1/27, 2/3, and 2/10: Three Sermons on Beginnings

It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.
— Leonardo da Vinci
The Great Library of Alexandria rebuilt and restored between 1986 and 2002. The original was built under the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and housed at its height between 40,000 and 400,000 scrolls. It served as the center of intellectual life in the anceint world. I took this photo in June 2000, two years before its completion.

The Great Library of Alexandria rebuilt and restored between 1986 and 2002. The original was built under the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and housed at its height between 40,000 and 400,000 scrolls. It served as the center of intellectual life in the anceint world. I took this photo in June 2000, two years before its completion.

Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10, Luke 4:14-21

Jeremiah 1:4-10, Psalm 71-1-6, and Luke 4:21-30

Isaiah 6:1-13 and Luke 5:1-11

Upon Further Reflection

Dedicated to the twelve men and women formally seeking a new faith home in Bethel

Storytelling is an essential human activity – it’s why we binge on Netflix and why there will always be libraries full of books we can’t help but devour.  It’s why healthy churches are defined as places where regular people share their faith through story.  It’s why healing for people who have endured trauma, like war or violence or separations means storytelling – going back and interpreting the events of our lives to master our narratives and make meaning from what would otherwise feel random, meaningless, and chaotic.  Story reorients us, reorders us.  I can’t say this enough.  Change, transformation, empathy, surviving, arising, gathering – it all happens through story and for us as Christians, through one very precious story. 

The stories we have heard recently in worship, diverse as they are, share a common image: public interpretation of the scripture.  Reading our common stories then making sense of them in terms of the people gathered.  The Word is filtered through their needs. Jesus unrolls the scroll of Isaiah to read scripture to a crowd as the inauguration to his journey, a journey to rebuild a people .  In another verse, we have the story of the priest Ezra, returned from Babylonian exile, reading God’s Word within the gates of Jerusalem: "This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people wept when they heard the words of the Torah. Again, this was a moment of inauguration to begin rebuilding a temple and a people. With this as well, we heard Jeremiah’s commission.  God said: I have put my words in your mouth. Jesus commandeers a boat from which to preach and tell stories to eager followers.   And this coming Sunday, he will offer his Sermon on the Plain interpreting the heart of biblical teaching. It is all storytelling and story-making. It will remind the people of the story of Moses and the commandments.

These are moments when the people are revitalized, grounded, and reborn.  As my mother put it in conversation last week, we are reconstituted in the Word.  These are stories of where we have come from, where we are going, and the promises that will get us there.  And we are called to respond by telling our own stories: love, loss, failure, triumph, doubt, hope, and resilience. Through it all, the Word shines through our words, binding us as One in Christ.

This Week's Sermon: The E Word

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22, 4:1-30, 5:1-11

Suggested Scripture Readings from Brian McLaren's We Make the Road by Walking with my own additions.

Sermon Notes
Thank you for having me as your guest last weekend, St. Mary's Episcopal Church of Barnstable, Massachusetts. Although in my sermon, I poke fun at the caricatures of our denominations, I was so glad to be with you for a morning, anonymous and nurtured.  


I used A Shy Person's Guide to the Practice of Evangelism as inspiration for this week's message.  It was published in 2004 by the Massachusetts Diocese of the Episcopal Church.  Want your own copy?  Click here.


My reflections on Christian community are drawn in part from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's classical work,  Life Together.  Click to link.