Sermons

Mother’s Day

May 13, 2018
Earlier this week I had some time to kill before a meeting in Olympia, so I decided to wander around and explore downtown. It was a beautiful, sunny morning. And…

God is Love

April 29, 2018
You may have noticed that I’m not from around here.  I grew up in Alabama, the Deep South, The Bible Belt.  And I grew up in a Southern Baptist church.…
MEDITATION ON THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD – LOREL MCCHESNEY SUNDAY, APRIL 22, 2018 When I was a child, maybe 3 or 4, I remember being drawn to a…
I’ve got to confess – I’m often frustrated by the Bible stories of Jesus’ resurrection – not that he was resurrected, mind you! – but how weird his behavior was…
Last week we celebrated Easter. The church was filled with flowers. The 8 o’clock service had music. But this week, it all goes back to normal. It’s like a couple…

Easter Sunday 2018

April 1, 2018
A curious thing happened on Friday morning. I was here in the church, getting ready for the services, when a tree sprayer showed up to start spraying the row of…

Palm Sunday 2018

March 25, 2018
It’s a common lament amongst priests that the church is full of people on Palm Sunday and even fuller on Easter, but is relatively empty on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday,…

5th Sunday of Lent

March 18, 2018
All through Lent we’ve been surveying the Old Testament covenants – that series of promises God made with creation and humanity and – in the case of Moses – the…
Okay. So the Old Testament story today is just weird. It starts with the Israelites out wandering in the desert. They’re getting tired of it. They’re impatient and start complaining:…

Third Sunday in Lent

March 4, 2018
I’ve been fascinated these past couple weeks, along with the whole country, watching the students in Parkland, Florida protesting the availability of assault rifles in our country. What’s been so…

Lent 2

February 25, 2018
Throughout this Lenten season the Old Testament readings are tracing the story of God’s covenants with humanity. God sees our brokenness – our sinfulness – and the ways this has…
It’s easy in Lent to be distracted by all the little rules and customs that have grown up around it. Here at St. John’s we shroud our crosses. In the…

Ash Wednesday

February 14, 2018
This past Saturday evening I put on my clergy shirt, threw my stole in a bag, and got in my car to drive to St. Joseph’s. My next door neighbors…

Being with God

February 4, 2018
Years ago I was at a conference where Tony Campolo was the speaker. He shared a story of a time he was being interviewed on the radio. In the course…

Prophets

January 28, 2018
“Moses said: The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet” (Deut. 18:15). Throughout the history of…

How do we repent?

January 21, 2018
So we’ve got three readings today: Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel. Just like always. And all of them are circulating around a common theme. In the Old Testament, God calls…
Today we’re celebrating both the Feast of the Holy Name and the Feast of the Presentation. The story that inspires these feasts is told in the single gospel reading we…

A Christmas Meditation

December 25, 2017
Since the dawn of human thought, and the birth of spiritual aspirations, we have looked to the heavens to find God. We have sought God in the sun and in…
Remembering Lauretta White I must admit – for years now I’ve known that, if Lauretta were to die while I was still rector at St. John’s, the New Testament reading…
About 500 years before the time of Christ, the prophet Malachi wrote, “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me….Lo, I will send you the prophet…

An Advent Meditation

December 3, 2017
When Cynthia was pregnant with Henry, about two weeks before his due-date we were just like any first-time parents: nervous and excited – putting everything in order. Each night before…

Our Relationship with God

November 19, 2017
Well – we’re at that happy place in the gospel of Matthew where it’s time to deal with the wailing and gnashing of teeth. But before we get there, let’s…

Bridesmaids

November 12, 2017
Expect Delays. We have all seen the signs:  Construction for the next 10 miles, expect delays; Holiday weekend, Ferry volume high, expect delays; winter storm, expect delays. We live in…
Traditionally this is a day to remember the saints of the church – those noteworthy women and men through the centuries who have shown us in their lives what it…

