose vineyard we are now sent to labor. Sermon for Septuagesima.
No one knows the Son but the Father, and no one knows the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son wills to reveal him. This means that I have not decided to follow Jesus. I have not come to him by my own free will; I had no part at all in coming to him. He chose me. Whom does he choose? Not the wise and prudent, not those who are stayed upon themselves, but babes: infants, sucklings, who know nothing, who have nothing. Into such as these he pours his blessing and salvation. So let us return to Baptism, and as newborn babes and sucklings, desire the pure milk of the word; and let us become newly weaned as well, beginning to take solid food, the Blessed Sacrament. And let us gain a serenity as we nestle in the bosom of the Almighty, closing out the worries and trials and fretting of the world, and know instead that underneath are the everlasting Arms. Let us live by this faith. Sermon for the Wednesday after the Transfiguration.
The recording of the sermon did not work today, and as you know, I don’t preach from a manuscript. Here’s my recollection of what I said.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Dearly beloved in the Lord,
The prophet wrote, The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it. And here, in the Transfiguration of our Lord, the glory of the Lord was revealed, but only Peter, James, and John saw it; and it was only a glimpse. But what a glimpse it was: is face shown like the sun and his garments were white as the light. A magnificent vision, a spectacular scene, that surely left them breathless. And here they saw unmistakably that this Man is the eternal God himself. This is unborrowed light, greater even than when Moses’ skin shown. For the glowing of Moses was from the Lord, but the shining of Christ was from himself; it was his own light. In him dwells all the fullness of the godhead bodily, and here we see it in no uncertain terms.
Who wouldn’t want to stay there, as they did: Lord, let us make three tabernacles here. This is the kind of scene we love, and to see Jesus receiving little children, and healing the sick, and raising the dead; attending weddings, speaking kindly to the lowly. We love the angels in Bethlehem, and the star, and the scene at Jesus’ Baptism, and here: his glorious transfiguration. We love this, but we can’t stay. We must go back down from the mountain into the depths. There is no other way. Jesus must go down into this valley, for this is the darkness of a fallen world that needs a Redeemer. He must go to the cross: there is no other way for him than the way of his agony.
And it is not only Jesus who went into agony: his disciples were with him. These three were also the same three that would be with him in Gethsemane and whom sorrow would descend upon causing sleep. And they would all flee; and they would have to see their Lord’s crucifixion. And their world would be turned upside down. Sometimes the worst kind of pain is not physical. But it must be.
Wishing it away does not make it go away. You cannot pretend that the transfiguration is his final destination, though there are many who live with this supposition. There are even churches built in such a way: with empty crosses and white-washed walls, and no images. They don’t want to face these things. But we must. Through much tribulation we enter the kingdom of heaven.
Yet the tribulation, the cross, is not the end of the story. As you know, he rose from the dead, and there was abiding joy. And so the transfiguration was a preview of that for these three disciples who would have to witness Gethsemane as well. And for us there is something we can carry into the valley as well; for we receive the Christ who was transfigured here, by mouth, in the Supper. We ingest the flesh of the eternal God, and he binds us to himself. So we go forth with confidence, knowing that he goes with us, and will bring us safely to the other side.
‘Tis good, Lord, to be here.
Yet we may not remain.
But since Thou bid’st us leave the mount,
Come with us to the plain.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
He had already tested his disciples in a storm at sea, being asleep in the ship. He taught them that where he is there is no need to fear. But this test is more harsh, for he is not with them in the boat (though he is praying for them from afar); and this time he comes as though a ghost walking on the sea. They are terrified until they hear his gentle voice. So Peter learns from his affliction and seeks to come to Jesus. But he still has much to learn, for he looks away and begins to sink. Yet Jesus helps him still, and many times over, until finally he has learned not to fear even in the face of his own martyrdom. So does he help us to learn never to be afraid if he is on our side. Sermon for Epiphany IV Midweek.
Today's Gospel finds Jesus asleep in the boat while his disciples strain against a roiling sea. How very like Jonah, whose sacrifice of being cast into the sea saved the mariners; but Jesus is greater than Jonah, and he was cast into the abyss of God's wrath to save us all from a worse fate than shipwreck. Sermon for Epiphany IV.
Due to the extreme cold in the midwest this year, we are unable to observe the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord and the Purification of Mary (Candlemas), a feast set for February 2nd which we observe on the nearest Wednesday. Here, however, is an audio of the Gospel and a sermon from last year.
In today's Gospel the manifestation of the Lord's glory is seen not only in the miracles that he does, but in the brilliant faith of the leper and the centurion. The leper expresses a brimming confidence and confession of faith: If thou willst, thou canst make me clean. And the centurion says Jesus need not come all the way to his house but heal from afar. This is the faith of the people of God of all time, faith in Jesus the Christ, the Incarnate God; and by this faith we must live. Sermon for Epiphany III.
Saul becomes Paul; the murderer becomes a saint; one who binds Gentiles and brings them to the high priest for persecution now becomes on who brings the King of the Jews to the Gentiles for their freedom. The crooked is made straight on the Straight street by the Way who makes the rough places plain, at his Baptism. Sermon for the Conversion of St. Paul.
Jesus' hour had not yet come, yet he graciously hears his mother's request, and so provides a foretaste of that hour, by making water into wine to meet their need. So does he ultimately provide by offering himself for our sins and rising from the dead (likewise on the third day). The temporal miracles and occasional respites he gives in this vale of tears are but foretastes of the Feast to come. Chief among these is the Blessed Sacrament, though it requires the most faith, for nothing is seen there; it is only by faith in the words of Christ that we know what it is. Sermon for Epiphany II.