God’s Peace and blessings to you all!

It’s a rare and surprising delight when I come across a sermon that could be considered real art.  Recently, I was blessed enough to hear a sermon from my colleague and classmate Justin Gibson as he preached at Candler School of Theology at Emory University.  His text was Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, for which you can find the text HERE.

I was so blown away by the caliber of his writing and artistry of his imagery that I had to ask if he’d be willing to preach it again for me so I could record it and share it with others.  Thankfully, he said “yes!”  And I’m thrill to be able to share it here.  Here’s a sermon from a man that has fallen in love with a Lady.  She’s a seductress that has more year behind her than we could count, but she’s all the more elegant for them.  So I invite you to sit back and enjoy.  Hear how Justin follows this fine Lady through her exploits and conquests, her inspirations and heartbreaks, and perhaps hear how she’s calling to you as well.  God’s Peace! (In this audio, Justin begins with the text from Proverbs, then follows with the sermon.  The text of his sermon is below.)

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

RCL Trinity Sunday Year C

A dramatic monologue: Or the Mediterranean homesick blues

Mother wisdom. No, lady wisdom. No, my lover wisdom. Come to me she calls. She bids me to leave my seat in the cave. The puppets on the wall have never whispered such a call in my ear. “Lay down the shackles and come to me.”

I can’t hear shit in this cave, this prison, this cell. The shadows on the wall have been droning on for years. The same story the same movement. Sweat drips down my forehead. The perspiration of desperation as Punch forgets his baby in the car again. Punch and his old lady fighting in the wal-mart. The neighbors call the cops but punch takes his attitude up with the badge. Punch and Judy give way to helmet bearing Cowboys, Birds, beasts and pirates. The oblong ball goes back and forth. Shadows on the wall. My head has been strapped tight for so long I can’t remember.

Punch again, oblong ball, who done it and what for. Shadows on the wall. A sound comes from the street corner, soft, glowing, irresistible. Shadows on the wall pull me back to the never ending garbage that passes the day. Outside? Who has ever been outside? I came here on purpose ten years ago. The sign said Girls, Girls, Girls but it was only shadows, these damn shadows on the wall.

I used to know a girl. One that gave me love. One that made my life complete. She was no shadow on the wall. She was flesh, she was real. Shadows on the wall meant love by a candle. Fortune came between us. She rolled her wheel right between us and tore away the love that grew from the place where shadow and light dance. That thin spot on the wall at the edge of shadow’s land. That thin line before you get to the light of destiny, the light of truth and the light of reality. Nobody sees the thin line they always either see the black or the white. That thin line exists but for an instant and then the lights go black. Did I ever see the line?

Fortune prevailed and I made my way to the slums where the promise of putting “los ombilogos juntos” as they say held no more thought than my head stuck in a vice. Squeezed and restrained I spent years plotting nothing. No Old Boy motives kept my thoughts sharp. No shawshank redemption to plot my escape only shadows and monotony and a headache.

“Come away my love” the whisper again from the street below. A re-run for the 300 time. “follow me and I will show you the real light of day” I can’t take it anymore.  Get this headset off of me. My jaw aches like it has been in a dentist’s tourniquet for eternity. The window now bears my attention as I see bright light for the first time in a decade of drunken stupor. Busy, busy, busy. The street bustles in the mid day sun when a siesta should be in store.  A weary glance and squinted eyes but no match in the phonic Pictionary game of find that voice. Who’s that lady? Where is that lady? That sexy lady. The recliner whispers but it sounds like a fart in my ear. “Come back old friend the seat is still warm.” The corner of the street catches my eye. Sitting on a stump. The old stump of Simeon Stylites who crusted his butt to the top for damn near the length of the walk through the wilderness by the Jehovahists. Flowing white dress, sunglasses, cigarette hanging from her lips she blew out the dust of the ascetics and motioned to me with the flick of her ashes.

Hot damn she lives! That be the woman and I be heading out the door. I kicked the light box on the way out and the old world went black. By the time I hit the ground floor her feet were back in the dust. She slowly took a drag. Scarf on her head, incognito, she is the queen of Casablanca. Closest thing to Ingrid Bergman that you’ve ever seen. How long have you been here? We said no questions. Well here is looking at you kid.

