Author Archives: Parson Brown

Flayed and Cast Away

Biblical Text: Matthew 9:35-10:8
Full Sermon Draft

Did I ever tell you how wimpy I think our modern translators are? By wimpy I largely mean they are representatives of their class and training. If the choice is between a gritty word and a noble concept, they reach for the noble concept every time. The example today is Matthew 9:36 in the ESV – “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” My pushing it translation that I think gets more at what is going on – “When he saw the crowds, his guts were churned for them, because the were flayed and cast away, like sheep without a shepherd.” The point is that the devil, the world and our own sinful nature bleed us dry and throw out the dead bones. We are helpless in the face of these enemies. But that is what Jesus came to change. That is what the Holy Spirit’s indwelling changes. That is what the Father’s compassion changes, sending workers into his fields.

The gospel always comes freely. The question is once we have been freed, are we willing to freely give? Do we accept that our names are written in that lamb’s book right along with those twelve apostles. That Jesus’ mission, their mission, has become our mission.

Worship Note: I left in our opening hymn which I think is one of the few hymns that an update has improved. We sing typically LSB 827, Hark the Voice of Jesus Calling, which is a Starke re-write of the last three verses. He replaces what could often be a moralistic scold toward missions with a moving meditation on some of the parables of our response to the call. It always gets me.

This is the Catholic Faith (A Meditation on the Immanent Trinity and its competitors)

Text: Matthew 28:16-20, Athanasian Creed
Full Sermon Draft

Trinity Sunday is the one Sunday a year that I feel free to talk a little pure theology. It is not that my sermons other Sundays are theology free, they couldn’t be if you were being faithful. It is that there are theological ideas that I think explain a lot in a compact form, but you end up explaining and lecturing instead of preaching, and the point is preaching. Trinity Sunday, with its spotlight on the Athanasian creed (which I left our congregational recitation in the recording), is a day given to deep foundational theology. What God is in Himself. Don’t worry, I connect the concepts of the economic and immanent Trinity to Pixar, Marvel and DC, so I hope I brought it down a little. It is a day to make clear the God we invoke, Three in One, and expose the idols of the age.

A New Camaro; An Endless House

Biblical Text: John 7:37-39, Romans 12:2, Ephesians 3:17-19
Full Sermon Draft

The picture above is our confirmation class. Today was both Pentecost and our Confirmation day. Both of those things are closely connected to baptism, so that makes an appearance. This sermon is roughly divided into two halves. The first half is the Pentecost and Confirmation as a day portion. Why do we observe these things? What do they do? How do they relate to the gospel? The second part is more specific to the confirmands. I went old school and instead of letting/demanding that the confirmands choose a verse, I assigned them one. That verse becomes both a charge and a blessing – the old duties of a bishop, to teach and to bless. That second part is where the title comes from in preaching those confirmation verses.

Memorial and Ascension

Biblical Text: 1 Peter 4:12-19, 5:6-11
Full Sermon Draft

Memorial Day is always a tough one for the church. Everybody, including the preacher, wants to acknowledge the sacrifice of those slain in the nation’s wars. The problem with that is our memorials are not just about the individual, but they are judgements or statements about the cause. When the church simply baptizes the secular memorials, it does something that it doesn’t have the authority to do. What this sermon attempts to do is make a distinction between worldly glory and the glory of God. When we understand that distinction and their basis, we should be able to be in world, including giving proper recognition to patriots, but not be of the world, which would mean uncritically agreeing with a state’s declarations. Because there are times when the state’s demands are something the church cannot give. In those times we recognize we are Peter’s elect exiles, bearing the little while, for the exaltation to come.

Organ Dedication

Organ Dedication Program
Organ Dedication Homily Text

We dedicated our new organ this Sunday. The full program recording is below. It was wonderful having Mr. Loomer. You won’t get the stereo sound out of our recording, which is why you should have been there. It was a good day.

Athens and Jerusalem?

Biblical Text: Acts 17:16-31,32-34
Full Sermon Draft

The text is Paul in Athens. I could tell you very quickly what the core of the sermon is about, but then you might not listen. If there is one thing that we in the modern world are mistaken about it is the pace of truth. We think it is an intellectual exercise as quick as a download of information. And we expect it to be complete. Run the bit check on that download. Not that truth is more organic and takes time. But when you hear it, and you know you’ve heard it, well. That is what this is about.

Worship Note: I’ve left in our Hymn of the Day LSB 832, Jesus Shall Reign. The words are Isaac Watts’, the best hymn writer in the English language. The tune should be familiar from Easter, Duke Street, which is the common tune of I Know the My Redeemer Lives. It is a great hymn which captures the breadth of Paul in Athens.

