“WWPD” August 13, 2017

Posted by on Aug 17, 2017 in Sermon Archives

“WWPD” Genesis 37:1-4,12-28 Romans 10:5-15 Matthew 14:22-33   The Sea of Galilee is kind of weird. First of all, it’s not a sea – it’s a lake – a big lake: about 64 square miles big. It’s some 33 miles around, 13 miles long, and over 8 miles wide. And did you know that it is the lowest fresh water lake in the world. That’s right, the Sea of Galilee is about 680 feet below sea level. The only other body of water below that is the Dead Sea and it is full of salt. But Galilee is thriving, even though it is over 2 football fields lower than the Mediterranean right next door. Kind of weird. The Galilee, or Kinneret, or Lake Tiberius as it’s been called, is also well known for freaky storms that come without warning, particularly in the evening. A good lake to compare it to might be Lake Erie in northern Ohio. Erie, like Galilee, is a shallow lake and so when winds kick up, things get dicey real quick. But the real kicker to the Sea of Galilee, unlike Lake Erie, is that it is surrounded by hills, especially on the east side where the hills raise up some 2000 feet. Now bear with me, because I find this phenomena kind of fascinating. What happens is that when the cool dry air from off the top of the hill decides to fall down into the warmer moist air over the water, things get exciting real fast. The evening thermals that fell onto the Sea of Galilee were oftentimes far more than a cool refreshing breeze. They were devastating. Now consider this: I’ve always wondered about this story. You will recall that Jesus had tried to find a remote place to pray after hearing about the death of his cousin, John the Baptist. He tried, but the crowds wouldn’t leave him be and rather than turn them away, Matthew writes that he “had compassion on them and healed the sick.” He also fed the whole lot of them; over 5000 people. It’s been quite a day. (vs 22)  Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. My point is, many of the disciples in this boat had spent their lives fishing on this lake, and they knew. They knew what can happen if you are out there when the sun starts going down. Yet, as we read, “Jesus insisted that his disciples get back in the boat and cross to the other side.” The rest of the story is well known to us all: the disciples hop in the boat without Jesus and about...

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“The Kingdom of God Is Like – a Bag of Cookies” August 6, 2017

Posted by on Aug 17, 2017 in Sermon Archives

“The Kingdom of God Is Like – A Bag of Cookies” Genesis 32:22-31 Romans 9:1-5 Matthew 14:13-21   The story of Jesus feeding the multitudes, the loaves and fishes story, has been preached and breached and debated and negated so many times now, you’d think it wouldn’t have a speck of life left. It’s been used as an inspiring example of compassion and it’s been used sometimes as an uninspiring example for stewardship campaigns. But the reality is if we wish to get a grip on the Kingdom of God, this story needs to heard again and again. The fact that this story is told in all 4 of the Gospels is a pretty good indication it is something we need to know. It’s important, it’s rich, and perhaps the worst thing we can do is dismiss it as just another of the miracles of Christ. Because it is much more than that. It is a teaching story, it’s a God story, it is a Kingdom story. So let’s get to it. A woman was waiting for her plane at the airport. She went into a newsstand store and bought a bag of cookies. Then she went back to the waiting area at her gate and got comfortable. A few minutes later, she thought, “Maybe I’ll just have myself a cookie while I’m waiting,” but when she looked up, a stranger sitting across from her had his hand inside the bag, pulling out a cookie. You know how it is that when something totally unexpected and inappropriate happens, you don’t even have words. Well, I think that’s what happened here. Because instead of saying anything, she stared at him and then put her hand in the bag and pulled out a cookie. This should set things straight, right? This should have cleared up any misunderstandings; put a stop to this nonsense. But instead, he only stared back at her, put his hand in the bag and grabbed another one. “The nerve on this guy,” she thought to herself. And so, she stared back at him with the meanest scowl she knew ///  and stuck her hand in for another cookie. It went on this way, back and forth, until the bag was empty. About 15 minutes later, her flight was called. She got up to walk toward the gate. As she left, she turned to the man at her table and gave him the best “How dare you” look that she could muster and boarded the plane. She eventually got to her seat and took a deep breath, but she was still shook up. “How could someone have stolen her food right in front her?” she wondered. “What kind of person does that?” She put her luggage in the overhead and was in the process of jamming her purse under the seat when it popped open and there it...

