Sermon: “Preceding the Dawn”

dawn.jpgBy Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Easter Vigil, April 16, 2017
– St. Peter’s Episcopal and Detroit Catholic Worker

Matthew 281-10

Dan Berrigan, now of blessed memory, who crossed over to the ancestors and saints a year ago this month, has since been repeatedly quoted as saying, “If you want to follow Jesus, you better look good on wood.” Theology in a quip. He also said, though less famously, “It all started with the Resurrection…If only we would have stayed put!”

I love the particulars, the details of Matthew’s story of how Jesus refused to stay put – and more often than not, God is in the details. Let me mention a few unique to Matthew’s Gospel. Continue reading

A Society Gone Mad on War

billDay 4 of our Lenten Journey with Dr. King’s “Beyond Vietnam” Speech

Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
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“A Lent Beyond Despair” By Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellermann (photo above) of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit

As we begin the contemplative foray into Dr. King’s seven words on the war, it is well worth considering the overall structure of those reasons for resistance. The first three view the war through the lens of the reigning principalities of the U.S. domination system: materialism, white racism, and militarism: 1) that the war is an attack on the poor, dismantling programs of support in order to fund it, 2) that it is a racist war, sending young men in brutal solidarity to burn huts in Vietnamese villages, who wouldn’t be able to live next door in Detroit, and 3) that he couldn’t preach nonviolence to young people on the street without also opposing the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.” He will subsequently name these the “giant triplets,” the ruling powers of domination. Continue reading

Lent: A Confusion Before the Cross: Confronted by the Powers in Prayer

seasonsExcerpt and reflection from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s Seasons of Faith and Conscience: Explorations in Liturgical Direct Action

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘We shall not live by bread alone.'” And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and God only shall you serve.'” And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘God will give angels charge of you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hand they will bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” And when the devil had ended ever temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.    (Luke 4:1-13)

And he came out, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation,” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:39-46)

Continue reading

Sermon: Born to Be a Light

homrich-9

Trial for the Homrich 9. Activists blocked trucks from turning off Detroiters’ water.

By Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Saint Peter’s Episcopal Detroit, Epiphany 2, January 15, 2017

Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

Our readings for today echo those of last week. Again we have reference to John, to the baptism of Jesus, the dove alighting upon him, AND again beside it a Servant song from Isaiah.

There is a striking commonality of Second Isaiah and John: both have central figures whose identity is hard to pin down. In the gospel of John it is the “beloved disciple,” identified only by that name. Is this a cipher for John himself, for his beloved community? Is there an historical referent? Even another character in the story? Or is this a narrative figure with which we, as readers, may identify, a call to discipleship by another name? Continue reading

EPIPHANY: Light to the Powers

seasonsExcerpt and reflection from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s Seasons of Faith and Conscience: Explorations in Liturgical Direct Action

Among the liturgical ironies of Epiphany is that the date of this ancient feast should be rooted in a heresy and then subjected to the interests of Roman imperial manipulation.

There were many gnostic approaches to Jesus, all tending to assault the integrity of his person. He wasn’t human,he only ‘appeared’ to be. He floated through life, his feet barely touching ground. Or,as some had it, the divine spirit swooped down on him at a certain point, occupying his body and slipping away just before the agony of the crucifixion. In short, he never died. Nor was he ever born. Against such the creeds,indeed the scriptures themselves, avail. Continue reading

Advent: The Wilderness in a Very Small Place

seasonsExcerpt and reflection from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s Seasons of Faith and Conscience: Explorations in Liturgical Direct Action

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way
of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be
made low; the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Matthew 11:2-6)

By tradition and history of the church, John the Baptist is associated with Advent. At the turn of the church year, the end and the beginning, he stands, one foot in each, to announce the coming of the Lord. John is the image of Advent par excellence: pre-eminent personage, spokesperson, figure, and voice. He is the very personification of the season, as seen in these two passages. Continue reading

Advent 1 Sermon

Advent-1.pngAdvent marks the beginning of a new church year. Radicaldiscipleship also begins a new tradition for the year of posting sermons following the lectionary readings. It is a chance to honor the work of pastors who are part of this circle of radical disciples who spend each week examining the readings and the times.

Sermon by Bill Wylie-Kellermann
Advent 1 November 27, 2016, St. Peter’s Episcopal, Detroit

Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

Advent is certainly the favorite liturgical season in our family. My own as well. We embrace the holy in candle-lit darkness as in our Taize services beginning tomorrow evening. In fact, in our household we light the wreath and sing on the eve before – kind of like a Jewish Shabbat service beginning the day at sundown. It’s the hour of prophetic promise. We anticipate the dawn and wait. There is a wakefulness in the dark, like a stiff cold breeze on the face. The stripped down sparseness of the season is so welcome a counter to the commercial shopping season of frenzied anxiety. Not to denigrate gift giving, but to deepen the gift, I commend it more as a season of gift making, than gift buying. In those crafts and constructions are a place for prayer. Continue reading