“You Don’t Need to Have It All Figured Out or Why We Need the Trinity” June 7, 2020

Posted by on Jun 9, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“You Don’t Need to Have It All Figured Out, and Why We Need the Trinity”   “You don’t need to have it all figured out. Just be with me.” ~ ‘Jesus’ from ‘The Shack’ by Wm. Paul Young   A bishop was at a church for a Confirmation ceremony. In front of the congregation, 9 young people from the ages of 13 to 16 were lined up waiting to be confirmed. This was a big event; a solemn occasion. Now, the Bishop had decided that in his homily he would quiz the teenagers he was supposed to be confirming. So he asked them, “Who can tell me what the Trinity is?” They all looked at their shoes, in that way that teenagers do. So he called on one young man, “Can you tell me what the Trinity is?” The young man mumbled a reply, in that way that teenagers do. The bishop then said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that.” The boy sighed, in that way that teenagers do, and replied, only slightly louder, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The bishop, wanting the boy to speak up so everyone can hear him, said, “I’m sorry, I still didn’t understand.” This time the boy, rolling his eyes, in that way that teenagers do, spoke up loud and clear. He said, “You’re not supposed to understand it. It’s a mystery.” And so, there you have it. The Trinity explained in 10 words or less. And welcome to Trinity Sunday, the 2nd week in this, the season of Pentecost. So, what do we do with this thing we call The Trinity? This concept of God in 3 persons has been a part of our belief system since….well, forever. In today’s gospel text from Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And so they did, and so do we to this day. At baptisms, weddings, funerals – any occasion or ceremony that requires calling upon God’s holy presence, these words are used. Countless hours and millions of words have been spent explaining the Trinity so that we might understand this somewhat abstract concept, but let’s be honest: every time you have heard the Trinity explained or found yourself explaining it to someone else, hasn’t there been a little voice in the back of your head saying, “What’s the point here? God is God, isn’t that good enough? Why do we have to split him up just to bring him back together again?” So, in keeping with our theme of “understanding” this Sunday, I’d like to take a stab at why the Trinity is relevant, why it is important, and how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit can truly bless our lives even if we don’t understand it. I’d...

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“To Do What We Cannot Do” May 31, 2020

Posted by on Jun 9, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“To Do What We Cannot Do” A sermon based on the writings of Luke the Apostle from the 2nd chapter of Acts Wow – Pentecost Sunday. To some, it’s just another religious holiday where everyone brings out their red clothes. But to others the season of Pentecost marks a turning point in the Christian calendar. It is a change; a change much in the same way that the moment the Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, something happened. Something happened that we are still a part of to this day. You see, we have the word of God; we have the life and teachings of Christ; but with the gift of the Spirit, we have something special. As Amba Keeble writes, “The Holy Spirit puts the ‘super’ into our ‘natural.’ What is special about a life in the Spirit is that we are empowered. We are empowered by the Spirit– empowered to do, not just to be. With the gift of the Spirit we are empowered to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ. With the gift of the Spirit, we become the church. So, Pentecost Sunday – What’s it all about? What’s the big deal? Let’s start with some definitions and get the boring stuff out of the way. Pentecost comes from the Greek Pentecoste  which means “fiftieth.” For Christians, Pentecost is the 50th day after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but this wasn’t a number that was chosen at random. It all started with a promise and a command. In John 14, Jesus makes a promise to his disciples, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he will send another Companion, who will be with you forever. This Companion is the Spirit of Truth…He then goes on to say, You know him, because he lives with you and will be with you. Later, in Luke’s gospel Jesus instructs them, saying, Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power. And so they do – and he does. And so it was that as the disciples gathered together for the Jewish festival of –you guessed it – Pentecost, that is when Jesus made good on his promise. I think most of you know that I was raised in the Methodist tradition; an Ohio Methodist, to be precise. In those days, there wasn’t a town of any size that didn’t have a Methodist church or two. They were like Starbucks now days – you might even find two Methodist churches across the street from each other, and folks were OK with that. Now I’ll grant you the fact that I might not have been paying attention as well as I could have in those days, but I received a good education nonetheless. We covered all...

