Sermons

The Rev. William Bell, MD, BCC

June 18, 2017 The Second Sunday of Pentecost “Workers for the Harvest”

Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers.  In the name of the compassionate, commanding and righteous Lord God. Amen.  Have you known a moment when God disrupted your life? When Jesus called you and sent you out? When the Holy Spirit set you apart for a particular mission? This is precisely what the church and its sacraments are for.  To fortify you to live into God’s purpose for your life. So, let me tell you a tale!   Jo Marie and I returned recently from a 7-day silent directed retreat.  With the Jesuits, in the green rolling hills of Pennsylvania.  If you’ve never been on such a retreat, it’s hard to explain its power.  How a week of prayer and spiritual direction may change your life.DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Joseph S. Pagano, PhD

June 4, 2017 Day of Pentecost “Ain’t Nobody Safe Now”

In our lesson about Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first disciples and they started to speak in different languages, the crowd, we are told, responds in interesting ways: they were confused, the were astounded, they were amazed, they were bewildered, and some said the disciples must have been drunk.  Now, I must confess, as a preacher and a teacher, these are usually not the responses I am looking for.  Actually, if I am being honest, I’m looking the opposite.  In my early years of ordained ministry, I used to think my job was to explain things.  You know, we read these strange and wonderful stories in scripture and we do these peculiar things in church, and my job, I thought, was to explain them in a way that makes sense.  I have now come to look at these attempts to explain things with some regret.  If I am honest, I think what I often ended up doing was trying explain away the strangeness, the wonder, and the peculiarity of our faith.  I think I aimed at a response that was more like, “okay, that makes a certain amount of sense” rather than “okay, that was confusing, bewildering, or, isn’t it a little early for Joe to be drinking.”  I think in trying to make things understandable, we often end up stripping the power from these stories. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Amy E. Richter, PhD

May 22, 2017 Sixth Sunday of Easter “Not Left Orphaned”

It’s a strong word, but there are days when I hate being an orphan.  As many of you know, my parents have both died, both too young, my mom in her fifties, my dad in his sixties.  I was a grown up and long out of their home when they passed, but there are days when I still want my mother.  Many of you know these days too, when you wish you could just pick up the phone, share a story, ask for some advice, hear the familiar voice of someone who has to take your phone call. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Joseph S. Pagano, PhD

May 14, 2017 The Fifth Sunday of Easter “Lord, Do Not Hold This Sin Against Them”

In a 2010 survey on forgiveness, sixty-two percent of Americans agreed that they needed more forgiveness in their lives.  When asked about the need for more forgiveness in their communities the number rose to eighty-three percent, and when asked about the need for more forgiveness in the world the number rose to ninety percent.  Clearly, many people think we could do with more forgiveness in our lives today.  And there are good reasons for this.  Recent studies have found that forgiveness can reap huge benefits for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving sleep; reducing blood pressure, anxiety, and stress.  Now, I must confess, I rather like when I come across studies that provide some empirical support for religious truths.  “See, I told you so,” I want to say.  But my self-satisfied attitude is generally short-lived.  Just because there are some studies which suggest that forgiveness is good for us doesn’t make it any easier to do.  There’s a reason why people think we could use more forgiveness in our lives: because it is really hard to forgive.  The same survey that found that sixty-two percent of Americans agreed they needed more forgiveness in their lives also found that sixty percent of Americans believe that forgiving someone would first depend on the offender apologizing and changing their ways.  You see the problem, right?  I feel a need to be more forgiving in my life.  But I won’t do it until the creep who did me wrong apologizes and changes his ways.  As my mother might say, “Good luck with that honey.  Be sure to get back to me and let me know how that works out for you.” DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Amy E. Richter, PhD

May 7, 2017 Fourth Sunday of Easter “Listen to the Shepherd’s Voice”

One of the church’s most familiar images for Jesus is the Good Shepherd—the one who knows the sheep, who lays down his life for the sheep, a living example of the shepherd of today’s psalm, leading us beside the still waters and restoring our soul.

