Sermon on Philemon and Slavery and Freedom - September 8th, 2019

Political debate today – Presidential candidates and others:

Financial reparations to those who are descendants of slaves here in the USA.

1619 project of the NY Times, talking about how African slaves came to this continent in the area now known as Virginia before the Mayflower landed in what is now Massachusetts.

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times to correct the record, reframing the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of the national narrative.

No question that the enslavement of our sisters and brothers from the African continent, AND FROM OTHER PLACES around the world is a blight upon the human race, one for which we should be rightfully repentant.

I am reminded of that wonderful musical 1776 – and perhaps one of the most powerful songs in the entire musical, sung by Edward Rutledge:

Molasses to rum to slaves

The founding fathers are debating the language of Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and whether ALL are created equal – or just white people are created equal.

Molasses to rum to slaves
Oh, what a beautiful waltz
You dance with us, we dance with you
In molasses and rum and slaves

Who sails the ships out of Boston?
Laden with bibles and rum
Who drinks a toast
To the Ivory Coast?
"Hail Africa, the slavers have come!"
New England with bibles and rum

And it's off with the rum and the bibles
Take on the slaves, clink clink!
Then hail and farewell to the smell
Of the African coast!

Read More
Paul Milholland
Sermon on Faith - August 11th

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

 John Steinbeck writes:

A dying people tolerates the present, rejects the future and finds its satisfactions in past greatness and half remembered glory.

Karl Barth writes:

Faith in God’s revelation has nothing to do with an ideology which glorifies the status quo.

And T.S. Eliot says, in his preface to Transit of Venus: Poems

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go

So it is with our 2nd lesson for today (and next week) where the writer of Hebrews talks about the faith of the “heroes” of our bible, who trusted in God above all else.  And their trust led them to do great things, unexpected things, things that might, at face value, seem crazy to us in this day and age.

Why? Why would they do such things?

Because faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

And their faith was not in themselves; not in friends and family; not in pipe dreams and wishes.

No.

 Their faith was in God, the Creator of the Universe.

As my theology professor, sainted Robert Jenson used to say:

Our faith is in God – the One who raised Jesus from the dead.

 Two scientists were on a field trip in the mountains. They discovered a baby eagle in a nest on a jutting rock, just below the top of a dangerous cliff.

The eaglet had been deserted, and they wanted to rescue it.

They asked the young son of their guide if they could lower him on a rope to fetch the little bird.

Read More
Paul Milholland
Sermon on the Good Samaritan - July 14, 2019

If Donald Trump was lying in a ditch by the road and you were walking by, would you stop to help?

What about if it was Alexandria Ocasio Cortez?

Or Jeffrey Epstein?

Or Joe Biden?

Or Colin Kapernick or Megan Rapinoe?

 You see, we can’t discriminate about those to whom we are called to show mercy.  That is the problem for the lawyer who was trying to justify himself to Jesus. 

Just to WHOM must I act as a neighbor

And thus,

Who can I exclude?

When we hear this story, we can immediately think of the immigrants who are, this very day, in many cities, in fear for their safety and freedom as the president has ordered the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to begin rounding up those who have been identified for deportation.

 Or of the homeless guy that I saw on the subway the other day – who had not showered for days and had used the bathroom in his clothes, smelling up the entire subway car.

 These might be natural choices for us, but we can’t pick and choose those to whom we are called to show mercy. 

It is ANYONE that might need our help.

 (Don’t get me wrong. I’m not justifying the acts of some of these folk or their political decisions or comments.  That’s not the point.  The point is, if they were at the point of death – like the man in the parable of Jesus – how would we respond?)

+  +  +

Jack Alexander, in his seminal book, The God Impulse: The Power of Mercy in an Unmerciful World, writes these words:

Read More
Paul Milholland
Sermon for June 30th Gay Pride

Today is Pride Sunday. 50th anniversary.

So many years ago, those who were different, who were not like others were ostracized, made fun of, locked up – in the name of the law. 

And sometimes in the name of God.

God’s creatures, God’s children – treated horribly.

Because they were – DIFFERENT.

 Things have changed in these 50 years, at least in some places.  And today, siblings from around the world have come to NYC to celebrate freedom and love.

Last week we acknowledged Refugee Sunday – and had Nancy Tomicic tell her moving story of when she was a refugee – so many years ago.  

(Some of you were not able to hear her – so we are working on possibly getting copies of her remarks.)

Why do we recognize Refugee Sunday?  Because today, in so many places around our world, and even here in the USA – even in our own city! –

People who are different, who are not like others are ostracized, made fun of, locked up – in the name of the law.

And in the eyes of some – even in the name of God.

God’s creatures, God’s children – treated unfairly.

Because they are – DIFFERENT.

In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus is calling people to follow him into his mission and ministry.

Because he is a practicing Jew, he “sets his mind and face toward Jerusalem, knowing that he must go there to complete his ministry – to die for the sake of the world.

He is different from the Samaritans in which he finds himself. 

He is DIFFERENT from them.  So they don’t receive his ministry or acknowledge him.

What do some of his followers do?

Read More
Paul Milholland
Sermon for Easter 7 on the Conversion of the Philippian Jailer in Acts

Powerful story about the ministry of Paul & Silas, helping others

In a jail

To other prisoners

And to the one who had put them in the innermost, jail cell.

Beaten with rods, not because they were really doing anything illegal in the eyes of the Roman authorities, but because they had made the financial well-being of the idol sellers DRY UP.

Not unusual for Paul.  He seemed to cause trouble in almost every town he went to – with his message about Jesus Christ.  In Corinth at one time, he almost caused a riot, so that the political leaders had him removed from town, rather than allowing him to debate others about his beliefs.

In the 1980s miniseries: the Story of Peter and Paul – one of my favorites – today’s lesson for Acts is told. And in it, after the earthquake, the jailer comes to find that Paul and Silas are not in their own cell.  And he fears for his life, and figures that killing himself by his own hand will be swifter and more merciful than at the hand of the Roman authorities.

Paul calls out – for he and Silas are in ANOTHER jail cell ministering to fellow prisoners and their needs, and singing hymns of praise to God.

The story is so very powerful because of the contrasting images within it.

Paul and Silas beaten with rods and imprisoned. 

The jailer is afraid for his own life and decides to take it.  And then, when he realizes that they did NOT escape but were still there, he falls on his face and in affect asks: How can I HAVE LIFE?  THE LIFE YOU SPEAK ABOUT AND OFFER?

They tell him, believe what we say about Jesus – believe IN Jesus, and you will be saved, and not only you, but your WHOLE HOUSEHOLD.

Then, the JAILER ministers to his prisoners.  Washing their wounds from the beating.

Read More
Paul Milholland