Reconciliation in the Church

October 15, 2017
Well, here we are. This is our last week looking at Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. (And if by chance you’re thinking to yourself, “My God, I just can’t…
So we’re back for the third week exploring Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. And I’ve got to say that in today’s reading it sure does sound like Paul is…
Last week we began a four-week sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians. And our Philippians reading today is one of the most extraordinary and beautiful descriptions of Jesus’…

Unity of the Church

September 24, 2017
Years ago I was at some diocesan event with a bunch of Episcopalians. And at some point someone at the table made a passing reference to the apostle Paul and…

Walking Blind

September 17, 2017
I gotta tell you, being in the church business, it’s rather heartening to hear this morning’s New Testament lesson. Clearly, the church today is no different than the church in…
Well. It’s been a bad week. The floods in Texas are now giving way to the mold in Texas. Every western state is on fire. There was a massive earthquake…
It’s been a disturbing week in America. We’ve long supposed across the political spectrum that things like Nazism and the KKK are evil and are pretty much obsolete. And then,…

Wrestling with God

August 6, 2017
For several weeks we’ve been following the story of Jacob – that patriarch of the Old Testament – who also just happens to be a thoroughgoing, conniving scoundrel. And today…

The Binding of Isaac

July 2, 2017
This spring a warbler built her nest near my back office door, and every day – a few times a day (I can’t help myself) – I step outside my…
In God we live and move and have our being. Perhaps it’s simply the poetry of these words that makes it so attractive to me. It certainly is poetic. But,…
So today is sheep Sunday: Sheep in the Psalm; sheep in the second reading; sheep in the gospel. And of course we all know that sheep are cute and cuddly…

Easter Morning

April 16, 2017
There’s such a vast difference between Good Friday and Easter morning. From a liturgical point of view, Good Friday is dark and stark and barren – the church is emptied…

Good Friday Meditation

April 14, 2017
God is God. In creating this world, God could have made it in a thousand different ways. It could have been a world without change, without trouble – a world…
All of us are waiting: Waiting for the baby to sleep through the night; waiting for the check to clear; waiting for the biopsy result; waiting for someone we love…
So Jesus and his disciples have been out walking all day. It’s around noon. “Why don’t you boys go get some lunch,” he says. “I’ll meet you on up ahead…

No rules…just love

March 12, 2017
Lent 2 A; St. John’s Gig Harbor; 3/12/17   The story of Nicodemus in today’s gospel is RICH.  It is full of themes and invitations to explore further what deeper…
Adam and Eve stared longingly at the forbidden fruit. “Eat it,” whispered the serpent. The haggard Christ, worn down from forty days of fasting in the wilderness stared hungrily at…

A light in dark places

February 26, 2017
It may not surprise you to find out that while some folks prefer to read scripture as though it were a catalogue of factual statements, like you might find in…

Love your enemy. Really.

February 19, 2017
So we’re back to the Sermon on the Mount. As I said last week – Jesus’ teaching in this sermon is tough stuff. His standard is high, high, high. And…
“Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” Let me tell you, these words still haunt me. They were once…

Lynne Shaub, 1928 – 2017

February 4, 2017
For years and years – throughout her adult life – Lynne would travel to Seattle at Christmastime to hear Handel’s Messiah performed. It was a tradition. It was a joy.…
I’ve misplaced a few things lately:  the small leather pouch containing my earphones and the lock I use at the gym; the compact bible I like to use for study…
A few weeks ago I laughed at how relieved I was during my sabbatical of not having to preach during the presidential election - with all its rancor and contention.…

Come and follow Me

January 15, 2017
What does it mean to be called by God? On the one hand, it’s something we all want. We all want to hear God speak to us in some definitive,…

welcome the magi

January 8, 2017
This Christmas I saw a meme posted on Facebook. It was snarky and provocative – but certainly got the point across. It said something to the effect, “This is what…

Sabbatical Reflections

January 1, 2017
As of midnight last night, my sabbatical was officially over. Which means, of course, that there won’t be a normal sermon today, because that would have required me spending the…

