“Give Thanks to the Lord” April 21, 2019

Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Give Thanks to the Lord” Psalm 118:1-2, 17-29/ 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 Luke 24:1-12   Picture, if you will, the state of So. Dakota. It would be a perfect rectangle except for the fact that its eastern border is the Red River, which zigs and zags a little bit. It is a shoe box shaped chunk of land smack dab in the middle of a huge area we call the Great Plains. Now picture the exact center of this shoe box on the utmost northern border. Here is where you will find the little city of Lemmon, right on the border of North Dakota. There’s not much to do or see in Lemmon, but it is where the writer Kathleen Norris spent her summers growing up on her grandparents’ farm. Later in life, when she inherited the farm, it became her permanent home. Now, Kathleen had a spirituality that is rare in most folks. Where most folks found themselves uninspired by the landscape of the prairie, Kathleen Norris continually saw the hand and the heart of God. She was not alone, evidently, because when she discovered a Benedictine Monastery to the north of her in Richardton, No. Dakota she blossomed as a person, as a writer, and as a healer in the name of Christ. It is her fascination with the Benedictine order that led me to speak about her today. Now, one of the things that always intrigued me about the monks at the Assumption Abbey in ND was their practice of memorizing the Psalms. At first, I thought this had to be some kind of bizarre self discipline thing because, well let’s face it, memorizing anything is not what most folks consider fun and games. But it intrigued me nonetheless. I have learned that the longer you hold scripture in your heart, the more meaningful it becomes. But the Psalms? That seemed like a bit of a stretch. I couldn’t have been more wrong. And so I am here to say that on this day that we celebrate the cornerstone of our faith – the resurrection of Jesus Christ – I am here to say that there is good reason why Jesus and the Apostles quoted from the Psalms – – a lot. They are a treasure. They speak to us  of a God who is constant, of a God whose love is without end, and of a God who is worthy of every bit of praise that we can muster. Most of all, the Psalms speak, it seems to me, of a God who makes things happen. (Ps 118:1) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. These, the opening words of the 118th Psalm, should sound familiar to us by now; we have been reading from this Psalm in one form or another for 6 weeks now. Let Israel say, “His...

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“Give Thanks to the Lord” April 21, 2019

Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Give Thanks to the Lord” Psalm 118:1-2, 17-29/ 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 Luke 24:1-12   Picture, if you will, the state of So. Dakota. It would be a perfect rectangle except for the fact that its eastern border is the Red River, which zigs and zags a little bit. It is a shoe box shaped chunk of land smack dab in the middle of a huge area we call the Great Plains. Now picture the exact center of this shoe box on the utmost northern border. Here is where you will find the little city of Lemmon, right on the border of North Dakota. There’s not much to do or see in Lemmon, but it is where the writer Kathleen Norris spent her summers growing up on her grandparents’ farm. Later in life, when she inherited the farm, it became her permanent home. Now, Kathleen had a spirituality that is rare in most folks. Where most folks found themselves uninspired by the landscape of the prairie, Kathleen Norris continually saw the hand and the heart of God. She was not alone, evidently, because when she discovered a Benedictine Monastery to the north of her in Richardton, No. Dakota she blossomed as a person, as a writer, and as a healer in the name of Christ. It is her fascination with the Benedictine order that led me to speak about her today. Now, one of the things that always intrigued me about the monks at the Assumption Abbey in ND was their practice of memorizing the Psalms. At first, I thought this had to be some kind of bizarre self discipline thing because, well let’s face it, memorizing anything is not what most folks consider fun and games. But it intrigued me nonetheless. I have learned that the longer you hold scripture in your heart, the more meaningful it becomes. But the Psalms? That seemed like a bit of a stretch. I couldn’t have been more wrong. And so I am here to say that on this day that we celebrate the cornerstone of our faith – the resurrection of Jesus Christ – I am here to say that there is good reason why Jesus and the Apostles quoted from the Psalms – – a lot. They are a treasure. They speak to us  of a God who is constant, of a God whose love is without end, and of a God who is worthy of every bit of praise that we can muster. Most of all, the Psalms speak, it seems to me, of a God who makes things happen. (Ps 118:1) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. These, the opening words of the 118th Psalm, should sound familiar to us by now; we have been reading from this Psalm in one form or another for 6 weeks now. Let Israel say, “His...

