The Rev. Susan Sparks

Denomination: American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA)
Organization: Madison Avenue Baptist Church, New York, NY

As a trial lawyer turned standup comedian and Baptist minister, the Rev. Susan Sparks is America’s only female comedian with a pulpit. A North Carolina native, Susan received her B.A. at the University of North Carolina, law degree from Wake Forest University, and Master of Divinity at Union Theological in New York City.

Currently the senior pastor of the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City (and the first woman pastor in its 170-year history), Susan's work with humor, healing, and spirituality has been featured in O (The Oprah) Magazine, the New York Times, and on such networks as ABC, CNN, CBS, and the History Channel.

A featured TEDx speaker and a professional comedian, Susan tours nationally with a stand-up Rabbi and a Muslim comic in the Laugh in Peace Tour. In addition to her speaking and preaching, Susan writes a nationally syndicated column through Gannett distributed to over 600 newspapers reaching over 21 million people in 36 states.

She is the author of three books, Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor, Preaching Punchlines: The Ten Commandments of Standup Comedy. and Miracle on 31st Street: Christmas Cheer Every Day of the Year – Grinch to Gratitude in 26 Days! (May 2020).

Most importantly, Susan and her husband Toby love to fly-fish, ride their Harleys, eat good BBQ, and root for UNC Tar Heel Basketball and the Green Bay Packers.

Day1 Weekly Programs by The Rev. Susan Sparks

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Susan Sparks: The Only Train in the Storm

Tuesday March 31, 2020
In her Palm/Passion Sunday sermon, the Rev. Susan Sparks says during the week that went from glorious to tragic, Jesus did not expect the world to save him--because he knew God would. We often get both parts of that equation wrong.

Susan Sparks: Sun Mo Manger

Tuesday December 19, 2017
In her sermon for Christmas Eve, Susan Sparks recounts a personal story of being turned away from a motel, and reminds us that we will all be rejected in this life, turned away, left out in the cold, but that’s not the end of the story. Like Jesus, we are all called to become the innkeeper, the builders of the kingdom, the protector of our brothers and sisters.

Check Your Weapons at the Door

Tuesday April 19, 2016
One of the weapons we tend to use often is our tongue, our words, says Susan Sparks. We can't live in the love for others that Jesus commanded if we can't control our tongue--and here are three ways to do that.

Jesus and Dr. Seuss: A Conversation on Worry

Tuesday April 12, 2016
Susan Sparks says Jesus and Dr. Seuss offer us help in dealing with the anxiety and worry that consume us: We are to focus on today, realize worry is a waste of time, and accept that we have no reason to worry as God's children.

Sinners at the Laundromat

Tuesday February 18, 2014
Susan Sparks shares a fresh way to think about the spiritual life as she takes us to the laundromat and helps us consider what in our life needs to be washed, ignored, or thoroughly cleansed.

L'Chaim, and Don't Mess It Up!

Tuesday February 11, 2014
Susan Sparks unpacks Moses' sermon to the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 30:15-20), summing up his blessings and curses with "L'chaim, and Don't Mess It Up!"

The Mulch Pile

Tuesday August 09, 2011
In Colossians 3, the Apostle Paul asks us what trash do we need to throw on the mulch pile, and what beautiful new things will we grow in its place?

So You're a Christian? Whattaya Gonna Do About It?

Tuesday August 02, 2011
As TV mobster Tony Soprano might put it, "So you're a Christian? Whattaya gonna do about it?" Some Christians do nothing. Others take a middle of the road approach. Susan Sparks encourages us to go "all in" and truly follow Christ.

The True Universal Health Care

Tuesday April 13, 2010
The Rev. Susan Sparks takes a look at Jesus' healing of blind Bartimaeus, and finds a challenge to Jesus' followers to experience and share his healing touch.

Trust Jesus and Elvis

Tuesday April 06, 2010
The Rev. Susan Sparks wonders about the impact Christians could have in the world if they behaved more like Elvis fans, instead of like doubting Thomas.

