Sermon summaries and audio files
The Gospel appointed for St. Mary Magdalene's Day is of the penitent woman who wept on Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair, from St. Luke chapter 7. It makes no mention of the name of this woman, and scholars have been divided over whether this is indeed the Magdalene. But we do know about Mary that Jesus had driven seven demons out of her. So she was, in any case, in a very bad way. She was lost. One demon is bad enough, and, as Jesus said, when a demon goes out of a man he goes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none he returns with seven demons more wicked than himself. The last state of one into whom they enter is worse than the first. Poor Mary was utterly trapped in sin and wickedness. This harlot who had been a public sinner is likely Mary, though if not, she was like her. Hence when Jesus cleansed her she loved much, for she was forgiven much. And, coming in with the intention of anointing him while he sat at meat, she became overwhelmed, and began to weep. Now the eyes which took in unclean sights and enticed men instead well up with tears. Now the cheeks which had been painted are instead streaked with those tears. Now the hair which had been braided is used instead to wipe Jesus' feet. See how she loved him! But now let us see also what a high status she gains in his sight: she becomes privileged to be the first witness of the resurrection, and has been called the apostle to the Apostles. Sent by Jesus to tell them. Such is the story of Christian life; it is the life of the penitent and sorrowful, yet the transformed life of those who love him deeply and are transferred from the status of shame to the status of honor in his kingdom. Sermon for St. Mary Magdalene's Day. The video is here.
Jesus feeds 4000 with seven loaves. But he desires that his disciples see the greater truth, about the greater kingdom, of heaven. So the 3 day fast betokens the greater fast when Jesus dies and not until the third day does he return, risen from the dead. So also the 4000 betoken the church at the four corners of the earth. And the 7 loaves with 7 remaining baskets betoken the need for a greater week, and and eighth loaf, which is Christ himself. So let us be as the multitude following him into the wilderness of life, looking for the life of the world to come in him, our true daily Bread, our eighth loaf. Sermon for Trinity VII. The video is here.
Jesus affirms Peter for calling him the Son of God, calling him Simon bar Jona, which means 'son of a dove', for he is a child of the Holy Spirit, the God who gave him this faith, as Jesus also says here: Flesh and blood have not revealed this unto you. But further, he warns him, to whom he had given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, that there is another gate nearby, indeed many, the gates of hell. And surely enough, the next thing that happens that the influence of Satan leads him to reject Jesus' words about the necessity for the cross. And not long after this, he will deny his Lord three times. And yet Jesus had also promised him that the gates of hell would not prevail, and so he calls Peter back with a look, and Peter repents, and the angels of heaven rejoice. So also let us learn about the nearness of the devil who prowls around like a roaring lion, and from this warning take comfort only in Christ's word and not in our own reason or strength. For where his word is, there is safety, and that, eternally. Sermon for midweek of Trinity V. The video is here.
Today's Gospel teaches us to seek ever to learn who Jesus is. Peter knew him, yet he still did not know that he is master of all things: even the fish and the sea. For he is their maker and preserver. And so we need to learn that he in whom we trust is able to do far and away more than we ask or think. Even when his enemies arrested him, beat him, spat on him, and crucified him: the only reason this happened so is that he wanted it to happen so. For he wanted to redeem us and reconcile us to God, so merciful is he. So also every thing that occurs in our lives are under his control, for our ultimate good. So must we, like Peter, confess our unworthiness, in that we so easily forget this. Yet there is more to learn from this Gospel, in which Jesus says to Peter, Henceforth thou shalt catch men. He even orders the events here in such a way as to illustrate spiritual things. The washing of the nets is like Baptism; the preaching of Jesus is what comes next, as the proclamation of the word is what happens next in Christian life. And then trouble comes, for the nets break. But then comes help, from the partners in the other boat. But ultimately the boats begin to sink, even as we tend ever toward the grave. But what comes last? The come to shore and are astonished. So also shall Christian life have its end: the shore of eternal life and utter astonishment at the things he has prepared for us. Sermon for Trinity V. The video is here.
John was the forerunner, but not the only forerunner. He was the last and greatest. For there were many: Adam, created in the image of God; Abel, first to shed the blood of brutality; Noah, builder of the ark; David, victor without armor over the giant; Solomon, who by wisdom built a great kingdom; Elijah, that great prophet who called for repentance; and many others. And John's father, silent until John's birth, like the word of God, silent for 400 years until Jesus' birth; John's father, who wrote on a tablet when John was born, also like God, whose Evangelists finally wrote his words again at Jesus' birth; John's father, who spoke and praised God, like the very angels who rejoiced at Jesus' birth. And John himself, who leapt in his mother's womb, like Jesus who leapt from death to life and then from earth to heaven at his ascension; John, who was in the desert places until his appearing, like Jesus who likewise was led into the wilderness; John, who preached, saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, the very same words as Jesus' preaching; John, who at last pointed, whose finger fulfilled all the pointing and looking forward of all the Scriptures, pointing to Christ the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So let us rejoice with Zacharias, and with John, and with the angels, and with all the company of heaven. Sermon for the Nativity of John the Baptist. Video is here.