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“The Gospel Is All About Jesus” May 24, 2020 with Jonathan Booth

Posted by on Jun 9, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“The Gospel Is All About Jesus” A sermon on John 17 by Jonathan Booth Friends from McCabe, Sheridan, and Amity – greetings. It is so good to be “with you”. It is a privilege to preach in the Easter season because much of what we hold dear and foundational to our faith is contained within the Easter narrative. Our lectionary reading gives us just the first eleven verses of John 17, but I would encourage you to read all 26. The whole chapter is precious. There are parts of God’s holy word that is just such a revelation of intimacy and this chapter is one of those. Here in John 17, the whole chapter is a prayer of Jesus. The prayer makes me want to take off my shoes, to kneel, and wonder at what God teaches us when Father and Son relate to each other. St John allows us to tiptoe into the closing minutes of the last supper and listen to Jesus as he prays to his father. As this intimate prayer ends Jesus goes out to the garden of Gethsemane, to Golgotha, and to a Garden tomb as Easter unfolds. Normally when I get the opportunity to preach among you it is peppered with some humor and banter but today the overarching emotion that I want you to hear is empathy. I want you to hear that Jesus understands, I want you to hear a timeless message, not the latest news bulletin and I want you to feel the nearness and the love of God. Let us begin. “After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” A week or so ago on Mother’s Day my wife’s father, my father in law died. I spoke to my mother in law earlier today and she asked me what I thought heaven was like. I replied I don’t know… I’m not sure. I don’t mean I don’t believe it because I do. I just mean I cannot conceive of what a home for eternity looks like and why a body isn’t necessary. I did say that one of the strongest things I feel is life is but a blip compared to eternity. Then there is the question not only of heaven (oh and by the way, if Jesus says he looked up to heaven then that’s good enough for me I’m happy to live with the premise that heaven is UP!) Next, he says “Father the hour has come”. Recently I watched again, “The Lord of the Rings.”...

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“You’re Gonna Get It!” May 17, 2020

Posted by on Jun 9, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“You’re Gonna Get It!” John 14:15-21   “Oh, you’re gonna get it! You’re in so much trouble right now!” How many of us can remember hearing words like these from adults when we were kids? It’s part of growing up; if you mess up, there will be consequences. We even used these treats of pain and suffering ourselves as kids. “You’re gonna get it,” seemed to be the all time favorite on the playground or in the backyard. It was even fun to say. The words seemed to fly off our tongues like little bullets: you’re – gonna – get it. Ah yes, there’s nothing like the threat of impending doom to get someone’s undivided attention. Now, I bring this up lest there be any misunderstanding of the words of Christ to us today. The Gospel text we are reading for this, the 6th Sunday of Easter, is a continuation of the “Farewell Discourse” from the Gospel of John. In the 14th chapter, John records the final words to his disciples soon before his arrest, conviction, and crucifixion. They are words of encouragement; they are words of confidence. Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. I am the way, the truth, and the light. Jesus is preparing them, like I said last week, to continue his ministry after he is no longer with them physically. They are words of assurance. They are words of strength. Today, we pick up where we left off, starting at (vs 15) which reads, If you love me, you will keep my commands. He repeats it again (vs 21) Whoever has my commandments and keeps them loves me.   So how does that work? Is this one of those “lost in translations” things, or are we to understand that according to Jesus, love and obedience are inseparable? That we can’t honestly claim to love Jesus if we don’t obey him? Are we to believe that? Can we believe that? I just don’t get it. So, before we get overwhelmed by the whole idea, it would be a good idea to have a look at the commandments that Jesus is talking about here. What exactly has Jesus commanded us to do? I believe it is in chapter 13 that John gives us the answer: (vs 34) I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. This was our reading on Maundy Thursday and is the only recorded commandment in the Gospel of John. Everything else we do as believers in Christ comes down to this: “Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.”   So how are we doing with that? A quick look at the history of the...

