Archives for May 2015

Best of…Summer 2015

During the summer months, we are taking the opportunity to highlight some of the “Best of…” here at Sermons that Work. We hope you enjoy reading some of the highlighted sermons from previous years. 

Kingdom of God – Proper 6 (B)

Today’s sermon comes from The Rev. Dr. J. Barrington Bates holds a Ph.D. in liturgical studies from Drew University and currently serves as rector of the Church of the Annunciation in Oradell, New Jersey.

Click here to read the sermon for Proper 6, Year B.

“In today’s gospel passage, Jesus speaks in parables. Again. He does that a lot. Jesus frequently uses this particular literary device to get his point across.”

 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13, Psalm 20, 2 Corinthians 5:6-17, Mark 4:26-34

Print the Sermon for Proper 6, Year B.

God Calls us to Expand our Family – Proper 5 (B) – 2015

During the summer months, we are taking the opportunity to highlight some of the “Best of…” here at Sermons that Work.

Today’s sermon comes from The Rev. Danáe Ashley is priest-in-charge of St. Edward the Confessor Episcopal Church in Wayzata, Minnesota.

Click here to read the sermon for Proper 5, Year B.

“Family. We all come from one. Some are loving, some are quirky, some are dysfunctional, some are abusive, and some are a combination of those things. No matter what type of family we have, we have a role to play within it.”

1 Samuel 8:4-11, (12-15), 16-20, (11:14-15) and Psalm 138 (Track 2: Genesis 3:8-15 and Psalm 130); 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1Mark 3:20-35

Print the Sermon for Proper 5, Year B.


We are able to resonate with God, Trinity Sunday (B) 2015

During the summer months, we are taking the opportunity to highlight some of the “Best of…” here at Sermons that Work.  Today’s sermon comes from The Rev. Timothy B. Safford, rector of Christ Church, Philadelphia.

Click here to read the sermon for Trinity Sunday

Isaiah 6:1-8Psalm 29 or Canticle 2 or 13Romans 8:12-17John 3:1-17

“We are able to resonate with God because we are made to be in tune with God, a gift imparted by being created in the image of God.”

Download the sermon for Trinity Sunday.


Bulletin Insert: Third Sunday After Pentecost (B)

General Convention

June 14, 2015

GC sealThe 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church is June 25 – July 3, in Salt Lake City, UT (Diocese of Utah). The Episcopal Church’s General Convention is held every three years, and is the bicameral governing body of the Church. It comprises the House of Bishops, with upwards of 200 active and retired bishops, and the House of Deputies, with more than 800 clergy and lay deputies elected from the 108 dioceses and three regional areas of the Church.

At General Convention this year, the church will elect the 27th Presiding Bishop. The candidates are:

The election will take place on Saturday, June 27 at the Cathedral Church of St. Mark. All bishops with seat, voice, and vote will vote in the election. Once the election has taken place, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will refer the name to the House of Deputies for confirmation.

You can learn more about the nominees from the Joint Nominating Committee for the Election of the Presiding Bishop booklet here.

Other major items of consideration at General Convention are:Salt-Lake-City- Salt Palace

  • Discussing and discerning the understanding of marriage
  • The future structure of The Episcopal Church
  • Discussing and approving the budget for the next three years for The Episcopal Church will be discussed and approved

Follow along with the election and other happenings at General Convention through The Missionary Society’s Media Hub! You can also follow along on social media using the hashtag #GC78. Find the Media Hub at


For a Church Convention:

Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who take counsel in the General Convention for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory. Guide us to perceive what is right, and grant us both the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Download bulletin insert as PDF:
full page, one-sided 6/14/15
half page, double-sided 6/14/15

black and white, full page, one-sided 6/14/15
black and white, half page, double-sided 6/14/15

Spanish bulletin inserts are available on the Sermones que Iluminan website.

