Light to All the House
His name was George Steiner. He passed away Monday at the age of 90 at his home in Cambridge, England. He had served as the chief literary critic at The New Yorker for over thirty years. Now it may seem odd for so highbrow a figure as a professor of literature to serve as a connection to a sermon given on a hillside by an itinerant first century rabbi, to fishermen and tax collectors and other ordinary people who had gathered around him. But maybe there is more in common between Jesus’ teachings and the obituary of a scholar of literature than at first meets the eye. Rev. Larry Hayward preaches on the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Matthew 5:14-15.
A few weeks ago, a member of our church told me that the Beatitudes are the most meaningful part of the Bible for her to read. Her comments have led me to think about the Beatitudes over the past few weeks, specifically, what they mean to me, to us; their role in the life and teaching of Jesus; their place in the faith out of which they grow and which they in turn shape and form. Rev. Larry Hayward preaches on the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Matthew 5:1-12.
Leaps and Bounds
When we say, “We do,” we don’t just bind ourselves together, we affirm one another’s identity in Christ. When we say, “We do” we are honoring, dignifying, embracing one another as unique, beloved, children of God. When we say, “We do” we commit ourselves to the Beloved community, called, and promising, to live, rejoice, learn, engage, grieve and create together. Rev. Jacob Bolton preaches on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Matthew 4:12-23.
Change My Name
In some ways I’m not the right one to talk much about a change of name, for I was born into this faith and it has remained with me “Rock-like” for as long as I can remember. I haven’t wrestled directly with an angel, nor heard the voice of God directly call my name. Yet I have seen people changed in ways beautiful and powerful that I cannot help but attribute to God. Rev. Larry Hayward preaches on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is John 1:29-42, and is read by Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy.
Let It Be So Now
"No, something is not right. This isn't how it is supposed to be. I need to be baptized by you, but you come to me." To this Jesus says, "let it be so now." And so, as Matthew tells us, John consented. Rev. Patrick Hunnicutt preaches on the Baptism of the Lord. The Scripture lesson is Matthew 3:11-17, and is read by Rev. Larry Hayward.
Eliot and the Magi
In December of 1984, I had been preaching five or six times a year as an Associate Pastor in a large church in West Texas. Along the way, I had encountered T. S. Eliot’s poem, “The Journey of the Magi,” and decided to use it for an Advent Sermon in early December that year. Incorporating that poem into the sermon was the first time I recall being aware of how powerful a poem can be about a text or event or person in the Bible, especially when the author is able to “get inside the skin” of one of the characters. I have decided to revisit that poem as we follow the journey of the wise men – or Magi – to the place Jesus was born on the day before Epiphany on which their journey is remembered. Rev. Larry Hayward preaches on the Second Sunday of Christmas. The Scripture lesson is Matthew 2:1-12.
Joseph and Three Dreams
In one Gospel, Joseph works with governing authorities; in another, he works against them. It is a choice that transcends Joseph’s time: in every culture, in every decision, in nearly every moment, Christians and churches have to decide whether they support the particular actions of the state (while still honoring civil authority as ordained by God) or oppose state action through some appropriate means. The questions are perennial for people and institutions of faith. Rev. Larry Hayward preaches on the First Sunday after Christmas. The Scripture lesson is Matthew 2:13-23.
Sweet the Timber
Whatever it is to which the birth of Christ leads, his birth arises from and in the sadness and decay of the world. What God does at Christmas is bring something new, something re-born, something recreated from the destructiveness and decay into which God’s creation has fallen. In light of this recreation of all that has gone wrong, we who inhabit the earth – even as we mourn its fractures and pray over it all that troubles us about it – are renewed to work for its healing and live toward the redemption his birth promises. Rev. Larry Hayward preaches on Christmas Eve.
Matthew describes Joseph as a “just” man – a person who is righteous within his religious tradition and faithful to its laws and norms. But Matthew also depicts Joseph as a person whose intentions and character lie on the merciful side of righteousness rather than on its punitive side. Thus, Joseph resolves to divorce Mary as the law requires, but to divorce her quietly, to spare her at least some public humiliation. The word used in King James is “privily.” Rev. Larry Hayward preaches on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The Scripture lesson is Matthew 1:18-25, and is read by the Rev. Jacob Bolton.
Leaps and Bounds
When it became clear that I was going to be preaching on the third Sunday of Advent, the Sunday on which we light the pink candle of joy, I was thrilled to be presented with this section of New Testament gold, Elizabeth and Mary, two women, both great with child, bonding and caring for one another, and the emotionally stunning Magnificat. It is not that often in our sacred text that we explore encounters between two women, especially encounters between two women with dialogue. It is also not common for us to witness characters in our sacred story burst into song. Yet both of those holy signifiers shine forth from the page like the Advent candles we just lit indicating that something special, something unique, something full of Advent joy is present here. Rev. Jacob Bolton preaches on the Third Sunday of Advent. The scripture lesson is Luke 1:35-56.
Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy preaches on the First Sunday of Advent. The scripture lesson is Matthew 24:36-44, and is read by Rev. Larry Hayward.