Resurrection Biscuits

Tuesday March 30, 2010
As we celebrate Easter, the Rev. Susan Sparks reminds us that life without the resurrection of Christ can be heavy and flat--it's the missing key ingredient many of us are missing.

Articles by The Rev. Susan Sparks

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Susan Sparks: Grace Bats Last

Thursday October 15, 2020
I believe in the church of baseball, and all of God’s houses—sports, spiritual, or otherwise. They all offer us lessons that can help us through.

Susan Sparks: If You Build It, They Will Come

Friday October 02, 2020
There are two ways to see life during times of trouble: pain or possibility. Don’t believe me? Then, believe Jesus and Kevin Costner.

Susan Sparks: Please, Thank you, and Cover Your Mouth

Sunday September 20, 2020
My parents taught me many lessons in this life. Some tough, some excruciating, and some just as simple as can be. Yet, it’s those simple lessons that can change the world.

Susan Sparks: Love Your Neighbor Unless Your Neighbor is a Squirrel

Wednesday September 02, 2020
I am an ordained minister who is expected to teach people to “Love your neighbor.” And I do. But recently, I found an exception to that rule. Love your neighbor . . . unless your neighbor is a squirrel.

Susan Sparks: The Weaponization of Pimento Cheese

Thursday August 20, 2020
There’s really no delicate way to put this. Last week, the TSA stole my pimento cheese. They could have taken my laptop, my wallet, or even my People magazine with photos from the royal wedding. I wouldn’t have cared. But my pimento cheese? It was an unspeakable loss.

Susan Sparks: Little House on the Pandemic

Thursday July 23, 2020
COVID-19 is not our only new world. We are in the midst of a new world of racial reckoning. We are on the cusp of a new world of globalization, environmental deterioration, political altercations, and personal aggravation. We are the new pioneers. And we must find our way by embracing the ways of those pioneers who have gone before.

Susan Sparks: All You Need is Love, a Tiara, and a Cupcake

Friday July 10, 2020
How do you hold on to hope in the midst of despair? To answer that question, you can read the seven trillion self-help books on Amazon, or you can spend hours listening to YouTubes and Ted Talks. My preference, however, is to go the simple route. All you need is love, a tiara, and a cupcake.

Susan Sparks: Let Justice Roll Down like a Harley on Full Throttle

Tuesday June 30, 2020
I am an ordained minister and a Harley rider. For those of you who doubt the connection, consider the great hymn “Ride On! Ride On in Majesty.” Or 2 Kings 1:8, which describes the prophet Elijah as a biker: “He was a hairy man with a girdle of leather.”

Susan Sparks: Put on Your Mask and Smize

Wednesday June 10, 2020
Going to the grocery store these days makes me feel like I’m one of the astronaut characters in the movie The Martian. Just this morning, my husband and I made our once-every-two-weeks early morning trip to the Fairway Market on Second Avenue and 30th Street in New York City. Donning masks and rubber gloves, we left our apartment with two backpacks, a rolling cart, and several container bags, just as if we were preparing for an interplanetary mission.

Susan Sparks: Be Like the Little Children

Tuesday June 02, 2020
Like many of you, I feel devastated by the violence currently engulfing our country. From the riots, to the police violence, to the ugly inflamatory language being publicly flung about - brothers and sisters, we are better than this.

Susan Sparks: Squish It Down and Start Again!

Tuesday May 26, 2020
I am assuming everyone reading this knows about Play-Doh—the cross between bread dough and modeling clay that came in those little goofy cans? You could get all different colors, make all kinds of cool stuff, and—in a pinch—it didn’t taste bad. But here’s the thing I loved most about Play-Doh...

Susan Sparks: Stop! In the Name of Love

Friday May 22, 2020
Here’s my question: Why is it that some people are having such a hissy fit over social distancing? And why is it that some of those people are PASTORS?