Bulletin Insert: Second Sunday After Pentecost (B)

Summer Camp for Children of Incarcerated Parents

[Scroll down or click here for ready-to-print PDFs.]

June 7, 2015

Camp Amazing Grace, Diocese of Maryland. Making friends and working on crafts are key activities at camps for children.

Children of incarcerated parents are the invisible victims of crime. The effect of having an incarcerated parent is often damaging, says Val Hymes, editor of Prison Ministry Network News. It can lead to poor grades, discipline problems, drugs, gangs, and even prison. In response, more than 20 Episcopal parishes and dioceses are engaged in ministries with these children through summer camps, after school homework help, and various other activities.

The Episcopal Church’s first camp for children of incarcerated parents was held in 1994 in the Diocese of the Rio Grande. Rev. Stephen Caldwell and Rev. Jackie Means, retired director of Prison Ministry, created a guide for starting a camp.

“Many of us discovered that if a child has a parent in prison, they are invisible victims,” said Means. “They suffer quietly as if they themselves are doing time. The camp ministers to these children in an unconditional environment of love and acceptance.”

There are numerous ministries around the country creating environments of love and acceptance for children of incarcerated parents. One example is the Hope House in Washington, DC. Hope House started in 1997 when the District of Columbia’s Lorton Correctional Center closed. Offenders were sent to federal prisons in other states, moving miles, hours, and expensive long distance phone calls away.

Carol Fennelly, long-time activist for the homeless in Washington, saw the damage to families split apart and realized how it would impact the children. She founded Hope House as a haven for families of prisoners by building and maintaining strong relationships between children and their fathers in prison.

Hope House has had an incredible impact, producing 19,000 book recordings by dads in prison that were sent with the book to the child so they could read together, coordinating 2,600 teleconferences with dads in prison and their children, and bringing nearly 900 children into prisons at 13 correctional institutions for children to be with their fathers during summer camp.

Hope House Summer Camp

Hope House Summer Camp. Photo: Carol Fennelly

Remarking on these transformative ministries, Fennelly said, “Just because these fathers are bad citizens doesn’t mean they are bad dads. [In one ministry, the fathers had] to do a show for the kids in which they [wrote and performed] music and choreography, making fools of themselves. They had to work together to make the show work. In the process, they all became friends.”

If you are interested in starting a ministry for children of incarcerated parents in your parish or diocese, contact Val Hymes, editor of Prison Ministry Network News, at

To learn more about Hope House contact Carol Fennelly at,


Download bulletin insert as PDF:
full page, one-sided 6/7/15
half page, double-sided 6/7/15

black and white, full page, one- sided, 6/7/15
black and white, half page, double-sided 6/7/15

Spanish bulletin inserts are available on the Sermones que Iluminan website.

Bulletin Insert: Trinity Sunday (B)

Navajo Code Talkers

[Scroll down or click here for ready-to-print PDFs.]

May 31, 2015

Photo: The Episcopal Church in Navajoland

Photo: The Episcopal Church in Navajoland

About three years ago, working through the Episcopal Church in the Navajoland, I began meeting with a small group of Navajo military veterans in Arizona and New Mexico. Since then my work has evolved into a number of very positive relationships with a much larger group of Navajo veterans. Many of the older veterans had Vietnam service, while the younger vets had Cold War, Gulf War, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom service. Once in their midst, it is impossible for even the most detached stranger to overlook the passion the Navajo vets have for their service to our country. I have experienced their unmistakable conviction that military service was both an obligation and an honor.

During my second trip to be with the Navajo veterans, they took me to one of their most esteemed locations: the veterans cemetery where the U.S. Marine Corps World War II veterans known as “Code Talkers” are buried. Most of what I know about the Code Talkers I learned from the 2002 movie ”Windtalkers” which dramatized their very significant contributions to the war effort. In 1942, 29 Navajo men were recruited by the Marine Corps to serve as communicators in the Pacific Theater. Their job was to use the “Din-e” (Navajo) language to create a combat communications code that was unbreakable by the Japanese. Their service as communicators has come to be recognized as having been one of the important turning points in the Pacific for US forces.

