“Fault Versus Responsibility” September 2, 2018

Posted by on Sep 7, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Fault Versus Responsibility” Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 James 1:17-27 Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23   Don Miller has been one of my favorite authors for the last 10 years or so. In his book, “Blue Like Jazz,” Don told a story about Santa Claus that is one of those that sticks with you forever and ever. He writes, “I remember being at the mall when I was about 8 and seeing Santa Claus relieve himself in the men’s restroom. I was excited because we were going to see him that day, but I didn’t want to disturb him as he was hardly in his element. The Santa in the bathroom was a very tall man, younger than you would think, and a bit depressed in the eyes and unshaven under his beard, (if such a thing is possible.) “Ho, ho, ho, kid,” he said to me, zipping up his fluffy pants. I didn’t say anything back. I just stood there and tried to keep my shoes from getting wet. He looked at me, raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders, and walked out. That is when I realized the most terrible thing I’d ever realized. Santa doesn’t wash his hands after he uses the bathroom. How awful, I thought to myself. And I was horrified. All those little bacteria, the little flus and colds and cancer bacteria that grow in small villages that grow on a person’s hands if he doesn’t wash them. I could see in my mind the village of bacteria on Santa’s hands, a kind of Tim Burton version of the microbial North Pole, all the textures and contours of the village correct, but the colors off: grays for greens, blacks for blues, lots of coughing, lots of mad cows.” Such is the imagination of a young boy. But you know, he was right. Like most of us, young Don had been taught over and over again the importance of washing your hands. And like young Donald, most of us have been taught the reason for why this is important: to stop the transmission of disease. Needless to say, the Pharisees at the time of Jesus were not aware of microbial things like bacteria and viruses. No, they scrubbed up only because it was the tradition handed down to them by their elders. And like so many traditions, after a few generations they become law – to the point where no one really knows why the heck we are even doing this in the first place. Yet, because it was tradition and because the Pharisees were the ones large and in charge, they expected everyone else to do the same. They expected folks to conform; to conform to a cleansing ritual that consisted of getting the proper holy look on your face, saying the right words, and then sprinkling water on your hands and arms all the way to...

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“Metaphorically Speaking” August 26, 2018

Posted by on Sep 7, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Metaphorically Speaking” 1 Kings 8:22-30, 41-43/ Psalm 84 Ephesians 6:10-20/ John 6:56-69                      I couldn’t resist placing Storm Jameson’s words in the bulletin today: “Language is memory and metaphor.” It intrigued me because it’s so true – apart from memory, what do we have left to tell our stories and to make our point: metaphor. When faced with the choice of “It’s very hot outside” and “It’s a furnace our there!” we’ll take the furnace language every time. Because let’s face it, metaphor is one of the things that makes language fun. Now, we can best describe a metaphor as the art of using two completely unrelated things to make a point. “America is a melting pot,” comes to mind. With school about to begin, I think some school metaphors might be fun: “The classroom was a zoo,” is one. Or how about, “My teacher is a dragon, the kids were monkeys on the jungle gym, or the teenager’s stomach was a bottomless pit.” So, you get the idea. Also, metaphor is nothing new. It is found throughout scripture. (Jn 10:14)  “I am the good shepherd…and I lay down my life for my sheep.” (Isaiah 64:8) “but now O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay and you are our potter,” just to name a few. Metaphors can be serious and they can be hilarious; in good taste and in bad. Some of the most popular are the “Life is like” metaphors. “Life is like a jigsaw puzzle, but you don’t have the picture on the front of the box to know what it’s supposed to look like. Sometimes you’re not even sure you’ve got all the pieces.” And my all- time favorite, “Life is a maze in which you try to avoid the exits.” Now, I bring this up because our text today from Ephesians is just one big old metaphor. It’s one that gets used a lot in Vacation Bible School lessons and Youth groups…and it has always bugged me. I know, I know – it shouldn’t bother me, but it does and it’s really kind of silly. You see, there is something about these military metaphors that go against the grain of my preconceived notions of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I want a faith that is trusting and caring and full of compassion. I want to buy the world a Coke and live in perfect harmony. We don’t need to hear stuff like “take up the whole armor of God,” and metaphors like, “the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation.” It’s all just too much. But here’s the thing, the height and the breadth and the depth of our faith has not been passed down and preserved without a struggle. We are part of this, the Kingdom...

