Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Can You Handle the Truth?

(This sermon was preached at Messiah Lutheran Church on Sunday, October 21, 2012, on the occasion of the installation of the Reverend Pauline Pezzino as Associate Pastor. The sermon derives from the first reading for the occasion, Jeremiah 1:4-10.)

The theologian of rock music, Bono of the band U2, in the song, Magnificent, sings:

I was born, 
I was born 
to sing for you
I didn't have a choice 
but to lift you up
And sing whatever song 
you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
from the womb
My first cry, 
it was a joyful noise...1

I think you, Pauline, like U2’s Bono, were born to sing for God, to lift God up and sing the song God has called you to sing, to give back your voice, from the womb your first cry, a joyful noise. But this is no allusion to your gift for singing - as great as that gift is -but to your gift and calling for proclamation, the sharing of the gospel. 
Yes, preaching is a form of singing the song of the gospel. Most certainly Pauline, God has called you to be a joyful noise maker, a singer, preacher, proclaimer of his living word. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


(This sermon was preached at Messiah Lutheran Church, Knoxville, TN on Sunday, October 7, 2012, the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 22B. The sermon derives from the RCL pericope for the day, predominantly the Gospel text, Mark 10:2-16)

M. Scott Peck begins his best selling book, The Road Less Traveled with three simple words. Three words that when put together feel like a punch to the gut. They take your breath away because in that moment you know they are true. What are the three words? Life…is…difficult. 1

The first time I picked up Peck’s book and saw those words, it was almost enough to make me set the book down again. I didn’t want to hear those words. Rather, I wanted to continue in my ignorant bliss. I wanted to naively trust that life was only and mostly joy, fun, adventure, and love. But...we all know the truth don’t we? With the joy of life - and there is most certainly joy - but, with that joy comes our share of trip-ups, poor choices, misjudgments, regrets, conflicts, pain, suffering, broken relationships, illness, injury, and death.

Some people believe the church, maybe most especially the sermon should only deal with the former, with the joy and happiness of life. “Give me a feel good sermon, pastor.” some people are want to say. But, to do so would mean we were not dealing with life. Life IS difficult. And what better place to be honest about that truth than here in the church. What better place to deal with the difficulties and complexities of life, than here. What better place to be honest about our brokenness and suffering, than here.