“The Art of Lostness & the Ridiculousness of Grace” September 15, 2019

Posted by on Sep 20, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Art of Lostness & the Ridiculousness of Grace” Psalm 51:1-13/ 1 Timothy 1:12-17 Luke 15:1-10   The Moth Radio Hour was the brainchild of a man named George Green some 20 years ago. Simply put, the Moth Radio Hour was the end result of Mr. Green’s want & need to promote the art and craft of storytelling. And if you enjoy hearing a good story, these broadcasts are awesome. A recent press release states, “We honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience, with 25,000 stories to date, shared live and without notes.” And that’s it. Come to find out, there are thousands of folks willing to stand in front of a large audience and, with a little coaching, tell their stories without notes, teleprompters, or cheat sheets. I got in the habit of listening to Moth Radio when I found myself driving to Amity on Saturday night to print bulletins. There were lots of times, I’m sure, that anyone who was paying attention probably wondered what that man was doing just sitting in his car in front of the church. But I loved them. They were warm, they were funny, and most of all, they were real. It was after reading through Paul’s letter to Timothy and Jesus’ stories of the lost coin and the lost sheep, that one of these stories came to mind; a story about a woman and her father near the end of his life. The way she told it, father wasn’t known for expressing his emotions. He was calm and reserved and wasn’t much for light conversation. So it surprised her one day when she stopped to visit that he told her he had something special that he wanted her to have. It surprised her when he seemed to be choking up a bit as he handed her a huge stack of 3 X 5 index cards – that were really heavy. “This is my penny diary,” he said, “and I’d like for you to keep it going.” He then explained that for years he had gotten into the habit of picking up pennies that had been dropped. “Everybody will stop to pick up a dime, even a nickel,” he said, “but most folks won’t waste their time with a stupid penny. When a penny is lost, it’s lost for good.” But not Dad. He not only picked them up, he took to taping them onto index cards along with some kind of commentary that he would write on the card.  It might be simply what was on his mind at the moment he found the penny, it might be things going on at the time, it might be most anything at all. The point is, Dad not only went out of his way to find these worthless chunks of copper, but he made a big deal out of it...

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“In For a Penny, In For a Pound” September 8, 2019

Posted by on Sep 9, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“In For a Penny, In For a Pound” Jeremiah 18:1-11/ Philemon 1-21 Luke 14:25-33   I had this idea. You are all aware, I’m sure, that churches all around the world are always looking to find new ways to get folks to show up – to come to church. This is a good thing-this going to church. Folks who regularly attend a worship service will tell you that it is beneficial, it is uplifting, and it is an excellent way to fellowship with others and be in the presence of God. So naturally, these folks are going to want their friends and neighbors to get in on this wonderful thing; to be a part of the body of Christ, as it is called. And so I had this idea, and it was inspired by the words of Christ in today’s text from the gospel of Luke. So picture, if you would, the sign that we could put out by the street to promote this great idea and encourage folks to join us in Sunday worship. It would have to be in a prominent location with big, bold letters – a sign that everyone would be sure to see. It would read something like, “If anyone comes to this church and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he (or she) cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ.” So what do you think? It’s kind of catchy, isn’t it? The answer, of course, is that this would not be such a brilliant idea. It would most certainly get a lot of attention and cause a lot of talk but no, we’d probably better not follow up on this great idea. So what gives? How are we to gain some understanding, how are we to benefit, from these words that Christ spoke to the crowds on the way to Jerusalem? Is this just another one of those “weird things that Jesus said” moments: we read through it – maybe a couple times – shrug our shoulders, and then move on? Somehow, I don’t think so. So let’s dive into it and maybe – just maybe- we can find the good news in the gospel of Luke. The first thing to consider is the fact that Jesus is not speaking to a bunch of strangers here. These are mostly folks who have been following him for quite some time. They are past the stage where they are “just checking this guy out.” His message about being a part of the Kingdom of God has inspired them; it has given them hope. Now you can bet that a lot of this crowd has been taking some flack for spending so much time with this Nazarene trouble maker. Friends and family are whispering among themselves about shirking responsibility and wasting...