Four Texts and a Promise
I recently learned that the liturgical holiday we are celebrating today – called Christ the King or Reign of Christ Sunday – is a relatively recent addition to the ancient church calendar known as the lectionary. Christ the King Sunday was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 – less than a hundred years ago. He instituted the day in response to the growing sentiments toward nationalism and secularism that emerged from the devastation of World War I. In a rare show of ecumenism, Protestants embraced this liturgical designation and added Christ the King to the church calendar every year as the final Sunday in the liturgical year before the new year begins with Advent. Thus, in our country, Christ the King nearly always falls on the Sunday before or after Thanksgiving, a time when we celebrate and give thanks for all the good we have received from our lives in this land. Rev. Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on Christ the King Sunday. The Scripture lesson is selected verses from Jeremiah 23; Colossians 1; Luke 1; and Luke 23.
Homily for Remembrance Sunday
Following a tradition that began in 1982, Westminster remembers those who have given their lives in service to our nation on Remembrance Sunday. Rev. Larry Hayward preaches; the Scripture lesson is Ecclesiastes 3:1-11.
Giving to the church can be more than a pragmatic decision to support the church’s work. It can be part of a challenged, inspired, aspirational heart. Our giving reflects the center of our being…our hearts. Rev. Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Proverbs 3:1-12, and is read by Rev. Patrick Hunnicutt.
"One of the great gifts of being on the staff at Westminster is that several Sundays - twice on a Sunday - I get to hear about the importance of using Pulitzer Prize-winning authors in your sermon. So I will follow suit when I make an allusion to Kendrick Lamar." Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy preaches on the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Luke 18:9-14, and is read by Rev. Larry Hayward.
*Please note: due to technical difficulties, there is no audio recording of this sermon.* Toward the end of the week, as I was pondering the topic of today’s sermon “Why Involvement?” a phrase kept entering my mind which has always intrigued me but on which I have never preached. The phrase comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians: “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.” Because the phrase would not leave me and let me get to the scripture passages I had chosen for the sermon, I decided simply to submit to it, change the reading for the today, and think about why this summons from Paul points to an answer to the question: “Why Involvement in the Life of the Church?” Rev. Larry Hayward preaches on the twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Philippians 2:12-16.
Why Organized Religion?
Because our faith exists within the world, we join with others and become a community, an organization, an institution within the world. We are more than a collection of individuals who seek interaction with God on a personal level; we are a people, a community, organized to worship, serve, learn and grow together. We are an organization. We are an institution – what Peter calls “a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” Rev. D.r Larry Hayward preaches on the twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Acts 1:12-17, 21-26, and is read by Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy.
Why Ask Why?
Rev. Patrick Hunnicutt preaches on the twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Luke 17:5-10, and is read by Rev. Jacob Bolton.
I want to ask today why a local church would engage in ministries that seek to improve or change society as a whole or ministries that focus on people who lie beyond the congregation’s membership: people who have spiritual or physical needs, people who may live anywhere in the world, and people who may or may not profess Christian faith. In other words, why does the church give time and attention to people beyond its members? Rev. Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is 1 Corinthians 11:17-29, 33-34, and is read by the Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy.
Our primary forebear, John Calvin, opened his massive theological treatise on what Protestants believe – Institutes of the Christian Religion – with these words: “Without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God;” followed by, “Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self.” When we learn of the world through all its systems of knowledge, we learn of self and we learn of God; when we learn of God, through liturgy, music, preaching, and teaching, we learn of God and we learn of self. Calvin’s purpose was to show “how [the knowledge of self and the knowledge of God] are interrelated,” we might say “inextricably intertwined.” Our theology and liturgy encompass what we know and experience in the world, in its created beauty and its fallen sadness. Rev. Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on the twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is 2 Timothy 4:9-13, and is read by the Rev. Whitney Fauntleroy.
It struck me that as we kick off our program year this fall, I want to build on sermons I preached last fall – which could be labelled “The Restatement of the Obvious.” I hope that while I will be “restating the obvious,” I will restate it in ways that remind us who we are and why we are here in this congregation of God’s people. I want to begin with “Why Worship?” Why attend church, Sunday morning, nearly every week? Why sing hymns, listen to anthems, speak to God to confess our sins, reflect on our lives, ask God’s forgiveness or help or intervention or comfort or understanding? Rev. Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28.
When We Disagree
We have been focused on the Book of Acts this summer, in which its author Luke traces events and developments in the earliest decades of the church, first under the leadership of Peter, then of Paul. These early Christians and their leaders take the hope and idealism that came out of the resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit they had received at Pentecost and lead the Christian movement from its roots in Judaism and Jerusalem into the Greco-Roman world culturally, religiously, geographically. For the last sermon in the series, I want us to follow as a disagreement arises between Paul and other leaders in the church, concerning whether, in light of the impending threat to his life, Paul should go to Jerusalem. I ask you to pay particular attention to the role of the Holy Spirit in what on the surface appears to be a dispute over where next to travel. Rev. Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on the twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Acts 21:1-6.
The Sons of Sceva Scurry
In presenting the story of seven sons of Sceva scurrying from an evil spirit, Luke helps us approach the power of evil with some welcome but dark humor. It is neither Paul, nor the Word of God, nor the Holy Spirit that drives out evil. In this story, it is evil defeating evil that allows the good to prevail. Rev. Dr. Larry Hayward preaches on the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is Acts 19:11-20.
Your Time Has Come
The Rev. Jacob Bolton preaches on the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, as the candidate for Associate Pastor for Christian Formation. He will join the staff of Westminster in early October. The Scripture lesson is John 2:1-11.
Innumerable Grains of Sand
Rev. Whitney K. Fauntleroy preaches on the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Scripture lesson is selected verses from Hebrews 11.
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