Sermons 2017-16

img_0815The following sermons were recorded in the services of Holy Eucharist at Saint Martin’s Episcopal Church in 2017 and 2016 and are made available here for the use of parishioners, friends of the parish and the public. They were delivered by The Reverend Dr. John A. Cerrato (right), Priest-in-Charge (October 2014 – present). Almost all begin with the last few bars of the sequence hymn, then proceed to the sermon itself.

Preaching in Saint Martin’s and in the Episcopal Church is based upon the readings of the Revised Common Lectionary, a weekly arrangement of scripture texts available online (click here for RCL online) and in print form. The sermons included here are according to Year A and Year C of the RCL, following the current scripture readings of the Church Calendar (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, etc.). In Year A they are drawn from Matthew. In Year C they are taken from Luke and John. To understand the overall framework of the sermons, it is suggested the lectionary texts be read first, followed by the hearing of the sermon.

Preaching in the Episcopal tradition is often the preacher’s response to the reading of the Sunday gospel, to other texts of sacred scripture, and perhaps to a collect or to a theme in one of the liturgical prayers. The following recordings follow this approach.

Click on the start prompt at the left of the bars below to hear the sermon you choose.

The Word of the Kingdom. Sunday, July 16, 2017. Readings: Isaiah 55:10-13, Psalm 65, Romans 8:1-11, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. Narrative Texts: Isaiah portrays God’s word as effective; Paul describes the flesh as weakness; Jesus tells the parable of the sower, whose seed encounters three obstacles but also finds good ground and success. Themes: the world, the flesh and the devil oppose the word of the kingdom, the message of God’s sovereignty and grace. Invitation: find a place for the word of the kingdom, its hope and grace, though spiritual practices, new attitudes and listening for God’s voice in life.

World of Wolves. Sunday, June 18, 2017. Readings: Exodus 19:2-8, Psalm 100, Romans 5:1-8, Matthew 9:35-10:23. Narrative Texts: through Moses God promises to honor a faithful Israel as God’s prize possession, Paul speaks of the love of God as the source of our faith and peace, Jesus sends his disciples into a world of wolves, instructing his followers to avoid becoming wolflike, and to refuse becoming the victims of the wolves. Themes: ancient Rome was a world of wolves and our world is similar in ways. Our wolves come in many shapes and forms. Invitation: stay near Christ the shepherd in order to know the protection and provision of God.

We Believe in the Holy Spirit. Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 2017. Readings: Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:25-35, 37, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, John 20:19-23. Narrative Texts: in Acts the Holy Spirit falls on the disciples, creating their apostolic witness; Paul explains the gifts of the Spirit; after the resurrection, Jesus shares the peace and forgiveness of the Spirit with his followers. Themes: we believe in the Spirit of life, the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of sacrament. Invitation: listen and look for the work of the Spirit as we walk the journey of life.

Hope in the Spirit. The Sunday after Ascension Day, May 28, 2017. Readings: Acts 1:6-14, Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36, 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11, John 17:1-11. Narrative Texts: the first disciples gather in prayer after Christ’s ascension to await the Spirit, Peter encourages the persecuted followers of Christ, Jesus prays his great high priestly prayer on behalf of his disciples. Themes: the promise of the Spirit becomes a beacon of hope in a world filled with challenges, difficulties and suffering. Invitation: be open to the gift of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual harvest of love, joy and peace.

Easter and an Open Mind. Sunday, April 16, 2017, Easter Day. Readings: Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, Colossians 3:1-4, Matthew 28:1-10. Narrative Texts: Peter realizes the full scope of God’s plan, Paul counsels an exalted perspective on life, Matthew tells of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Themes: the purpose of lifelong learning is to move from an empty mind to an open mind. Invitation: cultivate a sense of wonder and openness to the teaching of resurrection, especially its intention to provide fullness of life.

Three Crosses. Sunday, April 9, 2017, Palm Sunday, the Sunday of the Passion. Readings: Isaiah 50:4-9, Psalm 22:1-11, Philippians 2:5-11, Matthew 26-27. Narrative Texts: the prophet speaks of the messiah, Paul describes the humility of the cross, Matthew  recounts the passion of the Christ. Themes: the church asks us how we envision the cross and its meaning. Three basic views emerge from the history of Christian artistry and spirituality: the crux sola, the crucifixus and the Christus rex. Invitation: because God wishes to meet us where we are, embrace the meaning of the cross strong enough to meet your needs.