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“The Fine Line” September 1, 2019

Posted by on Sep 9, 2019 in Sermon Archives

   The Fine Line” Jeremiah 2:4-13 Hebrews:13:1-8, 15-16 Luke 14:1, 7-14   Well, it is upon us as all across the land elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and universities are gearing up for another season of academic excellence – that’s the hope, at least. Those of you who have been or are still in education know the drill all too well: the year begins with high hopes, high ideals, and high expectations. This is a good thing because you’re going to need all the positive energy you can muster for the year ahead. And good leadership understands this; good leadership knows the importance of starting off on the right foot. For the past few years, the McMinnville School District has put on a gigantic “Welcome Back” assembly for all of its employees. Now this is not your typical school assembly with boring speeches and half-baked entertainment. No, Mac schools go all out. There are costumes and music and dancing and all sorts of whacky stuff all designed for one thing and one thing only – to start off the year with the right spirit and the right attitude. But here’s the kicker: all of the skits and dancing and wearing of the goofy costumes are the responsibility of the school administrators. That’s right – the school principals, the department directors, all the folks who are normally “in charge” are required to put on the biggest show of the year whether they like it or not. I’m sure that many of them, if given the choice, would choose not. It pulls them out of their comfort zone, and I found it fascinating. I found it fascinating to watch as folks who have been placed in positions of authority suddenly found themselves thrust in front of the rest of the staff – hundreds of people- to dance around and prance around in costumes that don’t fit so well doing things they would never dream of doing in private, much less in public. But there they were, and it got me to thinking. “What a great way to level the playing field,” I thought to myself. “By publicly humiliating the directors and administrators in front of the entire district, there’s going to be a sense that everyone has worth, everyone is important, and don’t be getting any wild ideas that any of you deserve a seat of honor.” Funny things is that when we asked the superintendent about this little theory, she disagreed. “I don’t do this to humiliate them,” she said. “No, I do this instead to teach them the value of humility.” The value of humility….now that’s interesting. Come to think of it, I believe that Jesus had a bit to say about this as well. The gospel text from Luke 14 is one of those timeless lessons on – wouldn’t you know it- humility. (Lk 14:7) 7 When Jesus...

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“Making the Sabbath Work” August 25, 2019

Posted by on Aug 30, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Making the Sabbath Work” Jeremiah 1:4-10 Hebrews 12:18-29 Luke 13:10-17   Does anyone remember the movie called “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”? It was based on the 1962 Broadway hit by the same name. I never had the chance to see it, but I do remember that Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics and it had an all-star cast. It was a situation comedy involving slaves and kings and senators in ancient Rome. But even though I never saw “A Funny Thing..” I remember it because it became such a common expression. Everyone had their own take on this catchy phrase: “A funny thing happened on the way to the grocery store,” or, “A funny thing happened on the way to the airport” – these might be stories that I could blab about today. But it is the gospel text from Luke that made me think of this. In a way, the story of “healing of the Sabbath” could fall under the category of “A funny thing happened on the way to the temple.” In fact, we could say that to be true about the bulk of Jesus’ ministry, because it seems like whenever he showed up, things happened that got people’s attention. (vs 10) reads Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. Not a big deal, right? I mean, in those days there were priests and such assigned to the temple, but just about anyone could get up and read to the congregation. There wasn’t a designated “preacher,” you could say. Bu these speakers were under the watchful eye of the chief priest. It was understood that everyone knew the rules and you don’t break the rules. The rest of the story you have just heard: Jesus spotted a woman bent over with what was probably advanced   rheumatoid arthritis. He had compassion for her – which Jesus seemed to do a lot – he healed her, and that’s when the trouble began. (vs 14) The synagogue leader, incensed that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, responded, ‘There are 6 days in which work is permitted. Come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’ Now, on a side note, I find it amazing that this dude considers the act of miraculous healing a form of work in the first place, but Jesus goes along with it. He explains to them what a bunch of phonies they are for saying such a thing because they technically do “work” on the Sabbath all the time. The priest doesn’t have much to say and the people in the temple are tickled pink. And so, the story ends, a point is made, and a lesson is learned. That really should be the end of it, but the beauty of the gospels and what makes them fascinating is the fact that...

