“The Gifts of the Spirit: Understanding” June 18, 2017

Posted by on Jun 22, 2017 in Sermon Archives

  ~ This is the 2nd of a 7 part series entitled, “The Gifts of the Spirit.” “The Gifts of the Spirit: Understanding” Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7/ Romans 5:1-8/ Matthew 9:35-10:23   The following is a news article from the Kansas City Star dated June 13, 2017. There’s only one catch: I’m going to change up the order in which it was written a bit. So just remember, everything that was written here is true. So here goes – the story of Lawrence John Ripple. The summary for the article reads, “Kansas City Star reporters Tony Rizzo and Dave Helling discusses the strange bank robbery that happened in Kansas City, Kansas. A 70-year-old man charged with robbing a bank said he did it because he preferred a jail cell over living with his wife. Lawrence John Ripple is charged in federal court with the robbery of the Bank of Labor at 756 Minnesota Ave.” OK, so that sets the stage, and I venture to say that I have your undivided attention. So, on to the story. “Ripple’s story gained national attention last fall when he walked into the Bank of Labor, located a block away from the Kansas City, Kan., police headquarters, and gave a note to the teller. It read: “I have a gun, give me money,” according to court documents. After the teller gave Ripple $2,924, Ripple sat down in the bank lobby to wait for police, and later told authorities that he had written out a robbery note in front of his wife and told her he would rather be in jail than at home.” Now here’s the thing – at this point, all kinds of things are going through our minds, right? Was living with this woman that bad? I mean, how bad can things be if you prefer going to prison? Or was the guy mentally unstable? What’s his history here? Once again, from the article, public defender Chekasa “Ramsey told a judge Tuesday that before the September incident, Ripple had lived a law-abiding life. He had no criminal record, was a dutiful father to four step-children and was in a stable relationship with his wife.” Well now, that’s interesting. Seems this guy was perfectly normal. And to make things even more confusing, even though Ripple pleaded guilty to bank robbery, his attorney and federal prosecutors asked a U.S. District Court judge for leniency. This request was backed up by the vice president of the bank and the teller that he had frightened half to death. Confused? I should think so. The point I’m trying to make here is that it is wise to take a look at how we come to understand things and how that understanding can lead us down a rabbit hole. Take a look at how we process a bizarre story like this. At first, most of us jumped to the...

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“The Gifts of the Spirit: Wisdom” June 11, 2017

Posted by on Jun 12, 2017 in Sermon Archives

note – this is the first of a seven part series entitled, “The Gifts of the Spirit.”   “The Gifts of the Spirit: Wisdom” Genesis 1:1-2:4a 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 Matthew 28:16-20   As most of you have figured out, I like to follow the liturgical calendar. That is, I find that it makes sense, as we gather for worship, to have at least a little bit of an idea of what to expect – what’s going on, what has come before, what comes next. Some things are obvious: we expect a season of Advent before Christmas, we expect a season of Lent before Easter; that sort of thing. Others aren’t quite so apparent. In the Christian year, the longest season begins on the day after  Pentecost, which was last Sunday and will end at the beginning of Advent. It’s a season that those in the know generally refer to as “Common Time” or “Ordinary Time,” which has always bugged me a bit. “Common time”…it just seems so common, so ordinary, and if there is anything that can be said of our gathering together to worship and study and praise God, the word ordinary should not be one of them. But, I don’t get to call the shots here. What I can do is to do my level best to seek out the uncommon and the extraordinary in scripture and in the life & teachings of Jesus Christ. But you know what? When you consider the extraordinary message of good news that God has given to us, that shouldn’t be that hard to do. In fact, it sounds uncommonly delightful. And so I had this idea. It started during a discussion with the Sheridan youth group about the fear of God. I wanted to lay that out there – this concept of the fear of God – just to see what kind of reaction I might get. And the results were surprising, to say the least. I think I walked away learning just as much as they did in that session – which got me to thinking. Especially, on Trinity Sunday when we celebrate the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – it got me to thinking how difficult it is sometimes to …well, to just wrap our heads around the idea of the “power of the Spirit.” I mean, come on now, we’re sensible people here. We talk about walking with God and holding him in our hearts and our prayers. And we explore what it means to live in Jesus and what it means when he lives in us. But to live in the Spirit; now that’s another matter. That’s when things can get kind of fuzzy. And that’s why I had this idea. Rather than search out testimonies of supernatural events that makes our hair stand on end, why don’t we have a look at this...