Susan Sparks: In the Shelter of Your Wings

Wednesday May 06, 2020
During this COVID-19 crisis, I’m drawing inspiration from an unexpected source. It isn’t quiet meditation, connecting with loved ones via Zoom, or even large quantities of Lipton’s French onion soup dip with Ruffles (my go-to emotional balm). Nope. My greatest sense of calm is found—every day—at Dollywood.

Susan Sparks: Taking Down the Tree - An Excerpt from Her New Book

Friday April 24, 2020
There is one holiday ritual I hate: taking down the tree. It’s a sad job, as it marks the end of the season. It’s also messy. Dragging out a month-old, dried-up balsam means getting sticky needles everywhere. Most of all, it leaves the house with this big empty hole in the corner of the living room.

Susan Sparks: A Star Is Born -- Excerpt from Her New Book

Tuesday April 21, 2020
Baptist pastor, author, and comedian Susan Sparks shares a little Christmas spirit just when we need it, with another excerpt from her new book, "Miracle on 31st Street"!

Susan Sparks: It's Still Life -- An Excerpt from Her New Book

Tuesday April 14, 2020
Pastor and comedian Susan Sparks shares an excerpt from her brand new book to help us cope with the pandemic blues... enjoy some Christmas in July!

Susan Sparks: Coronavirus and Kindness are Contagious

Thursday March 19, 2020
The Bible says to love your neighbor. Alternatively, some people on this earth apparently believe that the Bible says love your neighbor unless you are in a pandemic and shopping for groceries.

Susan Sparks: Sarah's Purse

Wednesday March 04, 2020
I always knew it would be a great day when Sarah Goodson walked through the door of our church carrying her big purse. Raised during the Depression on a share-cropper’s farm in the South Carolina low country, Sarah loved two things in this life more than anything: her family and taking care of others. She shaped her life around making those two things a priority, including what she carried in her purse.

Susan Sparks: We're in the Same Boat, Brother!

Wednesday February 19, 2020
I love a good blues tune. Part of my affection is driven by the melodies, but it’s the lyrics that get me. Somehow, those haunting, mournful songs manage to capture the immense span of the human condition in tiny, concise sound bites....

Susan Sparks: The Magic of Chicken Poop

Wednesday February 12, 2020
Have you ever made a mistake? No? Then please stop reading immediately and take your perfect self somewhere far away from us other human beings who have made a slip or two in this life. Here's a message for all the REST of us. Three things are sure in this life: death, taxes, and mistakes.

Susan Sparks: Lord Give Me Patience . . . And Make It Snappy!

Thursday September 20, 2018
Our modern society can best be described in three words: fast, immediate, and instant! We speed walk, speed dial, and speed date.

Susan Sparks: We Were Made for These Times

Tuesday July 31, 2018
I recently had the privilege of reading this powerful piece from the author and poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I hope this feeds you as much as it did me . . .

Susan Sparks: Flying Without Wind

Monday July 09, 2018
A few years ago, Toby and I traveled to the Outer Banks of North Carolina because yes, we wanted to learn to hang glide. There’s a school near Kill Devil Hill where the Wright Brothers first flew. It’s at Jockey’s Ridge, the tallest sand dune on the East Coast.

Susan Sparks: World Peace Through Pulled Pork

Thursday February 22, 2018
I hail from a state that offers a no-fail plan for world peace. It’s not from politicians or pundits, peaceniks or pedagogues. No, my friends, the secret lies in how the people of North Carolina have learned to live with a difference of opinion so deeply ingrained that’s it almost genetically encoded. The bone of contention? Barbecue sauce.

Susan Sparks: A Lesson from Beethoven

Tuesday January 23, 2018
I’m sure you have all heard of the great composer Beethoven and his famous piece the 9th Symphony. It was heralded as a work of genius because Beethoven did something that had never been done before: he added voices in the fourth and last movement. He basically turned a symphony into an opera. But here’s the real kicker. He wrote that breath-taking piece toward the end of his life. When he was deaf.