If these words bring to mind a stained glass window with a picture of a gentle shepherd cuddling a sheep over his shoulders, then brace yourself.  According to today’s lesson, a rock is about to come crashing through that window.  Or more precisely, beware, there are thieves and bandits out there who, Jesus says, “come only to steal and kill and destroy.”  Jesus, the good shepherd, the true shepherd, came to give us life—abundant life.  DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Joseph S. Pagano, PhD

April 30, 2017 The Third Sunday of Easter “Let’s Not Bury the Lead”

Lillian Daniel has written a funny new book called Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To.  Daniel is a pastor in a Congregational Church, and the title for her book comes from a habit she developed of apologizing for every bad thing that has ever been done in the name of Christianity.  She writes, “Religion bashers had nothing on me.  I would beat them to the punch, giving them things the church should apologize for that they hadn’t even thought of yet. ‘The Inquisition? Don’t even bring it up; I’m way ahead of you.  I was mad about it before you even heard of it.  Salem witch trials?  I know!  So embarrassing.’ … ‘[And] don’t forget imperialism, capitalism and racism.  Religion invented those problems too.’” The problem with all the apologizing, says Daniel, is that she never got around to talking about main point of her faith: that she wants to be grounded in God, centered in worship, called to serve and free to dream.  Using a journalism term, she says she buried the lead.  As she explains, “Back in my apologizing days, I might never have told anyone about experiencing God, in church, in worship.  There was no time to talk about worship, let alone experience it.  I was too busy debating, apologizing, and engaging on the head level, trying to convince people we were open minded about God rather than simply open to God . . . I used to joke that we were the church most likely to be attended by people who don’t go to church.  People thought it was funny, especially the people who didn’t go to church . . . But I don’t think it’s so funny anymore.  I think it’s sad.  I buried the lead.” DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. William Bell, MD, BCC

April 23, 2017 The Second Sunday of Easter “Sending Shalom”

Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you. As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”  In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.  Peace to you. In Hebrew, Shalom Aleichem. Peace to all you disciples.  To all you newest ones to be baptized today. And to all you older disciples.  Because, today’s Gospel tells us all what disciples are to do.  John sets it in the evening of the first day of the new creation.  Last Friday, Good Friday, God glorified Jesus on the cross.  And today, God authenticates that glory, by raising Jesus from the dead.  Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene this morning.  She tells us that she has seen the Lord.  You might think that we would rejoice in amazement.  Instead, we are in our hiding place with the doors locked.  We are terrified, horrified, not daring to trust Mary. The authorities are looking for us. And, if they torture and crucify Jesus, imagine what they will do to us. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Amy E. Richter, PhD

April 16, 2017 Easter Sunday “What If All This Is True?”

I like exploring the questions people ask to guide them. Not just the big questions, like what is the meaning of life? Not just the curiosity questions like, Can germs catch germs? (yes) Do identical twins have identical fingerprints? (no) What is the gestation period of a giraffe (about fifteen months). Not just the helpful questions like, Where is the safest place to be if you’re caught outside in a thunderstorm? (in a car or other enclosed metal structure). DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Amy E. Richter, PhD

April 9, 2017 Palm Sunday “The Power of Praise”

What if worship isn’t just something we do because it’s good for us, which it is; or because God commands us to, which God does; or because it can bring us peace and joy, which it can.  What if worship is also no less than a weapon God gives us to defeat evil? Worship is, as one preacher put it, a way to “ambush Satan with a song.” Worship is a way to defeat the enemies of God and God’s goodness.  Worship of the one true God, in the words of an African American spiritual, is going to tear Satan’s kingdom down. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Joseph S. Pagano, PhD

April 2, 2017 The Fifth Sunday in Lent “Running for My Life”

I have run a grand total of two marathons.  I ran my first when I turned fifty years old.  I suppose it was one of those turning fifty things.  I thought it would be a good way to mark this milestone in my life.  And it was.  I actually enjoyed the training and the running of the marathon.  I’m pretty slow, so it was tough to find time for some of the long training runs, but all in all it was a really good experience.  So good, in fact, that I thought I would never do it again.  I came to think of it as my own version of “one and done.”  Turned fifty. Ran a marathon. Done. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Amy E. Richter, PhD

March 26, 2017 The Fourth Sunday in Lent “The Lord is My Shepherd; I Shall Not Want”

Today, our appointed Psalm is Psalm 23, a psalm about the contentment God gives those who trust in God in the midst of any trouble.  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  These words are so familiar to so many of us, we may have stopped hearing them.  But whether they are old to us, or new, today we are invited to listen to their sweet and sure promise. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Richardson Libby

March 19, 2017 The Third Sunday in Lent “Infinite Love”

Good Morning. I want to start this morning with a story about William Dixon. He lived many years ago in a small village in England. He was quiet and lonely. His wife had died a number of years ago and his son had also died a few years later. He could often be seen sitting by his window, watching the world go by and smiling at the happy faces of the villagers as they passed. One day he looked out and saw his neighbor’s house on fire. Other neighbors were already gathering, scrambling for water. Dixon ran out just as an elderly woman was pulled from the flames. “Who else is inside?” someone shouted. “My little grandson” she gasped. “Upstairs—trapped”. The people groaned because everyone could see that the stairwell was fully involved by the flames. No one was going to get up or get down those stairs. Dixon went around to the other side and saw an iron drainage pipe running up the wall. Taking hold of it he pulled himself up to the window, he found the terrified boy, scooped him up and scrambled back to the ground. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. William Bell, MD, BCC