Some moments are longer than others. Standing breath to breath with the Lady was as long as eternity is short. The smooth swagger of the woman as old as time and fine as aged wine. She was Diotima of old, teaching Socrates the philosophy of love. Lady wisdom who shared Solomon’s bed as well as his head. Her evil twin Folly battled for the hearts of men. Hagia Sophia, Hokma, Logos, Spirit, eternal mind, Lady Philosophy of Boethius’ cell. She shared the final cup of wine before he became Theodoric’s ornament hanging on a spike. The Lady, Goddess Athena, who put the curve in Odysseus’s back and the cane in his hand. She is a goddess if I ever seen one and I would follow this peripatetic beauty to Troy and back if she but said the words.

Listen O Man, I have been in this since the beginning. Every inspiration has been touched by my lips. Mountains and seas have heard my voice. The one above you and me has doted on me like a china doll in a cabinet. No, like the apple of a daddy’s eye. My muses whispered in a soft voice to the blind bard. Shakespeare sat with my pen in his hand. The west Texas sunset displayed the rouge of my cheeks. Wild waters, gales, and Pompeii resting in the dust all know the power of my voice. Ansel Adams saw me in the dawn shining on Capitan and Woody Guthrie hitched a ride on my train. I came down from heaven like a dove and rested on the shoulders of the Son of Man. A thousand books are but a drop from my bucket and a million galaxies are but sand strewn across the sky.

Listen O Man, let the shadows dance on the wall and let a child’s play things be as such. Come away with me.

Who am I that you are mindful of me? What is man? I look to the window that held my head in chains. And then to the cool drag of the Teacher beside me. She has been tramping on the road for a while. Should I stay or should I go?

I blinked and she was different than before. A western frontiersman in a Sergio Leone film. You know I been riding this plain for a while. Bout two towns back I got into an argument with young Justin Μαρτυρεω. Funny kid. He had some big idea but missed the point. We parted company in an amiable way. He was headed towards the coast but I needed to be in the wide open spaces. Stars, rot gut whiskey and coffee in the morrow. Extra saddle if you’re interested. Corn dodgers and salt pork waiting in the camp.

5’oclock shadows that can’t be groomed creep from the place that held my inattention for so long. Lady Wisdom was no more. Dazed and confused I sat down in the dust. The echo of the poet sounded in my ear “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” Dust, the shadow of the day. Choking the living like the tuberculosis that the snake contracted from all those years on his belly. Dust. Shadow. Am I anything but these two? The Llano ain’t nothing but dust by day and the darkest shadows by night. What is man? Forgotten dust and ill kept shadows.

Through the crowd I but glimpse the blink of my Goddess moving out of the city. The poet again whispers softly, “April is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain… I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

I said to myself because the shadows of closing time had everyone attended to, “I will never get out of this world alive. How faire thee my shoes? Faire thee well? O Master, whose feet I swell. One o’ these days, an’ it won’t be long, call my name an’ I’ll be gone. Fare thee well, O Honey, fare thee well.

Sitting down in my aching pain with my love so clear and my heart that’s been slain. Lay Lady lay with your head on my chest. Lay lady lay on my tattooed breast. Be a lady always to me. Through my tears on the ground beside my wounded knee. Ere go my baby, ere go I. Till I lay down, right by her side. Lady’s rouge tints the West Texas red dirt. Wisdom in death and Wisdom in birth. Fare thee well shadows on the wall. Deck’s made of 51 and the moves of the canon ball. Fare thee well Tecumseh valley. Fare thee well. The road lies ahead of me. Raul Duke and the great white boat. Wisdom wait up I’m coming with you.

This is the segment in which I explain everything that is now resting on your face. Lady Wisdom is not Jesus Christ unless you are a church father in which case that is exactly who she is. She is not the bearer of practical advice and wisdom is not wrapped up in words and ideas alone. She is something of a hypostatic notion and influenced by culture since culture is what she is. She co-creates in the minds of man and in the torrents of the sea, the heights of the mountains peak and the smile of a child. She is intellectually erotic and dependent on no man. She calls to humanity in who she delights and begs to be listened to. She is the philosopher who comes to town looking for students. She is freedom from the cave and insight into the mundane. Spirit is inspiration and wisdom is wrapped up in everything that makes life intelligible and beautiful. Lady Wisdom is often our unopened drawer. The veiled beauty on a wedding night. The things that are begging to be explored. Our attitude should echo DMB and sing “Open up my head and let me out.”Amen


God’s Peace and blessings to you all!  Alleluia, Christ is risen!!!

Here is my sermon from this past weekend’s Easter Vigil.  You can find the lectionary readings HERE.

Today is the day we celebrate a God that is too big for any little box we can create; whether that box goes by the name of hell, death, race, politics, church, or anything else we can create.  If God is that big, let our “Alleluia” which proclaims that God be no lessing amazing!