Susan Sparks: Three Redwood Wishes

Friday December 08, 2017
Anyone who has stood in the presence of redwoods knows that it's a holy experience. As I walked under their great canopy, I began to wonder: what if these massive trees could talk? What wisdom would they share with our twenty-first-century society? What redwood wishes might be offered for our broken world?

Susan Sparks: We can find common ground, but only if we try

Wednesday October 18, 2017
Recently, I was in the Atlanta airport waiting on a flight and I noticed two groups of people standing off to the side of the boarding gate. The first was a Muslim woman in full burka with three children between the ages of 3 and 5. The kids, also in traditional clothing, were nestled on the floor watching a video. Next to them was a white woman with a little boy, also about 5. She occasionally eyed the woman in the burka with suspicion.

Susan Sparks: It’s Our Time to Move

Thursday July 28, 2016
So often human beings tend to be stationary, to watch life march by. This could translate to anything from risks we shy away from to loves we let go. But the parade of life that I want to focus on is a string of hateful headlines, of violence that boggles the mind, of raw, gritty images revealing the truth of modern America ... We are a racist country.

The Long Way Around

Monday July 25, 2016
Perhaps you feel you're taking the long way around in your job because you didn't get the promotion you wanted. Maybe you are in a relationship that seems to be taking the long way around. Or maybe you've had to take the long way around thanks to an injury or illness that has sidelined us.  And it's so frustrating when that happens. But frustrating as it is, taking the long way may sometimes be the best thing that can happen to us.

ON Scripture: Grace Bats Last (Luke 24:1-12) By Rev. Susan Sparks

Monday March 21, 2016
Baseball and Easter are a perfect match. This year, Opening Day falls just a week after Easter Sunday. But beyond the calendrical coincidence, many people have referred to baseball as a religion. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously called baseball 'the faith of fifty million people.'

ON Scripture: The Missing Piece (Luke 3:15-17, 21-22) By Rev. Susan Sparks

Monday January 04, 2016
In our scripture this week, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22, we are reminded of life’s key piece through the story of Jesus’ baptism. The moment Jesus emerges from the water, a voice descends from heaven and declares: “You are my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” Such beautiful words. And yet, perhaps more powerful than the words themselves is their timing.

Lessons from a Christmas Cactus

Wednesday December 16, 2015
How we can use the life-giving gift of darkness to blossom in Advent

Susan Sparks: Grace Bats Last

Thursday April 16, 2015
Baseball and religion are a perfect match. In fact, many people have talked about baseball as a religion.

Spring is a-Coming

Tuesday March 31, 2015
A meditation on Holy Week by a cold New Yorker

Susan Sparks: Mini Me Jesus

Friday February 28, 2014
I grew up with the whitest Jesus you have ever seen. A Vitamin D deficient, sickly looking Jesus; a sort of Don Knotts meets Gary Busey kind of Jesus. And he was always pictured in the same way: standing in a field, holding a tiny lamb (also pasty white). Not surprisingly, our entire congregation was the same shade as that Vitamin D deficient Gary Busey Jesus. In short, we had created a Mini Me Jesus.

Susan Sparks: Generosity Is the New Currency

Tuesday December 24, 2013
This is a terrifying blog -- especially for educated people -- as a liberal arts major is about to offer a message on economics. But first, I will talk about something with which I am a little more familiar: shopping.

There are Angels in Manhattan

Wednesday October 23, 2013
This is a Day1 Key Voice article by The Rev. Susan Sparks.

ON Scripture-The Bible: The Power of Prayer… at the Kmart, By Rev. Susan Sparks

Wednesday July 24, 2013
When I want to remind myself of the power of prayer, I go to the Astor Place Kmart on the lower east side of Manhattan. Sure, I could read Kierkegaard or Augustine, but I prefer the Kmart. Specifically I favor an area in the far back corner of the basement. It is devoid of windows or natural light with a back wall of clear glass that faces the dungeon-like dark tunnel of the Number 6 subway train. There, you will find the most unexpected of things -- a plant nursery.

