Category Archives: Sermons

You are my beloved

In baptism, God says: ‘Remember who you are. Remember what you’re here for. So, let’s go!’ –Rev. Andrew K. Barnett

This sermon by The Rev. Andrew K. Barnett of Washington National Cathedral stuck a chord with me. Probably because of me going through a similar experience with the death of my mother a little over a year ago. But also because what he says about God’s call to us in baptism speaks to my soul.

When we are naked and alone, newborn or on a deathbed, or anything in between with nothing but the body God gave us, we are still and especially a creature of God. Built for loving. Equipped for serving. Called to return to wholeness. That is who we are. –Rev. Andrew K. Barnett

At the very core of who we are, we are creatures of God, beautifully and wonderfully created in God’s image. In the waters of baptism, God’s covenant with us is sacramentally made known to us. We are bonded in an unbreakable relationship with God. And that is a beautiful thing to periodically remind ourselves of.

We are God’s beloved. Thanks be to God!

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Lenten Reflection – Day 11

I lift up my eyes to the hills;
from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth.
(Psalm 121:1-2)

“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. 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.”
(John 3:16-17)

These two excerpts from the Psalms and the Gospel of John are two of the most known words of the bible. In this sermon from the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral, Dean Hall reflects on the words of these two scriptures, and how they might apply to our everyday lives, specifically during the days of Lent.

Click here to watch the sermon.

Click here to watch the entire worship service.

The Very Rev. Gary Hall

The Very Rev. Gay Hall

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For the safety of children…

Be vigilant witnesses and make sure that we are not going to stop until….the Consumer Product Safety Commission can regulate guns. It is the only unregulated consumer product, and it kills 30,000 people a year. We regulate toy guns and teddy bears, and we don’t regulate guns that kill thousands each year.

The above is an excerpt from a moving sermon given at Washington National Cathedral by Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. She reflects on the words of Jesus in Luke 18, and imagines a nation where we care more about the safety and future of our children than our own obsession with guns and violence.

Click here to watch the sermon.

Click here to watch the entire service.

Marian concludes her sermon with this prayer:

O God, help us to prevent and transform our nation where small children suffer from hunger, quite legally. O God, forgive and help us transform our rich and powerful nation, where toddlers and school children die from guns sold quite legally, and often illegally. O God, forgive us, and help us transform our rich and powerful nation that lets children be the poorest group of citizens quite legally. O God, forgive and help us transform our rich nation, that lets the rich continue to get more at the expense of the poor, quite legally. O God, forgive and help us transform our rich and powerful nation, which thinks security rests in and missiles and bombs rather than in mothers and in babies. O God, forgive and help us transform our rich nation for not giving you sufficient thanks by giving to others their daily bread. O God, help us never to confuse what is quite legal with what is just and right in your sight.

Marian Wright Edelman

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Pope Francis and the “Culture of Encounter”

On Wednesday, Pope Francis gave a riveting homily, reflecting on the words of Jesus in Mark 9:38-40:

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him. No one who does powerful acts in my name can quickly turn around and curse me. Whoever isn’t against us is for us. (Mark 9:38-40 Common English Bible)

The type of faith that Pope Francis describes in his homily is the type of faith that, I believe, Christ calls all of creation to. A faith that unites all of creation into unity with God’s plan for us…not converting all people to “Christianity” so that everyone believes the same thing. Not requiring all people to say a prayer of conversion or confession and becoming “saved.” “‘Doing good’ is a principle that unites all humanity, beyond the diversity of ideologies and religions, and creates the ‘culture of encounter’ that is the foundation of peace.”

After discussions of Pope Francis’s words online, someone brought a verse from the Qur’an to my attention. I find it also quite beautiful and poignant to this discussion:

Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve. (Qur’an 2:62)

This week, in my hometown of Louisville, the Dalai Lama visited. He spoke about human understanding and love and peace and compassion, and spoke about these things surpassing all religions and creeds.

I find it so very refreshing to see these discussions being had among people of the same faith tradition and between people of different faith traditions. I hope and pray that people will be more open to stepping outside of their boxes in which they were raised and in which they live, and view the world through fresh, youthful eyes, to see the absolute wonder in all of creation and the way in which God manifests Godself to all of us through a myriad of ways.

Read more of Pope Francis’s words on the Vatican Radio website here:

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/05/22/pope_at_mass:_culture_of_encounter_is_the_foundation_of_peace/en1-694445

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Making a shrine of our wounds

Do you want to be made well? In the gospel reading for today’s lectionary cycle, we read the story of Jesus healing the man at the pool at Beth-zatha from John 5:1-9. In the sermon preached today at Washington National Cathedral, the Very Reverend Gary Hall (Dean of the Cathedral) reflects on the gospel vis-à-vis our culture of violence, and a conversation he had had with a few colleagues in the middle of an argument. He further reflects on what this might mean for each of us and for our society.

