A Homily on a Crocodile, the Words of Christ, and our Belovedness



Deut 18:15-22

Psalm 111

Mark 1:21-28

This morning, I want to talk to y’all about an crocodile. Not just any crocodile, a very specific one, we’ll call him George. Growing up I developed a deep love for all things living and so in high school it became my goal to become a herpetologist, study reptiles and amphibians and travel the world seeing and studying all the reptiles I could find. I have since realized that that is not my calling, however, my love for all things living has not changed. Knowing this, a good friend of mine, two years ago, took me to the zoo in Boston for my birthday. We saw lions, and elephants, and peacocks roaming freely, it was Avery Flannery O’Connor like Then finally, she took me to the reptile house. I was like a kid in a candy store. Right in the middle of the reptile house we find George, an African dwarf crocodile. Our friend is about four feet long, and as we approach his enclosure he is restfully laying on a log, bathing himself in the the sunlight. The most interesting part of this part of the reptile house, however, was a small blond boy standing right in front of the glass of George’s enclosure. I didn’t think it was possible but he looked more excited to be there than I was. He was literally jumping up and down in excitement, or maybe in an attempt to see George as best he could. Much to this small excited boy’s chagrin, however, he finds George resting very still, which he found particularly boring. He turns to his parents and tells them that he wishes George would move, or do something…anything.  And finally, when the boy had finally had enough of George’s seeming lethargic attitude, he presses the entire side of his face agains the glass and yells “CAN YOU HEAR ME CROCODILE? ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING? WHY WON’T YOU MOVE?”

Our small blond friend has asked a very important, yet very simple question. Can you hear me? Are you listening.

Our old testament passage this morning tells us of an individual that will rise up with authority. “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” The Lord will put His words in his mouth.  He will make him to rule over the works of the Lords hands; He will put all things under his feet.

This man will command a great amount of authority through his words. So much authority that God says that any man that presumes to have this, but does not, will die.

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers and I will put my words in his mouth…

We meet this prophet in our gospel reading.

They went into Capernaum, and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers and I will put my words in his mouth

Jesus has just come back from his first struggle with the devil when he was tempted in the wilderness. He’s begun to announce the message that the kingdom of God is at hand. Now it’s the Sabbath, and as loyal Jews and worshippers of the God of Israel, it’s natural for Jesus and his followers to go to the service at the synagogue.

In the synagogue Jesus begins to teach and when he begins to speak, the crowd notices right away something very different about his teaching: ‘for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes’ (v.22).

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers and I will put my words in his mouth

The authority of Christ’s words is further demonstrated when a man with an unclean spirit approaches him.

And he cried out “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—The Holy one of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying “What is this? A new teaching with Authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers and I will put my words in his mouth

We are presented with a second interesting question here. What have you to do with us? You see, friends, the answer is everything.

What we have been presented with is THE gospel. Christ comes with authority in his words and with that authority cures the man with the unclean spirit, he vanquishes death. And this has everything to do with us. The authority of Christ, authority of the words of Christ, has vanquished death and has claimed you as his own as his beloved.

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers and I will put my words in his mouth

And so, Christ’s words are God’s words. God’s words are Christ’s words. He is the man whom even the winds and seas obey. He is the one that teaches as one having authority, and not as the scribes. He is the one that commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.

And this same christ speaks to you and I. And the words that are spoken to you are saying that you are no longer a man wondering the synagogue with an unclean spirit.

So, one of our two interesting questions are answered. What have you, Jesus, to do with us?

Everything, For God has risen up a prophet like you and has put his words in christ’s mouth. And his words have conquered sin and death and have vanquished the unclean spirit.

The second question, the one of our small blond friend to the crocodile must be answered for yourself.  Are you listening? Can you hear me? Are you listening to the words Christ has spoken to you; That you are no longer a man wondering the synagogue with an unclean spirit? Can you hear that Christ has called you beloved?


