Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Christ the King Sermon

This short sermon was offered at the Episcopal Church of the Saviour in Clermont, Iowa on November 26, 2017.  The lectionary readings were Matthew 25:31-46, Ephesians 1:15-23, Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24, and Psalm 100.

This Gospel has always struck a chord with me. Once, many years ago, I was helping with a political event in Council Bluffs. While I was outside getting some things from a car, an older man came up to me and asked if he could have some money. I said no. Then he said that he was hungry, that is why he asked for money. I said I had nothing to give to him. He said that was ok and thanked me for my time. As I carried the things I retrieved from the car into the building I thought of the buffet of food that was set up inside. I dropped the things inside the door and went back to look for him. The man was nowhere to be seen. Then the next day in Church, this passage was the Gospel Lesson.

The King says “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food,”

And when those say ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food?'

The reply is ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

I failed God, I failed Jesus, I failed the King that day, but I've tried to learn from my failure.

I think what Jesus is looking for is real compassion, a real response to the needy. We often read about Jesus being filled with compassion. A gut wrenching compassion. The heart of compassion is something that cannot be manufactured. It is unintended, the natural product of the heart rather than a conscious effort.

What Jesus is looking for is uncalculating and unselfish. The blessed in the parable gave without thought of reward, it was the last thing on their mind. This is the very type of giving that Jesus commanded. They gave what was needed. They gave very simple things. What they gave did not necessarily involve very much. A meal; a place to stay; some clothes; some time.

What is our unselfish love? Just how do we respond to those around us? Are we looking through people? Are we always looking for the important person? Do we serve people out of duty, rather than love? Do we serve people out a sense of responsibility? Do we serve people out a desire to score points or to convert them?

And like the need for a relationship with God, this is not something you can either borrow or delegate. This is a real danger for us. We are so used to paying other people to do things for us. But you cannot buy unselfish love. You cannot delegate unselfish love.

For we are judged not on our wealth, but on our response to the poor. We are judged not on the evidence of our power, but on our response to the powerless. We are judged not on our prosperity, but on our response to the hungry.

Over the next few days, people will be asking us the perennial question‘Are you prepared for Christmas’. A far more important question is this. Are you ready to see Christ the King in those around you? I hope so.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

A sermon from May 12, 2013

Planting the Seeds

This is the sermon that I preached on May 12, 2013 at Church of the Saviour, Clermont, Iowa.  In addition to it being the seventh Sunday of Easter and the Sunday after the Ascension, our Church also marked it as United Thank Offering Sunday and Rogation Sunday.  The texts used were Acts 16: 16-34; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21; & John 17: 20-26.

Wow, we are celebrating lots of things today, the United Thank Offering, Rogation Sunday, and the Ascension of Jesus was celebrated this past Thursday. Lots of stuff. But thankfully for you I will keep this short.

The story in Acts about Paul and Silas when they went to Philippi has always made me think of the injustices that happen in our world. They were minding their own business but a fortune telling slave girl was following them around shouting who was telling everyone who they really were. Paul, who must have wanted to keep a lower profile, got annoyed and with the help of the Holy Spirit silenced the fortune telling which got the girl's owners a bit miffed. So Paul and Silas were dragged before the authorities who had them beaten and tossed in jail mostly because of who they were. During the night while praying and singing, there was an earthquake that broke open the doors and unshackled them. Instead of running away, as most all prisoners would do, they remained and used it as a teaching and evangelizing moment to bring their jailer and his household to belief and baptism. They saw their responsibility as being to God and they didn't escape. What would we do if we were in their shoes? Would we wait around to proclaim the good news or would we shoot out of that prison like a rocket? I would like to think that I would stay, but I hazard to guess that I would be afraid enough to get out.

The UTO helps those who haven't been afraid, those people, organizations, and Churches who haven't been afraid to stand up and proclaim the Gospel no matter where they are. Our congregation has been the recipient of a generous grant through UTO, through that grant we said to the local community that in fact, we aren't a dead Church. We are living, we are here, and we will proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. And so we say, 'Come'. Come to us those who have no other place to go. Come to us those who are hungry. Come to us those that are thirsty. Come to us those that seek Peace and Grace.

When they come, they will find a community of believers who might be diverse and sometimes have their differences. And sometimes we do things which might be considered by some to be different or old fashioned like beating the bounds and blessing farms, gardens and those who tend them on Rogation Sunday. But we believe that our diversity is our strength. That God, through Jesus, and with the help of the Holy Spirit brings us all together for our common cause.

