All of these sermons were delivered in the Abbey Church. To make it easier to find a certain topic or lectionary day, click one the blue tags below (Holidays, Sundays Year A, Sundays Year B, Sundays Year C). The sermons are posted in order of their calendar date, so not all in the same lectionary year are together – keep scrolling down, and you will find more from earlier calendar years.
Many of Abbot Andrew’s sermons are posted on his blog.
November 1, 2018 Abbey Church Abraham
God does not call us to be more than ourselves. Being more than ourselves would not make us more than human, it would simply make us not human. Being a Christian means acknowledging that being human is good enough for God, because God chose to become human. And as all humans, Jesus grew. So we must grow. We must become mature and complete in Christ – and that means becoming more truly our unique selves. We often hear, in this church building, the call to present ourselves as a living sacrifice. We can all too easily dwell on the “sacrifice” part of that call while forgetting about the “living” part of that call. We are called to full life as God’s children.
We are called many other things in scripture: the saints of God, a nation of priests, a city on a hill, the light of the world, the temple of God, the salt of the earth, the Rose of Sharon, a new creation, the body of Christ (the fullness of him who fills all things), joint heirs with Christ (and therefore his family). We are also called sinners, and that makes it even more wonderful that God calls us his children. We are not yet perfect, but we are called to perfection – not a perfection based on rules and regulations, but a perfection based on fullness. There is a Chinese proverb which says: “A mature and integrated human is like jade: Its flaws not concealing its beauty, nor its beauty concealing its flaws.” We are called to that kind of perfection, and yet how rarely we live up to it.
We are not there yet; we still have a lot of growing to do, and we always will. We need to admit it to ourselves and also realize that everyone around us has a lot of growing to do. We do not like to be called evil and stupid just because we do wrong things, and so we should never use those words on others. Other people’s sins might be visible to the whole world, but ours are more likely hidden because they are deeper and far worse. If we want mercy and grace to grow then we must give it to others. That does not mean that we excuse wrongdoing, but it does mean that we always respect the wrongdoer as much a child of God as we are. It also does not mean that since we are to grow into our unique selves that we can be so eccentric that it makes life difficult for others.
So, here we are, surrounded by saints: living ones sitting next to us and dead ones sitting in little boxes in a corner of the church and in big boxes in the cemetery. We are also surrounded by the saints in heaven (which I guess means that heaven is surrounding us). We now a lot about some, a little about others, and nothing about most. All we know is they are being brought to perfection by God in ways that God calls perfect, not in ways that we call perfect. They are a great cloud of witnesses. They show us how to live, they watch us, and in ways we can’t understand, they help us to grow. May we do the same for others, and as we gather up here around the altar, let us remember them and each other, and be thankful. AMEN
September 23, 2018 Abbey Church Abraham
Jeremiah was given a tough job, and he was rewarded for his efforts by being jailed and ridiculed and eventually dragged off to Egypt – a place where he warned people to not go. His tough job was that of merely telling the truth. He, like almost everyone at that time and location could see that Babylon would soon conquer his nation, as it had conquered all other nations in the area. Even though everyone saw what was happening politically and militarily in the region, many people in power kept their power by assuring others that God would protect their nation, since it was chosen by God. Jeremiah asked the uncomfortable question of why the people in power were praying to false gods rather than the God whom they publicly claimed would help them. He also pointed out the uncomfortable truth that since they had secretly turned their backs on God, God would publicly turn his back on them. We heard a bit of Jeremiah in the first reading this morning talking about his difficult job. He asks to see God’s retribution upon the people who have made his life so hard. Hopefully Jeremiah calmed down later and did the Christian thing by forgiving his persecutors, just like all us Christians here always do.
James (whom we heard in our second reading) was given a tough job, and he has was rewarded for his efforts by having his letter belittled by Martin Luther. His tough job was one of telling people that faith produces works. Most of the bitterness of the Reformation has now settled down, so most people on all sides can see James’s point, but there are still some people either using his letter as a weapon against people with whom they disagree, or trying to explain away the parts of it that don’t agree with their party line. Hopefully the many people from so many different denominations that gather together here won’t ever start a fight: Lutherans with copies of the Letter to the Romans, Catholics with copies of the Letter of James, Anabaptists refusing to join the fight, and Calvinists standing back watching, knowing that the outcome is preordained anyway.
