Sermon: John Coleridge Patteson and Companions

The podcast can be found here.


Image: The Martyrdom of John Coleridge Patteson – one of three scenes carved into the pulpit at Exeter Cathedral. (source)

040910 exeter cath pulpit


At the age of fourteen, John Patteson knew he was going to be a priest. At the age of twenty-seven, he was. He grew up in England, and in 1855 would go to serve in Melanesia, a chain of some 10,000 islands off the northeast coast of Australia. His Bishop told him that his work would include “the evangelization of no less than 20 million.” Just to make it interesting, some of those 20 million were headhunters and cannibals, and had the custom of strangling a woman if her husband died. In addition, slave traders roamed the seas practicing “blackbirding” – capturing the natives and forcing them into slavery on the farms of the Europeans. Patteson was not deterred.

The goal of the mission was to travel to the islands and convince the tribes to allow one or two of the older boys to leave the island for ten months to a year, so that they could be trained in the teachings of Christianity, then take them back to their islands where they would evangelize the rest of the community. Continue reading “Sermon: John Coleridge Patteson and Companions”

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Sermon: Proper 18 RCL A – “Two or Three or More”

The podcast of this sermon can be found here.


A crowd of individuals can be a very fickle creature. It begins with each of us doing our own thing, but when we come together, we no longer pursue what makes us different, but what makes us alike. Given the right motivation, we will do what is necessary to be like everyone else and do what everyone else is doing. For example, take the wave at a football game, when 1,000s will go round and round the stadium, raising their hands and cheering.

Two physicist spent a summer studying this phenomenon. Perhaps it would be better to say, two bored physicists or two government funded physicists spent the summer studying the wave at sporting events. They reported, “The reason why we got interested in stadium waves was that people, apparently, very often behave like particles.” They say that in participating in the wave, we act like matter. Interesting points about a wave: in order for it to be sustainable, it must span from the top to the bottom of the stadium, it travels at about 20 seats per second, requires only 20 to 30 individuals to start a stadium of 50,000 moving, and typically the waves run clockwise. The primary factor though, in getting one started, is timing, when the mood is ripe. If it is an intense moment during the game, all you’re going to do in trying to start a wave is anger the people around you, but in times of celebration or even better, boredom, your chances of success increase considerably. So, like matter, given the right circumstances, a very small catalyst can start a very large reaction and get things moving. (source) Which, when applied to how individuals respond in a crowd, tells us that even if you’re sitting there trying to enjoy your supper with a beer in one hand, hotdog in the other, and some peanuts balanced on your knee, you’re still going to attempt to pop up when the wave comes to you, so that you can be like everyone else. Continue reading “Sermon: Proper 18 RCL A – “Two or Three or More””

Sermon: St. Teresa of Calcutta

The podcast can be found here.


The young woman prays: Jesus, my own Jesus – I am only Thine – I am so stupid – I do not know what to say but do with me whatever You wish – as You wish – as long as you wish. [But] why can’t I be a perfect Loreto Nun – here – why can’t I be like everybody else?  Jesus responds, I want Indian Nuns, Missionaries of Charity, who would be my fire of love amongst the poor, the sick, the dying and the little children … You are, I know, the most incapable person – weak and sinful but just because you are that – I want to use you for My glory. Will you refuse?

Who was the young woman?  She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, but she is now known as the Saint of Calcutta – Mother Teresa.  That prayer dialogue she told to her superior in 1947.  In 1948 she was given permission to begin her ministry in India.  She started out alone, a small woman in her white and blue habit.  When she died in 1997, the order she founded, the Missionaries of Charity, consisted of 610 missions in 123 countries including the US.  In 1979 she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work.  She donated the $192,000 cash prize to the poor of India.  Let’s face it, when we get to heaven and are standing in line waiting to get through the pearly gates, she really is the one that we do not want to find ourselves behind. Continue reading “Sermon: St. Teresa of Calcutta”

Sermon: Proper 16 RCL A – “Mistaken Identity”

The podcast for this sermon can be found here.


An old cowboy named Bud was overseeing his livestock in a remote mountainous pasture in California when a fella in a fancy car comes skidding up. He gets out and is wearing this outlandish high fashion getup, a Rolex, with his hair slicked back, and a California tan – the works. When he opens his mouth, he’s clearly from “back east.”

Coming over to Bud he asked, “If I tell you exactly how many cows you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?”

Bud sized up the fella another moment then agrees, “Sure, why not?”

