“Epiphany: Let’s Do This” January 6, 2019

Posted by on Jan 9, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Epiphany: Let’s Do This”   Isaiah 60:1-9/ Ephesians 3:1-12 Matthew 2:1-12   Epiphany, theophany, Denha, Little Christmas, Three Kings Day – no matter how we look at it, this day – January 6th, the 12th day after Christmas – has all the markings of greatness. It’s too bad that because it has meant so much for so many over the years that we have kind of lost our appetite for the Feast of the Epiphany. It wound up taking a back seat to the huge season that Christmas has become and then, let’s face it, after New Year’s most of us are ready for a little down time. I always felt sorry for kids who had birthdays right after Christmas. The enthusiasm level is never quite what you would expect. Now, some Eastern Orthodox denominations choose Jan. 6th as the day to celebrate the birth of Christ, and to further complicate matters this particular Sunday is sometimes set aside to celebrate the Baptism of Christ. So yea, a lot of stuff seems to be going on; too much stuff, actually. So here’s my take on Epiphany Sunday this time around: let’s just enjoy it. Let’s give thanks for who we are and for where we are and for what we do. Let’s turn off the news, get off our phones, and tone down all the noise the world loves to keep blasting at us and take gratitude in the few things that we hold to be constant and to be true. Above all else, let’s be thankful for our faith. Let’s be thankful that we, who come from all walks of life and different backgrounds, have this one wonderful thing going for us: our faith. It’s something that we tend to take for granted, but in reality it is a big deal. This is the epiphany I’d like to enjoy in this New Year: to be the church, to be the body of Christ. Webster defines “epiphany” as “A moment of sudden revelation; a poignant, sudden, and profound understanding of something.” You can’t help but to like the idea. Everyone can appreciate a good “aha” moment now and then, and I for one will jump at the chance for a “profound understanding” of just about anything, but maybe the year that lies ahead doesn’t need to defined by sudden revelations. Maybe our epiphany can be something like, “Wow, look at us; we are the church. Let’s do this.” In Bulgaria on this day, folks will gather for the traditional “Manifestation of God” or “Day of Jordan” celebration. On this day, a wooden cross is thrown by a priest into the sea or river or lake, and young men race to retrieve it. It is early January after all and the waters are close to freezing, but for some strange reason this is considered an honorable act and it is said...

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“I Had to Be in My Father’s House” Dec. 30, 2018

Posted by on Jan 9, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“I Had to Be in My Father’s House” 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 Colossians 3:12-17 Luke 2:41-52     When an Arab peasant discovered a collection of ancient manuscripts in upper Egypt in December of 1945, it caused quite a stir amongst the religious scholars of the world. These writings are still a source of lively debate to this day. It’s too bad that many of these manuscripts were sold on the black market, were used as fire starters, or otherwise just lost. It might help clarify things because those that remain serve to raise more questions than provide answers. These, combined with other discovered manuscripts, have become known as the gnostic gospels. They are the writings of the life and teachings of Christ from others besides Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And like I said, they raise more questions than answers. I picked up a copy of The Gospel of Thomas some years ago; supposedly the writings of the disciple we know by the same name, and it didn’t take long to realize why this was never included in the canon- this Bible- that we use today. It was puzzling and full of contradictions, but I found that if you don’t take it so serious as to consider it “Scripture” it was interesting to read. For example, in the Thomas book, there is a story of Jesus as a young lad playing with his friends. They were making birds out of wet clay when, according to the writings, Jesus the boy commanded that these clay birds flap their wings and fly away – which they did! And that was it; no lesson, no deeper meaning, no wonderful metaphor…just kind of a magic trick for our amusement. It was disappointing. But it does help a little, I guess. It does help because we are naturally curious. We can’t help it that we would like to know everything about the life of Christ, including how he grew up. What was he like as a child? Was he serious or kind of a prankster? Did he get along with people – (I certainly hope so!) or did he mostly stay to himself? Yes, it’s true that we want to hear stories of Jesus as a child. Think of all they fun that we have telling stories about the stunts we pulled as kids. Unfortunately, the story of Jesus getting left behind in Jerusalem is the only record we have of Jesus as a kid, at least in accepted scripture. To be honest, I don’t know what to think about it. It’s all so…well, unusual. First of all, it is every parent’s worst nightmare – the shame and the horror of leaving your own child behind; of losing sight or losing track of this young person that you are responsible for. It’s awful. I was tempted to find a copy of “Home Alone”...

