The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Longing for Light, We Wait in Darkness | A Sermon on the First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 29, 2015

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"Longing for light, we wait in darkness," was a snippet from a verse St. George's sang during the Advent Lessons & Carols service later that afternoon (Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015).  Fr. Greg Syler noted, "Singing it presumes that we, followers of Jesus, are longing, truly longing for light."  But the simple fact is that darkness, itself, is also a choice.  In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks (Nov. 2015) and in our political discourse (or lack thereof), both national and international, we say we "long for light."  It's a hard thing, hard because we live in a dark, dark room.  It's hard, as well, because we choose the darkness which surrounds us.  We don't want to know that light, or let that light in.  That light can burn.  That light can show too much.  Light has power and, as Fr. Greg said, "I'm just not certain that we like things which have power over us."  Frankly, we live in a world today in which *light*, as such, can be bought, created, produced -- not by God, not by a greater source, but by ourselves.  We can very easily become deluded into thinking that the light source is, well, me!   But Jesus doesn't seem to believe that we have the pure and perfect capacity to be light, not for ourselves, nor for this world.  In this world, Jesus predicts, there will be "distress among nations," and "roaring seas," and "foreboding of what is coming upon the world."  Maybe that's why Jesus then brings up the fig tree in this parable in Luke's 21st chapter, for Jesus and his friends seemed to, as Greg noted, "have a thing for figs."  Figs are tasty, delicious, a gift.  Figs are something we like, just like we say we like light.  At least we say we like light.  Which is why Advent is such a gift, once again; that's why Advent is its own gift -- and challenge -- of light coming into this world, for it will burn and it will reveal; it will show God and it will challenge one's own sloth.  "Longing for light, we wait in darkness..."

Advent 1, Liturgical Year C

  • Jeremiah 33:14-16
  • Psalm 25:1-9
  • Luke 21:25-36

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In whom do you trust? | Sermon from Sunday, 22 November 2015

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King Sunday

2 Samuel 23:1-7​, Psalm 132:1-13, John 18:33-37


“But what about you?” Jesus asks in three of our four gospels, “Who do you say that I am?” In the fourth gospel, Jesus regularly announces who he is.  A running theme, then, is Jesus' self-identification and, to us, it's most often a question.  If anything, it's a question that needs to be asked, again and again.  Who, then, is Jesus?  If you were looking for the correct answer, the response would be something like "the Lord," or on this Feast of Christ the King (Sunday, 22 Nov. 2015): "the Ruler of my life," "the King of all creation."  But the purpose of the life of faith isn't (only) getting the answer right; it's making Jesus' Lord-ship a persistent truth in one's life.  And that's something we arrive at only after patterning our life after His, through the regular and persistent practices of understanding, and seeing, the opportunities to die to the old self and rise to a new life, day after day.  It's what we, Christians, call Death and Resurrection.  Or as former Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold said well, "You cannot proclaim resurrection if you have not lived it.  And you cannot live resurrection if you have not died."  A lot of people, myself included, want to get the answer right; and most of the time, if you ask us, we will get the answer right.   But instead of asking what someone believes in, look, instead, at one's own habits of trust and trusting.  In whom do you trust?  While I’m not always so sure that we, the institutional Christian church, have done such a fine job of telling you this, let me say it clearly: you can, you should trust a whole lot more in God. 

That when things fall apart, trust that God will not let you go.

When things look a little bit screwy and you want to fix them yourself, trust that God is in this, somewhere, somehow.

When matters get tense or your heart is anxious, trust that good news is being worked out.

When successes come, trust that that’s what we call grace – not merely a measure of how great or nice or competent you are.

Trust -- which is entirely more than knowing what’s right, or fearing what’s wrong, or having figured out the correct answer.

Trust that the King of all creation, when you make Him the Lord of your life, will never, ever let you down.

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The greatest thing we do: coming together on the Lord's Day | Sermon from Sunday, 15 Nov. 2015

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Jesus didn't have a lot of good to say about all our glorious buildings, and yet we keep building them -- and finding a lot of glory in them!  In Mark's gospel (13:1-8), Jesus and his disciples are walking through Jerusalem and a disciple says, "Look, Teacher! What large stones! What great buildings!"  "Do you see these great buildings?" Jesus says, "Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."  Instead of pointing to our human-made glory, Jesus points instead to the Kingdom of God, and he reminds us that this is, sometimes, an interruptive force. 

Pointing out the very physical surroundings of St. George's Church -- the building itself which dates back to 1799 -- Greg Syler reminded the congregation that Jesus' lesson can be captured in appreciating this one, simple, unassuming, strong church building in Valley Lee, Maryland -- "four thick, strong walls, and one good roof."  Our predecessors didn't build a fancy church which draws a lot of glory to itself; they built a mission outpost, a gathering space on the frontlines of God's mission, a simple, straightforward space to bring all people to unity with God and one another in Christ.  We, too, need to return to that old, old story.  We, too, need to get beyond our 'stuff' -- for sometimes, like as was found in a study which looked at religious children and their (lack of!) generosity, all this stuff we've gathered keeps us from being Jesus' hands and feet, Christ's body in this world.  We need to remember that a church building is just a space -- four strong walls and one good roof -- in which nothing more than the greatest thing we can possibly do happens, week after week: where God's people gather, hear God's word, receive God's presence, and go forth to be His body in this world.


Proper 28b

  • 1 Samuel 1:4-20
  • Psalm 16
  • Mark 13:1-8

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Once was lost, now am found | Sermon from Oct. 25, 2015

By: The Rev'd Gregory C. Syler

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ever tried to do something you knew you should be doing, or you suspect, if you did it, it'd change your life for the better?  Ever tried to lose weight?  Or save money?  Have you always been successful?  Probably not, not on the first try, most likely, because we're not always successful immediately.  We don't always understand life immediately, and we don't always 'get it' until we've struggled with something or become confused.  Oftentimes, what looks like failure in this world is our best teacher, and that's how we learn.  This point is driven home in Mark's gospel, chiefly when he offers us two "blind guy stories" at two key points -- one just before Jesus starts to teach his disciples about suffering and what he's about to do (chapter 8) and the next one, blind Bartimeus, following those teachings about the cross (ch. 10).  Between Mark 8 and 10, Jesus teaches three times about suffering and the Cross, that they are going to up to Jerusalem and he will be betrayed and handed over to suffer and to die.  They don't like these teachings -- Peter, we remember, tried to pull Jesus aside and rebuke him -- but God reminds us that we often don't know, or can't see what God is up to in this world until we let ourselves see and experience what this world will very well call failure.  Maybe it's set up this way, this path of discipleship.  Maybe that's what we learn about once-blind Bartimeus, a great disciple, no, apostle among them!   

Proper 25b

  • Job 42:1-6,10-17​​
  • Psalm 34:1-8
  • Mark 10:46-52

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