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“When We Take This Stuff Seriously” August 18, 2019

Posted by on Aug 30, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“When We Take This Stuff Seriously” Isaiah 5:1-7/ Jeremiah 23:23-29 Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2 Luke 12:49-56 I’d have to say that one of the tough parts of writing a sermon is coming up with the proper title. It can be catchy, but not too cute; it can be corny, but not ridiculous; but most of all a good sermon title should give you an idea what is coming without giving it all away. As you can imagine, there have been some doozies over the years. I’m thinking of a pastor whose church was in the middle of big stewardship campaign. The treasurer and finance committee had strongly encouraged him to speak on the importance of tithing and giving to the church, which is always a touchy subject. It’s hard to say, but I have my doubts that the congregation was comforted with the sermon title that day, which read “The Sermon On the Amount,” especially those who maybe weren’t so familiar with the real Sermon On the Mount and therefore wouldn’t get the joke. And then we have today’s gospel text from (Lk 12:49) I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled. (51) Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, I have come to bring strife and division. So what do you think? What might be a good title if you were speaking on this troubling text? I spotted a few: “Disturber of the Peace” was one of them. “A House Divided” and “Jesus Lights a Fire” were some others. However, I have to admit that my first thought for a sermon title was something like, “Things I Wish That Jesus Had Never Said,” because this is not the kind and loving Jesus that I like to think about. This is not the warm and fuzzy Jesus; this is not the “Jesus is my best friend” kind of story that I pick to read to my grandkids. But here it is in both the gospels of Matthew and of Luke: From now on a household will be divided – 3 against 2, and 2 against 3. So let’s take a closer look at this somewhat troublesome text and hope to find the good news in the gospel of Luke. First of all, we need to consider that Jesus is speaking to a group of men who gave up their careers to follow him. Some had families, wives, and children that they left behind and I don’t imagine that everyone involved thought that this Jesus of Nazareth was worth it. From now on, a household will be divided.             Next, if you were Jewish, the idea of following Jesus was a problem. I mean, the Jewish people knew what a Messiah is like: he is all-seeing, all-knowing, and the liberator of the people of...

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“The Case for Bubble Gum & Umbrellas” August 4, 2019

Posted by on Aug 5, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Case for Bubble Gum & Umbrellas” Hosea 11:1-11 Colossians 3:1-11/ Luke 12:13-21   When I read through today’s gospel text earlier in the week, I groaned. I really, really didn’t want to preach on the “Parable of the Rich Fool;” I just didn’t. Every time this particular scripture comes up, you can just about bet there is a stewardship sermon coming and we’re going to be made to feel bad about our level of giving to the church, to the community, to whatever. I really, really didn’t want to do that. And so, when I find myself in a quandary like this, I’ve found it helpful to just let my tired brain go blank and simply pay attention to whatever happens to come along.  And so it was that as I was driving through traffic in the middle of the day on Baker St. that I happened to think about the time that I won the bubble gum blowing contest. Go figure. Now, for a 9 year old boy, there are few things in this world more entertaining than a lawn fete. These events are always held outdoors in the summer and are usually a fundraiser for something or other, but we didn’t care about that. All we were concerned with is that fact that there were lots of goodies to eat, lots of contests, and best of all, prizes. I had taken a few throws at the dunking tank, came in third in the sack race, and been told I was too little to compete with the big guys in the pie eating contest; all in all, the day wasn’t going as I had planned. But that was about to change when I chanced upon a table with the words “Bubble Gum contest. Blow the biggest bubble and win a prize!” Just my luck, it was about to begin, so I grabbed a bunch of Palooka Joe and jammed it in my mouth and proceeded to chew on it. Now, bubble gum is not my specialty – we could never afford such fancy things – so when the time came, it was just sheer luck that I found myself staring at a 5” bubble in front of my face. No one was more surprised than me. The tape measure came out and before I knew it, I had been declared the winner. But here’s the kicker: the grand prize for blowing the biggest bubble was, of all things, an umbrella. It was a great day, and when it was all over, I took my umbrella and went home with mom & dad. I went to bed and the umbrella went in the hallway closet. And that’s where it stayed – – for quite some time. I had all but forgotten about it until one day my dad asked, “So, what are you going to do with that...

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