Sign of the Times

November 27, 2016
One of my favorite movies of the past few years is “Silver Linings Playbook”; it is the story of a man and a woman, each a survivor of their own…

All Saints

November 6, 2016
Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day.  It is the feast day set aside in the church year when we remember those members of the body of Christ who have died—people…
Our annual diocesan convention was held this weekend.  Linda & Mike Broun joined Marilyn and I and a few hundred other Episcopalians at the SeaTac Hilton where we attended workshops,…

St. Brigid & anam cara

October 16, 2016

See

September 25, 2016
As you may have heard, the Roman Catholic Church recently made Mother Teresa a saint.  She is perhaps the most well-known to us of contemporary saints.  Her work with the…

Giving up our lives

September 4, 2016
Blessings and curses, slavery, and hating our families --- This morning’s readings are challenging!  There is not one easy subject in the midst.  Nor should there be, because my friends,…

Forsaking the Seat of Honor

August 28, 2016
The other day I was thumbing through a catalogue of Christian books, and – I knew better than this, but I gave into temptation – and read the description of…

The Sun Behind the Sun

August 21, 2016
THE SUN BEHIND THE SUN Frank Shirbroun, St. John’s Episcopal Church, Gig Harbor, Sep. 21, 2016   INTRODUCTION:  Teresa and I are highly honored to be here this morning.  When…
I had a roommate in college who claimed that his favorite book of the Bible was Ecclesiastes. Why? Because of that section made famous by Pete Seeger and the Byrds…

Give us this day…

July 24, 2016
The Lord’s Prayer. Whether the traditional version we pray here at St. John’s or the more contemporary, I would venture to say it is the most ubiquitous prayer offered in…
A year or so ago I was out walking in the park near my house. A soccer game was being played in the field and – just as I was…
  When I was young, I would daydream about being a missionary. It’s not that I was necessarily much of a budding ambassador for Christ; I just wanted to see…

Kinship with Creation

May 29, 2016
Remember, when you were young, how you liked to blow a dandelion and send all those seeds flying into the wind? It was almost impossible, though, to get all of…
From the beginning of human culture, we’ve told stories to explain the origin of things. “How did the tiger get its stipes?” “Why does the moon change its shape?” It’s…
There’s a reason the Parable of the Prodigal Son is so popular. How could it not be, when God is depicted as such an eager father, hitching up the hem…

The Repenting Fig Tree

February 28, 2016
Jesus tells a lot of parables that have become very famous – so famous that they’ve been absorbed into mainstream culture. If you say that someone was a “Good Samaritan,”…

The Epipany

January 6, 2016
Tonight the journey is complete – the journey of those wise men who were beckoned to pay homage to a foreign king whose star they observed at its rising. But…

Feast Day of St. John

December 27, 2015
Today we celebrate Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, our patron saint. But what exactly does that mean? Does it mean we pull out all the miraculous stories the church has…
Since the dawn of human thought, and the birth of spiritual aspirations, we have looked to the heavens to find God. We have sought God in the sun and in…

Magnificat

December 20, 2015
Throughout the season of Advent we’ve been singing the Magnificat at the beginning of each liturgy. It’s Mary’s song, her bold declaration about God and the ways of God. We’ve…

Welcome to Advent!

November 29, 2015
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will…
So today we celebrate Jesus as Christ the King. Now there’s something about kingship that can resonate deep within our spirits. I suspect it’s a yearning for what we glimpse…
I’m not sure if it’s intentional that the story of the widow’s mite shows up in our lectionary cycle around the traditional time of a church’s fundraising efforts or not,…

The Communion of Saints

November 1, 2015
“Lazarus come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind…

Annual Fund

October 25, 2015
Good morning! My name is Jack Maynard, and with my wife, Marty, I have been a member of St. John’s for nearly nine years.  Together with seven other parishioners, I…

The Value of an Entire Life

October 18, 2015
21st Sunday after Pentecost Eric Stelle October 18, 2015 Year B Hebrews 5:1-10             We all know the Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger”. It’s…