Susan Sparks: Running Toward the Blast: An Ordained Comedian's Take on Terrorists and Hecklers

Sunday April 28, 2013
If Boston taught us anything this week, it's that we don't have time to be scared. Life is fleeting, and we no longer have the luxury of making assumptions about the future.

Leveling Up Religion

Wednesday February 20, 2013
What online games can teach religion

Like Ever!

Monday February 18, 2013
How Taylor Swift and Jesus can help us avoid bad relationships

Shabbat? Why Not!

Friday September 21, 2012
Shabbat with a twist

The Sideways Principle

Tuesday February 21, 2012
Like pinot noir grapes, the human heart thrives only with the most patient of growers

Squishy Scriptures

Friday January 13, 2012
We all need a wee boost every once in a while. Sadly the squishy stuffed animals we used to carry around don't always fit into our daily business world. We need an alternative.

Stay Thirsty My Friends

Wednesday January 04, 2012
Revitalize your 2012 with wisdom from "the most interesting man in the world."

What Are You Getting Baby Jesus for Christmas?

Tuesday December 06, 2011
While everyone from the newspaper delivery person to our great Aunt Hazelene is on our holiday shopping list, one name that is conspicuously missing ... is the baby Jesus.

A Veteran's Day Message

Saturday November 12, 2011
A Vietnam Vet's view of war and religion

Blindsided

Monday October 24, 2011
How to recover from the blows you never saw coming.

No Rearview Mirrors

Saturday October 01, 2011
A short essay on giving up the past and focusing on the gifts of the road ahead.

We Be of One Blood, Ye and I

Tuesday September 06, 2011
A 9/11 reflection based on blood and the Jungle Book

The Lifeboat of Laughter

Wednesday August 31, 2011
A reflection on the upcoming tenth anniversary of 9/11

A Heart like Pyrex Glass

Monday August 01, 2011
Use the fires of life to make yourself stronger -- to forge yourself a heart of Pyrex.

TAKE OFF THE TRAINING WHEELS!

Tuesday June 14, 2011
Take off your emotional training wheels and discover what life's like out on the open road.

Nestle Your Heart into a Cactus

Wednesday May 18, 2011
Realize the precious, fragile nature of our hearts. Draw some boundaries. Grow a spine. Every little heart needs some cactus pricklies to protect it.

Another Boring Easter

Wednesday April 20, 2011
Does the resurrection of a Messiah have any chance in our jaded, over-stimulated 21st Century world?

The Tide Will Turn: A Lenten Meditation

Thursday April 07, 2011
When all seems hopeless, when all appears to be gone, remember the tide will turn and life abundant, like the sea, will flood back into our lives.

Looking God in the Eye

Wednesday March 23, 2011
A Lenten message about finding more intimacy and honesty in our spiritual lives

It's Time for a Silence Siesta

Monday February 28, 2011
How noisy is your life? And what damage is it causing?

Ghandi Would Have Twittered

Friday February 18, 2011
How Twitter highlights new possibilities with non-violence

It is Enough

Sunday January 09, 2011
A study of cheese grits and the baptism of Jesus

Taking Down the Tree

Wednesday December 29, 2010
Use taking down the Christmas tree as a New Years resolution exercise

"There is No Room at the Inn"

Thursday December 23, 2010
A Christmas message about coming in from the cold.

Three Redwood Wishes

Wednesday November 10, 2010
What would a redwood tree have to say about love?

Let the Race Begin!

Tuesday October 26, 2010
God calls us all to find the hero within.

Make It Work!

Monday October 11, 2010
How to find life in exile: A study of Jeremiah, the Chilean miners and Project Runway.

Tracking Mud Into Holy Space

Thursday September 09, 2010
In my childhood home on Lockhart Drive in Charlotte, N.C., there was a place considered holy space. You spoke of it in hushed terms. It was only used on the most special of occasions. It was -- the living room.