Jesus Christ, Deus Pro Nobis


Tomorrow, Christmas Day, ends the season of Advent. It is the day we have been waiting so patiently for, the day we celebrate the way of God into the far country. One of my Christmas traditions is to read the section, “The way of God into the far country,” in Volume 4.1 in Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. No other writing, besides the holy Athanasius, more beautifully describes the hope we find in the nativity. Two pages into this section is the most beautiful paragraph ever written in theology. I encourage you to read this with me and meditate on what it means that in the incarnation, in Jesus Christ, God is for us, Deus pro Nobis. I encourage you to meditate on what it means that God mad your situation His own.


The aspect of the grace of God in Jesus Christ in which it comes to man as the sinful creature of God freely, without any merit or deserving, and therefore from outside, from above– which is to say, from God’s standpoint, the aspect of His grace in which He does something unnecessary and extravagant, binding and limiting and compromising and offering Himself in relation to man by having dealings with him and making Himself his God. In the fact that God is gracious to man, all the limitations of man are God’s limitations, all his weaknesses, and more, all his perversities are His. In being gracious to to man in Jesus Christ, God acknowledges man; He accepts responsibility for his being and nature. He remains himself. He does not cease to be God. But he does not hold aloof. In being gracious to man in Jesus Christ He also goes into the far country, into the evil society of this being which is not God and against God. he does not shrink from him. He does not pass him by as did the priest and the Levite the man who had fallen amongst thieves. He does not leave him to his own devices. He makes his situation His own. 

Karl Barth CD IV.I §59.1 p. 158-159

I hope your Advent season comes to a beautiful close in the celebration of the coming of the Lord Christ tomorrow morning!

Blessings y’all!

Charlottesville and St. Mary

I preached the Wednesday after the events at Charlottesville. I was still raw and hurt. Here are the words I spoke, I hope they brought peace.

O noble Virgin, truly you are greater than any other greatness. For who is your equal in greatness, O dwelling place of God the Word? To whom among all creatures shall I compare you, O Virgin? You are greater than them all. O Ark of the New Covenant! You are the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides.

I’m home sick. I have been for quite some time. Recently the state of Virginia held a short video contest for Virginians to show why they love Virginia. The winner of this contest made a video called “Dear Virginia.” The video beautifully captures the adventures of a small girl in Virginia and how she eventually had to leave and then her eventual return home. I’m not ashamed to admit that I may have teared up a little watching this video, seeing places from my childhood pass before me, telling a story very similar to my own.

I remember roaming the coastal woods of Virginia, the smell of coniferous trees and honey suckle, and the feeling of pine needles between my toes. I remember climbing her mountains; one in particular comes to mind, Cold Mountain. In the middle of the George Washington National forrest, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lies a mountain called Cold Mountain . As you hike through the thick forrest, what emerges before you is a treeless mountain top. It is as if you have been suddenly transported to a Scottish hillside. I remember going to the beaches on the eastern shore where wild horses roam free. I remember surfing the local’s beaches with hair past my shoulders.

Virginia is and always will be my home. So you can understand my despondency when individuals embodying the spirit of the ati-christ, proclaiming a blasphemous and heretical doctrine of white supremacy marched on Charlottesville.

So what do we do? What do we do when men like this march in our home? What to we do when evil men march against our black brothers and sisters, in our own home? What do we do when an evil such as this takes refuge in our home proclaiming itself to be its rightful heirs? What do we do?

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Mary the Virgin. And I believe that Mary can help us answer these questions. Mary’s response to these questions is two fold. First, she condemns this evil outright, she condemns it as evil and contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Second she presents us with a hope in the face of this evil. She condemns it and she presents us with a hope.

In our epistle reading we hear these words;

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”

We all know the story. The angel Gabriel proclaims to Mary “”Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.  “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;  and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”” And the angle proclaimed to the shepherds, “For today in the city of David there has been borne FOR YOU a savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Christ the Lord takes on human flesh so that he may redeem this flesh, so that he may redeem ALL flesh. To march against people of color is to march against christ himself, for it is Christ that took on their flesh and redeemed it.

Mary bears God in flesh, Mary become the Ark of the New Covenant, clothed with purity instead of gold! She is the Ark in which is found the golden vessel containing the true manna, that is, the flesh in which divinity resides. Through this we are no longer slaves, but sons and daughters; and if a son, and if a daughter, then an heir through God. We cannot claim supremacy, we cannot march against someone else. Mary condemns this for she gave birth to God who took on all flesh, so that all are redeemed so that all may cry out Abba father.