With this in mind, I had the idea that I would be seeing a carefully cared for national monument and cemetery. You know the type. So often on Memorial Day we see and hear tributes to the sacrifices of veterans against the background of Arlington National Cemetery. At all times Arlington is stunning with its rows uniform white grave markers and deep green manicured grass. I served on active duty for nearly 30 years and have seen my share of veteran’s cemeteries. Hence, I thought I knew what to expect. Did I ever get a shock when I arrived at the Navajo Veterans Cemetery!

Coming over a hill near Fort Defiance, Arizona, my first sight was an almost barren hill dominated by numerous American flags. The closer we got, the more I realized that not only were the flags of unequal size and quality, but also that many were significantly worn, and some even tattered. Then I saw the white grave markers, perhaps the only thing in common with an Arlington-like cemetery. Hardly any of them were aligned in rows. There was no grass covering the ground. Most of the ground surface was barren sand or dirt, with a smattering of gravel upon some of the graves. I was speechless. When we got to the area of the cemetery where the code talkers were buried, I found the condition of the graves to be only slightly better.

Though I could go into much greater detail about the condition of this veterans cemetery, I think you get the point. Is this any way for us to recognize the sacrifices of military members who risked their lives in service to their country? In a 2012 interview the late Code Talker Chester Nez, speaking about why he became a Marine, said , “I had no choice. The Japanese had attacked my country. I had to join the Marines and be a warrior.” As a country we have an obligation to honor such a depth of commitment.

Above all else I am a person of faith who belongs to a community of faith. As such, I believe that we have no choice but to honor such sacrificial service. A central theological axiom by means of which I attempt to live is to acknowledge that because God blesses us, and God does just that, we ought to use every opportunity to bless others by demonstrating our thanks to those who serve us. With the Navajo Code Talkers, though we may have said thanks to them and their survivors, we are far from any demonstration that our thanks is genuine.

As people of God we are the divine agents of the one who created and sustains us. This Memorial Day as we recognize the lasting contributions of others such as the Navajo Code Talkers, I encourage you to find ways to not only give thanks with your lips but also to demonstrate your thanks from the heart of your being. I know for a fact that the Navajo veterans are waiting to see how we will demonstrate our thanks and appreciation for their ancestors and for them. Do something!

The Rt. Rev. James B. Magness

Bishop Suffragan for Armed Services and Federal Ministries


Download bulletin insert as PDF:

full page, one-sided 5/31/15
half page, double-sided 5/31/15

black and white, full page, one- sided, 5/31/15
black and white, half page, double-sided, 5/31/15

Spanish bulletin inserts are available on the Sermones que Iluminan website.

The Love-Hate Memoir of One Churchgoing Gal

A Review of Rachel Held-Evans’ Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church


“Searching for Sunday.” Rachel Held-Evans. Nashville, Tenn.: Nelson Books, 2015. 269 pp.

In her latest book Searching for Sunday, popular blogger and author Rachel Held-Evans is at her best: as a mouthpiece for evangelical Christians wearied by the culture wars of their forebears, Held-Evans has written a book that reintroduces the relevance of the church and the Christian faith for a growing segment of Americans that either self-identify as “spiritual but not religious,” or have left the church because of their disillusionment there, or both. Indeed, Searching for Sunday answers the need for a winning, instructive articulation of “church” and why church, warts and all, still matters—not just to Held-Evans, in her own personal meandering of loving, leaving and finding the church, but to our postmodern generation, at a time when faith itself (or at least traditional expressions of it) may be in crisis.