March 12, 2017 The Second Sunday in Lent “New Birth”

Jesus answers Nicodemus, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, Unless someone is born of water and spirit, That one is not able to enter into the Kingdom of God.”  In the name of God. Amen.  My new granddaughter, Charlie, has scheduled her birth.  On May 7, she is due to have her only physical birth.  This is a good thing, a wonderful thing, this physical birth.  Although she may not agree at the time.  I imagine her now, in the wet, dark, warmth of the womb.  Hearing a variety of familiar sounds.  The ba-bump, ba-bump of Mom’s heartbeat.  The wooshes and grumblings of Mom’s intestines.  She’s safe, secure, swimming about.  Pushing off from one firm rubbery wall, and bumping her head on the other wall.  It is getting a bit crowded inside her womb, but, it is known, safe, sustaining. No need to breathe, or eat, or poop.  Come May 7, that will change.  The womb will painfully force Charlie into our world.  Light not dark, cool not warm, very noisy and alien.  And Charlie will breathe and shriek and fear.  Her physical life in this world of light and darkness begins.  DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Joseph S. Pagano, PhD

March 5, 2017 First Sunday in Lent “Temptations”

In the 1930s, the two greatest American theologians of the 20th century, Reinhold Niebuhr and H Richard Niebuhr, who also happened to be brothers, had a bit of a family fight.  Reinhold had just published his influential book Moral Man and Immoral Society, and in it he spoke of religion as a power for social transformation.  Brother H Richard objected.  Here’s what he wrote in a private correspondence: “You think of religion as a power – dangerous sometimes, helpful sometimes . . . I think [this view of religion as useful] is thoroughly bad.  It is a first-aid to hypocrisy . . . It worships the God whose qualities are ‘the human qualities raised to the nth degree,’ and I don’t expect as much help from religion as you do.”  What H Richard is saying is that if you think of religion primarily in terms of something that is useful for advancing certain human interests it’s only a matter of time before it becomes corrupted or coopted.  Human beings are notoriously prone to self-interest and small mindedness and worse, and if religion is simply a tool, it will end up being used for self-interest and small-mindedness and worse.  The history of the twentieth century demonstrates that H Richard saw things more clearly than Reinhold. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. William Bell, MD, BCC

February 26, 2017 Last Sunday After the Epiphany “Glory to Glory”

Behold the light of God’s countenance. Be strengthened to bear your cross, Be transformed into God’s likeness, from glory to glory. In the Name of God. Amen.  So Jo Marie and I had a bucket list experience this month.  A naturalist-led expedition to the Galapagos Islands.  600 miles from anywhere, on the equator.  The place key to Darwin’s theory of evolution, Which is the organizing principle behind all biological science.  Galapagos has animal species found only on these islands.  Tropical penguins, marine iguanas, unimaginable finches.  And land tortoises bigger than Carolene’s smart car.  Galapagos enchants us with its wonders. And dominates our imagination.  But it is also a hot, bleak, arid, and hostile place—truly desert islands.  And the diversity of unique species reflects, the severe competition on any living thing to survive there. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Amy E. Richter, PhD

February 19, 2017 Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany “The Image in the Temple”

I think it’s fair to say, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets a really high bar.  But St. Paul tells us we have a high calling—high enough to attain to Jesus’ high standards.

“Do you not know,” asks the Paul, “that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys that temple, God will destroy that person.  For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”  Because of Jesus Christ, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God’s holy sanctuary isn’t a building, it’s a people.  You are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Joseph S. Pagano, PhD

February 12, 2017 Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany “First Be Reconciled”

A few years ago a group in England had a contest to determine the funniest religious joke of all time.  The winning joke was by the comedian Emu Philips.  You may have heard it before.  I tell it this morning not just because it is pretty funny, but because, I think, it relates to our Epistle lesson. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Amy E. Richter, PhD

February 5, 2017 Annual Meeting, Rector’s Address

Dear Friends in Christ, Members and Staff of St. Anne’s Church, Chilton, our Bishop,

What a joy and privilege it is to stand in your midst and address you as rector of this parish church.  And how delightful to do this on at the Annual Meeting during the year of our 325th anniversary as a church, as a group of people gathered together in the presence of God, in the name of Jesus Christ, to worship, pray, give, share, proclaim, and be lights of the world in our generation.  DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. William Bell, MD, BCC