Love is a Strong Word. Sunday, February 12, 2017. Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Psalm 119:1-8, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Matthew 5:21-37. Narrative Texts: Moses urges the people of God to choose life, Paul calls the church to unity, Jesus of Nazareth probes into the sins of his followers in the sermon on the mount. Themes: to understand the gospel we must understand the whole gospel story, especially the meaning of the cross. Christ died not only to forgive us our sins and nourish us in the sacrament but also to destroy the unholy powers that keep us from loving and learning to love. Invitation: let yourself go from the chains and restraints of the past which Christ has already eliminated and love God, love others, love life.

There God Commanded the Blessing. Sunday, January 29, 2017. Readings: Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Matthew 5:1-12. Narrative Texts: The prophet Micah calls God’s people to justice, kindness and humility; Paul reminds his flock of their humble roots; Jesus pronounces blessing on the lowly among his disciples. Themes: Because God is the source of all blessing, we seek God’s blessing and seek to bless others from what he has given us. Invitation: Do not fear to pursue God’s blessing and to share those gifts with others.

The Birth of Love. Saturday, December 24, 2016, Christmas Eve. Readings: Isaiah 7:10-16, Psalm 96:1-14, 11-13, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-14. Narrative Texts: the prophet points to the birth of a messiah, Paul describes Jesus of Nazareth as the Incarnate God, the gospel tells the story of Christ’s birth and the worship of shepherds. Themes: the birth of the messiah is the new birth of God’s love into the world. We know many forms of love and have a capacity to love in many ways. Often we fear and love at the same time. Invitation: embrace the love of God which casts out fear.

I Call Him King. Sunday of Christ the King, November 20, 2016. Readings: Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 46, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43. Narrative Texts: Jeremiah predicts the coming messiah-king, Paul describes Christ as the creator, sustainer and redeemer of all that is, Jesus is portrayed by Luke as crucified in rejection and derision. Themes: What are we to make of the paradox of the crucified king? The death of Christ shows the moral splendor of his character, is the central saving event of his grace and forgiveness and reveals to us what we are to become. Invitation: seek to imitate Christ in his humility and self-offering, drawing on the resources of his spirit.

Kipling on the Election. Sunday, November 13, 2016. Readings: Malachi 4:1-2, Psalm 98, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19. Narrative Texts: Malachi predicts the Day of the Lord, Paul inveighs against idleness, Jesus predicts the apocalypse. Themes: we celebrate Saint Martin’s Day, we offer Holy Baptism, we ingather our pledges for 2017, we respond to the national election. Invitation: trust the promise of Christ and, like Martin of Tours, our patron, live lives of courage, compassion and humility.

The Spirit of Holy Love. Sunday, October 23, 2016. Readings: Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22, Psalm 84:1-6, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18, Luke 18:9-14. Narrative Texts: Jeremiah confesses the sins of Israel, Paul sums up his faith challenges, Jesus tells the parable of the self-righteous Pharisee and the repentant tax gatherer. Themes: a spirit of condescension and condemnation is the last attitude God wants from us. Learning to love is the purpose of life, strengthened by the Holy Spirit. Invitation: embrace the purpose of the faith journey and let love of all that is good be our goal.

Wrestling with God. Sunday, October 16, 2016. Readings: Genesis 32:22-31, Psalm 121, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8. Narrative Texts: Jacob wrestles with the angel, Paul writes from prison, Jesus tells the parable of the unjust judge. Themes: most of us have adjusted to the reality that life is not fair and yet the extremes of injustice continue to challenge our faith. Invitation: have the courage to wrestle with faith, believing in the God who blesses authentic and well-grounded persistence.

9/11. Sunday, September 11, 2016. A sermon on the fifteenth anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Readings: Exodus 32:7-14, Psalm 51:1-11, 1 Timothy 1:12-17, Luke 15:1-10. Narrative Texts: the people make a golden calf and worship it as an idol, Paul recounts his former sins and crimes and pleads ignorance, as well as mercy; Jesus likens God to a shepherd seeking the one lost sheep and a woman seeking the one lost coin. Themes: we cannot find ourselves until we are found by the God who seeks us. Invitation: remember and let that memory lift us into the people we should be.

Trends in Practical Atheism. August 21, 2016. Readings: Isaiah 58:9-14, Psalm 103:1-8, Hebrews 12:18-29, Luke 13:10-17. Narrative Texts: Isaiah promises God’s help to the faithful, Hebrews describes the seriousness of faith, Jesus of Nazareth points out hypocrisy among those who see a difference between the day of worship and the other days of the week. Themes: we sometimes live like practical atheists, regardless of our Sunday profession of faith. Invitation: become aware of the temptation to inconsistency in matters of faith and embrace God’s grace to live a more faithful life.