In response to evil taking refuge in our home, Mary not only condemns it but she give us hope.

You are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through god.

It is through the same incarnation that condemns this evil that we also find our hope.

“He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

The Lord remembers his promise to Israel. And through Mary, Christ is born and we find hope. Mary Becomes the ark of the new covenant and we find our hope.

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.

Mary becomes the ark of the new covenant,
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Mary becomes the ark of the new covenant
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
Mary becomes the Ark of the New covenant
Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned .
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned .


Hail Mary, Full of Grace


For that fair blessed mother-maid,

Whose flesh redeem’d us, that she-cherubin,

Which unlock’d paradise, and made

One claim for innocence, and disseizèd sin,

Whose womb was a strange heaven, for there

God clothed Himself, and grew,

Our zealous thanks we pour.  As her deeds were

Our helps, so are her prayers; nor can she sue

In vain, who hath such titles unto you.

Our gospel passage this morning begins with Mary making her way to Elizabeth’s house. The Angel Gabriel had just visited St. Mary. “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary is told that she will be the Mother of God. And with this acclamation given to her, she “went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah.”

Mary comes to the Prophet Elizabeth’s house. I call her a prophet because as soon as Mary enters her home she is filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth is given knowledge, divine inspired knowledge, that could not come from any human agency. She cried out loudly in joy and exultation that Mary is to be the mother of the Lord. And so Elizabeth bows in Mary’s presence, crying out:

Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?

The older honors the younger. And the older, the prophet, is the first to call Mary Blessed.

Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord

The Magnificat is Mary’s response to this. And this morning I want to look at the magnificat to answer a question “Why do we look to Mary?”

Mary’s magnificat can be divided into three sections. The first section is Mary’s cry of praise and adoration to God for his favor to her and and all people.

My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.

For the Mighty One has done great things for me; holy is his name. His mercy is on those who fear him in every generation

My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. Mary’s act of worship is her act of obedience, her act of acceptance of her own unique vocation. It is an act of praise for God’s great mercies. And this act is also an expression of her joy and wonder at the fact that God has chosen her. Mary then expands this to everyone, His mercy is on those who fear him in every generation. The same God that has chosen me, the same God that is coming into the world, has chosen every generation.

The second part of the magnificat sets out the values of the kingdom of God. It answers the question “Why Mary?”

He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away.

The first become last, and the last become first. It is not the headwaiter that knew where the wine had come from, it was the servants. It is the Samaritan woman at the well that spreads the gospel to Samaria. And it is a unimportant woman from Nazareth that becomes the mother of God

The Final section of the magnificat is concerning God’s promises being fulfilled.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,

according to the promise he made our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants for ever.

God has chosen Mary, and through her the savior will come. In this God is merciful, God remembers his promises to Israel. God redeems his people in choosing Mary.

So, Why do we look to Mary?

The Magnificat is a proclamation of Mary’s obedience and it is a proclamation Mary’s Joy. It is also a proclamation of the values of the kingdom of God. And finally it is a proclamation that God is faithful to his promises.

We look to Mary because of the Magnificat, because the message of the magnificat is Mary’s message.

To look to Mary is to see God’s original plan for humanity. In her we see the obedience we are called to. Mary shows us how to respond to God’s redemptive action in our lives. Mary shows us that the proper response to being chosen is obedience and joy. Mary, thus reveals to us the personal quality of God’s love as well as the personal quality of a faithful human response.

To look to Mary is to see how God redeems humanity. He does so through a lowly woman from Nazareth. It is through humanity that God redeems humanity. He takes on this flesh of sinful humanity to fulfill his promise to Israel.

To look to Mary is to see, without a shadow of a doubt that God is faithful to his people, that because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his lovingkindness never fails.