January 22, 2017 – Third Sunday After the Epiphany “God’s Deviant Marginals”

Jesus is the light who has come upon those who live in the dark and in the shadow of death. In the name of the God with us, the one who saves us. Amen.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  You guessed it—today’s sermon is a tale two empires. Rome’s Empire and God’s Empire.  And all of you get to choose one or the other.  This year I want all y’all to choose to be deviant marginals.  This year we follow the Gospel according to Matthew and to understand any prophet or theologian or storyteller, we need to know their context. Who they are, where and when they lived.  And the struggles and problems they faced.  So let’s use the work of Biblical scholar Warren Carter.  And our imagination, to reconstruct the world of Matthew. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Joseph S. Pagano, PhD

January 29, 2017 Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany “Blessed Are…”

In our Gospel lesson for today, we hear the beatitudes, the preamble to the Sermon on the Mount, those amazing, beautiful, essential words of Jesus that are at the very heart of the Christian faith, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted . . . Blessed are the meek . . . Blessed are the peacemakers. . . ”  Yet whenever we gather and hear the beatitudes proclaimed, I wonder what people think?  Maybe some think, “Wow, these are the most beautiful words I have ever heard.”  But maybe others think, “Yes, these are beautiful words, but like so many beautiful words, they are fanciful, they can’t really be followed in the real world.”  And maybe others are thinking, “Wow, these are beautiful words, and, oh my, they are another reminder of all the ways I fail to leave up to the high calling of being a disciple of Christ.” DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Amy E. Richter, PhD

January 8, 2017 The Baptism of our Lord “We’re With Him”

Today we celebrate the baptism of Jesus, when he was baptized, and the voice of God was heard to say, “This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well-pleased.”  Today we also celebrate baptisms, and remember and celebrate that we are baptized, when God says of us, You are my beloved child.  With you I am well-pleased.

Baptism is more than affirmation, though.  Baptism is blessing and power, blessing and power that comes from having a new identity, being with and in Christ.  DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Joseph S. Pagano, PhD

January 1, 2017 The Feast of the Holy Name “Holy Name”

Names can tell us a lot about a person’s character and the role they play in a story.  One of the pleasures of reading literature is discovering the meaning of characters’ names. Authors often give their characters names that tell us something important about who they are and about what they will do in the story. The great master of giving characters names is Charles Dickens. He gives us the policemen, Sharpeye and Quickear, the family physician, Dr. Pilkens, and the surgeon, Dr. Slasher. The Bigwig Family are the stateliest people in town, Mr. Bounderby is a self-made man and social climber, Abel Magwitch is an able magic witch who can transform a poor boy into a prince, and the Reverend Mechisedech Howler is a preacher of the ranting persuasion.  DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. William Bell, MD, BCC

December 25, 2016 Christmas “Dark Matter”

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. Amen.  No doubt all y’all were amazed by the events of last August.  Those headlines on August 25th, when scientists reported that the galaxy Dragonfly 44, has the same mass as our Milky Way Galaxy, but has no stars or apparent structure.  We cannot see it or directly detect it.  But scientists believe it is made entirely of dark matter.  So what is dark matter? No one knows. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Amy E. Richter, PhD

December 24, 2016 Christmas Eve “Do Not Be Afraid”

Do not be afraid.  Do not be afraid.  Do not be afraid. It’s repeated like a steady beat through the Bible.  As in the book of Deuteronomy:  The Lord will be with you; The Lord will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.  And the book of the prophet Isaiah:  Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. And the book of Daniel:  Do not fear, greatly beloved, you are safe.  Be strong and courageous.  Fear not.  Fear not.  Fear not.  A steady, strong pulse—words to live by, words to breathe by, words to set down burdens and pick up praise.  God gives reasons not to be afraid more than 365 times in the Bible, more than “one assurance for every day.”  Do not fear is God’s message for us, this day, our assurance for Christmas. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. William Bell, MD, BCC

December 18, 2016 Advent 4 “God’s Weakness”

So, I love babies. Real, live, huggable, messy, noisy babies.  And I’ve made sure all 3 of my children have first-rate cameras.  So that they can record the wonderfulness of my grandchildren.  And send me those pictures and videos on a frequent basis. I know my own genesis fairly well. And I’ve pointed out my Scot-Irish White Trash genealogy before. So I’ve been intrigued with my new grandson Henry. The first descendant of mine with olive skin and brown eyes.  His dad, Sammy, is born of Italian and Nicaraguan roots. Sammy’s family is matriarchal and Hispanic to the core. But Henry also has his own unique spirit. He looks out on the world with a gaze of concerned surprise. As if he’s saying, “Really, this is what the world has to offer?” And as he’s grown, Henry’s trained his parents well. They respond to his every cry and smile with lightning quickness. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Amy E. Richter, PhD

December 11, 2016 Advent 3 “Beyond our Expectations”

“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”  John the Baptist asks Jesus this question this week:  “Are you the one?”

