Read Sermons Author: The Rev. Canon Dr. J. Russell Snapp

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Our Place in the Universe

September 18, 2016

Many of us are reading the bookLearning to Walk in the Dark, by Barbara Brown Taylor, the well known Episcopal priest, preacher, and writer who will be speaking here at the Cathedral next week, on September 8.  Among other things, she discusses our excessive fear of darkness, to the point where we want to light up the night, both indoors and outdoors.  A great cost comes with this, she says, far beyond the energy consumption and electricity bills.  Because of what some call “light pollution,” two-thirds of us Americans cannot even look up into the night sky and see the Milky Way, the galaxy in which we reside, which contains, I am told, 100-400 billion stars and at least 100 billion planets. 

Why should it bother us that we often cannot see this in the night sky?  For one thing, Taylor says, seeing the Milky Way provides much spiritual benefit.  It provides a place for us to rest with our eyes, so to speak, and (in Taylor’s words) leads us to “risk wondering things that will make you dizzy for days.  Where does that path of stars lead?  Where does the cosmos end?  What lies beyond it, and who are you to wonder about such things?  If you are ever in doubt about your place in the universe, [Taylor says], this is a good way to remember.”

Our Place in the Universe

August 28, 2016

Many of us are reading the bookLearning to Walk in the Dark, by Barbara Brown Taylor, the well known Episcopal priest, preacher, and writer who will be speaking here at the Cathedral next week, on September 8.  Among other things, she discusses our excessive fear of darkness, to the point where we want to light up the night, both indoors and outdoors.  A great cost comes with this, she says, far beyond the energy consumption and electricity bills.  Because of what some call “light pollution,” two-thirds of us Americans cannot even look up into the night sky and see the Milky Way, the galaxy in which we reside, which contains, I am told, 100-400 billion stars and at least 100 billion planets.

12th Sunday After Pentecost

August 07, 2016

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

During my time at Sewanee this summer, working with SUMMA, I took an afternoon and evening off to make a quick trip to Atlanta.  I was determined to see Alice, a life-long friend of my parents and me, who sang at my parents’ wedding.  Two years ago, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and fought it well until a couple of months ago, when she went into hospice care.  In our short visit, she offered a strong Christian witness, saying that because she has a deep sense of what the old hymn calls “blessed assurance,” she is not afraid of dying or of what follows.  She is putting her trust in an infinitely good, powerful God, whom we know in Jesus by means of the Holy Spirit, and who will never leave us or forsake us.

Things Fall Apart

April 10, 2016

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

My phone rang as I was paying for lunch at the Arts Center last Sunday.  A friend related the shocking news that Johnny Stayton, the 45-year-old verger of St. Mark’s Church in Jonesboro, whom we both knew, had just died suddenly, after their morning service.  I later learned that, during that service, Johnny had presented the Rev. Amber Carswell, our new priest, on her last Sunday there, with a stole and had thanked her for her fruitful ministry with them.  No one dreamed that his earthly life would end very shortly thereafter.  He leaves behind a grieving parish that had depended on his devotion and hard work, along with a broader circle of family and friends, most notably his partner of 24 years.  Suddenly and without warning, the world changed irrevocably for so many.

Epiphany 2C

January 17, 2016

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

It may be no accident that the end of Dr. Keller’s sermon last Sunday resonates with my own reflections during the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany.  The Dean noted that there are signs all around us of “the realm of unconquerable beauty.”  In other words, through the eyes of faith we perceive that what wecansee points to wonderful, eternal realities which we cannot see directly.  The obvious world of objects, living things, and actions can provide windows into a much larger realm of unseen reality that surpasses even the greatest earthly beauty.

Of course this seems to go against the grain of modern-day rationalism.  To many, anything perceived through the eyes of faith seems imaginary and untrustworthy.  But we Christians have long asserted, to the contrary, the reality and absolute reliability of God and God’s kingdom, a spiritual realm we usually don’t see directly but which we believe is powerfully and wonderfully present among us, both now and forevermore.

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