Living Flame of Love. August 7, 2016. Readings: Jeremiah 23:23-29, Hebrews 11:29-12:2, Luke 12:49-56.  Narrative Texts: Jeremiah confronts false prophets, Hebrews describes the suffering of the faithful witnesses in the world, Jesus of Nazareth yearns for the coming fire of the word, the Spirit and the sacraments. Themes: most of us do not face the extremes of danger and suffering the earliest Christians faced but we do have our challenges. Invitation: allow the living flame of love God has given us to strengthen us to face each day with renewed commitment.

Sitting at Christ’s Feet: Mary of Bethany as Matron and Model. July 17, 2016. Readings: Genesis 18:1-10a, Psalm 15, Colossians 1:15-28, Luke 10:38-42. Narrative Texts: Abraham recognizes God’s visitation in three messengers, Paul describes Christ as the image of the unseen God, Mary of Bethany chooses to sit at Christ’s feet as a disciple and is commended and defended for doing so. Themes: cares and worries often keep us from hearing the truth of Christ, especially the distractions arising from evil, from the mundane and even from the good, compulsively pursued. Invitation: choose to sit at the Teacher’s feet in contemplation and meditation of his truth.

The Good Samaritan. July 10, 2016. Readings: Deuteronomy 30:9-14, Psalm 25:1-9, Colossians 1:1-14, Luke 10:25-37. Narrative Texts: Moses reiterates how God has clearly revealed the divine will, Paul rejoices in how others have responded to the Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the Samaritan who saves a life. Themes: hostility between peoples across borders ends by the grace of God in transforming moments when we realize we can meet the life threatening needs of others. Invitation: hear and respond to God’s call to love others, especially in their hour of need, and so fulfill not only the teaching of God but also the summons to be like God in showing compassion and mercy.

The Mystery of the Triune God. May 22, 2016. Readings: Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31, Psalm 8, Romans 5:1-5, John 16:12-15. Narrative Texts: Proverbs tells how wisdom is God’s partner in creation, Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as the source of faith, Jesus promises the Spirit of truth to his followers. Themes: the triune God we affirm and celebrate in the Nicene Creed each week is a God of unutterable mystery. Invitation: embrace the mystery of God and cultivate a curiosity capable of sustaining the spiritual life.

Know Yourself: The Prodigal Returns Home. March 6, 2016. Readings: Joshua 5:9-12, Psalm 32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Luke 15:11-32. Narrative texts: the people of God stop eating manna and begin living off the fruit of the promised land, Paul speaks of our new God-understanding and self-understanding, Jesus weaves the parable of the prodigal, who wastes and wanders, then returns home. Themes: self-knowledge is a central feature of the journey of faith. Invitation: seek to know yourself as a child of God needing to return home to God.

God is Watching. February 21, 2016. Readings: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18, Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 13:31-45. Narrative texts: God strengthens Abram’s faith by making a covenant, Paul speaks of cultivating an attitude of altitude, Jesus responds to the threat of Herod without fear. Themes: God seeks to evoke trust from us, even in situations of danger and oppression. Invitation: Identify the tyrannical Herods in life and stand against them.

If You are a Child of God: Journey into Lent. February 14, 2016. Readings: Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16, Romans 10:8-13, Luke 4:1-13. Narrative texts: Moses faces the sin of the people and builds God’s provision for healing, Paul proclaims salvation in the present moment, in the wilderness Jesus of Nazareth encounters the devil’s temptations. Themes: a power of evil is to test our sense of identity in God, to make us question who we are in connection to God in an attempt to diminish our sense of self and God. Invitation: for the Lenten journey seek to reaffirm God’s goodness, grace and gifts, refocusing on who we are in God.

Seeking the Presence of God’s New Grace. January 3, 2016. Readings: Jeremiah 31:7-14, Psalm 84:1-8, Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19, Matthew 2:1-12. Narrative texts: Jeremiah predicts the coming kingdom, Paul celebrates God’s grace in choosing the faithful and Matthew tells the story of the Magi and King Herod. Themes: common responses to God’s new grace in the world include seeking the presence of that new grace, fearing and feeling threatened by it, as well as becoming hostile to it, and ambivalence: deciding not to decide one way or the other. Invitation: embrace the wisdom of the Magi and seek the presence of God’s new grace in the world.

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