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“One Degree of Separation” December 23, 2018

Posted by on Dec 26, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“One Degree of Separation” Micah 5:2-5a Hebrews 10:5-10 Luke 1:47-55   Well, we are almost there, and this Advent season of hope, peace, joy and love will soon make way for that day that we set aside to worship and to celebrate that moment that God came to us. This wasn’t a casual reminder, this wasn’t a wake up call. No, God came to us in the flesh in the form of a little baby- innocent, precious, and holy. God came to us that we might have hope, that we might know peace, that we might experience joy, and, most important of all, to teach us what it is to love. On a personal note, I have to say that I have been touched and have found strength and comfort from the prayers and genuine concerns all of you have laid upon my heart. My first thought when I started getting sick in November was, “O, yes. Best Christmas ever!” But, you know what? All sarcasm aside, this may end up being just that: the best Christmas ever. Last Monday, I was sitting in the exam room of a neurologist here in town. We were having the “You tell me your story” conversation. Margie’s sister, Libby Phillips, was in the room with us and I was grateful for that. Her experience in the medical field and attention to detail was bound to be a great help. Heaven knows that my brain wasn’t tracking very well. She is new to the area, having lived in Rapid City, SD for the past 20 years or so, and was going through that somewhat trying period of being a stranger in a strange land. For example, it was a bit unsettling to run into one of her new dialysis patients at the grocery store. Just a chance encounter, nothing out of the ordinary, but still…it feels weird. This is your new reality. Welcome to McMinnville. I had to laugh when the neurologist asked her if she knew Dr. So and So from the dialysis center and she said, “O yes, I work with him all the time.” “Well, we went to medical school together,” he said, and we all had a good laugh about that. Small world, huh? And then he said something that became the theme for the day – heck, maybe the theme for this, the best Christmas ever. He said, “That’s the thing about McMinnville. You’re going to find out that there is only one degree of separation between yourself and just about anyone you happen to meet in this town.” One degree of separation…we had a good laugh about that for the rest of the day. And wouldn’t you know it but Libby ran into two more clients later that day in the grocery store. One degree of separation: it’s kind of catchy because it’s true. It’s true because...

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“The Irony of Peace” December 9, 2018

Posted by on Dec 26, 2018 in Sermon Archives

The Irony of Peace” Malachi 3:1-4/ Philippians 1:3-11/ Luke 3:1-6   There are few things in this world that make life more interesting than good old fashioned irony, wouldn’t you say? The moment that we think we know what is going on –that we have it all figured out – only to find out that the reality is the complete opposite. The ironies of our world can be funny. Gary Kremen, the founder of Match.com, an online dating service, encouraged everyone he knew to join it, including his girlfriend. She eventually left him for a man she met on – you guessed it – Match.com. And they can leave you wondering:  In 2002, a tree was planted in a park in Los Angeles in memory of Beatles guitarist George Harrison after his death from cancer. The tree later died after being infested with beetles. Irony is a part of life. It can make us laugh out loud and it can make us a little embarrassed that we laughed in the first place. For example, the first man to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel died after slipping on an orange peel. Q-Tips, which are bought primarily to clean inside the ears, are sold in boxes that expressly warn, “Do not insert inside the ear canal.” The rooms in Sweden’s famous Ice Hotel are equipped with smoke detectors, and my favorite: the most shoplifted book in America is The Bible. The irony of that little factoid is almost overwhelming. Today is the second Sunday in the season of Advent; Advent being the 4 weeks before Christmas when we as adults are constantly reminded that we have to wait…we have to wait for this magical, wonderful day that we choose to celebrate the birth of a child that would change everything. I am sure that every child who knows the agony of waiting for Christmas morning has to chuckle to themselves with the irony of that one. Last Sunday, we celebrated the theme of Hope…the thrill of hope. The hope of redemption, the hope of salvation, the hope that this blessed birth will save us from the powers of sin and death – this hope is real. Today, the 2nd Sunday of Advent, is traditionally known by the theme of Peace. We have lit the Peace candle, we have offered up the peace of Christ. At the same time, tradition dictates the reading of scripture about a certain wild man named John the Baptist. The prophet Malachi tells us (Mal 3:1) “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. Next in the gospel text, Luke writes (Lk 3:2) the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in...