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“It’s So Obvious That It’s Not” August 19, 2018

Posted by on Sep 7, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“It’s So Obvious That It’s Not” 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14 Psalm 111 Ephesians 5:15-20 John 6:51-58   I was driving around Mac last week running errands when I found myself listening to an interview with Bob Moore, the founder, along with his wife Charlee, of Bob’s Red Mill. Now I always suspected that the whole stone ground organic thing that Bob’s Red Mill flour promises was just a marketing gimmick, but I don’t think that so much any more. No, I can’t think that and as I found myself looking for other places to drive around just so I could keep listening to this interview, I found myself not only believing in the product but I found myself believing in the heart of the man who founded it; a man who saw an opportunity to do some good in this world and did it; against all odds, he did it. But it was when he talked about his 81st birthday that I started to see the hand of God at work. Imagine his employees’ surprise, if you will, when instead of receiving gifts Bob decided to give his greatest gift away – ownership of his business. Bob surprised all his employees on that day by creating an Employee Stock Ownership Program and making everyone an employee-owner. Quoting from the Red Mill website, “For those who know Bob, it’s just another example of his kind hearted generosity. As Bob puts it, ‘It was just the right thing to do. I have people that have worked for me for 30 years and each and every one deserves this.’” The interviewer said, “Mr. Moore, your company made over 100 million dollars last year, yet you’re giving 2/3 of it away. Aren’t you worried that you will end up just like you started with nothing?” Bob replied, and this was the clincher for me, “You know, the bible says to do onto others as you would have them do onto you, and I really believe that. I didn’t get where I am all by myself, so why should I keep it all to myself.” I have to say, Bob Moore’s story made an impression on me. He is selfless, caring, and compassionate and in the business world, these are not necessarily qualities that lead to success. Yet, here he is and you can find products from Bob’s Red Mill in every grocery store in the northwest. Now the reason I even bring this up, besides the fact that I think Bob Moore is an exceptional human being, is that our theme in scripture today seems to be about that elusive thing that we call wisdom. To be more specific, it’s the type of wisdom that’s begrudgingly know as discernment. Now discernment is a funny word. When Samuel as a young man found himself as king of the nation of Israel, it had to...

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“Stay Up and Fight” August 12, 2018

Posted by on Sep 7, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Stay Up and Fight” 1 Kings 19:4-8/ Psalm 130 Ephesians 4:25-5:2/ John 6:35, 41-51   You know, there are some expressions of advice that just never die, and because they won’t die we have found ways to tweak them because, after all, we can’t be serious all the time. It was Ogden Nash that wrote, “You’re only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.”  And then there is, “When life gives you lemons, ask about their exchange policy.” And how about, “Learn from the mistakes of others.” Sound advice, I admit, especially if you add, “you can’t live long enough to make them all by yourself.” And so it is that when we read the Apostle Paul’s advice of “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,” we are reminded of the advice given to newly weds, “Never go to bed angry.” That being said, I couldn’t help but chuckle remembering what the comic Phyllis Diller used to say, “Never go to bed angry. Stay up and fight.” At first glance, our text from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians seems to be nothing more than a list: a list of things that the church needs to put away – things like bitterness, wrath, lies and deceit. (vs 25) Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (vs 29)  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up. (vs 31) Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. See what I mean? This is nothing more than words of guidance and encouragement to the church at Ephesus from the founder of the church. Paul was good for that. But there was something about it that caused me to speak about it today. Something about it seemed to flick a little switch in my head and caused my imagination to run wild. That “something” was Paul’s view on this thing called anger. Now it’s safe to say that in some highly sentimental versions of the Christian faith it is taught that any form of anger is a sin. I’ve always struggled with this. I struggle because even though I am well aware of the damage that anger taken to the nth degree can cause, I am also painfully aware of the damage it can do if we keep it bottled up inside. So when Paul recognizes here that anger has its place, it came as a bit of a surprise. He also stressed that it has its limits. (vs 26 MSG)  Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge....

