Sermons & Devotions

Fr. John Gullett is the Vicar of All Souls Anglican Church.

Devotion for Advent 2 - Year B

Is. 40:1-11; Ps. 85:1-2, 8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8

Advent is the season for looking back to the first advent/coming of Christ and looking forward to his second advent to consider how we should live in the space between. This week, the gospel reading is from Mark, the earliest gospel. Mark opens his account of the life of Jesus in a startling way - not with the background stories of Mary and Joseph, no mention of Jesus’ genealogy, and no historical references to the time and place of Jesus’ birth. Mark launches directly into a proclamation of the identity of Jesus: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.” 

Sometimes people aren’t easy to recognize, but their actions demonstrate their identity. My brother Mark is not easily recognized as my brother. He’s a bit shorter than average with black hair, brown eyes, and olive-toned skin. I am much larger in height and build and have (had) reddish blonde hair and blue eyes. But when people see us greet each other with a hug and a kiss and hear us tell stories about growing up, Mark’s identity as my brother becomes easier to see.

Mark the gospel-writer reveals the identity of Jesus through his actions – first through Jesus’ insistence that John the Baptist, his cousin, baptize him. Mark then gives a series of “snapshots” of events in the life of Jesus that reveal more and more clearly that Jesus is the rightful King who has come to take back his own, that he is the Savior of the world. The true identity of Jesus demands that we yield to him, worship him, and follow him with the whole of our lives. 

So why do we still struggle? Why doesn’t everyone follow Jesus? Well, a skeptic might say we are enlightened people. We verify things in ways that make sense to us (scientific method) while Gods messengers look and sound like aliens. They describe a reality that seems so foreign - a man, a Jewish carpenter/construction worker, is God in the flesh. And so we put ourselves in judgement over Jesus - we think that if we are unconvinced of his claims, then he has no hold or power over us. This is the tragic mistake of everyone who does not bow the knee to Jesus joyfully and voluntarily (read Psalm 2). 

We see this resistance to surrender throughout the gospel of Mark, the whole of the Scriptures, and the world around us. Mark 8:11 says, The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.” Mark 15:32 says, Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” This is the way that feels most natural to us –demanding proof and demanding it on our terms. Yet it is the way of death. 

But what if you have already bowed your knee to Jesus, surrendered to him as the King of the universe and Savior of the world? Is that the end of your journey? The lives of Jesus’ disciples show us that even those who walked and ate and laughed and cried with Jesus in the flesh had to keep learning, keep believing and, yes, keep surrendering. 

What is Jesus asking you to believe afresh this Advent? What is he asking you to surrender to him and trust him with, perhaps for the hundredth time? If Jesus is truly the Word who became flesh, the reigning and returning Champion, the One who knows and loves you better than anyone you’ve ever known, what better choice could you make? 

Be aware – the more we order our lives according to Gods word by the power of his Spirit who lives in our bodies, the more like aliens and pilgrims we will act and feel. But this is the way of life. Believing these things, we worship Jesus. He came for us, identified himself with us, and took our sin upon himself so that we could be beloved daughters and sons. And now we are also called to prepare the way, individually and corporately, for his advent – an action that reveals our identity. Behold, our King and Savior draws near. Come, let us adore him.


Preface for Advent: Because you sent your beloved Son to redeem us from sin and death, and to make us heirs in him of everlasting life; that when he shall come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.


Our friends and neighbors are dying to hear an announcement this good! We want to invite them to join us as we seek together to prepare the way.

Devotion for Advent 1, Year B

Advent is the beginning of the Church year. In the season of Advent we look back to the first advent, the coming of Christ, and we look forward to his second advent to consider how we should live in the space between.

The readings for the first week of Advent this year are a splash of cold water in the face. In Mark 13 Jesus has been referring to an event in the future, which we now recognize as the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. After Nero’s suicide in AD 68, Rome would see four different emperors in quick succession. It was a confusing time of upheaval. Jesus is speaking about surviving turbulent and distressing times through faith in him. As a prophet, Jesus knows that in distressing and chaotic times there will be a multitude of voices clamoring for attention. Jesus says that it will continue to seem as though the creation itself is coming unraveled (24-25). Then Jesus says we need to learn to read the times (lesson of the fig tree), and that (v. 31) Heaven and earth will pass away, but his words will not pass away. Jesus is equating the reliability and eternal stability of his words to those of the Old Testament scriptures. Just as Isaiah 40:8 says of the scriptures given before and in his time, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever,” so Jesus says are his words also. Especially in confusing and distressing times, we need to be reminded that our faith and our hope are built on Jesus, the coming One. His words of hope and healing, vibrant in the Scriptures and made visible in the sacraments, form the solid ground on which we stand securely.


So, during this first week of Advent, be reminded: in the midst of a confusing world and unstable times - keep awake! Jesus says, I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown (Revelation 3:11). The writer of Hebrews says, Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for who has promised is faithful (10:23). These passages remind me of the wise and weathered sailor in the movie Master and Commander who had these words tattooed across his knuckles: Hold Fast. Jesus calls us to hold fast to his word and his sacraments, that is to Him! During the choppy seas of our times and the frightening storms of our lives, we are to stay awake and keep watch, to be alert and praying and, most importantly, clinging to Him. Advent – beginning - is a good time to take up the prayers of the church again (try Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer or the Daily Office app). 


Get ready! This is the start of a new year - for you, for your family, for our church.


Collect for the First Sunday of Advent:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again inn his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.