The sermons of Joshua Nicholas Sullivan

We say the Holy Spirit does the work. I am the door, that is all—let me be open.

The most frustrating thing about a sermon I’ve found—since I started learning to write and deliver them in 2014—is that you only get one chance. With mentors, professors and supervisors you can watch the video recording of it again; listen to the audio-file one more time; or go over the manuscript endlessly; you can make notes how to improve—but you can never make a true change.

The proclamation, the hearing, and the receiving of God’s Word is a singular phenomenon. Even if you give a sermon more than once—each occasion is unique, with an uncountable set of circumstances, parameters, chances, and factors.

Having been trained as a painter—a medium where you can endlessly work and re-work until completion—this is so frustrating, even maddening. Though I want these short little sermons to be quite excellent (even perfect!), it’s an impossible endeavor.

So, in an act (hopefully) of humility and also of transparency, as I grow in my new craft, I offer all these past sermons I have proclaimed. They are crystallized artifacts of my learning—of my spiritual development from artist, to seminarian at Yale Divinity School, candidate for ordination in the ELCA, to intern and Vicar, and beyond. They are definitely not perfect, nor am I proud of all (or most…) of them.

Nevertheless, here they are!


[Header image: Fra Angelico, The Mocking of Christ (detail), with the Virgin and Saint Dominic, 1439-1443, fresco, Cell 7, Convent of San Marco, Florence]


A People of Bookbinders—Nov. 28, 2017

Jeremiah 30:18-24
Revelation 22:8-21

Sermon delivered at the Schaeffer-Ashmead Chapel at United Lutheran Seminary, Philadelphia, PA

We are book-bound people.

And when we together read such multilayered texts like these, from Jeremiah and Revelation, we step into our peculiar duty as people bound by books.

Continue reading “A People of Bookbinders—Nov. 28, 2017”

Internship Farewell: Turn your eyes to the crowds!—Aug. 6, 2017

Isaiah 55:1-5
Matthew 14:13-21

Sermon delivered at Ballard First Lutheran Church, Seattle, WA

This is one of those Sundays where our Old Testament lesson and our Gospel lesson really seem to be in lock-step.

So, let’s hear our reading from Isaiah again, so it’s fresh in your mind.

Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.

Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.

Wow: Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

The ringing question from Isaiah.

This is a tricky, rhetorical question. What is it that these exiled Judeans have been buying, if not bread?

Now, be careful: Bread here becomes an image with many facets, full of lots of different meanings.

“…that which does not satisfy”, says God through the prophet Isaiah today. What is it, then, that does satisfy? What can fill us up, and never leave us hungry again?

Continue reading “Internship Farewell: Turn your eyes to the crowds!—Aug. 6, 2017”

Flutes playing out in the marketplace—Jul. 9, 2017

Zechariah 9:9-12
Matthew 11:15-19, 26-30

Sermon delivered at Edmonds Lutheran Church, Edmonds ,WA

This is my last Sunday preaching as a FAN intern. So, that means I’m leaving Washington soon… Which is sad, you know, cuz I’ve made quite a few new friends out here on the west coast.

I made a really nice new one lately. She came as a recommendation from another friend who was a professor of mine at my seminary. This former professor told me when he learned I’d be in Seattle for a year that I should write her an email and meet cuz she lives in Seattle. So, eventually I wrote to her, and we exchanged a few emails, our interests were quite similar, you know, so we said we should meet for lunch.

It wasn’t a date, but, like, we would “do lunch.” She’s an older gal, maybe 60-something, and preferred talking in person, makes sense. So after some hemming and hawing we agree on a place and time and everything. And I take time out of my schedule and I get to the restaurant kinda early and I’m sitting there waiting.

And then I realize, I have no idea what this person looks like… and worse, we forgot to exchange phone numbers… because we were only emailing before. So, I’m sitting a little awkwardly in this empty restaurant in Fremont, in Seattle, waiting for a woman in her 60s; that’s all I know.

I’m hawkishly watching all the people that fit that profile. I’m a little embarrassed, a little worried. It’s getting later and later.

Continue reading “Flutes playing out in the marketplace—Jul. 9, 2017”

Just a cup of cold water—Jul. 2, 2017

Matthew 10:40-42

Sermon delivered at Ballard First Lutheran Church, Seattle, WA

Grace and peace to you, from God, our Eternal Source, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Did you catch that little detail about a cup of cold water? Do you know why a cup of cold water matters? Well, you’ve got no fridge in the year 35. And Israel-Palestine is not a particularly cold part of the globe. Remember, you’d walk a ways to get to your community water-well. You’d have to let your bucket sink awfully deep to get some of that cold water. And you’d have to carry that jug pretty quickly back to your house, for it to stay cold.

Continue reading “Just a cup of cold water—Jul. 2, 2017”

Is God a frozen food? Trinity Sunday—Jun. 11, 2017

Genesis 1:1-2:4a2
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Matthew 28:16-20

Sermon delivered at Ballard First Lutheran Church, Seattle, WA

Is God a frozen food? Think about it, is God a frozen food.

You know, every Sunday we gather here to celebrate God. We read aloud the stories about what God has done, and then, in a strange miracle, we believe God comes to us in bread and wine.

Every Sunday is about God. I mean, every day is about God, right?

But Sundays—in our tradition—we make it a “thing.” So, there is a temptation here.

And that is to experience God as only a Sunday-word.

Does God stay put all week long, unmoving, unchanging, until you need something? God as a frozen food means God keeps really well. Is God the frozen pizza you take out when you’re in a pinch—when you don’t have time to make dinner? Or a faceless concept you manage to believe in half the time, but it helps if you see a pretty sunset or a big mountain?

Continue reading “Is God a frozen food? Trinity Sunday—Jun. 11, 2017”

What is it then between us?—May 21, 2017

John 14:15-21
“Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman

Sermon delivered at Ballard First Lutheran Church, Seattle, WA

His disciples seemed to sense that something was up.

Jesus had told his friends, in so many words, that he was leaving. He didn’t say dying, or crucified, or anything like that. Just that he was going somewhere his friends couldn’t follow, and that his presence among his disciples was going to change.

So, of course, before today’s Gospel, Peter would ask, “Lord, where are you going?”

Continue reading “What is it then between us?—May 21, 2017”

Of persons: extraordinary, remarkable, to be far superior—May 7, 2017

Acts 2:42-47
John 10:1-10

Sermon delivered at Lakeridge Lutheran Church, Renton, WA

Do you know what a “lexicon” is?

Well, seminary-intern—desperate pastor-in-training—that I am, as I tried to prepare this sermon for today I was digging around in a lot of dictionaries and lexicons. Actually—to be honest— I was clicking around in a lot of online dictionaries and lexicons.

You all might know this—but in recent years it was revealed to me: our New Testament was written in an old form of Greek. The most widely spoken language in both the Roman Empire, and the land around Jerusalem etc. where Jesus was hanging out.

And there wasn’t Greek dictionaries back then. In fact, dictionaries weren’t invented until like the 17-hundreds.

So how do we know what words meant? Well, that’s where a lexicon comes in. It is a big old book—or now, website—that keeps track of every single use of a word in ancient texts, and then, through context, basically guesses at a group of meanings.

So, long story short, I was looking up the words in Jesus’ last sentence in our Gospel reading. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” I was really curious about the words “life” (ζωὴν) and “abundantly” (περισσὸν).

Continue reading “Of persons: extraordinary, remarkable, to be far superior—May 7, 2017”