Thus, the closer we come to Mary the better we see the splendor of God’s redeemed humanity and the beauty of redeemed life. God chose to take flesh in the woman who had found favor in God’s eyes and had responded to that favor with a full “yes.” This response was not only an initial agreement but a lifelong obedience to God’s redemptive presence. There is no other human being in whom we can see so fully what it means to receive the love of God who loves us so much that he sent his own Son.

Most importantly of all, we look to Mary because Mary constantly keeps before us that most intimate relationship with her son. Her complete obedience, radical humility, and unwavering faithfulness show us what a life of following Jesus truly can be. It is impossible to encounter Mary without immediately being led to Jesus. In her, faith finds its purest expression. She is the woman of faith, who always points away from herself to her Son, the source of our redemption.

Seminary, a Benedictine Monk, and Flannery O’connor

It is finished. τετελεσται. This week I completed the work necessary to complete my Masters of New Testament and my Masters of Theology. It has been an interesting journey. It never ended up being exactly what I expected. I suspect, however, it was what God thought I needed. I was blessed to have, as my final assignment, an opportunity to visit a Benedictine Monastery. In many ways this journey was characteristic of my journey in seminary, almost allegorically. So, with that, here is my story:

“The Misfit” and I

I arrived at the monastery around eight in the morning, about an hour before mass. It was a cool, rainy morning. It was not burdensome or violent rain, nor was it the kind of rain that would keep one from going outside. It was the type of rain that caused the air to be wet and appear like fog. It was a mist that shrouded most of the monastery in an opaque haze. Even the church, with its steeple rising above the tree line, was shrouded in mist until one was right in front of elaborate oak doors. It was a quintessential spring morning in the Appalachians, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I was greeted by Brother Isidore. He was exactly what one would think of when one thinks of a monk. He was wonderfully awkward but had a charm that is somehow unique to those who have accepted these Holy Orders, and yet, he also had a presence that, in a humble way, displayed his wisdom and spiritual maturity. He walked  me around the small monastery, pointing out the church, the refectory, the priory, and the guest house. All the while, he walked with his hood on because, as he said to me with a smile, “I don’t want to get my hair wet.”

After Brother Isidore left me, I took my own look around the guest house. I found the most comfortable couch I could find, in front of the largest window I could find. I pulled out my small copy of the Rule of St. Benedict and began reading. It was not long thereafter, however, that it was time for mass. I walked through the mist to the church. I had been to Roman Catholic mass before. It’s a weird feeling to sit through this liturgy. It’s beautiful and worshipful and yet, in the end I cannot sit at the same table as the brothers and sisters with whom I had just chanted: “In union with the whole Church we honor Mary, the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God. We honor Joseph, her husband, the apostles and martyrs Peter and Paul, Andrew, and all the saints. May their merits and prayers grant us your constant help and protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.” So, I left hungry.

I left the church to spend more time with St. Benedict. “O God, who didst vouchsafe to fill thy most blessed Confessor Benedict with the spirit of all the righteous: grant unto us thy servants who celebrate his Solemnity that, being filled with the same spirit, we may faithfully accomplish that which thou hast enabled us to promise. Through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth God, world without end. Amen. Blessed Father Benedict, pray for me. Amen.”

I finished reading through our Blessed Father’s rule that morning. The one thing that most stood out to me was a final chapter titled “The Good Zeal of Monks.”

Just as there is a wicked zeal of bitterness which separates form God and leads to hell so there is a good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life. This then is the good zeal which monks must foster with fervent love; They should each tory to be the first to show respect to the other (Rom. 12:10), supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weakness of body or behavior, and earnestly competing in obedience to one another. No one is to pursue what he judges better for himself, but instead what he judges better for someone else. To their fellow monks they show the pure love of brother; to God, loving fear; to their Abbot, unfeigned and humble love. Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, an may he bring us all together to everlasting life. (RB 17)

“A good zeal which separates from evil and leads to God and everlasting life,” this is what I wanted, the good zeal of the monks. “O lord, this is what I want! But at present, I am lowly.”

I ate my lunch after Sext silently with the brothers. I remember there was a reader for lunch, as there is typically at a meal with Benedictines; however, I neither remember what he read nor where it was from. But what I do remember, in great detail, is the silence and being in the presence of “the good zeal of the monks.” It was a heavy feeling. It weighed upon my chest as though each passing moment was another brick laid upon my sternum, each breath harder and harder. Each of these brothers, clad in black robes, had something that I did not. Again, I left hungry.