Jack Lynch

October 18, 2015
They say in our training to be Episcopal priests, that “every funeral sermon is an Easter sermon.” That is, when we gather as we are doing today, we are always…

Let It Go

October 11, 2015
If you have children of a certain age, or young grandchildren, there is a strong chance you have heard the song, “Let it Go”.  It is from the soundtrack of…
When there’s been a tragedy, such as the shooting in Oregon, you come to church seeking peace – to hear something that will restore your faith in God and your…

On Divorce & Remarriage

October 4, 2015
As the preacher, my heart dropped when I read today’s lectionary readings: the suffering of Job and the apparent deal that Satan struck with God that allowed all his suffering…

A Spirituality of Stewardship

September 27, 2015
When you hear the word stewardship, what is the first thought that comes to mind? More than likely, it is time talent and treasure. You sigh deeply and wonder how…

The Path of Wisdom

September 13, 2015
Our Old Testament reading today is from the book of Proverbs – a book we don’t hear from too often in the lectionary – or anywhere else for that matter.…

The Touch of God

September 6, 2015
We’ve got two healing stories this morning, a deaf man and a demon-possessed girl. Let’s start with the second, mainly because it sounds like Jesus just stuck his fingers up…
In Mark’s gospel this morning, we hear of the Pharisees challenge to Jesus regarding the disciples apparent disregard for the purity codes of the time; they didn’t wash their hands…
“Then Solomon said, ‘I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever” (1 Kings 8:12a, 13). Throughout the summer our Old Testament readings have…

Thankfulness

August 16, 2015
I want to begin today by telling you about a couple people. The first is a woman named Rhoda.  I met her last January when I went to Houston for…
If your appraisal of Sunday morning worship is determined by how quickly it ends, then you’ll be grateful for how abbreviated today’s Old Testament reading was. However, if you want…
Throughout the summer we’ve been following the life of King David – both for good and for ill. Lately it’s been on the “ill side” of the scale. Last week…
This has been a difficult week.  Let me just get that out there from the beginning. It has been a week fraught with contradictions:  I have seen the grace of God…
  Intro: Scott Hall, InterVarsity, urban ministry internships for college students A few weeks ago leading a conference call with an InterVarsity staff, a 24 year old African American woman…
Well – today’s gospel reading ends with John’s head on a platter. And in light of the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage that coincided with the Episcopal Church’s decision…

Ida Overly Memorial

July 9, 2015
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.…
It's a grievous thing today, to stand here and preach the story of David and Goliath - a story that triumphs in the slaughter of one's enemy. It's a grievous…
Throughout the summer our Old Testament readings will follow the life of King David, the most significant king in Israel’s history. If you aren’t familiar with the stories of David,…
In the 1970s, life in Northern Ireland was complex and frightening. It was the height of the Troubles, as it was known, the violent collisions between Catholic Ireland and Protestant…

Pentecost

May 24, 2015
Note: This sermon was immediately preceded by five St. John's parishioners who shared stories of their experience of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, The Spirit of truth…will…

Abide in my love

May 10, 2015
Last week when Cynthia was teaching on the parable of the True Vine, she commented that, within that brief parable, Jesus repeated the command “to abide” in him nine times.…

Easter Sunday

April 5, 2015
When I sat down earlier this week to read this morning’s scriptures, I was deeply moved by the Old Testament reading, actually, by Isaiah’s vision of a feast of rich…

Good Friday

April 3, 2015
Oh, this dreadful day. Dreadful for the passion narrative we retell and dreadful for its contents. Dreadful for the arm’s distance we keep from the story and dreadful the way…

Palm Sunday

March 29, 2015
And so we’ve arrived, and the story has begun again – this story of the final week of Jesus’ life. And like each year we begin with Palm Sunday, the…

The New Covenant

March 22, 2015
Throughout the season of Lent our Old Testament readings have highlighted a series of covenants established by God. So today, on this final Sunday before Palm Sunday, I’d like to…
As a culture, we generally maintain some vague awareness of the Ten Commandments as a kind of baseline code of ethics for society to follow. In this regard, they’re kind…
“Then Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering and be rejected…and be killed.” Now here’s the thing, we all know this. We’ve…