Here is an excerpt from Dean Hall’s powerful sermon:

As people, and as a society, I believe we have all made a shrine of the wound of violence in our human nature and in our world. In saying that, I do not intend in any way to disparage the victims of violence, or to suggest that they are somehow bringing it on themselves. I would never say that. But I do think that we seem to have accepted violence as a natural fact of life, and so we tolerate it, and we tolerate aggression much more than we should. One of the reasons I think we tolerate so much violence is that we are in denial about the depths of its roots in our being. …

Each of us carries the possibility of violence within our own heart. Only when we acknowledge that possibility; only when we accept that part of us that Jungians call the shadow, the part that we don’t want to acknowledge that it exists; only when we stop pretending that we are somehow better and purer than others; only then will we be able to be open to the healing that can happen when we acknowledge that we actually need it.

Do you want to be made well? That is Jesus’s question to the man by the pool at Beth-zatha, and that is Jesus’s question to you today. Do you want to be made well? Do you want socially to be made well? Do you want personally to be made well? Do you want your world? Your society? Your relationships? Even your body to be made well? If so, then start by seeing things as they really are. When I build a shrine to my old wound, I perpetrate the fiction that you are guilty and that I am innocent. But all of us are somewhat guilty, and none of us is perfectly innocent. Only as we accept the parts of ourselves that we would turn from and deny, only then will we be open to the healing that Jesus offers the man by the pool in our story, to our nation, to the world, and to you and me this morning.

Dean Hall continues by discussing what he might consider a good “summary” of the good news of the Gospel. He uses the collect of the day appointed for the sixth Sunday of Easter as good attempt at summarizing what the gospel is all about:

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire…

It is my prayer that each of us, those who are filled with love and faith, those of us who are filled with cynicism and anger, and especially those of us who have made shrines of our wounds, may be filled with such love towards God and towards each other that we may transform our world, one step at a time, into a world that overflows with caring, loving people. Hey, a guy can dream, right?

View Dean Hall’s sermon in its entirety here.

View the entire worship service from Washington National Cathedral on May 5, 2013 here.

The Rev. Canon Gary Hall, Dean of Washington National Cathedral.

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The Gun Lobby is no match for the Cross Lobby

Everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby. But I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby. I don’t want to take away someone’s hunting rifle, but I can no longer justify a society that allows concealed handguns in schools and on the streets or that allows people other than military and police to buy assault weapons or that lets people get around existing gun laws by selling weapons to people without background checks at gun shows. As Christians, we are obligated to heal the wounded, protect the vulnerable, and stand for peace. The cross is the sign and the seal of that obligation. And we know both from faith and experience that the cross is mightier than the gun. The gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.

–Excerpt from a sermon (in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut) from Sunday, December 16, 2012 by the Very Reverend Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral. Inspired by the Lectionary reading from Luke 3:7-18.

Read the text of the full sermon here.

Watch the full sermon here.

Click here to watch the entire service.

The Rev. Canon Gary Hall, Dean of Washington National Cathedral.

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What is your “Omega story?”

I do not like the book of Revelation. I do not like its violence, its vindictiveness, its opaqueness, its psychotic visions, its attitude toward women, its enemy thinking, its dualistic world view, or its vacancy of love. I don’t even like people who like the book of Revelation since many of them use it to justify their crazier ideas about God and then scare other people with what they think they know.

I knew the moment that I heard these opening words to Barbara Brown Taylor’s sermon at Washington National Cathedral that it was going to be a good one. In this sermon, Taylor discusses different views on the stories of Revelation, no holds barred. She discusses how people place more importance on and judge others by “where they are from” or “what they have done in their past.” In other words, so many people place more importance on their “Alpha stories.” Instead, Taylor argues that what is more important is what we choose for our destination…our “Omega stories.”

It was not until I got to work on this sermon that I realized how important our Omega stories are. Not our origin stories, but our destination stories. The ones that tell us who we are by telling us where we are going. These stories may not have the same solidity that our Alpha stories do, at least not at first, because they have not happened yet. Which means that no one can tell us which one is right. All we can do is choose one from the wide variety of end-time stories that the culture offers us daily, and then hope that we’ve chosen wisely, since our Omega stories will have as much or more to do with who we are than our Alpha stories ever do.

Taylor certainly has a way with words. If you are a person who struggles with modern interpretations or emphasis on the book of Revelation, you must listen to Taylor’s sermon.

Listen to her sermon here.

Or, watch the entire worship service here.

Sermon based on the readings Isaiah 25:6-9, Revelation 21:1-6a, and John 11:32-44.

–From the 11:15 a.m. Holy Eucharist at Washington National Cathedral, November 4, 2012. Click here to view the accompanying service leaflet.

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