These sermons are brief snapshots of my development from artist to spiritual leader and minister of word and sacrament. And portraits, too, of my relationship with God along this road that is both rewarding and confusing.
At the top of each sermon there is a note about where it was given, and there are also links to the selections from scripture, and sometimes other texts, I am working with.
I’m almost entirely sure that nearly all of you have had some experience with record albums. Yes, 12 inch and 7 inch. 33 and 45 rpm vinyl records—relics of the past you might think. “How does Pastor Sullivan, that young whipper snapper, know about those!” Well, you might be surprised to hear that I have a little collection myself. Back in college I realized you could go to thrift stores and get great used records for like 25 cents each!
But since my college years in the early 2000s the sale of new vinyl records has gone up as much as 18 times! In 2005 new vinyl record sales in the US totaled about $900,000. In 2019 the total was $18.8 Million! Why has this clunky, heavy black disc come back?
I hope you won’t be shocked to learn this, but I have some bad habits. And I think these bad habits will help explain what Scripture is saying to us today in the image of the vineyard.
I have been known, in my personal life, to be a bit of a bad listener. If Maddy, my wife, is listening now, I’m sure she is nodding and rolling her eyes. That’s a little absurd, you might think, since a large portion of what Pastor Krey and I do is listen to you all, listen to your joys and your trials! But, there’s a specific kind of listening I am bad at.
At this time we are offering “Reflections & Practices” in our digital evening prayer. Above is a casual reflection about St. Benedict’s four ways of reading scripture as I encountered them in Cynthia Bourgeault’s new book: Eye of the Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm.
We all, I think, know the story of Jonah. On some level we all remember the dramatic tale: the prophet of God in the belly of a whale. It’s kid stuff. But, do you remember why Jonah was in the belly of that whale? He was in the belly of the whale because some sailors threw him off a ship during a storm, and the whale swallowed him up, to save him from death. But why was he thrown into the sea by the sailors? Because it was revealed to the sailors, during the storm, that Jonah was running away from God, away from God’s call, and that caused the storm to happen! What was God’s call to Jonah, maybe, is your next question?
As many of you know, or have heard me say: we are shifting our ministry with children and youth right now. The ongoing pandemic has made it pretty impossible to find any consensus about children’s Sunday school. So, instead, we are focusing our attention on parents.
And I have met already with several parents and families. And these meetings have been amazing. You all need to know there is deep spirituality in our parents. Of course this is a tough time to be a parent—a tough time to be anybody, really. But something that came up over and over as I asked folks to talk about their faith, was the welcome they have received here. The relationships they have formed.
Inspired by Pastor Quann’s message for us this morning, I want to share with you a different kind of translation of the first few verses of our reading from Romans this morning. It is from a contemporary, more paraphrased version, called “The Message” done by Eugene Peterson:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for [God]. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what [God] wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Dear Youth Ministry Committee and parents of St. Andrew’s,
Grace and peace to you all!I wanted to reach out after our deep-dive of a meeting last Thursday and thank you for your honesty and willingness to try this new endeavor in youth ministry. It must be uncomfortable to feel the lens shift from your children to you. I want to reiterate: in our unprecedented time, the co-chairs and I want this shift to be a gift, a grace, and a support (all the things we confess that God is for us). And you all, with your input, have already made us better able to do that.
Today at the office it’s very quiet, dark slabs of clouds roll by overhead, the hiss of the air conditioner is lonesome. So, in between preparations for this Sunday’s sermon I was browsing through old filing cabinets. And reading again the printed emails and saved files concerning Pastor Lutcher and Bruce, Pastor Jack and Rachel, I am reminded of how much conflict has wracked the Christian-Ed office I’m sitting in. Disappointment, hand-wringing, anguish even. And, do you know, what all the conflict is about? On the surface it would seem child attendance and volunteer involvement, “lack of performance.” But I think it is grief and confusion about the end of traditions, of events that “used” to be successful, in other words, the bitterness that comes when we see life as only either success or failure. And, in this case, failure.
Today, we take another lesson from Jesus. Part of discipleship, part of the training program of the Kingdom of Heaven, is sometimes retreating into a deserted place; being alone with God; giving our pain to God, instead of passing it on to others.
Jesus’ cousin John, Jesus’ forerunner in proclaiming the kingdom of God, his ally—the king cut his head off. And that is where we meet up with Jesus in Matthew’s narrative today. You all know the story about John the Baptist’s beheading. Just imagine it all posted as tweets and videos on social media to make the corruption of it feel more familiar.
Scary words from Matthew today: “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Our country, our culture, feels like a furnace of fire right now. Each and everyone with much weeping and gnashing of teeth is trying to find some kind of moral high ground from whichever side they are on.
On a very personal level I, myself, tend to side with those who are oppressed. Shaped by my faith, my loyalties skew towards those who cry out, like our ancestors the Israelites did in slavery in Egypt, like our savior did abandoned on the cross. But I’m not naive. I know enough to know my views are my own, and that many people disagree with me with deep values and loyalties of their own.