This morning’s sermon on the Parable of the Sower. You can listen to it here:
This morning’s sermon on the Parable of the Sower. You can listen to it here:
Here is my sermon for Trinity Sunday.
Thomas G. Long, “Homiletical Perspective on Matthew 28:16–20,” in Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary: Year A (ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor; vol. 3; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 345.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Fount Paperbacks, London:1997, p.135
Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Long Text, chapters 73 and 86. (Quoted in Amy Laura Hall, Love in Everything: A Brief Primer to Julian of Norwich. The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, Vol. 32, New Series 2015.)
With additional inspiration from Eric Funston (thanks for the C.S. Lewis quote), David Lose (the Great Promise), Karoline Lewis “Dear Working Preacher” for Trinity Sunday 2017,, and Daniel Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding (and class lectures). And hopefully the Holy Spirit.
Here is the sermon from Pentecost Sunday:
If you’re curious about the theme park itself, here are my photos and videos from my trip.
Here is the sermon from Sunday, April 30, 2017. The Gospel text was Luke 24: 13-35. Listen here:
On Sunday I was actually working from a full manuscript, which I don’t always do. Here is the manuscript I took into the pulpit–I may have re-ordered some things as I preached it.
They recognize that the teacher with the wounded hands offering them broken bread is actually Jesus—that he is alive, that he’s been resurrected as the women had said. And that he really is the Messiah, the suffering servant described in the Hebrew scriptures, who has overcome the forces of death and hate.
In the moment when they recognize him for who he truly is, he disappears—but now they know who he is, and they run out in to the dangerous night and hurry back to Jerusalem to tell the others this amazing good news and rejoin the larger community. All the pieces have come together once they looked at them from the right perspective, and they want to share the beautiful new thing.
And the news travels from disciple to disciple, across miles and then across generations and so wehear their good news—that Jesus is the Messiah and is alive, and that God comes among us not as a conquering powerful ruler but as a compassionate servant, marked with the signs of suffering, a Messiah who walks with the outcast, feeds the hungry, shows mercy to the condemned, heals the sick, encourages the brokenhearted, and shows us, his followers, how to offer ourselves to others just as he offers himself. And that the forces which tried to kill him and overturn this rule of love and mercy have been shown to ultimately be defeated.
Yesterday all the vestry wardens, treasurers and clerks from all the parishes in the diocese—all the senior lay leaders in parishes–were invited to gather for a day of training in the nuts and bolts of parish leadership. The day began with remarks from Bishop Knisely about the role of vestry officers as spiritual leaders of their congregations.
He talked about how we often base our image of what our congregations should be—how we should be putting the pieces of ministry together, what a properly assembled and successful parish “puzzle” looks like — based on a picture from the 1950s. This was when there was an explosion of young families, when prosperity meant that people had time and energy and money to dedicate to community institutions, when civic involvement and religious affiliation were seen as socially positive things, and so churches grew rapidly, Sunday Schools were filled to capacity, and seemingly everyone belonged to a church. There was no need to go out into the community —the community came to the church.
The church had status and influence—theologians were on the cover of Time and Newsweek–and impressive size. The church’s energy could be focused on providing programs and fellowship for all the people inside the church walls. Each church could support multiple clergy and lots of people came forwards for ordination. But actually the 1950s and the 1960s were an exception in the history of this country and the history of the church. Statistically, historically, they were an atypical blip, not the norm, or an indicator of the future.
Sunday, September 11, 2016 (Proper 16 ,RCL Yr C Track 2)
Luke 15:1-10 (click to read passage)
Welcome! And welcome back!
It is “welcome back” to each of you, even if you’ve been in church every Sunday all summer, because we are finally back here in the church itself after six weeks of being “away,” worshiping in the parish hall during the renovation. We were on a wandering journey of sorts. Not lost, but not at home, either. But now, thanks to the hard work of our friends at Houyston’s Remodeling and our Junior Warden, Dennis Tripodi, we are back in the church.
But each of us has had times when we have felt lost.
Perhaps we have lost a job.
Or we have lost out to someone in a competition of some sort—at work, or in school, or on the athletic field, or in our romantic life—we found ourselves coming in second, or fifth–
Or we have found ourselves losing out in popularity—whether in office politics or in the middle school lunchroom–
Or we have lost someone we love—to illness, or conflict within the family, or death–
Or we have lost hope, due to current events, or due to our brain chemicals miring us in depression–
Or we have lost touch with someone, due to a move, or a disagreement—
Or we have lost touch with ourselves. Perhaps we have lost control over a situation we thought we had in hand, lost our balance, our equilibrium–
Or we have lost our way at some point on the journey of becoming who we imagined we could be.
And when we feel lost, we begin to feel invisible, unseen.
When we feel that—lost, and invisible, and rejected— the very human instinct is to separate ourselves, to believe that we really are lost and not worth seeing, not worth belonging. And so we turn in on ourselves, and often cut ourselves off from those to whom we do actually belong.
In the story from the Gospel of Luke that Deacon Mary Ann just read, Jesus tells two parables to describe God.
In the image of the shepherd who searches for his sheep and the woman who searches for her coin, Jesus depicts a God who searches relentlessly for the lost.
The shepherd has 100 sheep, and yet amidst the noise and bustle of that big flock being all sheep-y on the hillside, notices that one, just one, sheep is lost. He leaves the 99 up to their own devices while he goes and searches for the one.