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“Happy Birthday, Church!” June 4, 2017

Posted by on Jun 6, 2017 in Sermon Archives

“Happy Birthday, Church!” Psalm 104:24-34, 35b/ Acts 2:1-21/ John 7:37-39   You know, of all the calendars that we come across every year, the event calendar has to be the most hilarious. Have you seen one of these? In the event calendar, there is some kind of event or celebration for every day of the year. Every single day! And whoever puts these things together has spent a lot of time and done a lot of research to fill in all the slots. Sure, there are the normal national holidays: Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and the like. But these calendars let us know about other national days as well. Days like Boxing Day in Canada and Mexican Independence Day, and the list goes on. Next, we get to fill in space with all of the Christian holidays as well as Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish. Where it gets hilarious though, is when a day comes along where there is nothing quite so obvious. Did you know, for example, that April 20th was National Broccoli Day? Who would have thought that four days after Easter things could get even better? But I digress. The nation of Israel didn’t have such a calendar. In fact, the Jewish people didn’t have a say so in the matter at all. To this day, folks of the Jewish faith still celebrate the festivals set out for them in the first 5 books of the Bible, the Torah. Not only that, in addition to the dates for these festivals, they were told by God the exact manner in which to celebrate them. Not much room for improvising. The festival we observe today was called Shavuot, or “the Festival of Weeks,” among other names. It was decreed that this holiday, the Shavuot, would happen 7 weeks after the Passover, which is roughly 50 days. For that reason, the Greek translation for Shavuot ended up being Pentecost; penta referring to the number 5. What I’m getting at here is that Pentecost is as old as Moses. Yet, we make it our own because of a particularly unique thing that happened during the festival of Pentecost just days after Christ had ascended into heaven. We make it our own because on that day 120 disciples were blessed with the power of the Holy Spirit and as a result, over 3000 people in Jerusalem became true believers in Jesus Christ as the son of God. We make it our own because it was made clear what the next step would be; because this truly was the moment that the church was born. The thing is, the church didn’t just happen. It didn’t come about from someone remembering something in scripture saying, “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name.” No, the church – the birth of the church – was part of the plan all along....

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“Keeping His Promises” May 28, 2017

Posted by on May 28, 2017 in Sermon Archives

“Keeping His Promise” Psalm 68:1-10/ Acts 1:1-11/ Luke 24:44-53   So, today is Ascension Sunday. Technically, it is the Sunday that follows Ascension Day which was last Thursday and I’m sure we are all wondering how that little piece of information slipped past us. Which leads me to ask the question, “What’s the big deal?” It is a special day in the Christian calendar and at one time Ascension Day was a day for feasting and celebration. Not so much anymore. But you know what? – it is a big deal. It’s a really big deal. At least John Wesley seemed to think so. It’s a big enough deal that when he edited the English Book of Common Prayer for use by Methodists, he generally deleted most Holy Days that didn’t fall on a Sunday, and there were a lot of them. Ascension Day is one of the three that he did not delete. The other two were Good Friday and Christmas Day; two very important days for us who practice a faith in Jesus Christ. So how are we to think of this account of Christ ascending into heaven? In both the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed we profess, “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” This we believe; this we hold to be true. The Ascension of Christ was not so much a farewell party as it was Jesus returning to his rightful place sitting at the right hand of God. The paintings of Christ floating through the air lifted up by a multitude of angels is burned into our brain, but is that it? Is that the whole purpose of this day? Is that the big deal? Well, you know that would be all right. But like I always say (at least to myself), “When in doubt, read the text – and then read it again.” I find it interesting that the account of Christ’s ascension in heaven is told twice by Luke – these are the two readings we heard today – and also briefly in the Gospel of Mark. Neither Matthew nor John record an eye witness account of Jesus leaving this earth. There is one theme that runs true throughout all the scripture of Christ’s final moments before going back into glory – the theme of command and promise. I remember with some trepidation the moment when our daughter was leaving to go off to college. We were at the airport in Missoula, MT and she was on her way to a new life at Ohio State. It was a big moment. We busied ourselves with small talk and making sure all the paperwork was in order but I wanted to say something profound to send her on her way. I felt...