When we heard John in the gospel lesson last Sunday, he had been so sure.  It was Jesus he pointed to and called out, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world;” Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus, the light of the world. This week, he’s not so sure:  Are you the one?  Or was I mistaken? DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Joseph S. Pagano, PhD

November 27, Advent 1 “Wake Up and Live”

When I was a kid, and when I did not want to wake up in time to catch the school-bus, my mother devised a very effective way to rouse me from sleep.  She did not knock on the door to my bedroom nor did she yell in to me that it was time to wake up and go to school.  No, my dear, sainted mother would walk into my room and she would put her hand over my mouth and then pinch my nostrils shut.  In a matter of seconds, this caused me to wake up, gasping for air. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Joanna White

November 24, Thanksgiving Day “Gratitude”

Some years ago my husband Sandy and I spent a lot of time at the research center of Georgetown University Hospital. On one of those days, I picked up lunch at the now closed Marvelous Market on Wisconsin Avenue.  As the clerk packed up my purchases, she put in a catering menu for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday.   The brochure depicted a smiling family around the table laden with all the traditional foods and a caption that stated in bold bright letters, “Give Thanks with Marvelous Markets.”  The problem was, no one was “giving thanks” for anything, they were eating.  Now, if eating actually is a symbol of giving thanks, I must be the most grateful person alive. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Amy E. Richter, PhD

November 20, 2016 Proper 29 “Christ is Our King”

Every year in the Church, the Sunday before Advent begins is Christ the King Sunday.  Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with it.  It’s not one of our best known holy days.  I can barely get a few Christmas cards out; I’m sure I’ll never get around to sending Christ the King greetings.  But maybe that’s too bad; maybe I should.  Because the message of Christ the King Sunday, of who Jesus is and what he does for us, the way of life he invites us into, is right up there, follows right along with our celebration of God become flesh at Christmas and Christ crucified and resurrected at Easter so we can have new life now. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. William Bell, MD, BCC

November 13, Proper 28 “Infinite Hope”

The Lord God says: Be glad and rejoice forever in what I’m creating, I’m creating Jerusalem as a joy and her people as a source of gladness.  In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.  I am a poor wayfaring stranger Travelling through this world of woe But there’s no sickness, toil or danger In that bright land to which I go I’m going there to see my loved ones Gone on before me, one by one, I’m just going over Jordan I’m just going over home I know dark clouds will gather ’round me I know my way is rough and steep But beauteous fields lie just before me Where God’s redeemed their vigil keep I’m going there to meet my Savior Dwell with Him nd never roam I’m just going over Jordan I’m just going to my home.  Our pilgrimage on this earth follows this path. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Joseph S. Pagano, PhD

October 30, Proper 26 “Zacchaeus the Big-Time Giver”

Adam Grant has a fascinating new book called Give and Take in which he characterizes the different ways people are oriented to giving and taking in their relationships with others.  Basically he says there are three types of people: Takers, at one end of the spectrum, Givers, at the other end of the spectrum, and Matchers, who are somewhere in the middle.  DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Amy E. Richter, PhD

October 23, 2016 Proper 25 “Let it Rain”

A prayer by Jacqueline Bergan and S Marie Schwann says, “Lord my God, when Your loved spilled over into creation You thought of me.  I am from love, of love, for love.”

What an awesome claim!  When God first created, God did it with us in mind.  In fact, the reason for creation itself was so God could create us in order to receive God’s love, to participate in God’s love, flourish in it, take joy in it.  We are no afterthoughts, no fortunate bystanders, no accidents.  God made us from love, of love, for love. DOWNLOAD PDF

The Rev. Joanna White

October 16, Proper 24 “Shared Pain as a Blessing”

I believe there is a theme that goes through the lessons we just heard; it’s struggle.  That exact word doesn’t appear precisely in in the writings.  Genesis uses “wrestled,” “prevailed” and “striven.”    Timothy favors “persistence,” “convince” “rebuke” and “encourage.”  For good measure he throws in “be sober” and “endure suffering” as an evangelist, which we all are by virtue of our participation in a religious community.  Moreover, we are to persevere/prevail/ strive… “in favorable or unfavorable times.”  Given the era in which it was written, the writer of Timothy’s experience would have been more familiar with “unfavorable” times. DOWNLOAD PDF