Music & Liturgy

Proper 21, Matthew 21:23-32

Albert Schweitzer Organ Festival Hartford Eucharist & Hymn-Playing Competition | Trinity College Chapel

Jesus is one busy liturgist. Quite triumphantly he processes into Jerusalem on a donkey, signaling the beginning of a new kingdom with a different kind of king and ensuring the job security of palm frond vendors for centuries to come.

Then Jesus heads immediately to the temple courts where he overturns the money changers’ tables, a dramatic protest of how “the way we do things” has encumbered what worship ought to do. As soon as the money changers leave, the blind and the lame fill the space in the temple court as Jesus holds an impromptu service of public healing. Nearby children echo the earlier procession singing, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” as Jesus lays on hands and repeats, “Your faith has made you well” and the chief priests grow increasingly indignant. Continue reading “Music & Liturgy”

I love Jesus, but…

Gladys Hardy lives in Austin, Texas. She’s in her nineties, she enjoys walking around the mall, and Gladys loves Rudy’s Country Store BBQ. But Gladys is best known for her occasional calls in to The Ellen DeGeneres Show. On her first call into Ellen, Gladys was in the middle of telling a story when she paused and said, “Listen, I’ll be honest with you: I love Jesus, but I drink a little.” The crowd, along with Ellen, erupted in laughter and a daytime television legend was born.

Continue reading “I love Jesus, but…”

Heroes and Villains, Part II

The 14th Sunday after Pentecost


Villains have always captivated me. I grew up admiring villains like Jafar, Severus Snape, and the Joker. All eccentric, well-dressed men—this might be something to bring up with my psychologist. Nevertheless, I love a good villain.

And what makes a good villain? Well first, as I’ve mentioned, being well-dressed never hurts—consider Cruella de Vil in those fabulous furs and the Wicked Witch of the West in that slimming black getup, gurl yes. But the best villains also have backstories that explain their villainy. They lost family members in a tragic accident, they lost their livelihoods, or they fell in a vat of acid. Their stories complicate either/or notions of good and evil and make for some compelling stories.

If villains misbehave for no other reason than to misbehave, they come off as one-dimensional, boring, and unrealistic. Luckily for us, our world is full of realistic villains with nuanced backstories and loads of self-justifying rhetoric.

Continue reading “Heroes and Villains, Part II”


13th Sunday after Pentecost

This sermon originally appeared on Sermons That Work.

Prudence Crandall may sound like the name of a character in a Jane Austen novel, but Prudence Crandall was a real-life force of nature in 19th Century New England. Crandall started a boarding school for girls in Canterbury, Connecticut, passionate about raising educated women. One day she received an application from a young African American girl named Sarah Harris. Crandall admitted Harris, creating the first integrated classroom in the United States.

Continue reading “Pivoting”

Suede Elbow Patches of Great Style

Proper 17A

Before I begin, I want to make sure you hear that you are seen and loved just as you are. If you are trans, gay, a lesbian, bi, struggling with depression, an alcoholic, divorced, nerdy, overweight, messy, whatever it is that someone has made you wrongfully feel a sense of shame or of being excluded, this is a community in which you need to hear that, you are seen and loved just as you are. Turn to a neighbor and say, “You are seen and loved just as you are.”

God loves you not in spite of anything but because of everything.

I could stop there, but you know I won’t. Continue reading “Suede Elbow Patches of Great Style”

Oncoming Traffic

Proper 11A

One night when my dad, Rick, and his brother, Denny, were younger, they stayed out way past curfew. Around 2 a.m. they stumbled into the house, and as they closed the front door they noticed a light coming from upstairs. Suddenly, they could hear what they describe as a “thundering herd,” my grandmother, marching in their direction. Denny darted into the den, and my grandmother saw my dad standing there as guilty as ever. A moment later, while Grandma was giving my dad the business, Denny emerged from the den stripped down to his tighty-whities. Denny scratched his eyes, let out a big yawn and said, “Boy Rick, it’s really late. Are you just now getting home?” To this day, Denny wears his trickster status as a badge of pride, and we love him for it, even when those tricks come at our expense.

Continue reading “Oncoming Traffic”

Spray-painting the Cat

In celebration of Amazon buying Whole Foods for fourteen billion dollars, this morning drones will deliver free-trade-wine-saturated organic communion wafers directly to your seats.

“It’s great to be an American,” to quote Randy Newman.

Amazon announced their intention to buy Whole Foods on Friday. On the same day in Oakland, California, the Museum of Capitalism officially opened for business The museum is, perhaps, not what you think it might be. This free attraction presents capitalism as if we were looking back on it in a world where the capitalism was no more. Exhibits include artifact Target and Wal-Mart bags (made to look aged) and an interactive exhibit that walks you on a treadmill through a virtual garment assembly line in China. I encourage you to visit the Capitalism Museum, and when you do, be sure to stop by the gift shop.

I’m not joking, there is a gift shop.

It is fascinating to imagine that capitalism—a system that is such a given in our lives, a system that is adored by many and embraced by most all of us in the form of our consumeristic tendencies—could ever be a thing of the past. So many of our cultural values are derived from our role as consumers.

Even our concept of hospitality is affected by consumerism. People of other times, other cultures, and different geographies have viewed hospitality as a means of survival, but we tend to think of hospitality as a necessity of etiquette and a source of entertainment. And in most of our hospitable interactions, there is an exchange of goods: dinner guests are generally expected to offer something like a bottle of wine, wedding guests are expected to pick something off the registry at Crate & Barrel, and overnight guests are supposed to be “courteous” and not spraypaint the host family’s cat.


Continue reading “Spray-painting the Cat”