Jesus (whom we heard in our Gospel story) was also given a tough job and he was rewarded for his efforts by being crucified. Jesus was surrounded by disciples who don’t seem to have understood him, but who are we to judge – we still don’t really understand Jesus. The resurrection maybe did compensate for the hard time Jesus had, but we are still making his life rough by doing exactly the same stupid things the disciples did, and worse.
The tough jobs we have talked about this morning involve telling people things that might make them uncomfortable. Many times we find ourselves in the same situation – something needs to be said, and no matter what we say, someone will take it wrongly or as an attack, or misinterpret it. We all sometimes need to do the talking, and we all sometimes need to do the listening, and we all do both jobs well sometimes and badly other times. That’s ok, no one is perfect, and usually we all eventually settle down and get along with each other.
Probably, none of us is ever going to be given the job of saying things of such importance as Jeremiah or James or Jesus. When we do sense the need to say something about something, we need to do it humbly, realizing that we could be wrong, and also realizing that just because we don’t like something, that does not make it wrong or bad or stupid. Most people already know all of our preferences, and they really don’t want to hear about them again. It is also important to remember to listen to other people, because even if we disagree with them, they might be right and we might be wrong. It is especially important to remember to listen to people who have said things in the past with which we disagree, or who come from groups with which we tend to disagree, because sometimes they just might say things that need to be said, even if they say it in harmful or hurtful ways. The Kingdom of God comes to the little child (full of questions), not to the people at the front of the line yelling out answers. So, with Jeremiah and James looking on and joining us, we come to this table to be fed by Jesus. He is the one we really need to listen to, and he does tend to use the unexpected person or event as his mouth. AMEN
II Corinthians 8:7-15
July 1, 2018 Abraham Abbey Church
The little girl and the woman in our gospel story this morning were both healed by Jesus, but it is a safe assumption that they both eventually died. Humans die. Jesus died. Jesus is fully human, as well as fully God. In some unexplainable way, that means that God had also experienced death. Impossible, but true. But, since Jesus is fully God and fully human, it also means that he not only experienced death, he also experienced fully human eternal life.
In our first reading, Solomon says that we are created as the image of God’s eternity, but we choose death through envy. God creates us for eternal joy, but we desperately want so much less, so we kill our eternal joy and try to fill the void with other things, doing anything we can to fill that infinite space with the finite things around us – even if that means taking them from other people. And so sin and death enter the world.
The things around us are not bad; they are good. They are just not God. Anything that is not God is less than God. So, we should take Paul’s advice from our second reading this morning. He is writing to people who have more than they need, asking them to give to people who have less than they need. They are not forced to do so; it is voluntary – giving must be voluntary in order to negate lifekilling envy. Giving is what God does.
It is not easy on the surface, but in terms of eternal joy, it is worth it. Letting go of our finite resource of things, time, and energy opens us up so that the infinite joy of God can fill us. We don’t always freely give of ourselves all the time, and we all know it. That does not mean we are evil. It means we are tired and worried. Jesus knows that; he was also tired and worried, and so doesn’t mind it sometimes when we just give up and have to let Jesus give through us (but even doing that is a form of giving: giving up our self-righteousness). It takes time and work, but mostly it takes grace. So it is a good thing that God is gracious and that God gives. God gives eternal life, and every time we refuse it, God offers it again. AMEN
II Corinthians 4: 5-12
June 3, 2018 Abbey Church Abraham
Our scripture readings this morning speak of creation and Sabbath (or in other words: “work and rest”). Sometimes, people say that Christians should meet for prayer on Saturdays rather than on Sundays, because Moses says that people are supposed to meet for prayer on Saturdays. They are wrong – Moses says to rest on Saturday – we just heard that. Prayer can and should be any day including the Sabbath. Christians meet on Sunday to remember and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. Most Christians also do not work on Saturday (depending on what one classifies as work). And if Christians do work on Saturdays, they are not disobeying Moses, because Moses was giving God’s law to a specific group of people for life in a specific place. Maybe a Jewish Christian currently living in Palestine should be obliged to observe the Sabbath, but there are hints in the New Testament that they are not obligated to do so.
Having said all that, Christians should both pray and rest from work. Both things show our total dependence on God alone. Resting from work reminds us that everything comes from God – no matter how hard we work, we can not guarantee any material gain. Prayer reminds us that everything comes from God – no matter how hard we work, we can not guarantee anything. All is gift.
