Everything is Political—Apr. 23, 2017

John 20:19-31

Sermon delivered at Northlake Lutheran Church, Kenmore, WA

These last few verses are like an explanation of the whole gospel book.

These “signs,” John says, were written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. And, through believing, you may have life. Signs are kind of like pictures in some ways, right? Pictures and images that point to a deeper meaning.

There is a lot to this gospel lesson from John. So much is happening! It’s full of signs, or, in another word, you could say it’s full of portraits. Portraits of belief, and portraits of Jesus the Son of God. Pictures of our political world, and images of what it means to be the Church.

Continue reading “Everything is Political—Apr. 23, 2017”

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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!

—Joshua


[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]

Ritual as Invitation—Maundy Thursday, Apr. 13, 2017

Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Sermon delivered at Ballard First Lutheran Church, Seattle, WA

Signs and symbols.

You’ll find so many inside this space.

Crosses, doves, intentional colors and fabrics, windows, arches.

If you’ve grown up inside churches you might know what some of them signify, or they might all be a mystery still. Here, in this space, we are among an ancient treasury of signs and symbols.

Continue reading “Ritual as Invitation—Maundy Thursday, Apr. 13, 2017”

God knows how hard it is…—Apr. 5, 2017

1 Kings 21:1-16
Philippians 2:1-8
Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, by Walter Brueggemann

Sermon delivered at Ballard First Lutheran Church.

This evening I’m going to try to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. So, I might sound more teachy, [ha] than preachy, but bear with me as we move through this kinda dense material.

This will be a sermon in 5 parts [wink].

Continue reading “God knows how hard it is…—Apr. 5, 2017”

Dead Inside?—Apr. 4, 2017

John 11:1-45

Sermon delivered at Ballard First Lutheran Church, Seattle, WA

This is a very long, and intense gospel reading. And at the risk of not doing my preacherly duty, because this gospel is so dense I have prepared a short message. I want to invite you to identify with an unsual character in today’s gospel. This morning, you’re not Mary and Martha the grieving sisters. You’re not the disciples following Jesus to Judea. You’re not the religious authorities who are terrified of Jesus’ power. You’re not the crowd of witnesses watching. You’re not even Lazarus, the dead man!

What if you were the tomb itself?

Continue reading “Dead Inside?—Apr. 4, 2017”

Casting Out Institutional Demons—Mar. 26, 2017

Matthew 17:14-20
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon, Answer to a Perplexing Question

Sermon delivered at The Columbia City Church of Hope, Seattle, WA

We have heard the story of a man’s son.

Matthew doesn’t tell us if he’s a young child—or if he’s a young man. We know only that his father is pleading on his behalf. He is stricken with—our translators tell us—epilepsy.

When Matthew tells us that he is thrown down into the water and into the fire, we might imagine him stricken with seizures. When our ears hear this word, epilepsy, we know he suffers from a neurological disorder. An illness that with some attention and the right medication could easily be abated.

Continue reading “Casting Out Institutional Demons—Mar. 26, 2017”

We are Nicodemus—Mar. 12, 2017

John 3:1-17

Sermon delivered at Ballard First Lutheran Church, Seattle, WA

Nicodemus isn’t the slime-ball that tradition says he is.

I reject the idea that he’s is this jerk who comes to interrogate Jesus at night, and who gets everything wrong.

Why should he be so maligned and looked down upon, when, I know, you’all remember that even the disciples ended up deserting Jesus—they ended up unbelievers in Jesus’ fantastic claims about himself and his resurrection. If they had believed, surely they wouldn’t have scattered in fear at Jesus’ arrest? Surely, Peter, Jesus’ best student, wouldn’t have denied him three times, if they all were believers, right?

So I throw out this tradition of throwing out Nicodemus.

Continue reading “We are Nicodemus—Mar. 12, 2017”