The Wilderness

February 22, 2015
Welcome to Lent. We officially began the season on Wednesday, but today is the first of its five Sundays, the day int the week we are most likely to gather…

Ash Wednesday

February 18, 2015
It’s a peculiar thing we do every year, this gathering together in the church to have ashes crossed on our foreheads, while a priest intones, “Remember that you are dust,…

Deliverance in Capernaum

February 8, 2015
For the second week in a row, Mark’s gospel tells us about Jesus casting out demons in Capernaum.   Last week, it was Jesus’ one-two punch of an authoritative teaching…
Each Sunday during the Season of Epiphany our scripture readings reveal an “aha moment” about who Jesus is. They are “epiphanies” – insights into the nature of Christ: who he…

It only takes a moment

January 25, 2015
This morning’s Old Testament reading and Mark’s gospel both speak of moments.  Moments of salvation, moments of decision; moments of turning from what a life once was, to an entirely…

Come and See

January 18, 2015
I’m struck today, as I read this story of Jesus’ call to Nathanael, of one particular element: that Jesus’ revelation to Nathanael comes in the context of Nathanael making a…

Baptism of Jesus

January 11, 2015
Water. Water is the source of all life, whether we are talking about the origins of the human species, or the water each of us needs to consume each day…

The WORD

December 25, 2014
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.   After the gospel lessons of Christmas Eve, the birth narratives of Matthew…

Christmas Eve

December 24, 2014
This is the night. In popular culture, this is the night when children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow. For parents, this is the night when all the…

There’s Something About Mary

December 21, 2014
Advent IV Year B Luke 1:26-38   Let me just begin this by saying I don’t understand the Virgin Birth---Nor do I understand how Elizabeth, a woman as likely to…

Advent 3: Reflecting the Light

December 14, 2014
Now, I admit, that we Advent people can come across as killjoys when everywhere around us people are already decked out in Christmas – both their clothes and their homes.…

Advent: Preparing for Jesus

November 30, 2014
When Cynthia was pregnant with Henry, about two weeks before his due-date we were just like any first-time parents: nervous and excited – putting everything in order. Each night before…

the sheep and the goats

November 23, 2014
For those of us who have spent much time in the church we’re very familiar with the comforting image of God as our shepherd. Psalm 23 assures us that “The…
  The great day of the Lord is near…That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish…. because they have sinned against the Lord (Zephaniah…

All Saints Sunday

November 2, 2014
I’m told that some of the oldest Christian communities in this world are in Iraq – that there are Christians there who have lived in the same villages since the…

The Party of God

October 12, 2014
So I’ll admit it right from the front: This parable is very strange and very disturbing and whenever I read it I think, “I don’t like this very much” because,…

Hypocrisy and the Church

October 5, 2014
Our readings for the past few weeks have come from late in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus is confronting the religious authorities and calling out their hypocrisy. It is the part…

The Wideness of God’s Mercy

September 21, 2014
In the novel Howards End one of the main characters is Margaret, who is delightfully free of societal constraints. She looks at the world around her though a different set…
Today’s gospel reading is chock full of numbers:   Forgiving others 77 times Ten thousand talents 100 denarii   Let’s see if we can find some context for the numbers.…
This summer I was backpacking, and one afternoon we made our camp on this high mountain meadow. And I’d laid down to rest when I heard this sound close by…
“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church….I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be…

Arguing with God

August 17, 2014
The gospel story we read today always makes me a little uncomfortable. Jesus is out walking when a gentile, Canaanite woman comes chasing after him, crying out to him, “Have…
During our four week Instructed Eucharist series there are no sermons. But on Sunday, Isabelle Smith shared about her experience on the youth mission trip with the Nez Perce tribe…
I am proud of our youth, and grateful for Michelle and Mike Behrens, for going to the Nez Perce reservation next week. But my pride is not because of the…
Our gospel reading today is a continuation from last week’s reading. Last week we read how the disciples were being sent out on a mission trip and Jesus was preparing…
Every week we put a graphic on the bulletin that reflects the themes from that day’s scripture reading. But on Monday Lisa said, “Eric – I can’t find anything for…