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“Some People Just Can’t Tell a Joke” July 30, 2017

Posted by on Aug 17, 2017 in Sermon Archives

“Some People Just Can’t Tell a Joke” 1 Kings 3:5-12 Romans 8:26-39 Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52   A young man considering a vocation with the Franciscans was invited to dinner at the local friary one evening. As dinner went on, from time-to-time, one of the friars would stand up and say a number and the rest of the friars would laugh hysterically. One stood up and said, “72,” and everyone laughed. Later, another stood and said, “149,” and again everyone laughed. Another stood and said, “14,” and this time it brought the house down. Confused, the young man asked the friar beside him what was going on. He answered, “Well, you see, we’ve all lived together for a long time. By now, we know each other jokes by heart, so we numbered them all to save time. Someone says a number and we remember the joke and laugh,” then he said, “Why don’t you give it a try. We have 300 jokes, just stand and say any number you like.” The young man stood tentatively and said, “107,” but this time there was nothing; dead silence. The young man sat down sheepishly and asked the friar what went wrong. He said, “What can I tell you? Some people just can’t tell a joke.” You know, this story comes to mind today because I think there is something like this going on in our Gospel today. I get the notion that Jesus is telling us somewhat of a joke here, but nobody is laughing. It’s a classic case of a flop. The question we might ask, then, is, “Really? What’s the joke here? These are the parables of Christ; they are meant to instruct us, to make us question, to make us think. What’s so hilarious about that?” So, bear with me, because I think it’s kind of funny. Most of Matthew 13 is referred to as the Kingdom Parables. They are short stories that Jesus told the crowds and his disciples to help them understand …well, what the Kingdom of heaven is like. (vs 31) The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed; (vs 33) The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast; (vs 44) The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, (vs 47) The kingdom of heaven is like a net, and so on and so forth. Matthew understood the importance of getting everybody on board this Kingdom train. He understood that it was a key part of Christ’s ministry if for no other reason than the fact that Jesus talked about it – a lot. It’s important; it’s something that we as followers of Christ wish to be a part of. It is tied together with our hope – our hope of salvation, our hope of redemption, our hope of eternal life. And so, I’m guessing the place to start might...

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“The Gifts of the Spirit: Fear of the Lord” July 23, 2017

Posted by on Jul 25, 2017 in Sermon Archives

“The Gifts of the Spirit: Fear of the Lord” Genesis 28:10-19a Romans 8:12-25 Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43   Today will be the last in our sermon series of “The Gifts of the Spirit.” Simply put, these are gifts that come to us when we come to that place – when we come to that place where we are no longer ruled or dominated or totally dependent on what this world has to offer. These are gifts that come to us when we come to that place where the life and the presence of Jesus Christ strikes a chord within us; when it rings a bell, when it touches a nerve. And these are gifts that usually come to us as a pleasant surprise; these are the gifts of the spirit. So far, we have covered the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel (right judgement), courage, knowledge, and piety. Today, tied in with our scriptural readings, we will explore the unlikely gift of the fear of the Lord. Now, I have to be honest with you, my wanting to preach on this one thing –the fear of the Lord- is what inspired me to start this series in the first place. But, as usual, one thing led to another and here we are 7 weeks later and I’m finally getting to the point. So what do we mean by the “fear of the Lord?” Is this fear and trembling; is this fear and loathing – what? I’ve got to say, I do have a problem with the whole “fear” thing. If someone were to describe me as being a “God fearing Christian,” I’m not so sure I would take it as a compliment. So, what do we mean? What do we mean by calling the fear of God a gift in the first place? One definition that spoke to me was about just being aware. It reads, “With the gift of the fear of the Lord/ wonder and awe, we are aware of the glory and majesty of God. A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all we desire: perfect knowledge, perfect goodness, perfect power, and perfect love.” This, I can understand. This, I can relate to because this is how I understand our God; this is how we understand our God. And as for the whole “fear thing,” what is that Christ has taught us? That God is a punishing God; that he can’t wait to head slap us each and every time we step out of line? To some folks, this seems to be the case and it breaks my heart. Because if Jesus shows us anything at all, it is that our God is merciful, our God is loving, our God is a fountain of forgiveness. With that being said, maybe our only fear is to be separated from this the glory and...