As the sun further rose to the height of the afternoon the Appalachian morning mist burnt off, and I found a dry spot on a picnic table to sit. And that’s what I did. I sat. I sat and I watched as the weight of the water from this morning’s rain caused the leaves to fall to the ground. I sat and I watched the wind blow the Crape Myrtle flowers unceremoniously from their perch. I sat, I watched, and I thought what it would mean for me to have the good zeal of the monks. I scribbled fervently in a small brown moleskin notebook what I thought would bring me to this zeal. I scribbled out a rule of life as if to say “Lord, what I am asking for is really very ridiculous. I am saying, at present, I am lowly, but give me the good zeal of the monks, immediately.”

I went to None that afternoon. It was just the monks and I this time. The sisters prayed this hour in private. The monks processed, in followed by the abbot. They took their seats and we sat in silence. The abbot then, by rapping the pew in front of him with his first knuckle, gave the signal for us to begin. We stood and began to say the prayers to ourselves, but I was distracted. “Our Father, who art in heaven… I am lowly, oh God…..hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done…grant me the good zeal of the monks, oh Lord… On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread… but the Lord can do that, can’t he?…and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen… The Lord can grant the good zeal of the monks to the lowly.

We finished the liturgy and the monks processed out. I stoped and stared at the altar. I, myself, then processed out. I dipped my hand in the Holy Water Font, crossed myself, and left the monastery. I left hungry, but hopeful.

And so, I leave seminary hungry but I leave hopeful.

A call to be Salt and Light

bonhoeffer-789x450.jpgThis is a brief homily I preached as the lectionary, fittingly, continues to go through the sermon on the mount. The sermon was, largely, influenced by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his work “discipleship.” You will probably catch the references.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes  one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least  in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great  in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:13-20

“The cross is not an end of a pious, happy, life. Instead, it stands at the beginning of community with Jesus. Whenever Christ calls us. His call leads us to death.” These are the words written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his work Discipleship. These are the words written as the rise of Nazism began to grip the German people. These are the words written as only those deemed worthy by the state are allowed to live in peace under the third Reich. These are words written when what is seen as worthy, what is seen as an acceptable ethic was incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Whenever Christ calls us, His call leads us to death.”

We heard last week what it is that God expects of us. What it is that is meant to die to ourselves. “To do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” This is what is expounded upon in the opening of the sermon on the mount. Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek, blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you on Christ’s account. Only these will be considered worthy of the kingdom of heaven. It is these that Christ calls us to die to embody. It is these that characterize a life of discipleship with christ. And it is to those that embody this ethic that our passage speaks to.

Our passage begins with an intensive y’all. YOU yourselves, are the light of the world. You who are poor in spirit, you who mourn, your who are meek, you who hunger for righteousness, you who are merciful, you are the salt of the world. Brothers and sisters, we must also note that the disciples are given no choice, Christ is not saying, ‘you should be the salt of the earth,” No, the disciples are given no choice as to if they want to be this salt or not. No appeal is made to them to become the salt of the earth. They just are by the power of the call that has reached them. It is not the message of christ that is the salt, that would diminish the meaning. What is in view is their entire existence, in so far as it is grounded in Christ’s call to discipleship, an existence which the beatitudes speak of. That is their calling, that is who they are, a calling and a life we share with them. All those who follow Christ’s call are made, by that call, to be the salt of the earth.

But why salt? What is it that we are made when we answer Christ’s call of discipleship? Nations grew rich from salt production. People survived winters by learning to preserve foods with salt. Salt was part of Roman soldiers’ pay, and the royal tax on salt was one of the abuses abolished by the French Revolution. It is an enduring substance and thus allows for an enduring metaphor. Homer called salt a divine substance because it preserves things as incorrupt and keeps them as dissolution. The salt, you see, is not for itself, the salt’s purpose is to be for another substance.

