Sermons

The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Down from the Mountain | Sermon from the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, 7 Feb. 2016

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Maybe more so than the revelation and, truly, confirmation Peter, James and John saw atop the mountain on which Jesus was transfigured, the story, itself, points to the after-effect: What happened when they came down from the mountain?  What was their life like after the cloud dissapeared, after the voice which once proclaimed "This is my Chosen" had become silenced?  How they oriented and shaped their lives following this event, given that they didn't tell anyone about it -- not until the real confirmation, that is; namely, Easter Day?  It's kind of like what happens after Super Bowl Sunday.  Not only is one team going to win and another lose, but a whole nation of football fanatics is going to have to wait months and months until their team goes back into training camp!  The trash will be picked up from around the stadium, and the fans will go home, and we will all learn to live in the glow -- or, if your team lost, the shadow -- of what happened.  The life of faith is kind of like that, after all: we don't get a whole lot of mountain-top experiences and, thanks be to God, we also don't get a whole lot of terrible, awful experiences, either.  Most of the time, our days are spent after the big event, whether good or bad.  And it's how we live in the after-effect -- how we live when we've come down the mountain -- that truly matters, most of all.

LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, Year C

  • 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
  • Psalm 99
  • Luke 9:28-36

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The Greatest of these is Love | Sermon from Sunday, 31 January 2016, Epiphany 4c

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, January 31, 2016

1 Corinthians 13 is either one of the most under-rated or over-hyped pieces of scripture!  Greg Syler mentioned that, from time to time, he's advised couples who are preparing to get married to choose a reading besides 1 Corinthians 13: "Everyone chooses that reading," he's heard himself say; "go with something else, something more fresh."  But, then again, perhaps this reading -- when better understood in its context -- is not only a good reading to inaugurate a marriage but, in fact, a really good passage for such an occassion!  That's because the love being discussed isn't a kind of soft and warm feeling; no Hallmark (TM)-card kind of sappyness.  "Love" in the New Testament isn't a feeling; it's a power.  The love Paul's pointing to in his letter to the Corinthians is a world-shaping, community-building, life-altering, cosmos-changing, alternative-behavior kind of love, the kind of love that's public and big and broad.  For this reason, it's good to remember that weddings, too (which are, of course, just the start of the marriage, itself), are public occassions that pull together all kinds of different people -- not just the couple who will be married, but their families and friends, too: all kinds of people from all kinds of experiences and backgrounds and identities.  And through that gathering, through the prayers and witness of that gathering, the Holy Spirit will make of them one body, one new body -- both the persons who are married as well as their families and friends!  That kind of love isn't a feeling; it's a power!  That's precisely what 1 Corinthians, in general, and chapter 13 is all about: that kind of love that makes us into different people, better people -- the very people God created us to be.

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Waste some time | Sermon from Sunday, 24 January 2016

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, January 24, 2016

...The whole story of this gift called life is an invitation, sometimes a daily invitation to help us find our true home.  Home, or the place we are called, simply, to be is not measured in how busy we are; it has nothing to do with what we earn by way of salary; it is not how much stuff we have, or how nice that stuff is because, frankly, we have so much stuff that we forget all about it, that is, until we’re given this gloriously uninterrupted time to clean out closets and organize our Tupperware drawers, or stay home, waste some time and count our blessings! ...In many ways, that’s how Jesus began his very ministry.  ...What Jesus is pointing to in his inaugural sermon is not just a theme, moving forward, but a promise to return home, a promise, as Henri Nouwen once reflected, to “a place that until then had remained unavailable to me, a place where I could hear the gentle invitation of Jesus to dwell with him.”

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From Other, to Brother, to God-with-us | Sermon on Christmas Eve, 2015

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Friday, December 25, 2015

God hopes that we will find that the one whom we fear, the one whom it is safer and easier to dismiss and categorize as other, that that one is, and always was, our brother, our sister, a member of our family under the parenthood of God.  These are dangerous and fearful times, but I honestly can’t figure out if these are such fearful times because they are so dangerous, or so dangerous because they are so fearful.  Nation no longer seems to rise up against nation, but swords have not yet become pruning hooks.  Instead, peoples, groups, mindsets, political positions, ideologies turn against those whom they project as other, turning religion itself, and religious traditions which share the same common ancestry, into a battleground.  Yes, some say, to them.  No, to them.

For so it was, also, in ancient times.  And the story we tell, year after year, this night, is that same story, repeated in its most unfortunate parts even today.  A poor couple, a young mother, doing as the empire would have them do.  They don’t have means, and there is no place for them to stay; he, though descended of that town and lineage, and she, riding on that donkey, are immigrants, foreigners, others.  She holds within her a profound and world-altering secret, but even that is not enough to change the status quo.  So those who attend this night are nothing more than the beasts of the ground, and forgotten working animals.  The only human acolytes, that night, are the filthiest of the filthy, the most un-regarded of civil society, those shepherds who “were abiding in the field” not so much of their own choosing but because polite people had pushed them there so they wouldn’t have to face those bums any more.

...But time and again we would not see, we would not listen, we would not receive.  Time and again, we retreated into our fears.  And time and again, again and again, we broke God’s heart.

Which is why, in time, God changed the story, and became one of us.

Now, then, no longer is this movement from distance to closeness, from fear to intimacy on our part.  Now, then, God has breached the divide, moving from other to brother to Emmanuel, God-with-us.  Now, then, there is no other – there is no set of secular ideologies which God cannot redeem; there is no political position that God cannot move amongst; there is, in creation, no distance, but love spans the gap – for God is all and in all.

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