Held-Evans handles this task deftly. She reacquaints her readers with seven sacraments that historically have defined the church, by including a section on each of these with short, corresponding chapters that translate that sacrament’s appeal for our time:

  • The church tells us we are beloved (baptism)
  • The church tells us we are broken (confession)
  • The church tells us we are commissioned (holy orders)
  • The church feeds us (communion)
  • The church welcomes us (confirmation)
  • The church anoints us (anointing of the sick)
  • The church unites us (marriage)

The fact that Held-Evans embraces all seven sacraments of the Catholic Church is an indication of just how far she has traveled from her own church upbringing. Like mine, her largely evangelical, non-denominational origins exuded very little in the way of sacramentalism—(and also involved weekly AWANA classes and a regular dose of overtly political conservatism). So it is striking that Held-Evans attributes her return to church (and in particular, to the Episcopal Church) to the sacraments.

In Held-Evans’ words:

When my faith had become little more than an abstraction, a set of propositions to be affirmed or denied, the tangible, tactile nature of the sacraments invited me to touch, smell, taste, hear and see God in the stuff of everyday life again. They got God out of my head and into my hands. They reminded me that Christianity isn’t meant to simply be believed; it’s meant to be lived, shared, eaten, spoken, and enacted in the presence of other people. They reminded me that, try as I may, I can’t be a Christian on my own. I need a community. I need the church.

Held-Evans’ (and others’) very real need for the church and for a “true” version of the Christian faith—as opposed to merely a “hip” one—is as on display in this book as Held-Evans’ aversions to certain expressions of Christianity, especially those that would discriminate against gays and women. In this sense, the book may be too much of a lightening rod for some potential readers (but no more so than Held-Evans’ blog already is).

True to form, Held-Evans is smart, well-informed and refreshingly honest in her engagement of the Bible (and in particular, passages that have often been used to prop up particular agendas in the church). She refuses to dodge Scripture’s unanswered questions. Take, for example, the story of the woman caught in adultery in John’s gospel. The religious leaders have brought the woman to Jesus in order to see whether Jesus will condemn her in accordance with the law. After Jesus sends the religious leaders away, he turns to the woman, absolving her from condemnation with the perplexing command, “Go and sin no more.”

Here Held-Evans voices my own questions about this passage and its contemporary conscription by those who believe the church needs to take a more hard-line stance towards sin (or at least towards certain perceived sins). Held-Evans writes, “To this I am always tempted to respond: So how that’s working out for you? The sinning no more thing? Because it’s not going so well for me.”

I want to cheer when I read these sorts of truthful confessions throughout the book—not just because they are also my own, but because they poke holes in contemporary manifestations of the early church heresy known as Pelagianism (which espoused the belief that human beings could attain moral perfection in this life).

Elsewhere Held-Evans makes bold, thought-provoking declarations about the very nature of God. Within the context of a discussion about the sacrament of marriage, for instance, she reckons that “what each of us longs for the most is to be both fully known and fully loved,” and that “God, too, wants to be fully known and fully loved.” This connecting of the dots, between our erotic longing and that of a God who desires full, naked intimacy with us, is one that I had not come across in quite the same way until Held-Evans’ daring articulation of it.

This book is not without its flaws. At times the organization of chapters within sections seems forced and unclear, so that I am left wondering why, for example, in a section on healing and the anointing of the sick, I am reading about the church growth antics of one mega church pastor and ways to interpret the church’s present-day decline.

Such small gripes notwithstanding, Searching for Sunday is worth a read—not just by those who have yet to apprehend their need for church, or who struggle to understand the essence and relevance of the institution, but by those looking to fall in love all over again.

Kristina Robb-Dover is an Atlanta-based writer, author and minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)., having served in various ministry settings. Her latest book project, The Recovery-Minded Church: Loving and Ministering to People with Addictions (InterVarsity Press) will hit bookstores this winter. She is also the author of Grace Sticks: The Bumper Sticker Gospel for Restless Souls (Wipf & Stock, 2013), and her articles have appeared in a number of publications, including Touchstone, The Christian Century and The Washington Post. You can find her regularly musing at the Beliefnet blog, “Fellowship of Saints and Sinners.”