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“The Gifts of the Spirit: Piety” July 16, 2017

Posted by on Jul 19, 2017 in Sermon Archives

“The Gifts of the Spirit: Piety” Genesis 25:19-34/ Roman 8:1-11/ Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23   This past week, I had the pleasure of traveling to MT to visit both my son and my daughter along with their collection of wound up and usually very loud children. It was great. When I say down to book the fight a month ago, I was prepared for the worst, figuring that I would have to change flights at least twice to make it to little Bozeman, MT. But to my surprise, Alaska Airlines has daily direct flights from PDX to Bozeman- 1 hr, 33 minutes. I figured it must be folks going to Yellowstone Park. And so when the young gal sitting next to me struck up a conversation right away, I was OK with that. She was from Cranbrook, BC; had met her husband at a basketball tournament in Spokane, and now lived in Spokane: two dogs, no kids. Once all the preliminary background information had been exchanged she asked the question I had been waiting for: “So what do you do?” Now, if this had been a 5 hour flight I might have been tempted to not say a word about the fact I was a pastor of a United Methodist Church. I understand that’s not a very pastoral thing to do, but the prospect of hearing for 5 hours how awful the church is and all the terrible things that clergy have done in the name of… well, you get the idea. I was simply wanting to relax. As it turned out, I told her the truth and it was fine. In fact, it was more than fine. It was more than fine because I found myself connecting to this person who had no background in Christianity, no education of the scriptures, and no experience with the church as we know it. And yet, in her own way, she found herself believing in a loving God – a merciful God – of God of hope and promise. It was more than fine because I didn’t have to worry that she was more knowledgeable about scripture than me, or that she had had some kind of out of body experience that I haven’t had. No, we were able to talk about the goodness and wonder that comes from a life in Christ, and that was it. There was no competition; there was no “I heard about.” There was no “he said” or “she said.” It was simply a casual acknowledgement of the glory of God. Funny, but it wasn’t until much later that I understood we were exploring the gift of piety. The gift of Piety; there are those that might consider that almost laughable. After all, the word piety is understood, and misunderstood, in many ways. To be considered pious is to be considered pompous in some circles. We’re all...

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“The Gifts of the Spirit: Knowledge” July 9, 2017

Posted by on Jul 9, 2017 in Sermon Archives

 “The Gifts of the Spirit: Knowledge” Genesis 24: 34-38 Roman 7:15-25a Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30   You know, it’s funny how we learn things in this life. For example, I have learned that folks will get way more defensive over a college team than they ever would over a professional one. Go figure. Maybe it has to do with rooting for the home town favorite or it’s the alma mater loyalty that kicks in; I can’t really say. What I know is that it is real, it’s personal, and it’s a line that you don’t cross unless you’re willing to go the distance. When Oregon was up against Ohio State for the national championship in January of 2015, I was working at an Assisted Living Center in Mac. The suspense before this game was so thick you could cut it with a knife. There were a few U of O graduates in the building and those that weren’t were acting as if they were. Everybody just knew that the Buckeyes were going to get stomped. And so it was that I got to rooting around in my dresser that morning and came across an Ohio State T-shirt; bright red with black letters. “O, this should be fun,” I thought to myself and I pulled it over my head. /// It was not fun. During “stand up” that morning when management gathered to plan out the day, I was met with what I can only describe as open hostility. In fact, the meeting wasn’t half over when I was asked to leave the room and find another shirt. By the end of the day, I experienced what it must feel like to be a leper, a total outcast from society. And to make matters worse, when Oregon lost by 22 points these people that I thought were my friends were giving me the look as if to say, “It’s all your fault!” I learned quite a lesson that day. But like I said, it’s funny how we learn things in this life. Our reading from the Apostle Paul is a hard one to forget. We remember it because it is the kind of teaching that hits a nerve. When Paul writes in vs 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate; when he writes this, he is painting a broader picture of being ruled by the flesh compared to being ruled by the Spirit. But I’d like to take this one statement by itself for a bit. Another version from Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” reads, What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it...

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