“Live Small” (Baccalaureate Sermon 5/18/13)

Tonight’s baccalaureate sermon on Mark 14: 3-9. I’m going to tell you the opposite of pretty much everything everyone else is going to tell you this weekend. You have probably already heard and will hear again tomorrow that you are the best and the brightest, that it’s your job to go out there and make the world a better place, that you are the leaders now and it’s time to take the helm.  You will be told that the sky is the limit and your dreams should be big.  You will be told to make something of yourself – especially through your professional accomplishments.  You will be told to enjoy the places your lives will take you – especially when they are far away, glamorous, unexpected, and can earn you more money.  You will be told, as you have been so many times already, that the impressiveness of your résumé is how you are measured and valued. I’m not going to tell you those things.  Because you are UVA people and because I know that you will do big, amazing, impressive, world-bettering things no matter what we say to you.  It’s part of why you are here to begin with.  You are high-achieving, motivated, conscientious.  You don’t need encouragement to be who you already are. But you probably need a lot of encouragement to consider living small. I don’t mean miserly, shut-in, cut-off, or inhospitable.  I don’t mean afraid and cowering.  Just small.  Humble.  In proportion.  Manageable. Close to the ground and centered around the people, places, and things you really mean to have at the center of your...

“Praise, Palms, Silence, Stones” (Worship 3/24/13)

Praise, Palms, Silence, Stones Luke 19: 28-40  (Palm Sunday) Here’s the thing about English majors:  we believe in metaphors.  I don’t just mean we like them or appreciate them.  I mean we believe in them.  In Franz Kafka’s story, The Metamorphosis, when we read about Gregor Samsa waking up one morning to find that he has transformed into a giant cockroach, we are physically unable to sit back from the story and analyze it “as if” he’s a cockroach.  We don’t want to talk about the person who “thinks” he’s a cockroach.  We want to go deeper:  what does it feel like and how did he know and will his family accept him if he opens his bedroom door?  We accept the premise – the metaphor – and everything else follows from there. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. When Jesus gets to Jerusalem, the place he’s been headed since the beginning, he sends disciples to procure a colt.  He rides the colt into town, amidst a throng of cheering, palm branch-waving people.  The crowd is throwing down cloaks on the road for his colt to walk on.  The excitement builds and the crowd starts shouting out about the miracles and wonders they have seen.  They reach back to the Psalms to praise him, saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19: 38; Psalm 118: 26). I imagine this scene as just shy of chaos.  The full press of crowds, the inner circle of disciples thrilled with the reception, thinking they are finally all getting the recognition they deserve, people shouting over...

“In Which Jesus Gives a Flying Fig” (Worship 3/3/13)

Sermon on Luke 13: 1-9   |  3 March 2013 – Lent 3 Apparently fig trees are like the scrappy underdogs of the tree world.  They have “aggressive root systems” that do whatever they have to do in order to find water and nutrients in the rocky, arid Middle Eastern soil where they grow wild.  These aggressive roots have a strong need for groundwater and will find it deep down, if it isn’t readily available from rainfall or surface water.   Fig trees can tolerate drought and make do in nutritionally poor soil, though they have been cultivated since ancient times and thrive with just a little tending (Wikipedia, “Common Fig” entry as of 3/1/13). If fig trees wrote psalms, you could imagine one of them writing Psalm 63:  O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Psalm 63: 1).  I can make do with this rocky, dry, marrowless soil, but, God, I could really use you right about now.  I am holding on for dear life.  Can you come by here? Don’t you think the fig tree wanted to bear fruit? The one that Jesus tells about in the parable.  It had been fruitless for 3 years and though the tree’s owner wanted to get rid of it, the gardener intervened.  The gardener said, Give me a year with it.  See what happens when I dig up this hard, dry, compacted soil and add some fertilizer.  Wait another year and see what happens (Luke 13:6-8). This...