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“Stay Up and Fight” August 12, 2018

Posted by on Sep 7, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Stay Up and Fight” 1 Kings 19:4-8/ Psalm 130 Ephesians 4:25-5:2/ John 6:35, 41-51   You know, there are some expressions of advice that just never die, and because they won’t die we have found ways to tweak them because, after all, we can’t be serious all the time. It was Ogden Nash that wrote, “You’re only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.”  And then there is, “When life gives you lemons, ask about their exchange policy.” And how about, “Learn from the mistakes of others.” Sound advice, I admit, especially if you add, “you can’t live long enough to make them all by yourself.” And so it is that when we read the Apostle Paul’s advice of “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,” we are reminded of the advice given to newly weds, “Never go to bed angry.” That being said, I couldn’t help but chuckle remembering what the comic Phyllis Diller used to say, “Never go to bed angry. Stay up and fight.” At first glance, our text from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians seems to be nothing more than a list: a list of things that the church needs to put away – things like bitterness, wrath, lies and deceit. (vs 25) Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (vs 29)  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up. (vs 31) Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. See what I mean? This is nothing more than words of guidance and encouragement to the church at Ephesus from the founder of the church. Paul was good for that. But there was something about it that caused me to speak about it today. Something about it seemed to flick a little switch in my head and caused my imagination to run wild. That “something” was Paul’s view on this thing called anger. Now it’s safe to say that in some highly sentimental versions of the Christian faith it is taught that any form of anger is a sin. I’ve always struggled with this. I struggle because even though I am well aware of the damage that anger taken to the nth degree can cause, I am also painfully aware of the damage it can do if we keep it bottled up inside. So when Paul recognizes here that anger has its place, it came as a bit of a surprise. He also stressed that it has its limits. (vs 26 MSG)  Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge....

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“The Interview” August 5, 2018

Posted by on Sep 7, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“The Interview” 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a Ephesians 4:1-16 John 6:24-35   I’m going to make an assumption here that everyone in this room who has ever held a job in the open market has went through that nerve-racking process known as the job interview. You know the drill. You’ve submitted your resume or answered the ad and now you find yourself in the hot seat of an office you have never seen before. In front of you are a panel of folks whose primary purpose, it seems, is to make you as nervous as possible. And then it begins. Now for those of us who have been on the other side of the fence as the interviewers, we know the importance of the questions that we ask of those poor bundles of nerves known as the interviewees. There are a standard set of questions that seem to be asked every time, the first one being, “So tell us a little bit about yourself.” This is meant to break the ice a bit and also to get a basic idea of how cool this person will be while sitting in that hot seat. The next set of questions gets tricky. They are usually something like, “What are your biggest weaknesses?” which is followed by, “What are your biggest strengths?” Now in my experience as an interviewer, the answer you get for this question is not as important as how quickly you get it. But the list goes on: “How did you learn about this opening? Out of all the other candidates, why should we hire you?” and my favorite pair ~ “Why do you want to leave your current job?” coupled with “Describe your dream job.” If you’re lucky, you may find yourself interviewing at a place that’s not so plugged into the corporate mentality. They might ask more off the wall questions; questions like, “You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?” Or how about, “We finish the interview and you step outside the office and find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10million. What would you do?” And the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is always fun. The vote for my favorite whacky interview question, however, was a toss up between “Would you rather fight one horse sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?” and “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?” Tough questions, and folks in the business of hiring people have made a science of them. Now at this point, I imagine you are all wondering what the heck this has to do with anything anyhow. No, I have not been out looking for another job – I’m quite satisfied where I am, thanks to all of you. Truth be told:...

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