Yes, we should work. Yes, we should pray. And yes, we should at times rest from work. We really shouldn’t rest from prayer, but we should realize that resting from both work and intentional prayer in order to simply enjoy the universe around us is itself a form of prayer (gratefully having fun in the beautiful creation of God.) AMEN
May 10, 2018 Abbey Church Abraham
The ascension of Jesus (no matter if it occurred on the evening after the Resurrection or forty days later, and no matter if he went up, or out, or wherever) brings about the close of one era while preparing the beginning of another era. In one way, the works of Jesus are now over, but in another way, the works of Jesus are just beginning with the works of the church. One body of Christ was taken from the earth and replaced with another one. We are given the job of being the body of Christ: “the fullness of Him who fills all in all”, as Paul puts it in our second reading this morning.
It seems difficult to fill our own little corner of the planet with grace and love, much less the entire expanding universe. Paul prays that his readers might understand a little of this when he asks that their minds might be enlightened to see the glory they will inherit – the glory of a world in harmony under Christ and in Christ. Honestly, being enlightened that much seems more than anyone could really handle. Jesus, being fully human, knows that we could never endure such enlightenment on our own, or do his work by ourselves, so he tells his disciples to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit before they attempted any of it.
The gift of the Holy Spirit that the disciples were to wait for is often a puzzle to Christians, or should be. The readings today do not clear up many of those questions, but it does seem clear that the Holy Spirit is a gift who enables us to spread the gospel. Often it seems that the Holy Spirit is more of a burden than a gift – when we want to spread the gospel our way instead of God’s way. Many times we are like the disciples and we want to know “when the kingdom will be restored to Israel?”, or in our words: “when will justice and peace flourish?”. Jesus says that’s not for us to know – we are instead to wait for the Holy Spirit. So, maybe the Spirit is a gift who lets us know and do what we need to know and do.
Before he sends them back to Jerusalem, Jesus tells the disciples that they are witnesses to what he has said and done. We need to continue that witness – bringing to the world the Jesus that we know, not the Jesus that we don’t know. We also need to stop staring into the sky and instead wait for the Spirit to tell us what to do.
So, Jesus is gone, but also still very much here. He is Lord and head of the church, he is beyond time and space, yet fills time and space. His power is limitless, and he is in us. The one who holds all things together is now as close to us as we are to each other, and as close as he was to Joseph and Mary growing up, and to John as he leaned against his breast, and to Mary and Martha as they sat around the house. As we wait for the Holy Spirit to tell us what to do, Jesus is still with us, and he will be with us as we do his work, guided by his Holy Spirit. AMEN
I John 3:1-7
April 15, 2018 Abbey Church Abraham
There is a phrase in our second reading this morning that always catches me, either when I hear it or read it.: “…when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” I used to think that maybe the words had been transposed in some ancient manuscripts so long ago that we now just assumed that the order in our current Bibles is the correct version. I really thought John should have said: “…when he is revealed, we will see him as he is, because we will be like him.”, because God’s job is to make us holy, and then when we are holy enough, we will see everything, including God, as it really is – without the bias and filter of our own sinful greed and fear.
Yes, it is God’s job to make us holy – it’s all grace. And yes, the holier God makes us, the more we see things as they really are (always about God, never about us). But, the holier God makes us, the more we are expected to grow and cultivate the growth – actively doing things to receive the holiness that God is pouring upon us. It’s all grace, but faith and works are also part of the picture.
So, we need to work on seeing God as God really is, and dong that involves also seeing creation as it really is. We need to see everything in its true relationship with God, rather than in its false relationship to us. And of course by “seeing” it is implied that we start living in the truth and treating everything as it truly is in relationship to God, not as it might affect us. There are many ways to do that, and the classical Christian disciplines of fasting, prayer, scripture reading, going to church, etc. are helpful for many people. Other people might need to try something else, but the important thing is that we start seeing things and living life as it really is: without us as the center, but rather with God as the center. Freeing ourselves from the center of the universe is indeed liberating.
So, as we start to see God as God really is and ourselves as we really are and the rest of creation as it really is, what we are doing is actually becoming like God in at least one aspect, because God always sees the truth. It’s all grace, so eventually God will give us a glimpse of Godself as God really is, but God knows that we just can’t handle the truth yet. God is waiting for us to grow to the point that God can safely show us the truth without completely shattering us. At some point in eternity (which encompasses all points), God will be revealed to us, and “we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is”. AMEN