The light, is the same. Christ tells those that have aligned themselves to his call to discipleship are the light of the world. Again, You who are poor in spirit, you who mourn, you who are meek, you who hunger for righteousness, you who are merciful are the light of the world. Christ’s call creates followers that not only embody the invisible efficacy of salt but also the visible shine of light. You are the light, again, he is not saying you should be the light, or even you have the light but that you are the light. This light is the city on the hill. It is the mountain of the house of the Lord that has been established as the chief of the mountains, and has been raised above the hills; and all the nations stream to it. To be called the light of the world is to be called into participation in christ.

With this call, followers of Christ no longer have a choice. The only decision for the follower of Christ has already been made, you are the salt and light of the world. Indeed, the greek gives us a sense that Christ is going as far as to say that those called by Christ are they that salt the world, they are those that light the world. What is salt if it is not salty?  What is a light if it is hidden? The word used, translated as “having lost its flavor” also means foolish. A foolish man is one that attempts to follow christ but ignore his call. Salt that does not preserve and light hidden is worthless. Faith in christ without the following of this call is no faith at all.

Christ goes on to say that he has not come to abolish the law. Not a word of this law will pass away, not one iota until all is accomplished. It is Christ that has fulfilled this law, and this fulfillment could only come about through his death and resurrection. It is through the cross of Christ that the law is made valid. So that now whoever does and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Now, whoever is poor in spirit, whoever mourns, whoever is meek, whoever hungers and thirsts for righteousness, whoever is merciful, whoever is pure in heart, whoever is a peacemaker, whoever is persecuted for righteousness’ sake, these are now blessed. These are now the salt and light of the world.

Brothers and Sisters, it is because Christ has fulfilled the law, through the cross of Christ that we are now the salt and light of the world. It is because of the the cross of Christ that we are now called to be the salt and light to the world. Our calling is a call to discipleship and this call to discipleship is a call to be for others, to be salt to others, to be light to others.

“Whenever Christ calls us. His call leads us to death.” The German is literally translated as “Every call of Christ, leads to death.” You have been called to discipleship with Christ. Christ does not say you should be the light, you should be the salt. You are the salt and light of the world, and if this salt is not able to preserve that which it is applied to and if this light does not illuminate it is worthless. Christ call to discipleship is a death to the old self, a life of faith in christ and a life dedicated to being for your neighbor, a life dedicated to being salt and light to the world.

A Christmas Homily

I was encouraged to post this. This is a short homily I preached at the end of the fall semester. This has been a hard year/semester for most of us. This was my attempt to speak into that. Special thanks to Tim Norton and Henry Coates, who’s homiletical skills are unrivaled.

I have put a link to the audio below, my delivery is less than ideal, e.g., I get off to a rough start and I sound Canadian when I say shepherds, but I thought I’d include it anyways.


One of my favorite stories in Lord of the Rings is from the Chapter Houses of Healing in the Return of the King. After the battle of Pelanor fields, when the City of Minas Tirith was successfully defended, many are left wounded by the enemy and not even the greatest healers of the city are capable of healing them. The people are left desperate for a king, for Aragorn has still not revealed himself and there is an old tale, still believed by some in the city, namely a healer by the name of Ioreth, who has tried everything she could to heal the wounded. The old saying goes, “The hands of the King are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.” “The hands of the King are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.”  The rightful King, THE true King, the King we are waiting for is both a mighty ruler AND a healer. “The hands of the King are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.”  I want you to keep that in your mind as you listen to this text. Really sit with these words.

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a savior. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,

And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

“Unto you, is born this day the Savior!” The savior has come. And He does not pass you by as did the priest and the levite did the man who had fallen amongst thieves. He makes your situation his own. He has taken on your situation unto himself and made himself lowly. He remained what he was, and what he was not he assumed. Truly God became truly man. And this man came to heal and to teach the way, he put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him. He took on the cancer of sin upon himself in order that He may cure it. He took on the cancer of hate, of racism, of death. He took all of this upon himself. He assumes sinful flesh and through this Christ heals. That’s what Christ has done. That’s what this text announces.