Eat, Pray, Love ... From Home

Saturday August 14, 2010
I am doing my own version of _Eat, Pray, Love_ this morning:  I am **_ eating _** breakfast in a fun new place, and  **_praying_**  that my arteries can support the  **_love_**  I feel for the croissant with egg, cheese and pesto sitting in front of me. 

The Mulch Pile

Monday August 02, 2010
Get rid of the trash in your life and grow something beautiful and new

CHRISTMAS IN JULY

Tuesday July 27, 2010
The gifts of Christmas should be celebrated all year long!

Life as Explained Through Chicken Fried Steak

Tuesday June 01, 2010
The Rev. Susan Sparks spent a week in Nashville recently for the Festival of Homiletics. But in addition to all the sermons she enjoyed, she also partook of a lot of good ol' Southern cooking--including Chicken Fried Steak. Read on...

A Blessing of the Motorcycles

Thursday May 13, 2010
A blessing of the motorcycles reminds us to sanctify everyday life.

A LEO'S SEARCH FOR GOD

Saturday March 13, 2010
How to keep our faith when God seems silent

Skyping with God

Monday March 01, 2010
How we image God drives how we communicate with God

World Peace -- One Joke at a Time

Tuesday February 16, 2010
A Rabbi, a Muslim and a Baptist preacher walk into a room...

Click, click, click

Monday January 18, 2010
Love thy neighbor...but at an appropriate and safe distance

No Al Dente in 2010!

Wednesday January 06, 2010
Life is just better when slow cooked.

Sourdough Jesus

Tuesday December 08, 2009
Jesus as the bread of life -- the sourdough bread that is -- has much to teach us in this busy advent season.

There's Been a Change in Plans

Thursday November 19, 2009
We must trust in what never changes, so we can then trust in what does.

Video by The Rev. Susan Sparks

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Day1 Minute with Susan Sparks - Part 1

Monday June 25, 2018
Pastor, author, and comedian Susan Sparks calls on Jesus Christ and Dr. Seuss to help us conquer our worry in life. Watch this Day1 Minute and grab some inspiration!

Susan Sparks: Laughing Our Way to World Peace

Tuesday November 14, 2017
Rev. Susan Sparks, former lawyer and now standup comedian and Baptist preacher, shares insights on how humor can lead to world peace at a TEDx Talk in Atlanta.

Conversation with Susan Sparks - 30 Good Minutes

Monday January 03, 2011
Sherre Hirsch and Daniel Pawlus in conversation with Susan Sparks, who says, "Make small, everyday changes in your life. Whether it's to go to a retreat, or buy a book or take a class. Just take one step towards where you think God is calling you."

The Tisdale Triangle - Susan Sparks on 30 Good Minutes

Monday January 03, 2011
Susan Sparks, Pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York City, recalls how a storm-laden, cross-country motorcyle trip in South Dakota taught her an important lesson about weathering the storms of life.

The Rev. Susan Sparks (Part 3) - Day1 Conversations with Peter Wallace

Monday April 12, 2010
Day1 host Peter Wallace sits down for his third interview with the Rev. Susan Sparks, Senior Pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church, and discusses her strange road to becoming a pastor, her upbringing in the church and her two year trip culminating in her calling to seminary.

The Rev. Susan Sparks (Part 2) - Day1 Conversations with Peter Wallace

Friday April 09, 2010
The Rev. Susan Sparks sits down with Day1 host Peter Wallace for her second interview, this time discussing the flock at Madison Avenue Baptist Church and what its like being a southerner in the heart of New York City. How does the Madison Avenue Baptist Church reach out to the city around them? Watch and learn.

The Rev. Susan Sparks (Part 1) - Day1 Conversations with Peter Wallace

Tuesday March 30, 2010
The Rev. Susan Sparks, one time Lawyer and Comedian who made the unlikely jump to senior pastor at Madison Avenue Baptist Church, sits down with Peter Wallace to discuss the intersection of faith and comedy. Rev. Sparks discusses the important role each play in bringing joy to peoples lives, and how too often people of faith forget the role of Christianity in bringing joy.