God’s Peace and blessings to you all!  Hopefully appropriate for this time of Holy Week, here is a sermon I preached this morning on the text of 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Hannah’s Hymn.  You can find the text HERE.  With all that we see in the news right now, it begs the question, for those who are oppressed: how do we respond as God is calling us to?

God’s Peace and blessings to you all!  Here is my sermon from this past Sunday for the Fifth Sunday of Lent in which I address the pain of doubt and transition in the church, faith, and life; or as Jesus tells us, the death of the wheat seed.  You can find the lectionary readings for the day HERE.

Look familiar?


This week, in our daily lectionary, we covered the often abused and overused passage of John 3:16.  As it so happens, I was assigned to preach on this very text for my preaching class at Emory this week.  So, I figured I’d share, since this has historically been a very difficult passage for me, having grown up in the South’s Bible Belt where this little passage is used far more as a threat and means of coercion rather than an invitation.

The passage I was assigned picks up with the last two verses of Wednesday’s lectionary and goes through Thursday’s reading.  Context, after all, can be everything:

John 3:13-21

13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

So for anyone that’s been hurt, offended, or just tired of this little passage, here’s how I’m trying to come to grips with it after all these years.

God’s Peace and blessings to you all!  Here are my sermons from this past Sunday for the Transfiguration.  While I am preaching for my particular parish of Holy Spirit as it prepares for a capital campaign for a much needed expansion of our building, this is a story about the spiritual health of any parish as we move from prayer to generosity.  How will you make your parish community a “sepulcher of stories,” a “tabernacle of tales?”  For all the Elijahs we have in our parishes, we need to assure them that we will be with them until the end.  And for all our young Elishas, we need to keep encouraging them to chase after all the Elijahs we have and ask that most important question, “What is our story?”

You can find the lectionary readings for this Sunday HERE.

8:30 Service:

10:45 Service:

God’s Peace!

Samuel and Eli

God’s Peace and blessings to you all!  Here are my sermons from this past Sunday for the Second Sunday after Epiphany in which we explore what it means to be “called.”  You can find the lectionary readings for this Sunday HERE.

The big question I have for all of us to consider is this: If we are called, as individuals and a community, how can we respond to the very justified cynicism that we meet out in the world today that would ask, paraphrasing Nathanael in our Gospel reading, “Can anything good come out of the Church?”

Sermon for 8:30 Service

Sermon for 10:45 Service

#blacklivesmatter Demonstration at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology

In response to the further pain and grief  as a result of the Grand Jury’s decision this past week in NY, here are my sermons from this Sunday.  You can find the lectionary readings HERE.

How do we know when there is systemic abuse?  When those that would “make attempts at accountability are accused of being aggressive or arrogant” by those who are in positions of authority.  Systemic abuse is not just a black and white issue, nor is it isolated in singular institutions.  What we are experiencing now is a symptom of a far bigger problem.  We find it in national government, local governments, and even within our own Church and dioceses.  It is a sad fact that, even in our own Church, for those that would speak out against abuse, they are further abused.

So we are left to wonder, for any example of systemic abuse, how can we as a baptized people respond?  How can we offer words of “comfort” like Isaiah without being hypocritical?   What would it be like to be that voice in the wilderness?  Or, more importantly, what would it be like to respond to that voice in the wilderness that is calling of us to be accountable? What follows are some of my thoughts on this matter.

8:30 Service

10:45 Service (in which I also explain the difference between the evangelical view of baptism and a sacramental one, that of “regeneration”)

Here are my sermons for Proper 27, from back on November 9.  You can find the Track 1 lectionary readings for this Sunday HERE.

8:30 Service, “The Twin Sisters of Compassion and Humility”

10:45 Service, “Turning Away from Insidious Idols”

Do you notice anything different about these two pictures?  Just take a moment and compare:

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 10.04.27 AMScreen Shot 2014-12-02 at 10.07.05 AMTo be sure we’re on the same page, the first photo has been doctored.  The second photo is the original.

The first photo is based on the hope that people stay the same.  The second photo is hoping that people can change.

But look even more closely:

The first photo is meant to prove a point.  The second photo is meant to prove a point.

The first photo is meant to elicit action.  The second photo is meant to elicit action.

The first photo is evidence of a deep-seated fear.  The second photo is evidence of a deep-seated fear.

The first photo, as you can see from the screen shot, came from Facebook.  It’s been circulating rather heavily on my newsfeed.  As you can see from the screenshot, people are all too happy to share it.  If you look it up and begin to scroll through the comments, you’ll find that only occasionally does someone point out that it’s a fake.  Sadly, the original poster goes so far as to disqualify even those few claims.