“Mama Jesus or Jesus Is My Chicken” (Worship 2/24/13)

Mama Jesus Or Jesus Is My Chicken Luke 13: 31-35   I am completely fine with it if all you walk away with tonight is the thought that Jesus is your chicken. It’s a gift from Jesus himself, this image of him as a mother hen and us as his baby chicks in need of protection.  It’s an exclamation of longing, Jesus’ longing for us to come to him, to nestle into the warm safe place under his wing.  Why don’t we use this divine chicken language more often? He’s talking with his disciples and a few Pharisees approach to warn him that Herod wants to kill him.  Jesus says, Go tell that fox Herod that I am busy casting out demons today and tomorrow and on the third day, too.  But then I’m on my way from here (Luke 13: 31-33).  Does that sound familiar to you – “third day”?  It’s supposed to.  It’s for us, the readers, and it’s supposed to remind us that Jesus was crucified and then, on the third day, resurrected.  It’s a way of saying that Herod’s plan will eventually work – but so will God’s.  The third day is when the story makes sense and God has the final word. Anyway, Jesus tells the Pharisees that that old fox Herod will just have to wait for that day and while he’s in the middle of going over all the days and his plans for prophecy and healing, he mentions that he’ll be killed in Jerusalem eventually.  And then, at the mere mention of the name Jerusalem, he completely sidetracks himself, like a...

“Against the Self-Made Man…Or Woman” (Sunday 2/17/13)

Against the Self-Made Man…or Woman Luke 4: 1-13   There is no such thing as a self-made man.  Or woman. I hope you won’t tune me out.  I hope you won’t chalk this one up to “unrealistic preacher stuff” and let yourself off the hook.  I also hope that what I’m about to say will help you give yourself a break and help make your life more interesting. This ultra-American idea of the person who is “self-made” can be inspiring.  He pulled himself up by his own bootstraps…He came from nothing and now he owns a company that employs 5,000 people…His grandfather used to be a janitor at that club and now he’s a member.  The self-made person is supposed to have come from nothing (usually meaning no money, no social connections) and worked hard and been promoted all based on his own hard work and ingenuity.  The self-made person is supposed to show us that if he can do it, so can we.  No one is barred from success – you just have to work long and hard enough to attain it.  Look at this guy! Depending on your family, your schools, and your temperament, you may have been weaned on the self-made myth.  I suspect that because you are here at UVA, you’ve at least heard an ample amount of self-made talk, whether or not you fully embrace it.  And before I go any further, let me say that there is a substantial strain of this in my own family history:  my dad, who grew up in a sharecropping family, was the first in his family to...

Three Essential Prayers: Wow (Sunday 2/10/13 – Transfiguration)

Three Essential Prayers: Wow Luke 9: 28-36   I didn’t intend to end our Three Essential Prayers series on Transfiguration Sunday but it was fortuitous when things turned out that way.  There aren’t many better examples in scripture of the perfect moment for a “wow” prayer.   Today’s the day in the Christian calendar we call Transfiguration Sunday, named for the story we read tonight from Luke’s gospel.  For most Protestants it’s always the last Sunday before Lent begins, the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday.  And on this Sunday we catch a shining, blazing glimpse of Jesus right before we walk the long dusty road through the desert of Lent.  In some ways it’s the vision we can carry with us to sustain us during the temptations of the wilderness.   Jesus takes his inner circle of disciples – Peter, James, and John – high up on a mountain and undergoes a sort of metamorphoses.  Right before their eyes his appearance changes, his face begins to shine like the sun, and his clothes turn a bright, dazzling, impossible white.  As if that weren’t enough, suddenly Moses and Elijah appear and start talking with Jesus.  Never mind that, as my friend Jason points out, this was in the time before photographs:  the disciples recognize the key players immediately.   In fact, Peter recognizes that there is a certain significance to this event and quickly pipes up with an idea for capturing the moment.  Right over top of the conversation Jesus and the prophets are having, Peter blurts out, This is a great place to be.  I can make three huts,...
Weekly Meeting Schedule
  • Sunday
    • 11:00 Morning Worship at Wesley Memorial UMC (next door)
    • 5:00 Sunday Night Worship
  • Tuesday
    • 6:00 Tuesday Night Dinner
    • 6:45 Forum — Discussion/speaker on a variety of faith topics and student life.
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