Tony Woodlief | Author

The Sermons

The outstretched arms

This is the day when sickened, condemned man collided with everlasting Love. “How could He have called us if He had not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched?” (St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation)


You yearn for a holy place because, in the time between waking unable to recall where you are, and drifting again into the half-sleep that is all you’ve known for the longest time, you stand in the darkness of your sterile hotel room, peering into a mirror to see that you are nothing like what …

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The inner dark

“I mean if I have any inclination at all, or you, to start being whatever in God’s name it means to be a ‘child of God’ — and let’s say there is no argument for having such an inclination, but let’s just suppose that at certain unguarded moments we have it, this inclination to start being …

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Saudade Saturday

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday doesn’t prompt much consideration. It’s a nothing day, wedged between man’s greatest shame and our greatest hope. To the people who had followed Jesus like fools through the land and across the water, it must have felt like the day after a funeral, when clouds continue to …

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Faith Waiting

Today is one of those bullet-dodging days. You’ve had those, right? A day when you will learn something about work, or a relationship, or your health, or perhaps the health of someone you love more than yourself? I think of them as bullet-dodging days, because you can’t do anything but stand up against the wall …

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Where is God?

We sing because Isaac felt left out. Caleb practices piano, Eli the violin. I sit with Eli as he practices, pushing his fingers to their proper positions, helping him with rhythm, chastising him when he claims a sudden injury that prevents him from playing another note. Isaac hovers when I do this, alternately jumping off …

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Snow in Blacksburg

It was a scene we’ve witnessed before, from the safety of our living rooms and offices: a school building that has become a slaughterhouse, and scores of police officers arrayed outside, waiting for . . . something, for orders perhaps, or for the specially trained tactical units, or perhaps just for the shooting to stop, …

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Good Friday

And so they led him up the hill, and they nailed him to a cross, and they watched him bleed and die. From Frederick Buechner’s Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith: “What was brought to completion by such a life and such a death only he can know now, wherever he is, …

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Nice Church

An acquaintance once told me about a wealthy benefactor in his church, a man who likes to point out that he “isn’t one of those Bible thumpers.” He just believes that it’s a good thing for families to go to church. So he’s donated millions over his lifetime to the building of churches. He is …

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A Glass of Water

Several people asked me yesterday if I had heard the news that Anna Nicole Smith was dead. It was as if the whole world had been there to see her collapse, and had no one left to tell, which is always the secret pleasure of dreadful news, that we get to be the first — …

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Something inside draws us home. Last year, two swallows built a nest on the narrow ledge above my front door. We tried to shoo them off, used a broom to sweep away their construction a few times, but they just kept rebuilding. They kept on keepin’ on, as Caleb might note. Eventually they won, and …

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“Only too soon personal experience and the experience of others teaches how far most men’s lives are from being what a man’s life ought to be. All have great moments. They see themselves in the magic mirror of possibility which hope holds before them while the wish flatters them. But they swiftly forget this sight …

Intentions Read More »