Trinity Sunday

June 15, 2014
Today is Trinity Sunday, the day each year when we explore the complex theology of Trinity, of God as one and God as three. But this is no mere riddle;…
If you were here last week you’ll remember that the story ended with Jesus ascending back to heaven and the disciples returning to Jerusalem. It says that they gathered together…
Last Thursday was the Feast of the Ascension. But I doubt that many of us celebrated it. No special meal for friends and family. No cute  Ascension Day earrings. It’s…
Easter 6 Eric Stelle May 25, 2014 Year A Acts 17:22-31 John 14:15-21 Here’s a mystery I often wonder about: Why did God make us as physical creatures, designed to…

Mourning our Losses

May 4, 2014
 The sermon below is an abridged version of Henri Nouwen’s book, With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life, chapter 1   “Two people are walking together. You can…
You know, by and large, context is everything. Ketchup is fine if you’re eating it with fries. But probably not so good with iced tea. And today, as we read…

Easter Sunday

April 20, 2014
  Years ago I went to study in Israel. On my first day in Jerusalem I went straight to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the massive crusader era…

Good Friday

April 18, 2014
This is the night we strive to remember, and to appreciate with fitting gratitude and holy fear, that the Son of God gave up his life upon a cross for…

Maundy Thursday

April 17, 2014
Last October, I stood at this lectern and gave a sermon about my experience with breast cancer.  After that, Fr. Eric, who had asked me to preach at that time,…

Holy Week Earthquakes

April 13, 2014
“Now when the centurion and those with him…saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son.” This earthquake: it’s a curious…
  Ezekiel envisioned a valley of dry bones. Jesus came to the village of his friends and found them grieving for their brother Lazarus, just laid in the tomb. Bones…
We all know the rhetoric, “Jesus is a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” “He cares for the least of these.” “The first shall be last and the last shall…

Born from above

March 16, 2014
I think today’s gospel reading is really important. Not because it ends with JOHN 3:16, “For God so loved the world…” That’s all good stuff, don’t get me wrong. But…
Our first Sunday in Lent begins with two stories: the story of Adam and Eve in the garden, and the story of Jesus in the wilderness. In each story there…

Ash Wednesday

March 5, 2014
There is no other day like Ash Wednesday. On every other day of special observance in the church we come to remember a significant moment in the life of Christ…

Transfiguration Sunday

March 2, 2014
This morning’s lessons are hard to believe.  They challenge our perception of reality.  The cloud covering Mount Sinai is no internet communication technique.  A voice coming out of heaven is…
Well let’s be honest: when you’re reading the Bible and you stumble across Jesus telling you to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect, it can sound a bit…
The Sermon on the Mount is beautiful and frustrating, inspiring and overwhelming. It is a tour-de-force of Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of Heaven. And by that I don’t mean…

Epiphany 3: Following Jesus

January 26, 2014
There is a rhythm in the way we worship in the Episcopal Church, a predictable cycle of readings and prayers that unroll year after year. Usually it’s comforting – returning…
I don’t know if they still do it, but when I was a kid each episode of Sesame Street was introduced the same way, “Today’s episode is brought to you…

Baptized in Jesus’ Baptism

January 12, 2014
If we were to go back to the beginning – all the way back to the beginning of scripture – we find this evocative scene: The earth was a formless…

The Return of the King

December 15, 2013
If there were a “Christian of the Year” award that could be given out annually by a voting caucus consisting of members of all denominations –and I know, such an…

2nd Sunday of Advent

December 8, 2013
Our lives are the briefest of moments in the vast span of creation. We join this world for a season, and in the scarcity of our days we know only…

1st Sunday of Advent

December 1, 2013
We live within culture; all of us do. It’s a part of being human. And cultures create language and art; food and song; values and morals and customs. And just…