So let us remember that Jesus died and then ascended for all of us. That with the help of the Holy Spirit we can do great things, both here in Clermont and in the wider world. That we should not be afraid to do what God asks us to do. Let us remember those things and let us go out and proclaim the Good News to whoever will listen.

In the name of our God the Creator, of Jesus the Redeemer, and of the Holy Spirit who is our guide. Amen.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Today as I was preparing the cornfield for planting and working in the garden. I started thinking about soil.  Yeah, soil, dirt, that stuff that gets under my fingernails.  I was just amazed at how this mixture of clay, loam, sand, organic matter, various elemental nutrients, microbes, and macrobes allows plants to grow and thus life as we know it to exist on Earth.  When I got the mail, I noticed that I received one of my 'freebie' magazines that talks about soil as being a dead medium that is to be completely controlled and not something that is alive and needs to be worked with to grow the crops and produce needed for our existence.  That, I believe, is the major divide in agriculture right now.  The two extremes are very large scale industrial operations and very small organic practitioners. But most of the farmers I know are somewhere in the middle of these extremes.  As a farmer, I try my best to grow healthy crops and as an extension, livestock, that are tasty and good to eat.  Why did I become a farmer?  It was for that very reason, nothing is nobler in my opinion than to grow food for people to eat.  Just remember, it all starts with the soil.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Humpty Dumpty Advent Sermon

This is the sermon I gave at the Episcopal Church of the Saviour in Clermont, Iowa on December 11, 2011.

John 1:6-8, 19-28
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalms 126

We've all heard the old familiar nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the Kings horses and all the kings men. Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again. You are probably thinking, where in the heck is he going with this, so please bear with me.

Humpty Dumpty was this egg who lived in a kingdom. He was cheerful and chipper sitting high up waiting on a wall. Never had the fear of being poached, boiled, or fried. Never had the concern of becoming an omelet or a meringue. Humpty Dumpty lived a good life. Sitting high up, he was able to look down at the townsfolk as they went by. Never had a care or a concern. But one day as he sat up on top of his wall, something happened. Now the story doesn’t breakdown what it was. Perhaps he had an argument with his wife. Maybe she became angry and tried to scramble him. Perhaps he had upset his neighbor and they had their boys go and attempt to crack him up. Maybe he had just received a bill that was so astronomical that it caused him to split his yolk. Maybe he found out his daughter was pregnant and became so angry he popped, like an over boiled egg. Maybe he lost his job and it caused him to tumble. Maybe his son got sick and it broke him up. Maybe he got cracked up because he was strung out on crack. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. But Humpty Dumpty fell down and he broke so the king of the town was called to come and try to put this egg’s life back together. Now we have all dropped an egg. We have each seen how it splatters and shatters. Imagine the King and his men’s attitude when they saw this mess before them. A shell in millions of pieces. Egg white mixture possibly even beginning to sizzle on the hot pavement. The yolk speckled with gravel and soot. Humpty Dumpty dipped, tripped, and fell down to go splat! The king and his footmen gave up and left Humpty Dumpty in a heap. What in the world does this have to do with anything?

Well, Humpty was waiting around just like we do during Advent. We wait and prepare for the birth of Jesus at Christmas. But just because we are waiting doesn't mean that the rest of the world stops. Things happen, and sometimes, they aren't good things, as in Humpty Dumpty's case.

The local yokels, the king and his men, couldn't put Humpty together again. But we as a congregation can help, by supporting one another during our time of waiting, when those little cracks appear along the edges.

But let's look at the story again. Perhaps Humpty was a reptile egg. Perhaps it was a baby turtle, and the cracking was a necessary part of the process. In that case, the King's men wouldn't have been able to put Humpty together again, but they wouldn't have wanted to. Humpty, though the act of becoming cracked and broken, became something new. Something that represented new life. In fact, those cracks may have been the signal that something new was coming. In that case, we, as a congregation, can gently help the people as they move and grow, encouraging and being there as they transform into something new. The cracks are normal—what we do when they appear is our measure of Spreading the Kingdom of God.

Paul tells us today to do a number of things including rejoice, pray, and give thanks. Those are things that we do every week at Church during our Prayers of the People and during Eucharist. We need to remember that living our lives in the fashion that Paul describes will bring us closer to God and help us in our waiting.

In the Gospel, John the Baptist came as a witness to the light, to be the precursor to Jesus. John didn't simply wait though, he had an active ministry in helping people to repent. Now we might not be all called to a ministry like that of John the Baptist. But we all are called to ministry, helping out those in need, and that is something we can do during advent and all throughout the year.

So, I pray for all of us to be reminded that we shouldn't just wait during advent or at any time of the year, we should help others when they have a Humpty Dumpty moment and that they will help us when the cracks appear. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, September 23, 2011

College Football - Week 4

This week is a bye week for the Iowa State Cyclone football team.