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“The Road to Jerusalem: The Revealing” April 14, 2019

Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Road to Jerusalem: The Revealing” Isaiah 50: 4-9a Psalm 118:1-4, 19-29 Philippians 2:5-11 Luke 19:28-40 & Luke 22:14-30   It was the 6th of March on Ash Wednesday that we began this 40 day period known as the season of Lent. It will end next week at sundown on Holy Saturday which, of course, will lead us into Easter morning. Now for those who like to tabulate your calendars – yes, that is 46 days. But the way I understand it, the 6 Sundays in this period aren’t included, so that’s that. The tradition of Lent was created to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness: 40 nasty, grueling days being tempted by Satan without much in the way of groceries or water to drink. This, you recall, is what began and shaped his ministry. It is a ministry that shaped our lives; it is a ministry that changed the world. We, as United Methodists, observe Lent because…well, because we choose to. We have found it to be meaningful- to be rich and rewarding. We have learned that it is a good thing to re-examine the core principles of our faith; to find the real reasons for our faith, and maybe make a few discoveries along the way. But you know, it gets me every time. It gets me I’m not so sure I’m ready for Lent to be over with. For the last 5 weeks we have talked about the urgency of this journey to Jerusalem. The disciples advised against it, even the Pharisees warned Jesus to stay away, but he pressed on. Through this time we are able to catch glimpses of the humanity of Christ and it inspires us, it gives us hope. It makes us want to do better; to be better. But now that journey is over and Jesus is greeted by the crowds with shouts of “Hosanna to the son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” and I’m not ready. I’m not ready – we’re not ready – because we know the importance of this day. On the heels of Palm Sunday, as we begin this Holy Week, it’s hard to ignore the significance of this moment: the moment when the journey to Jerusalem ended and the journey to the cross began. And so for this week that is coming, this Holy Week, I would ask a favor. I would ask that we find the time during the day to read over what the gospels have to say of Jesus in Jerusalem. It’s an intense period and it seems that time speeds up almost, but I would ask that, because a lot is revealed in the words and actions of Christ at this time. It speaks, at least to me, to the core principles of my faith. God is revealed in Christ. This...

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“The Road to Jerusalem: The Response” April 7, 2019

Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Road to Jerusalem: the Response” Isaiah 43:16-21 Philippians 3:4b-14 John 12:1-8   At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy dud, I have to admit that I miss the old days. In the days before Google and algorithms, advertisers were restricted to things like newspapers and magazines and billboards. Radio and TV ramped things up a bit, but we didn’t mind. Now, in the online economy if you show a slight interest in buying just about anything, look out. Look out, because somehow the whole world knows and they will beat a path to your door. I did a search for socks a few weeks back – I didn’t buy anything, just looked around – but since that moment I have been barraged with ads for every kind of sock you can imagine. It’s a little creepy, but that’s the world we live in today. And so it was that while I was thinking and writing about Jesus and Lazarus and Martha and Mary, an ad popped up out of nowhere this week from a church supply catalog- a place to buy everything from candles to communion wafers – and I surprised myself when it made me laugh out loud. It wasn’t meant to be funny, but somehow reading the headline, “Last chance for discount prices on Easter supplies” just caught me off guard. Somehow, when my mind was focused on one of the most extravagant displays of love and devotion ever, the idea of 10% off our supply of anointing oils seemed totally ridiculous. (Jn 12:1) Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. What a strange and powerful story, but it is one we need to take to heart. It was the first of the last suppers; it was Jesus saying his final goodbyes on the road to Jerusalem. The story of the anointing of Jesus was told in all four of the gospels in various forms: in Matthew and Mark, Jesus was in the house of Simon the leper, and in Luke he was at the home of one of the Pharisees; but the end result is always the same: an act of extravagance for the Lord is met with jeers and sneers and a bunch of phony talk about wasting something precious that could have been sold to help the poor. And that’s what it was, plain and simple; an act of extravagance. Forget the fact that this was Mary’s to do with however she...