But, my friends, that first picture, doctored as it is, is the face of fear.  It is fear that hides behind “righteous anger,” even if that righteous cause has to be manufactured.  It’s still fear.  It’s the fear of people who have power and are afraid to loose it.  It’s the fear that things won’t always be the way they were.  It’s the fear that maybe something is fundamentally wrong, and maybe we share a part of that guilt.  In this instance, it’s a fear about race, but ultimately it’s a fear about the “other.”

Let me make this point perfectly clear: it’s a fear that each and every one of us shares as some point in our lives simply because we are human.  It is a fear of something or someone that is different from us.

What compounds this fear is the systemic abuse of power that has gone on for so long in this country, and the fear that maybe the “race issue” still hasn’t been solved.

But for this conversation to really move forward, for both sides to really start healing, we need to be talking about fear, not just race.  Racism, as prevalent as it still is today, is the symptom, not the illness.  Granted, as anyone who practices medicine would know, sometimes you have to treat the symptom in order to better treat the illness.  I’m not saying we should ignore the racism that is going on.  To do that would be to enable the denial that has allowed it to perpetuate thus far.  But what I’m talking about is the conversation and the healing that could happen beyond this.  The real healing that can happen among adults to make a better place for our children to grow up.

And that healing can start when we all admit this nasty little secret of ours.  That we are all afraid.  Some are afraid that they will be found out that they are in fact prejudiced and that they enjoy the power they hold over others.  This is the case for both sides, because even victims can victimize others. Some are afraid for their lives, or their children’s lives.  Some are afraid that they will loose the only world they’ve known.

But if there is to be healing, can we talk about the vulnerability of fear that we all share, not the anger that we’re using to hide it?

Here in Atlanta, what has been my home for my whole life, I know about the issues of prejudice that have made up this city.  As much as I love this city, the prejudice is there and it hurts.  It effects all of us.  But what frustrates me more than anything is when people try to address the prejudice that is so deep-seated here by claiming that it is only a black and white issue.  Again, it’s trying to focus on a single symptom, not the real illness underneath.  To focus on only one symptom, as prevalent as it may be, it allows the abuse of other prejudices to go unhindered.

For instance, here in Atlanta, many people want to highlight how African Americans have been victimized for so long.  This is true, and a sad fact it is.  In no way am I dismissing the generations worth of pain that Black Atlantans have had to endure.  My heart continues to break for the inhuman treatment they still have to endure.  Just take a walk through Peoplestown to see it.  But when we focus on only one group of people as victims, we do so at the cost of ignoring all the others.  Atlanta has a long history of prejudice that goes beyond the black/white issue.  If we’re going to focus just on the symptoms of prejudice, then let’s talk about the Jewish communities that have been persecuted in this city.  Or what about the anti-Catholic sentiments that run through our city’s history?  What about the recent exclusion of Muslims we see in the greater Metro area?  Or what of the prejudice and violence committed against the LGBTQ community, a violence committed by all races in this city?  What of the new ghettos we are forming in Atlanta to segregate the Latino populations, or the ever growing number of East Asian and Indian immigrants?  What about the African and African Caribbean immigrants that are not welcomed by the African American communities in our city?  What about the divides that have little to do with race, but more to do with class and economic distinctions?  What about the prejudice committed on the grounds of illness or disability?

This list of symptoms can go on and on and on….  It’s exhausting trying to address each and everyone one of them separately.

But maybe we don’t have to go after every individual head of this ugly hydra.  Maybe we can start addressing the illness, not just the symptoms.  Maybe we can talk about the underlying fear that we all share as human beings, rather than focusing only on the violence that has been a product of it.

I think we can do it.  I think we can have honest conversations about this ugly little secret that we all share.  I think we can each admit our own vulnerability, rather than pointing out someone else’s.  We can claim our own fear rather than letting others fear monger for the sake of their own publicity.  And then we can start the next step of the healing process: grief.  For some of us, we will have to grieve the shameful violence we’ve committed or allowed others to commit on our behalf.  For others, we can grieve the violence we’ve suffered at the hands of others.  For all of us, we can grieve the chances of a better future that we’ve lost so far.  But after we grieve, after we share these pains and tears, we can start to move on and make that better future a reality.  Doubtless it’s a future that most of us will never see.  But should we be so selfish as to ignore the hard work we can do now for the sake of others that will come after us?



April 2015
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RSS The Order’s Alleluia Garden

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