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“A Thrill of Hope” Dec. 2, 2018

Posted by on Dec 3, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“A Thrill of Hope” Jeremiah 33:14-16 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13 Luke 21:25-36   O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born;             I believe, whether we care to admit it or not, that every one of us has a favorite Christmas carol or hymn or song. “O Holy Night” has got to be mine. But you know, for the life of me, I can’t explain why. It has all the ingredients that I usually try to avoid. It’s drippy and schmaltzy with old world lyrics sang to a grandiose melody that can only be pulled off by the likes of Pavarotti or Josh Groban. But I can’t help it, it gets me every time. So I set out to understand why; what is it about “O Holy Night” that touches folks on such a deep and personal level? Come to find out, the carol we know as “O Holy Night” started out as a poem. You see, in the mid 1800’s, the church in the little town of Roquemaure, France had just renovated their organ and to celebrate this glorious event, the parish priest asked a local wine merchant and poet by the name of Placide Cappeau to write a Christmas poem. Evidently, that’s how things were done in those days – you tune the piano, you write a song. Now at this point, I was totally intrigued especially after learning that our local wine merchant and occasional poet had never shown any interest in religion at all, as far as anyone could tell. But he agreed to write this poem to celebrate the newly renovated organ and it wasn’t long before the poem “Minuit Chretiens” or Midnight Christians was set to music by a certain Adolphe Adam. It was premiered in little Roquemaure in 1847 by the opera singer Emily Laurey and the rest is, as they say, history. It was later in 1855 that the Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight translated the song into the English lyrics that we know today. How about that; and just think – it all started because the organ at the church broke down. Now ordinarily, if you want to tarnish something beautiful – take the shine off the apple, if you will – the best way to do that is to study it to death: to analyze and criticize and cauterize until the magic just disappears. And I thought that would be the case with the wine merchant and never religious poet from Roquemaure. I thought for sure that the more...

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“A King Changes Everything” Nov. 25, 2018

Posted by on Dec 3, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“A King Changes Everything” 2 Samuel 23:1-7 Revelations 1:4b-8 John 18:33-37   “Today is both the end and the climax of the Christian year. Today we indulge ourselves in a holy nonsense which is in fact the most beautiful truth: we celebrate the festival of Christ the King. He had no troops and built no palace, yet his rule is now boundless. He had no throne and wore no crown, yet as a king he is on his own. The truth, grace, and peace of Christ the King be with you all.” I wish that I could tell you who it was that wrote this introduction to this special day. I’d like to give credit where credit is due. Nonetheless, it seems like a great idea to “indulge ourselves in a holy nonsense which is in fact the most beautiful truth: a king changes everything. And furthermore, I believe we have permission to take this special day and use it however we see fit. After all, it is not a religious festival that has been handed down from the mouth of God to the ears of Moses. In fact, the Feast of Christ the King is fairly recent. It was first instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI in response to a growing attitude that the church should have no influence on how a nation governs itself along with a resurgence of nationalism in the church. I’d like to think that it was meant to be a gut check: to dedicate a day in the Christian year to really, really take stock of who is in charge here. This festival was originally known as “The Solemnity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” Wow- now that’s a mouthful. It wasn’t until the Protestant churches adopted this holiday that things got real – at least that’s the way I’m seeing it. So let’s do it; let’s indulge ourselves in a little holy nonsense, which is in fact the most beautiful thing. As we approach the time of Advent, the time that we “await” the birth of the King of Kings and the Prince of Peace, let’s visit the fundamentals of our faith – the peace that has come into our hearts and the joy in our souls – because of all the rulers and leaders and heroes in this world, there is only one who we can call a King without feeling embarrassed or phony or ill-informed, and that is Jesus of Nazareth. Ralph Milton, who writes a religious blog called “Rumors” had an interesting piece on Pontius Pilate. He told the story leading up to our gospel text today from the perspective of Pilate’s wife. She starts out saying, “I wonder sometimes, if they might have been friends. If they had met in some other circumstances, I think my husband and Jesus might have liked each other....

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