Sermon: Last Epiphany RCL A – Transfiguration

Rabbi Cohen was tasked with teaching a class at the Beth Israel Hebrew School and he decided to discuss the sanctuary’s new magnificent stained glass windows, and tried to draw out a message for the children. “Like the pictures in the windows,” said Rabbi Cohen, “Each of you represent one window, but together as a community we make a whole picture.”

The Rabbi continued, “You see each one of you is like a little pane in the greater stained glass window.” And then pointing to each child, he said, ”You’re a little pane. And you’re a little pane. And you’re a little pane. And…” Continue reading “Sermon: Last Epiphany RCL A – Transfiguration”

Sermon: Polycarp

Polycarp was a second generation Christian and believed to have been a disciple of the Apostle John, and to have been appointed Bishop of Smyrna by a group of the original Apostles.

In reading about his life, there is often surprise that he lived so long, 86, because so many other Christians were being put to death by the Romans. The question comes up, why did they let him live? To this we can only answer, God had his purposes. It definitely appears to be a case of the upper story versus the lower story that we hear about on Sunday mornings.

In his work as a Bishop he served as an opponent of the heretic Marcion, who rejected the God of the Old Testament as an evil god. Polycarp did not mince words with him when he referred to Marcion as “the first born of Satan.” However, perhaps his greatest lesson that we have comes to us from his martyrdom. It is a lesson of endurance. Continue reading “Sermon: Polycarp”

Sermon: Epiphany 7 RCL A – “Be Perfect”

As the high point of its annual picnic, a company rented two racing shells – racing rowing boats – and challenged a rival company to a rowing contest. The rival company accepted. On the day of the race and picnic, everyone entered into the spirit of the event, by dressing the part, and with the bands playing and banners waving, it was quite a festive occasion. Towards the end of the day, the two teams readied their boats and the race began. It was not much of a competition. The rival company immediately pulled ahead and never lost the lead, winning the race by 11 lengths. The management of the host company was embarrassed by its showing and promptly appointed a committee to place responsibility for the failure and make recommendations on how to improve their chances in a rematch the following year. The committee appointed several task forces to study various aspects of the race. They met for three months and issued a preliminary report. In essence, the report said that the rival crew had been unfair. Continue reading “Sermon: Epiphany 7 RCL A – “Be Perfect””

Sermon: Thomas Bray

Two Irishmen are sitting in a pub having beer and watching the brothel across the street. They saw a Baptist minister walk into the brothel, and one of them says, “Aye, ’tis a shame to see a man of the cloth goin’ bad.”

Then they see a rabbi enter the brothel, and the other Irishman says, “Aye, ’tis a  shame to see that the Jews are fallin’ victim to temptation.”

Then they see a catholic priest enter the brothel, and one of the Irishmen says, “What a terrible pity … one of the girls must be quite ill.” Continue reading “Sermon: Thomas Bray”

Sermon: Epiphany 6 RCL A – “Nibbling”

Have you ever wondered why particular warning labels were placed on products? For example:

On a baby stroller: Remove child before folding.

On a jet ski: Never use a lit match or open flame to check fuel level.

On a box of rat poison: Warning – has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice.

On an iron: Do not use while wearing shirt.

Hairdryer: Do not use while sleeping.

Fishing hook: Harmful if swallowed.

And not to be outdone: The letter opener – Safety goggles recommended. I will probably put my eye out tomorrow with a letter opener for saying this, but if you have to wear safety goggles while using a letter opener, then you’ve got bigger problems than going blind. Continue reading “Sermon: Epiphany 6 RCL A – “Nibbling””

Sermon: Scholastica

In late November we celebrated the Feast of St. Andrew. You may recall one of the points was that although Andrew was always devout and faithful, having accomplished great work in India, he was still always in the shadow of his older brother, Peter. Our Saint for today, Scholastica, has a similar problem. Her twin brother is none other than St. Benedict.

They grew up in Umbria, a region of Italy north of Rome, and were from a wealthy family. Their life together ended when Benedict was old enough to leave home and went to study in Rome. As a person of society, Scholastica had the option to marry or to join a religious order. As she had been dedicated to God from a very young age, she chose the latter, and following her father’s death, moved so that she could be closer to her brother, whom she loved dearly. Once settled, she formed the first women’s order of Benedictine monasticism. Continue reading “Sermon: Scholastica”

Sermon: Epiphany 5 RCL A – “Salt”

A little old Jewish lady sells pretzels on a street corner for 25 cents each. Every day a young man leaves his office building at lunch time, and as he passes the pretzel stand, he leaves her a quarter, but never takes a pretzel. He doesn’t like them, but wants to support the lady and her business. Even though he is faithful in giving, the young man and the woman never exchange a word. This goes on for more than three years, each day, dropping in a quarter, but never taking a pretzel or speaking.  One day, as the young man passes the lady’s stand and leaves his quarter as usual, the pretzel lady finally speaks to him.  “Sir, I appreciate your business. You are a good customer, but I have to tell you that the pretzel price has gone up to 35 cents.” Continue reading “Sermon: Epiphany 5 RCL A – “Salt””

Sermon: Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration at St. Stephen’s AME Church

Brown Chapel AME Church is located in Selma, Alabama and was the starting point for the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, a distance of about 54 miles, which were attempting to bring attention to the disparities in voting rights.

The first of those marches ended on March 7, 1965, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, only six blocks from the Brown Chapel, when the organizers and participants were attacked by police and bystanders. That day became known as Bloody Sunday, but it did not stop the marches. A second attempt, with Dr. King and 2,000 others was attempted on March 9, but a federal restraining order had been issued prohibiting the march, so Dr. King and the others stopped at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, once again met by police, knelt and prayed, then returned to Brown Chapel in order to prevent another bloody attack on those marching. Continue reading “Sermon: Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration at St. Stephen’s AME Church”

Sermon: Epiphany 4 RCL A – “Blessed are You!”

After listening to this Gospel reading, don’t you think Jesus needs to get with the program? Seriously? Blessed are the poor. I don’t know that I’ve ever been poor, but I have been broke and that didn’t feel too blessed. I think a rewrite is in order for this particular passage of scripture. Maybe something like:

Blessed are the rich and famous, because they can always get a seat at the best restaurants.

Blessed are the good-looking, for they shall get to hang out with the Kardashians.

Blessed are those who take first place, for they shall have momentum going into the play-offs.

Blessed are the movers and shakers, for they shall be elected president.

Blessed are those who demand their rights, for they shall not be overlooked.

Blessed are the healthy and fit, because they don’t mind being seen in a bathing suit.

Yes. A rewrite is definitely in order. Continue reading “Sermon: Epiphany 4 RCL A – “Blessed are You!””