I had a couple of fumbles in last weeks predictions.  I had Oklahoma losing but they won and Iowa losing but they also won.  So for the year I'm 10/12 which is 83%, a B grade, so I could improve.

My top team, Oklahoma, beat a very good Florida State team by 10 last week, this week they start conference play with Missouri.  I believe that it will be a good game but in the end I have the Sooners winning by a couple touchdowns.

My bottom ranked team, the San Jose State Spartans, lost another one last week to Nevada but by a surprisingly small margin of 4 points.  This week they face New Mexico State at home, this is a game that I think they can win, but it will be a squeaker, the Spartans by a field goal.

Iowa beat a good Pittsburgh team in the fourth quarter last week.  They came back and beat the Panthers by 4 points.  Next up for the Hawkeyes is Louisiana - Monroe of the Sun Belt Conference.  The Hawkeyes should have no problem with this team.  Iowa wins by four touchdowns.

The Iowa State Cyclones beat Connecticut by 4 points in a come from behind win.  This is becoming familiar with this Cyclone team.  Iowa State has a bye week this week, they will need it to get ready for Big XII action, starting with an improved Texas team.

Until next week, keep the grill warm at the tailgate!

Friday, September 16, 2011

College Football - Week 3

The Iowa State Cyclones meet the University of Connecticut Huskies on Friday night.

There were some surprises that happened in the college football landscape in Week 2.  But for the teams I mentioned last week, my predicted winners won and the predicted loser lost.  So I was at a 100% again.  But for the spreads I did ok but wasn't spot on.  My top ranked team, Oklahoma had a bye week so that was easy on me.  The bottom feeder, San Jose State, lost by only 10, where I had a loss by multiple touchdowns.  I missed that spread by a bit.  But for the BIG GAME, the Iowa State Cyclones hosting the Iowa Hawkeyes, I predicted a win by two from the Cyclones.  As it turned out it was decided in the third overtime,  Iowa State beat Iowa by three points.  No matter who won, it was one of the most enjoyable games that I've attended in a long time.  But that chapter has closed and it is time to move on to the upcoming weekend.

The Oklahoma Sooners travel to Florida State on Saturday.  This is the marquee game this weekend.  I believe that this will be a very tough game and a very close game.  Since they are playing on the Florida State Seminoles home turf, I think that the Sooners will walk away with a loss by around a field goal.

The San Jose State Spartans host WAC foe Nevada.  The Nevada Wolfpack has started out 0-1, but I believe that they should be able to handle the Spartans with no problem.  The Wolfpack will win over the Spartans by a 4+ TD margin.

The Iowa Hawkeyes host Big East power Pittsburgh.  The Hawkeyes have a lot of questions on both sides of the ball and I'm sure that the Pittsburgh Panthers will be ready to play.  So I believe that it will be a close game but the Panthers will beat the Hawkeyes by less than a touchdown.

Finally, the undefeated Iowa State Cyclones travel to Connecticut to face the UConn Huskies on Friday night.  This nationally televised game is very important to both teams.  The Cyclones are overall playing better than the Huskies so my prediction is that Iowa State will win but by another close margin of less than a touchdown.

Friday, September 9, 2011

College Football - Week 2

The New CyHawk Trophy that won't be used. (Anyone need a doorstop?)

The second week of college football is upon us and here is how my predictions panned out for last week. Oklahoma was to win by 4+ touchdowns and won by 33 points. San Jose State was to lose by 4+ touchdowns and lost by 54 points. Iowa was to win by 4+ touchdowns and won by 27 points. Iowa State was to win by 3+ touchdowns and won by 1 point. So I got all of the winners and losers correct but only got the spread right on half of them. Maybe I can improve on that...

Anyway this week in my rankings I have Oklahoma retaining their top status. But this week is a bye week for the Sooners so they will have to watch any football on the television.

San Jose State retained their bottom ranking and this week they play UCLA which isn't all that great either but I believe that the Spartans are so bad that they again lose by 4+ touchdowns.

Saturday is the "BIG GAME" for the State of Iowa. The University of Iowa Hawkeyes will square off with the Iowa State University Cyclones in Ames. The last couple of years have been all Hawkeyes but even with the scare that Northern Iowa gave the Cyclones last week, I believe that Iowa State is improving with head coach Paul Rhoads. Since the Cyclones play at home, I will be a 'homer' and predict that Iowa State wins by 2 points, 30-28. Hopefully I will be correct and watch the Cyclones keep whatever they have for a trophy this year.