10 Theses on Prayer


10 Theses on Prayer after Teaching 1 Kings 8 and The Catechism on the Lord’s Prayer

1. All true prayer is placing before God his own words and promises
2. This is even more the case when our words are inappropriate
3. We pray that what is certainly true with God would also be true with us, now
4. Thanksgiving is appropriate for when we are given eyes to see what God has done
5. Sometimes the answer is no
6. Maybe worse are when the answer is yes, but we didn’t mean that petition, not really
7. Prayer is the language of the exile who was given a promise
8. Not all exiles have promise, learn to discern holy exile from discontent
9. The prayer of the exile is two-fold. First, sustain a remnant for your name
10. Second, be present with me, here in exile, such that you might bring me home.

The High House and The False House

Biblical Text: 1 Peter 2:2-10
Full Sermon Draft

I think the lectionary makers have stuck us with the end of one devotion and the start of another. I think 2:1-3 complete the chapter 1 thought. Peter then picks up a new thought in 2:4. The first devotion moves from new birth to craving pure spiritual milk. It is a devotion about growing up in Christ. The second devotion moves from that individual and early growth in faith to the communal nature and its maturity. As individuals we are newborns (baptism), babes (milk) and eventually grown up into salvation. As the church we are living stones built into the new temple, the royal priesthood, a holy nation. When we are grown we come into our maturity which is as a people.

This being mother’s day, the childhood analogy works well. The bridge from the childhood to the communal is that the church is the feminine or mother image. God is building his church, and he builds it from the stones that are rejected by the world. We living stones conform to Christ, the rejected cornerstone, with all the rough angles of the cruciform life. In this there are always two building projects: the world’s and God’s, the false house and the high house. Mom, the church, is the means by which we are built as the living stones of the High House. (Note: I’ve stolen those labels from an enchanting work of fantasy (The Evenmere Chronicles by James Stoddard).

Music note: I lost most of the music in the recording, but I think I kept the best piece, although as a congregation we got off to a rough start on it. LSB 645, Built on the Rock, captures the spirit of the text and the sermon quite well.

Recording note: I’m sorry for the overall quality. The volume level was quite low (our line volume ghost came back). I had to re-record the lesson as the early parts were unusable. I’ve normalized the volume levels to the best of my ability, but you will notice the change from a studio sound to the live static.

10 Theses on the Office of the Keys and Today’s Church

“What keeps gnawing at me is the question, what is Christianity, or who is Christ actually for us today? The age when we could tell people that with words—whether with theological or with pious words—is past, as is the age of inwardness and of conscience, and that means the age of religion altogether. We are approaching a completely religionless age; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as ‘religious’ aren’t really practicing that at all; they presumably mean something quite different by ‘religious.’”—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

1. When Bonhoeffer thought about “religionless Christianity” what he meant was a church that did not have the authority to bind.

2. Even into the 20th century, for large numbers of western people the church maintained the ability to discipline which is the ability to bind

3. That ability existed regardless of the state of one’s faith. The unbelieving libertine would face the binding authority of social stigma.

4. The upheavals of the 20th century have left the church not only unable to bind non-believers, but believers as well are unbound.

5. Believers are unbound in that the church is a personal choice. One might bind themselves but nobody is bound to pope or creed without consent.

6. The state and the family remain the only binding authorities, and the family is disintegrating fast.

7. In this religionless Christianity, the church is suffering a state of humiliation as Her Lord suffered.

8. The state of humiliation did not change the fact that Jesus was the eternal son.

9. Likewise the church’s humiliation does not change the eternal facts of the office of the keys. What is bound remains bound.

10. What it will make clear is that the motivations of binding words are love, not power.

Organ Dedication, May 21st @ 3PM, You are Invited

Biography of Guest Organist …

Chase Loomer is a junior at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he studies organ performance with David Higgs. A native of Charlotte, NC, Chase was awarded first prize in the AGO/Quimby Southeast Regional Competition for Young Organists and has been a prizewinner at several other competitions throughout the southeast, including the Columbia and Winston-Salem AGO competitions. Chase was also the winner of the Sarasota-Manatee AGO Chapter Competition. In high school, he was a five time Stigall Scholarship recipient. Chase has served as the interim organist at Centre Presbyterian Church in Mooresville, NC and as a VanDelinder Fellow at Christ Church in Rochester, NY, where he was awarded the inaugural Casparini Prize for excellence in organ performance. Currently, he is the Assistant Organist at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Greece, NY. His previous organ teachers include Dr. Patrick Scott and Dr. Katie Ann McCarty, and he studied piano with Dr. Dylan Savage and the late Dr. Ruskin Cooper. Chase also has an interest in jazz piano and was a member of one of the Eastman jazz ensembles. As a singer, Chase was selected for NC Governor’s School in 2012 and currently sings in the Eastman Repertory Singers and Christ Church Schola Cantorum. He was recently featured in the Rising Star series at the 2016 AGO National Convention in Houston and attended the 2016 OHS Convention as an E. Power Biggs Fellow.