“This Is Our King” November 24, 2019

Posted by on Dec 6, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“This Is Our King” Jeremiah 23:1-6 Colossians 1:11-20 Luke 23:33-43   Greetings and welcome to worship on this, the 24th of November in the year of our Lord, 2019. This week, the church celebrates “Christ the King” or “The Reign of Christ” Sunday and it’s kind of a big deal. It’s a big deal because this is a hinge week – sort of a pivot point – between the liturgical season of Ordinary Time and Advent. To put that into perspective, this season we call “ordinary time” began all the way back in June on Pentecost Sunday. In that time, we have read from the writings of the prophets in the Old Testament, as well as the letters of Paul. But mostly, our worship has been centered on the gospel writings of the Apostle Luke. I’ve always considered Ordinary Time to be the meat and potatoes of the church year. It’s during this time that we revisit the parables, the teachings, and the ministry of Christ. It’s a time to regroup, to rethink, and to imagine once again what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It’s the time that we celebrate our place in the Kingdom of God… as Christians and as the church. But with the coming of Advent and then, the Christmas season, it has always seemed to me that things get more personal. It’s the time that we turn from the practical to the… well, the magical. The coming of Advent is the time when we stop asking “how” Jesus wants things done, and turn to the amazing truth that our God has a love too big, too pure, and too amazing for us to ever really understand. Emmanuel, God with us; these are words we will be speaking and singing for the next month. And we marvel at this incredible thing that the prophets told us would come to be. Our reading from the prophet Jeremiah today is just one of many: (Jer 23:5)  “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. “A righteous Branch, and he shall reign as King.” You have to love the power of a statement like that. The wise scholars who put together what we call the Lectionary made an excellent choice here. That’s what Christ the King Sunday is all about – – at least we would think. What I mean is that when we look at the lectionary choices for this special Sunday, we would expect something glorious from the book of Revelation; perhaps, Jesus sitting on a jeweled throne, decked out in splendid robes and a jeweled crown. Or something majestic from Isaiah: “Onto us a son is given and the government will be upon his shoulders.” Or at...

Read More »

“Thanks Be to Our God” November 17, 2019

Posted by on Dec 6, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Thanks Be to Our God” Isaiah 65:17-25/ Isaiah 12 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Luke 21:5-19   When I was 15 or so, my folks sold the ranch style house that I grew up in and bought what my dad used to refer to as “a gentleman farm.” It was a great place: old farm house that was in good shape, outbuildings, a big old barn, and it even had what was left of a milk house. The previous owners weren’t terribly ambitious, which might explain why they had to “sell the farm,” but for us it was perfect. For my dad, it was his dream come true. He picked up a handful of horses and even boarded horses for other folks around the area. Funny thing is, though – I never saw him ride. Someone asked him about that once: “Bernie, what are you doing with all these horses if you don’t want to ride them?”  All he would say was, “I like listening to them eat.” My folks lived there and loved that place for 40 some years until health issues forced them to move into a duplex – a whole lot less maintenance. Years later when I went back for my dad’s memorial service, I asked my mom if she’d like to take a drive out to the old place. She hesitated a bit, but finally said, “Sure.” But once we got there, I realized that maybe this had been a mistake. The new owners lived overseas, mostly, and although it wasn’t terrible bad, you could see at a glance that this place-this place that they had loved for so long-was getting run down. It bothered me to see a piece of siding on the west side of the house just hanging there – ready to fall. It broke my heart to see my mom rubbing her eyes as she told me, “Let’s go. Let’s go; I don’t ever want to come back.” Our gospel story today finds us in Jerusalem, the center of the nation of Israel. Israel was not, however, the proud nation that they used to be, yet they still clung to the hope of deliverance, the hope of reliving those days of glory.  (Lk 21:5) 5 Some people were talking about the temple, how it was decorated with beautiful stones and ornaments dedicated to God. Jesus said, 6 “As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.” 7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will these things happen? What sign will show that these things are about to happen?” Jesus obliges them with a long list of …well, rather unpleasant things. “Imposters will come in my name with tales of doom and gloom. Don’t listen to them. Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other. Don’t sweat it. There will be earthquakes and...

