Our Mother the Cross—Good Friday, Apr. 19, 2019

Isaiah 42: 10-16
Romans 8: 18-25
Luke 23: 13-47
John 19: 31-37

Sermon delivered at St. Andrew’s United Church of Christ, Perkasie, PA

I have entered a new, awkward age in my life: I’m in between generations. Old enough that all the teenagers and young adults I am pastoring often seem surprisingly and sometimes even distantly young to me. Yet, everyone else at my church, I’m pretty sure, still really wants to call me “kiddo” as they shake my hand after services on Sunday—to them I am very young. So it goes, I guess, being in your thirties: too old for some, still shockingly young for others.

This is all a preamble to say that in the late 1990s I was a teenager. And during those years there was one movie that seemed to be constantly playing on TV. It was on so often that I’ve almost learned it by heart.

And that film was Shawshank Redemption. It’s a pretty powerful film, maybe you know it, with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. It’s based on a book by Stephen King, which was—fun fact—based, actually, on a novella by Leo Tolstoy.

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Arrows of Mercy—Maundy Thursday, Apr. 18, 2019

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Sermon delivered at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Perkasie, PA

“You’ve got to use your cheek as the anchor!” grumbled the archery teacher a few weeks ago at the Clover Leaf Archery Club. There was 5 teenagers, feet at the line, bow strings pulled back, arrows ready to fly at brightly colored balloons pinned to the targets. Almost at the same time, their fingers released, the arrows swished through the air, and the room echoed with balloons popping.

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Witness the Suffering God—Palm/Passion Sunday, Apr. 14, 2019

Luke 23: 1-56
James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2017).

Sermon delivered at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Perkasie, PA

As the youth have proclaimed today: Jesus didn’t avoid death. Jesus confronted and experienced pain, suffering and death. God faced it head on in order to blaze a path through it. God loves and yearns for all of God’s creation—starting from the bottom. And the cross of Christ symbolizes this truth most fully, that God has shared our pain. God knows our suffering.

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Beyond Measure, Beyond Price—Apr. 7, 2019

Isaiah 43:16-21
John 12:1-8

Sermon delivered at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Perkasie, PA

Nard—or more specifically spike-nard—was truly precious stuff. It comes from oil in the fibre-covered root-stock of a tall pink flower that grows in the Himalaya and Hindu Kush Mountains. I guess global economy has been around for a while! Because that’s a long walk from Nepal to Israel. (It’s 2900 miles, actually, as the crow flies.) What a fascinating thought that oil harvested from a plant on the mountainous border of China and India anointed the feet of the Son of God.

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Isaiah’s Party—Mar. 24, 2019

Isaiah 55:1-9
Luke 13:1-9

Sermon delivered at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Perkasie, PA

Lent is a season of repentance, of acknowledging we must turn away from death-dealing things and move toward life-giving ones. And our readings this morning are blunt on this score. Let’s focus our attention on Isaiah first.

Don’t let these old-fashioned words of this prophet about the “wicked” and the “unrighteous” slip past your ears—because that’s us, folks. Martin Luther liked to say we are both, simultaneously, saints and sinners. But they don’t cancel each other out to some happy medium. Without God I am wicked. I am unrighteous.

We have heard Isaiah tell us that God, to our “souls”—to our emotional, moral and spiritual selves—God is the rich food we need to live, but… do we feel that way? Sin? Eh… I’m fine. I don’t know if we really find God to be such rich food for us. Sometimes, maybe God and church are more like a holy burden than the rich food or the party that Isaiah describes…

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Our Metamorphosis Day—Transfiguration of Our Lord, Mar. 3, 2019

Exodus 34:29-35
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Luke 9:28-36

Sermon delivered at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Perkasie, PA

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

I like to imagine that these events, according to Luke, took place at night. Walking up this hill—this mountain—at dusk, Jesus stopped and sits on the ground. He begins to pray, silently. The night insects are chirping. Did you hear how Peter, James and John are weighed down with sleep as they pray too? And then Jesus lights up that dusty mountain top… somehow.

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The Beatitudes and the Tree of Life—Feb. 17, 2019

Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Luke 6:17-26

Sermon delivered at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Perkasie, PA

Here we are again, at these often heard but challenging words of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. 

People always say, you know, that those violent passages in the Bible are tough, or that the strange genealogies and obscure histories from the Old Testament are hard to understand… But I don’t know if anything is tougher, or any piece of scripture more offensive to us than this one. Nothing will make these words of Jesus easy.

There, on a stretch of level ground, with a great crowd of both foreigners and locals, all kinds of needy human beings all around him, Jesus says: blessed are the poor, the hungry, the weeping, and the hated. Wow.

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Treating the Young with Dignity—Dialogue Sermon, Feb. 3, 2019

Jeremiah 1:4-10
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Luke 4:21-30

Sermon delivered as a dialogue with Pastor Philip D. Krey at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Perkasie, PA

Pastor Krey:
Pastor Sullivan, when I was in Middle School I used to listen as I grew up in a multi-generational family to two of my older brothers-in law (I think they were in their fifties and seemed quite old) complain about how the world had changed. They were both part of the great generation having fought or served in WWII–one as fighter pilot and the other as a GI on the pacific front in the army. Something about their disappointment in the way things were made me sad because this was my world. They just could not understand why my older brother was growing his hair long and was trying a beard, and had real questions about the nation’s foreign policies. From a boy already, my brother Peter, thought of himself as a prophet always questioning authority and what he felt was wrong. My brothers-in-law lamented about how things had changed for the worse and it all seemed so foreign to them.  Like Jesus in our Gospel text, my brother Peter was not afraid of anything that was foreign—after college he traveled around the world and spent time with Mother Teresa in Calcutta–Every time my brothers-in law came to the house we heard the same lament about cultural decline.

Pastor Sullivan, do you think anything has changed in terms of older people lamenting about youth?

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A Strange Epiphany—Jan. 6, 2019

Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Sermon delivered at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Perkasie, PA

As some may know about me, I am a bit new to church-life and its intricacies and festivals. You will watch me make many errors in the months and years to come. It’s true that, sure enough, I was baptized and confirmed in the church… But I left. For a lot of reasons I left.

I left and I didn’t come back until God had placed a call on me.

It was all a bit foreign to me, as I bumbled back through the doors of my old church in Connecticut. I tumbled into the process of becoming a pastor. And I jumped through a hundred hoops, and learned ten-thousand things, and was called and ordained right here.

But even in all that, I guess it never really landed what is this thing called Epiphany, until I sat down to work out this proclamation for you all today. Isn’t that just how church is? It can get so cozy, so familiar that we forget the reasons we do things.

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The People Who Walked In Darkness Have Seen a Great Light—Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2018

Luke 2:1-20

Sermon delivered at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Perkasie, PA

For those gathered here tonight that I haven’t met me yet, “Hello!,” my name is Joshua Sullivan and I have been called as your new associate pastor. I’ve been with you since November 1st, just shy of two months.

And I was ordained, too, in this very room 17 days ago. Not a very long time. I am very fresh out of the box, you could say.

New to PA and the Bucks County area too. So, I’m figuring out how to both love AND hate the Eagles at the same time. Figuring out what hoagies are, and what “water-ice” is, and discovering the mystique of Wawa as well..

It’s been a lot of new and charming stuff for me to experience. So no, not a very long time I’ve been with you.

But in the space of two months, already, I have seen just how much pain lurks in these suburbs, in this town.

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