By appearances, the Pharisees had a point, for, as St. Paul says, bad company corrupts good conduct. Every father knows this, when his teenager hangs around with the wrong kind of people. So Jesus is associating with publicans and sinners. It looks bad, but of course the appearance is not the reality; for in truth we know that the kind of sinners he ate with were penitent sinners: Zacchaeus, Matthew, Mary Magdalene, and the like. He did not care how it appeared to be, but how it was. How marvelous a thing, actually, that Jesus receives sinners and eats with them, for this is the very essence of the Gospel. Every child of Adam is a sinner, beginning with the first, who was a murder. And Adam and Eve themselves: Eve rebelled against the authority of her husband, and Adam against the authority of God; such is the nature of all sin. It is rebellion against God. But still he came to us, not to condemn us for this but to rescue and redeem us, like a shepherd who finds and brings back his wandering sheep, laying it happily on his shoulders rejoicing. So therefore let us rejoice with him as his friends and neighbors, and rejoice that he has also found and rescued us. Instead of virtue signaling such as is so common in our culture today--showing the world some kind of virtue that we think we appear to have--determining in thanksgiving to seek to become truly virtuous, and loving and being kind to one another, and forgiving one another as God for Christ's sake has forgiven us. For he has, thankfully, deigned to receive us and eat with us. Sermon for Trinity III. The video is here.
We see the rich man's two flaws here. One is that he believed himself superior to others. So must we all be careful not to do so, no matter who we are. His second flaw is fatal: he didn't believe there was anything wrong with the first. He knew no repentance. Meanwhile how very like Jesus is Lazarus. Would have come to the rich man in hell if he could have, and we know a Lazarus who was raised from the dead and it did the rich man's brothers no good. Same as Jesus, whose resurrection helps no one without the word of the Gospel. Let us cultivate the desire to be with Jesus, and like him. Sermon for Trinity Octave. Video is here.
To believe is to trust in the only true God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This God is one, and there is a threeness to him, for he is three Persons. So also there is a threeness to love: there is a lover, a beloved, and love itself. God is love: for the Father loves the Son, the Son is the Beloved, and the Spirit is their mutual love. And into this love, this triune God, we are baptized. Sermon for Midweek of the Trinity Octave. Video is here.
The three Persons of the Godhead are evident throughout Scripture, in the term "God," in the three Men visiting Abraham and Sarah, in the angels of Isaiah's vision calling to one another, "Holy, holy, holy." And they are evident in the three parts of our Creed as well, on Creation, Redemption, and Sanctification. Yet although they be three, and although the eternal Source is the Father, the heart of the Trinity, so-to-speak, is the Second Person, the Word. For by the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and before he spake and it was done, there was only formlessness and void. And this is why the egregious error of Adam was to reject the Word; and in so doing he himself was emptied, and became, as it were, formless and void. But the word of the Lord endureth forever, and thus he became flesh, and dwelt among us, and was sacrificed for us, and redeemed the fallen world by his death. But as the word is eternal, he could not be destroyed, so he rose again (on the third day!) and presented himself alive to his disciples. Yet the world remained in the darkness and void of ignorance and unbelief. So the Word gave his word to his disciples and sent them into all the world to preach and enlighten darkened souls, and cause them to be reborn and new creations. See how we need the Word and cannot live without him, and his words we must receive with gladness, lest we ourselves be formless and void. O Nicodemus! You cannot approach him at night, or in the void of your own understanding. Receive him, both in preaching and in his form in the Sacrament. Turn from formlessness and void to him, and so live in him forever. Sermon for Trinity Sunday. Video is here.
When Jesus breathed on his disciples on Easter Sunday, it was a foretaste of Pentecost. The breath of Jesus is nothing other than the Spirit who proceeds out of his mouth and preaches him. And it is a breath of fire, of judgment. He sits at God's right hand, as Judge; and he will surely judge all. So let us, in penitence, beg for mercy. And then we shall be equipped to hear of the mercy preached from Pentecost forward. For the sound of the Spirit is not indiscriminate; it is the sound of preaching; it is most clearly what Jesus said to his disciples when he breathed on them and ordained them: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted. The sound is "your sins are forgiven you," heard in the preaching of the Gospel, and again, most clearly, in the Blessed Sacrament, where his body and blood are given "for you, for the remission of sins." Sermon for Pentecost.