Read More »

“Hypotheticals and What Ifs” November 10, 2019

Posted by on Dec 6, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Hypotheticals and What Ifs” Haggai 1:15b – 2:9 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17 Luke 20:27-38   A 4th grade elementary teacher was wanting to teach her students about self-esteem, and she had an idea but she wasn’t so sure about it. So, one day in a staff meeting she said, “What if – hypothetically now – what if I were to ask in the classroom; what if I were to say something like “Anyone who truly thinks that you are stupid, stand up?” Most of the other teachers thought that this would be a fine idea. It would encourage the kids. It might teach them that even though they might struggle, they still have worth; they’re smarter than they think.” And so the next day, that’s what she did. But when one kid stood up, she was surprised. She really didn’t think anyone would actually stand up, so she asked, “Why did you stand up?” His answer was one for the books when he said, “I didn’t want to leave you standing up by yourself.” In our gospel text from Luke, the Sadducees are looking to trip up the master with a “what if” situation that is almost bizarre. First off, let’s remember that the big difference between the Pharisees and the Sadducees was their understanding of the writings of Moses when it comes to resurrection.               The Pharisees believed and preached in life after death, while the Sadducees did not, and that was the point of this crazy hypothetical with the 7 brothers all marrying the same wife. According to the law, if a man dies childless, it is his brother’s obligation to take the widow as his wife and raise up children for his brother. Now that, in itself, to our modern ears is way out there, but it was the law. And to the Sadducees, the law was everything. So to disprove the resurrection, they spin this crazy hypothetical about a man who dies childless. His brother then does the lawful thing by marrying the widow but he too dies with no children, and on down the line a total of 7 brothers- until everyone has passed from this world and there are still no children born. The “gotcha” question comes when they ask Jesus whose wife she would be in heaven. You have to wonder if they stayed up half the night thinking up this brilliant scheme. But here’s the thing – Jesus doesn’t rise to the bait. Instead, he patiently tells the Sadducees that they have missed one important point. Their conception of God is too small. To understand- to grasp- the whole idea of a resurrection according to our earthly terms and conditions is, frankly, impossible. We may know how to make a Key Lime pie and we might understand advanced algebra, but all the knowledge and experience in this world combined don’t bring us...

Read More »

“Never Holler ‘Whoa!’ In a Bad Spot” November 3, 2019

Posted by on Nov 4, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Never Holler ‘Whoa’ In a Bad Spot” Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4/ Ephesians 1:11-23 Luke 6:20-31   Have you noticed how every occupation seems to have its own language? Just sit across the table from a group of engineers or doctors or, heaven forbid, teachers and you’ll see what I’m talking about. In the same way, every occupation seems to have its own lingo; unique sayings and expressions that just happen over the years from people who work together to do this work. The oldest joke in the books is the elevator operator who will tell you that his job has its ups and downs. I spent enough time in the woods that I have collected a truckload of colorful expressions – most of which I can’t repeat here. But there was one that stuck with me; one that a fellow named Gordon used to say all the time: “Never holler ‘Whoa!” in a bad spot-” he’d say it all the time. It made a lot of sense to those who knew Gordon because that’s how he lived: full speed ahead, no hesitation. On the very first week my son had his driver’s license, he approached an intersection going way too fast for a road that was covered with ice. The way he explained it to me was, “I say that pickup coming, but when I hit the brakes it just started to slide. That’s when I remembered what you always used to say – Never holler whoa in a bad spot – so I punched it. I almost made it, too, but he couldn’t stop any better than I could.” The moral of the story, I suppose, is don’t invest a lot of money in your kid’s first car. Today is the Sunday we choose to celebrate All Saints Day. It was one of John Wesley’s favorite “Special” days in the church calendar year, and I’d have to agree with that sentiment. With Thanksgiving right around the corner and as we approach the season of Advent, it’s a good thing; it’s a good thing that we force ourselves, in a way, to take a little breather and give some credit – give some recognition – to the saints that have blessed our lives. It’s a good thing and hopefully it will cause us, once again, to remember that we aren’t that special – not by ourselves. I mean, think about it -every word we speak, every habit, every quirk and peculiarity that we possess has been learned from someone, somehow, somewhere along the way. Our lesser selves, our greater selves, even our not-so-exciting selves are pretty much a result of the people and ideas that have touched our lives. They inspire us, and when we are inspired, we are changed. Who are the saints in our lives? Not everyone gets to grow up with Augustine for an uncle or Mother...