Christ invites us into the life of the trinity, and our humanity cannot preclude us from this.
Through this, Christ heals.
The cause of the widow and the orphan have been taken up
Through this, Christ heals.
The blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up.
Through this, Christ heals.
To you a savior is born, and this savior stands with you
Through this, Christ heals.
The hands of Christ are the hands of a healer.

We are able to recognize hope because of the healing that is given to us in the incarnation. The Holy One Himself comes down to us, God in child in the manger. God comes. The Lord Jesus comes. Christmas comes.

My question for y’all is, how do we recognize this hope when we do not have someone to point it out to us. How do we recognize hope when we do not have a multitude of the  heavenly host to proclaim it to us? This has been a hard year. There has been so much pain: the shootings of San Bernardino, California, Roseburg, Oregon, Charleston, South Carolina, and the pulse nightclub in Orlando, the racial tensions from the police shootings of innocent black men to riots, the most contentious presidential election we’ve ever seen. How do we recognize hope when, instead of a heavenly host proclaiming the hope that has just been given, we have a news anchor announcing more death, racism, and hate?

If you are like me, you are so desperate for some semblance of hope that you will follow anything that looks like angels proclaiming it and try to heal the hopelessness yourself.  You will burry yourself in your work, you will try and find hope in friends, or you simply plug your ears and hum only to find the every single effort fruitless.

To find the true answer we turn to our passage. “For to you is born this day in the city of David a savior” These words, friends, “to you, a savior,” is the Christmas story. The event that is being proclaimed here by the angel of the Lord, the action of the man who provides us hope, is how we recognize hope. It is true, we do not have angels descending from heaven to proclaim the presence of Hope to us. We do not have angels to proclaim to us that we should not be afraid, when we fear all hope is lost and we feel the weight of pain and hopelessness. What we do have is knowledge of a specific event, an event in history, an action taken by he that gives hope, in the city of David while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

We recognize hope by the past and promised action of Christ, god with us.

But what exactly is the action that is being done that gives us hope, that allows us to recognize this hope without the angel of the Lord proclaiming it to us like he did to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night? My friends, the action that we may know him by, that we may recognize hope is his movement towards us, the Holy one himself comes down and becomes a child in a manger. “to you, a savior!”

Brothers and sisters, sometimes we need to be reminded of this. We need to be reminded that hope is given and we have found it. That a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot lay hold of it. For in this action, we can recognize our hope. When we do not have angles to sing and proclaim our hope, we tend to follow any proclamation we can find in an attempt to heal ourselves from whatever is bearing down upon us. We try and find hope in relationships, we try and find hope in our accomplishment within the church, or we burry ourselves in our studies and we make our grades and our performance apart of our identity. We need to be reminded that our hope is found, only, in these words, “to you, a savior.” And it is this savior, alone, who heals.

For the hands of the King of the hands of a healer and and so shall the rightful king be known. We left Aragorn outside of the city, however, seeing the need, but still not wanting to reveal himself as the true king just yet, enters the city but he furls up his banner and enters as a Ranger, a man of an unknown, mysterious people from the North. He enters the House of healing, gathers a little known weed called Kingsfoil, and heals Faramir. Faramir stirs and Aragorn tells him, “Walk no more in the shadows, but awake! You are weary. Rest a while and take food, and be ready when I return.” He is recognized as the rightful king and rumors spread throughout the city that the true king has returned.

Walk no more in the shadows, but awake! You are weary. Rest a while and take food, and be ready when I return.

That is what we do in Advent. We wait. We wait for the final consummation of Christ’s action towards us. It is true that Christ has come, christ has healed, and we see this and recognize this hope but because of this action we also await a future hope. We wait until Christ comes back and makes all things new. But this time He will not enter the city as a Ranger with banners furled, or a child born in a manger because we cannot find room for him. He will come, written on his robe and thigh, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Holy city, the new Jerusalem, will descend down from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And he will tabernacle amongst us. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor shootings, nor racism, nor hate. He will heal all. For the former things will have passed away.

Until that day, we wait. We sit with the hope found in the incarnation, god for us. We see the action taken towards us, we see the hope. Brothers and sisters, until that day, walk no more in the shadows, You are weary. Rest a while, and take food, and be ready when He returns.