The fairly wealthy woman in the second parable has 10 silver coins. But she notices that one is missing, and sets aside all of her household duties and searches for it until she finds it.
And when the shepherd finds his one sheep, and the woman her one coin, they rejoice.
It’s like when you’ve lost a child in a large crowd—or if your pet has gone on an unscheduled walkabout around the neighborhood—when you find them, the first emotion you feel is an overwhelming joy just bubbling up. You may feel other things later—anger, relief—but the first feeling is just that flood of joy.
These stories remind us, that when we felt lost, we were not truly lost—not in God’s eyes. God was always seeking us, looking for us, trying to get our attention and reestablish contact.
And that is one of the reasons we come here each Sunday—to give thanks that we are not ever truly lost, truly alone, that we are always held in God’s sight and in God’s love—and to rejoice.
And we are also meant to do the same as the shepherd and the woman.
We are supposed to notice when one person is missing—whether it is a long-time member or someone in the neighborhood we’ve never met who feels lost and unseen by God and by others.
We are to search for them, to make sure they know they are not lost and invisible, but seen and loved.
Think of the military commitment to leave no soldier behind, and the dedication to POWs and MIAs to continue searching and bring them home.
Think of the civilians and first responders on 9/11 who went back into the towers again and again to bring people down to safety, and lost their own lives as a result. Think of the flyers posted by family members of the missing—showing a picture, “Missing since 9/11, Floor 105, South Tower.” Hoping that they would be found. And think of the searchers or who combed through the pile of rubble for days, months, to recover as many remains as possible, so that no one would be totally lost.
We are to be just as diligent in searching, making sure no one is lost.
Because, just like the shepherd knew that his flock was incomplete when just one sheep was missing, and the woman couldn’t rest while one coin was misplaced, the Body of Christ is incomplete if everyone is not here.
We are to notice the lost, search for them, find them, welcome them into community—this community which is love with flesh on– so they no longer feel lost or unseen.
That’s what’s behind some of the changes we’ve made this summer. The wall repairs, and the new floor, they just had to be done. But the air-conditioning?
We didn’t put that in out of a desire for luxury. After all, all of us grew up without air conditioning. Some of us have lived in places further south, where it’s hotter. But we’ve learned that because, of health and or age, in the really hot months, there are some people who cannot be here because of the heat, even though they want to be. So that is why we’ve finally put in air-conditioning. Not out of a desire for luxury, but because without it, some are excluded. Without it, the body of Christ in this place cannot be complete.
That’s also why we’re rebooting our Sunday School, with some new energy and enthusiasm. Because we want the children of this congregation to know that they are seen, and a beloved part of the body. That there is a place for them here—in worship, if they want to be in the entire worship service—but also in Sunday School, if they want a place where they can encounter the Word in a way particularly accessible to them.
Both these changes are so that everyone feels known, seen, sought out, a part of the Body of Christ.
So, welcome back!
Let us rejoice!
The Rev. Gillian R. Barr
Church of the Good Shepherd, Pawtucket RI
a meditation preached at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Pawtucket, RI
March 25, 2016
The Rev. Gillian R. Barr
Today is not only Good Friday, it is also March 25th. Which on the church calendar is the Feast of the Annunciation, the date on which we remember the angel Gabriel telling the young girl Mary that she would bear a child, and he would be named Jesus, for he would save his people from their sins. And she replied, “Let it be according to your word.” These two observances coincide on the calendar only once every century or two, although church Tradition claims that they coincided on the first Good Friday—that Jesus died on the anniversary of his conception. And this juxtaposition of Annunciation and Good Friday has frequently been the subject of poetry and art. Here is one such image, which I find particularly evocative.
Proper 25 B, Oct. 25, 2015
The Church of the Good Shepherd, Pawtucket, RI
The Rev. Gillian R. Barr
This morning’s Gospel lesson is about someone blind receiving sight. Who in the story is blind? On the surface, that’s a really easy question. The beggar by the side of the road. We even know his name, which we don’t usually for people healed by Jesus. Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus.
But is he really blind? He seems to actually see quite well. He calls out to Jesus, calling him Son of David—giving him a title usually reserved for the Messiah. Over the past few weeks we’ve heard several stories about Jesus’s disciples and followers just not getting it and basically being blockheads—James and John bickering to see who is the most important, other disciples turning children away, Peter denying what Jesus says about the Messiah’s future including suffering and death. But this beggar by the side of the road understands who Jesus is. He calls him by a Messianic title, and he also insists that God’s vision, God’s healing, includes those on the margins, people like a blind beggar. He sees with God’s vision. He understands that when God looks at him, God sees someone worthy. He claims that he, even though blind, is someone worthy of Jesus’s “mercifying,” as one commentator suggests the Greek actually reads.
The people in the crowd, however, don’t get it. They don’t see Bartimaeus as a human being worthy of healing. They see only a distraction, someone in their way. Someone taking Jesus’ attention away from them and their focus on getting to the next place on their itinerary. They are looking at the man’s demands with a zero-sum mentality. They tell him to be quiet.
But we know better, right? We wouldn’t do that. We wouldn’t ever tell someone asking for Jesus’ mercy, someone seeking healing and wholeness, to be quiet, would we?
Or would we? Continue reading