Read More »

“Goody Two-Shoes” October 27, 2019

Posted by on Nov 4, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Goody Two Shoes” Joel 2:23-32/ 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 15-18 Luke 18:9-14   We’re all familiar with the expression “Goody Two Shoes,” and I imagine we can all pretty much agree on what it means in normal conversation. The official definition of goody two shoes is “a person who always does everything right and always follows the rules, so much so that it becomes annoying.” Does that sound about right? Yea, I thought so. Now, as far as we know, this quaint expression became famous thanks to a children’s book written in 1765 called, “The History of Little Goody Two Shoes.” It’s the story of a poor orphan girl named Margery Meanwell who goes through life with only one shoe. When a rich gentlemen gives her a complete pair, she is so happy that she tells everyone that she has “two shoes.” She later becomes a teacher, marries a rich widower, and (wouldn’t you know it) lives happily ever after. The moral of the story was popular at the time – virtue and goodness will be rewarded. End of story. So, you have to wonder how it is that if someone calls you a goody two shoes, it is meant as an insult. Little Margery Meanwell was a darling character; everyone loved her. She wasn’t annoying at all. But we’ve twisted it up over the years, as we are sometimes want to do. So what I’m trying to say is that if perhaps some mean person were to call you a goody two shoes, just relax. Give them a big smile and thank them, because it’s not that big of a deal- – not when you know the real story of Goody Two Shoes. In this week’s gospel story, Jesus tells a parable to a group of folks that Luke says “had convinced themselves that they were righteous.” That’s all we know. They’re not Pharisees or religious leaders necessarily; Luke only tells us they were “certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else in disgust.” You talk about a tough audience. So Jesus tells a parable. Two men go up to the temple to pray. The first is a Pharisee, a religious leader, an insider, and a big part of the spiritual life in the community. His prayer is meant to be a prayer of thankfulness – of genuine gratitude – but it comes off more like a progress report to God: “I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers.” And then with all the humility he can muster, he brags about how pious he has been: “I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of my income.” When he is finished, he gets up and goes on his way. We can assume that – and this is important – we can assume that he leaves...

Read More »

“We Are the Church” October 20, 2019

Posted by on Nov 4, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“We Are the Church” Jeremiah 31:27-34 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5/ Luke 18:1-8   In the United Methodist Church, we have chosen to celebrate the 3rd Sunday of October as Laity Sunday. It is a “time to recognize the work and the mission of all the laity – not only in the walls of the church, but in everyday lives.” So now, that’s the official explanation: “To recognize the work and the mission of all the laity.” That’s kind of funny when you consider that 90 some odd years ago when a group of Methodist men created “Laymen’s Sunday” the women of our congregations seemed to have been left out. So yes, some things have changed; and for the better I might add. But by and large, this thing we call “church” hasn’t changed structurally since John Wesley first set it up. A group of like minded folks (laity) get together and decide they would like to gather together on a regular basis to fellowship, sing hymns, and worship God. The next thing you know, these same folks, (plus a few more, maybe) are constructing a building of some sort. They’re making a church. Now, keep in mind that all kinds of decisions need to be made in a project of this sort. Everything from the color of the outside to the design of the pews and furniture has to be decided as the people are building the church. Worst of all, these decisions – the decisions for every detail, every major and minor thing – has to be made by a committee, of sorts – the laity, the lay people of the church. But they do it. Sure, there’s some discussions along the way; disagreements here and there. But in the end it is the resources and the time and the energy and the love of God by the people – the laity – that make this wonderful thing happen. Finally, a pastor or minister is brought in to lead in worship, offer the sacraments, and perform the duties asked of them. They may be wonderful or not so much, but either way they will serve the church for a few years and then, inevitably, they will move on. So if you were to ask if it makes any sense to honor a “time to recognize the work and mission of all the laity;” if you were to ask if we even need to bother, I would have to answer, “You bet we do.” You bet, because the laity is the heart of the church; the laity is the soul of the Kingdom of God on this earth. Laity Sunday – a whole day dedicated to the people of the church. How do you summarize that in 1000 words or less? Well, you just can’t. If we were to take turns sharing stories of those we have known on our...

Read More »