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.
In a post-pandemic world, there are now videos and full live-streams of our services from my congregation St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Perkasie, PA. Facebook doesn’t allow embedded videos on WordPress anymore so watch the YouTube if there is one, or follow the bolded link to see the videos.
At this time we are offering “Reflections & Practices” in our digital evening prayer. Above is a casual reflection about the disturbing turn of events in our nation and baptism. Regardless of whatever afflictions life can throw at us, we can remember that our identity as God’s children has been made known in our baptism and it is always there for us to turn to.
Happy New Year! A happy and blessed 2021 to all of you gathered here today by the Holy Spirit via this livestream.
What a year 2020 has been, right? It has been a year of disruption, sure, but if nothing else it has been a year of surprises. I bet you didn’t think we could even survive as a church this way! Well, as Pastor Krey has mentioned, we are more than surviving. Through the generosity of your spiritual practices of giving, of worship and prayer, St Andrew’s begins 2021 not only with financial health, but in strong faith and hope as well. And we can only acknowledge these as gifts from God’s Holy Spirit.
As I’ve been reviewing this year, I have to admit, because everything is recorded now, I went back on Facebook and watched some of my old sermons. Like a coach has their team watch recordings of old games, I guess, to find weaknesses and strengths. And if you too have been paying attention to my sometimes-out-here sermons during this year of pandemic you might have noticed a common thread. A thread summed up by our readings this morning, on this Second Sunday after Christmas.
People, especially church people, like us, love to talk about the “true meaning” of Christmas. In the face of commercialism, I guess—just like melancholic old Charlie Brown and Linus in the famous Peanuts Christmas special—in the face of plastic trees and Santa Clauses, we raise our cry about the “true meaning” of Christmas.
“Keep Christ in Christmas,” shout the bumper stickers! In defense of this one “true meaning” people refuse to say “Happy Holidays” and put nativity scenes on their lawns like territorial flags planted into the scorched earth of our culture war. While others imply the other “true meaning” is simply charity and kindness. “Good will towards men,” they shout, as they write their checks to their charitable organizations to soothe their sin-sick consciences.
Well, here, in the midst of our COVID Christmas, I have to warn you: these flirtations with the “true meaning” of Christmas are dangerous.
At this time we are offering “Reflections & Practices” in our digital evening prayer. Above is a casual reflection about God’s name and the practice of meditating on the vast array of things this “name” can mean for us.
It’s strange to think that today is the 2 year anniversary of my ordination! Two years with you all here in Perkasie, at St Andrew’s. Two years is not so long a time. Pretty short, I guess, if you think about it, but I hope you’ll forgive me for saying it, but gosh has it felt long! These have been 2 full years of getting my feet wet in ministry! And then Covid wave #1. And then Covid wave #2, and Maddy my wife being pregnant, and Simone’s birth. Even Easter, back in April, feels like eons ago! Time is a funny thing, I think.
We divide our days into hours, and hours into minutes, it should all feel even—it should all feel the same. And yet it doesn’t. Time bends and moves. Time has texture like fabric. We say we’ve had a “rough” time or a “smooth” time. We have all kinds of curious expressions about time that point out how funny it is. Time “flies” when you’re having fun, we say. Time “gets away” from us, which is weird. Or it felt as though time “stood still.”
Well. Here we are again on Facebook Live, in a third, raging wave of the pandemic, in a nation divided—on the edge. This reminds me so much of a passage from Ezekiel this morning: Where God says, “I will rescue [my people] from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.”
A “day” of clouds and thick darkness, which I think means: A time when we cannot see what the future holds. A day of deceit and mistrust. A day when we, apparently, no longer believe what the news says, we no longer believe what our electorate says, or what doctors and health officials say. If back in the summer I thought both our nation and our souls were distrustful and lost, then where are we now? Well? We are in a day of clouds and thick darkness!
At this time we are offering “Reflections & Practices” in our digital evening prayer. Above is a casual reflection about Psalm 9 and a practice of resting in God’s presence with wordless prayer called contemplative prayer or habitual recollection.
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.