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“Love Without Conditions” May 10, 2020

Posted by on May 13, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“Love Without Conditions” “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” ~ G. K. Chesterton “The difference between the poet and the mathematician is that the poet tries to get his head into heaven, while the mathematician tries to get the heavens into his head.” ~ K. Chesterton [John 14:1-14] I found a little chuckle that, in a roundabout way, really hits home to those of us who are getting tired of being at home. It seems that the visiting pastor was trying to have a conversation with a child while her mother was in the kitchen preparing the tea and cookies that would add even more pounds to his mid-section. Not really knowing what to say, the preacher asked, “So tell me, what does your mother do for you when you’ve been a good girl?” The little girl didn’t bat an eye. “I get to stay home from church,” she said. See what I mean? It’s hard to imagine we would ever find ourselves considering “staying at home” to be a punishment, but here we are. The upside is that when the time does come that we are no longer “staying home from Church” we are bound to have a new found appreciation for our places of worship. God speed that that day arrives. The 14th chapter of the Gospel of John – I have to say, I don’t know where to begin. There is so much packed into this wonderful piece: “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” “My Father’s house has room to spare.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (One of the ‘I Am’ statements) “When you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.” This is like hitting the jackpot. There is a great sermon in every one of these little gems. But to be honest with you all, I’m just not feeling it. What I mean is, the more times that I have read through this marvelous text, the more irritable I seemed to get. At first I chalked it up to lack of sleep and aching joints. But I finally came to realize the source of my discontent: the disciples were getting on my nerves. (Jn 14:3) Jesus tells his disciples, When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too. You know the way to the place I’m going.” And rather than rejoice and give thanks, it is Thomas who says, Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” to which Jesus replies that he is “the way and the truth and the life.” What follows next is truly the crux of our faith; a truth we hold most dear. The 2nd...

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“When Jesus Speaks” May 3, 2020

Posted by on May 13, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“When Jesus Speaks” John 10:1-10 Some years ago, the question was posed to a small group that I was leading: “What is Jesus to you?” In other words, “How would you describe your personal understanding of Jesus Christ to someone who doesn’t have a clue?” Well, there was some initial chin scratching and nail biting, but eventually folks opened up. Now, “What is Jesus to you” is a pretty broad question – I have to admit that. But it’s surprising, once you put your head to it, how much we find that the life and teachings of Christ really do impact our everyday lives. When I asked the question, a few folks answered with long, deep theological expositions on incarnation and the Holy Trinity and prophesies of the Messiah to come. I had to agree with all that – this is how we understand what Jesus is according to scripture. But the question remains: “What is Jesus to you? How do you sense his presence whether you are praying hard or hardly praying? How does Jesus speak to you?” And then a funny thing happened. One woman in the group spoke up saying, “I’d say Jesus is my conscience. Whenever I’m tempted – whenever I am frustrated or angry or just mixed up trying to figure out what to do next – that’s when Jesus speaks to me. I can’t explain it, really, but I don’t know what I’d do without him.” At that point, I noticed the rest of the group nodding their heads. “Yes,” they said, “that’s the same way with me.” Our Gospel text today is one in a series of the “I Am” statements of Christ found in the Gospel of John. For example, in chpt. 6, Jesus explains “I am the bread of life,” and thousands of sermons have expounded on that truth.  Later, in chpt. 8 we hear, “I am the light of the world;” chpt. 11, “I am the resurrection and the Life” to name a few. One thing is for certain, one thing is constant about the ministry of Jesus Christ: he didn’t seek to impress, he didn’t seek to intimidate. What Jesus sought to do in the short time he was with us was to touch our hearts. He sought to touch our hearts by inviting us in. And this begins with helping us understand – really understand – who he is; who “I AM.” You know, a lot of things will never change with people. One of them is that we will always want to know who you are. Where’d you come from? What do you do? We accept this. It’s an important piece of living in community. Now Jesus could have proclaimed, “I am the great enforcer and I have been sent by God to straighten you people out!” He could have cast visions of pain and suffering...

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