The guy pulls out is iPad and iPhone, makes a call, and ask for a photo from a satellite above. Once received he runs it through some computer analysis and has it count the number of animals on the ranch. After a few minutes, he turns to Bud and says, “You have exactly 1,562 cows in your herd.”

“That’s right, pardner,” replied the old cowhand. “Well, I guess I owe you a calf. Pick one out.”

The fellas looks over the herd, picks one out and then proceeds to cram it in the backseat of his car.

Bud interrupts this process. “Listen. If I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?”

“Why not?”

“You’re a U.S. Congressman.”

The man is shocked. “Yeah, how’d you guess that?” Continue reading “Sermon: Proper 16 RCL A – “Mistaken Identity””

Sermon: St. Bartholomew

The podcast for this sermon can be found here  


Mark’s Gospel tells us, “Then [Jesus] came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked [the disciples], ‘What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?’  But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest.”

Luke 9:46: “Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.” Luke 22:22, just prior to our Gospel reading today: “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.”

Then there’s that little episode in Matthew’s Gospel: “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, ‘What do you wish?’ She said to Him, ‘Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.’”

Is it just me, or do the disciples seemed to be a bit obsessed with having power? Continue reading “Sermon: St. Bartholomew”

Sermon: Saint Mary the Virgin

Listen to the podcast of this sermon at Podomatic : 

C.S. Lewis summed up a very Anglican perspective of the Virgin Mary in the preface to Mere Christianity (it’s a bit wordy and a bit heady): “There is no controversy between Christians which needs to be so delicately touched as this [that is, the question of Blessed Virgin Mary]. The Roman Catholic beliefs on that subject are held not only with the ordinary fervour that attaches to all sincere religious belief, but (very naturally) with the peculiar and, as it were, chivalrous sensibility that a man feels when the honour of his mother or his beloved is at stake. It is very difficult so to dissent from them that you will not appear to them a cad as well as a heretic. And contrariwise, the opposed Protestant beliefs on this subject call forth feelings which go down to the very roots of all Monotheism whatever. To radical Protestants Continue reading “Sermon: Saint Mary the Virgin”

Sermon: Ignatius of Loyola

Image text: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam is the Latin motto of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), and means “For the greater glory of God.” 


Born in 1491, Ignatius began his life as a privileged young man.  In his autobiography he writes, “Up to his twenty-sixth year, he was a man given over to the vanities of the world and special delight in the exercise of arms with a great and vain desire of winning glory.”  That great desire for glory nearly cost him his life as he was severely injured in the battle of Pamplona in 1521.  It was during this time of healing that he had a great spiritual awakening and understood that his life must be dedicated to the work of Jesus.  No longer would he be a knight in the battles of the world, but would become Christ’s knight, in the battle for souls. Continue reading “Sermon: Ignatius of Loyola”

Sermon: The Day of Pentecost RCL A – “Drink Deeply”

In The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen retells a tale from ancient India: Four royal brothers decided each to master a special ability. Time went by, and the brothers met to reveal what they had learned.

“I have mastered a science,” said the first, “by which I can take but a bone of some creature and create the flesh that goes with it.”

“I,” said the second, “know how to grow that creature’s skin and hair if there is flesh on its bones.”

The third said, “I am able to create its limbs if I have flesh, the skin, and the hair.”

“And I,” concluded the fourth, “know how to give life to that creature if its form is complete.” Continue reading “Sermon: The Day of Pentecost RCL A – “Drink Deeply””

Sermon: Visitation of the BVM (or “Enthusiastically Preposterous)

I came across a brief study of the word preposterous. Pre is something we are familiar with, which means “before.” The Latin word posterous is a bit more tricky, but if you think of what you fall on when you slip on the ice, posterior (aka: the derrière), then you know that posterous has something to do with the backside. More accurately it means “coming after” or “that which comes after.” Therefore, preposterous means: that which comes before comes afterwards… backwards. We take it to mean absurd or silly.

Donald K. McKim, the former Dean of Memphis Theological Seminary, used the word preposterous in a perspective on Christianity. He wrote, “Now Christianity is a preposterous faith because it asks us actually to live backwards. Or, to put it another way, Christianity asks us to put some things before other things when more naturally, we’d choose to live the other way around. The faith calls us as followers of Jesus Christ to a new lifestyle, a new way of living. It asks us to hold new attitudes. In short, Christianity asks us to live in a way the world may judge to be absurd. Yet all the time, we are really only being truly preposterous.” Christianity asks us “to live backwards” lives that by the world’s standards are absurd, silly, foolish. Continue reading “Sermon: Visitation of the BVM (or “Enthusiastically Preposterous)”