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“The Road to Jerusalem: Reconciliation” March 31, 2019

Posted by on May 11, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Road to Jerusalem: Reconciliation” Joshua 5:9-12 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 Last year, I was strongly encouraged to be a volunteer in the Smart Reader program in our local school system. “O, you’ll love it!” I was told. “It’s a great program designed to promote the joy of reading to kids who are learning how to read.” Great idea, I thought; it makes perfect sense. And so, every Wednesday morning I get to sit down and read to kindergarten kids and it is phenomenal. Now, these kids come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life, which can be challenging at times. But do you know the one thing we all have in common? The one thing that makes it all worthwhile? The love of a good story, that’s what. It was Jonathan Gottschall that said, “We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night telling itself stories.” And Alan Kay, the vice president of Walt Disney shares, “Why was Solomon recognized as the wisest man in the world? Because he knew more stories than anyone else. Scratch the surface in a typical boardroom and we’re all just cavemen with briefcases, hungry for a wise person to tell us stories.” “Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, and challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture in our minds. Consequently, stories often pack more punch than sermons. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story. Jesus did it. He called his stories ‘parables.’ So says the great storyteller, Janet Litherland. And so on this, the 4th Sunday of Lent and on our journey down the road to Jerusalem, we find ourselves examining once again the Parable of the Prodigal Son. For those of us who were fortunate enough to be able to read to our kids or grandkids, I’m sure you understand the favorite book dilemma. You know what I mean: there might be a 100 books to choose from, but inevitably the little person that you are reading to will, sooner or later, find one that is their favorite and will insist that you read that one and that one only ….over, and over, and over again, forever and ever. After a while, you will have it memorized but don’t dare try to skip a page here and there to speed things up because they’ll catch you every time. You have read this 100 times – you’re ready to move on. But to them the story is just getting started. And that is the beauty of this parable that Jesus tells his disciples on the road to Jerusalem: it never gets old. For as long as I live, I will never have to worry about having something new and different to say...

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“Risus Paschalis” April 28, 2019

Posted by on May 8, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Risus Paschalis” Psalm 150 Acts 5:27-32 John 20:19-31   When God created the dog, he told him, “OK, here’s the deal: your purpose on this earth is to always be on the alert. You are to spend your days on the front porch and are to bark with volume and enthusiasm at every single thing that approaches the house. For this you will live 20 years.” The dog thought about it and said, “You know, that sounds like a lot of work and 20 years is a long time; how about I do this for 10 years and I’ll give you back the other 10.” The Lord said, “So be it.” Then the Lord created the monkey and likewise told unto him, “For 20 years you shall dwell upon this earth. In that time you are to perform tricks, entertain, be goofy, and cause amusement for those around you,” and likewise the monkey replied, “I don’t think I have it in me to do that for 20 years. How about I monkey around for ten of those and I’ll give the other 10 back to you.” And the Lord said, “So be it.” Next God created the cow. “For 60 years you shall labor upon this earth. You shall pull the wagon, you shall pull the plow, and you shall provide milk and sustenance to those around you.” The cow had a different idea, however. “It is an honor and I mean no disrespect, but could you arrange it so that I only labor upon this earth for 20 years? I would gladly give the remaining 40 to whomever you please.” And the Lord said, “So be it.” Finally, God created man and said onto him, “For 20 years you shall dwell upon this earth. Your life will be free of care, full of fun and frolic, and all of your needs will be provided onto you.” And man thought that was pretty good plan. “I accept,” he said, “but is there any chance you could throw in the 10 years that the dog and the monkey left behind and maybe the 40 years the cow didn’t want?” And the Lord said, “So be it.” So, in case you were wondering, this is why we spend the first 20 years of our lives without a care in the world, followed by 40 years of hard work making a living and providing for our families and communities. The next 10 spent are spent performing tricks and acting goofy for the benefit of our grandchildren and, if we’re lucky, the last 10 years are spent sitting on the front porch barking and growling at anybody and anything that dares to walk on the front lawn. Greetings, one and all, and welcome. Today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter, also celebrated in some churches as “Holy Humor Sunday.” Now you may not...

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