Proper 19, Year B, Church of the Holy Cross, Murfreesboro

“How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire.” (Jas. 3:5).

You’ve seen the joke, I bet, or a variant on it: a guru sitting on a mountaintop: solitary, inaccessible, silently contemplating the universe. After a long climb to the top, an exhausted man pulls himself up the sheer rock face and staggers to the feet of the guru. He’s searching for the meaning of life, for true wisdom, and he’s come a … Read more

Proper 18, Year B, Church of St. Joseph of Arimthaea, Hendersonville

“So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Jas. 2:17).

Faith is a word that has many shades of meaning. In one sense, it’s what we believe, as in “the Articles of faith” found in the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed. St. Paul refers to faith in this sense in the First Letter to Timothy, to “the words of the faith and of the sound teaching” (1 Tim. 4:6) about Jesus Christ. Faith … Read more

Proper 17, Year B, Calvary Church, Cumberland Furnace & St. James’ Church, Dickson

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (Jas. 1:27).

I was tickled the other day when I heard part of a town hall meeting with former Governor Bredesen, who’s running for a Senate seat. He told the folks assembled that he was a Democrat, and that he knew that most of them in … Read more

Proper 16, Year B, Church of St. James the Less, Madison

“Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak” (Eph. 6:20).

My mother’s godmother was a close friend of my grandparents, and as I grew up this lady came to be my friend. She always spoke her mind, in a gravelly, southern-inflected voice (I can hear her saying my mother’s name in my mind’s ear right now); but when she came to be even older she really began to speak out. I’ll admit … Read more

St. Louis of France, Blessing of Liturgical Ministries, Christ Church Cathedral

“Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Lk. 12:31).

This past weekend at the Laymen’s Conference at Dubose, we sang a few hymns that I don’t get to sing very often; hymns like “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, Ye Soldiers of the Cross”, and “Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching as to War”. These are old favorites, and the laymen have been singing them for a long time: … Read more

Proper 15, Year B, Tennessee Laymen’s Conference, All Saints’ Chapel, Sewanee

“So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:17-18).

No, this is not a temperance sermon; though temperance is a good thing, one of the virtues. “Temperance” in regard to alcohol used to be the subject of self-conscious jokes in the Episcopal Church, until people realized it was no laughing matter. The … Read more

Proper 14, Year B, St. Anselm’s Church, Nashville

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Eph. 5:2).

It sounds pretty bold doesn’t it: to imitate God? How do you think that we’d react if someone came into the church today and told us, “Hey, I’m imitating God.” It would be hard to take that person seriously. A claim like that might … Read more

Proper 8, Year B, Church of the Holy Spirit, Nashville

“He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James” (Mk 5:37).

One definition of “disciple” is “follower”. We are Jesus’ disciples because we follow his teaching. We are also his disciples because we walk with him, following in his footsteps. Where Jesus goes we go. Like Ruth with her mother-in-law Naomi, when Naomi returned to the land of Israel, “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I … Read more

Proper 7, Year B, St. Mary Magdalene’s Church, Fayetteville

“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mk 4:40).

“Keep the faith”: these are words we use to encourage one another in difficult circumstances, when there isn’t much else about the situation that calls for optimism. Those who “keep faith” when the going gets tough discover a bond between them, through sheer perseverance in a common cause. Adversity would seem to be the natural testing ground of faith, the place where the tensile … Read more

Proper 6, Year B, St. Paul’s Church, Murfreesboro

“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?” (Mk 4:30).

The kingdom of God: we pray for it every time we say the Lord’s Prayer. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, just as we’ll say at the Eucharist in a few minutes; and again when we close out the prayer, “for thine is the kingdom, and the power, … Read more