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“Intangibability” May 21, 2017

Posted by on May 27, 2017 in Sermon Archives

“Intangibability” Psalm 66:8-20 1 Peter 3:13-22 John 14:15-21   I imagine that most folks here have at least heard the name John Madden. For those who aren’t life-long football fans, Madden was the head coach for the Oakland Raiders for 11 years starting in 1967 and was one of the winningest coaches on record. He later gained great notoriety as a sports caster for network TV, known for his unique style of commentary. I’ve always wished that Madden had turned to TV evangelism instead. Imagine him preaching on, let’s say, the creation story: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and BOOM there was light. Madden had a knack for stating the obvious which caused us to do a lot of chuckling under our breath. Who can forget some of the great words of wisdom that came out of John Madden’s mouth; words like, “Here’s a guy, here’s a guy who when he puts his contacts in, he can see better.” Brilliant. And then there’s the great line, “Usually the team that scores the most points wins the game.” Look out, Yogi Berra; there’s a new wise guy in town. I could go on and on, of course, but my point is this: for all the goofy things that we remember John Madden for, he had his moments of brilliance as well. One time in particular has always stuck with me and that was the time that Madden started talking about intangibles. It changed my opinion of Mr. Madden forever. He was talking about the mysterious things that happens in sports, and in life for that matter, when for no apparent reason everything just clicks. Passes find their marks, blockers connect at the right place and the right time, and it’s just a beautiful thing. In basketball when a team gets hot, any coach worth his salt from the opposing team will call a time out just to stop the momentum. Intangible: incapable of being perceived by touch, fleeting, elusive. That’s the dictionary version. But Madden talked about intangibles as being a thing, not just a description of a thing. And the genius of his football theology, if you will, is that even though it takes talent and training and organization to make a great team, it’s the intangibles that will make or break you. Now I’m imagining there’s more than of few of you right now wondering what in the world this has to do with the Gospel of John, and it’s a valid point. And so, I will try to tie it all together. In today’s Gospel text, Jesus is telling his disciples what to expect after he is...

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“If You Could Ask One Question” May 14, 2017

Posted by on May 27, 2017 in Sermon Archives

“If You Could Ask One Question” Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16/ 1 Peter 2:2-10/ John 14:1-14   Ever notice that whenever things go really bad, our first knee jerk reaction is to ask questions. “Why is this happening to me? What could I possibly have done to deserve this mess?” Or my personal favorite, “What the heck is going on here?” We get slapped in the face with some crazy thing that is totally unexpected, and highly unwelcome, and rather than stop to assess the situation, our first thought is to demand answers from someone, anyone; we don’t care. Just give me some answers! What the heck is going on here? Our Gospel text today finds the disciples in such a situation.  John 14 is part of what is called “the farewell discourse,” a long section stretching from chpts. 13 to 17. It occurs between Jesus’s last meal with the disciples and his departure to pray in the garden of Gethsemane. In this long speech, Jesus goes back and forth; on the one hand assuring the disciples that things will be all right after he’s gone and on the other he challenges them to persist – to keep on keeping on – in the mission and ministry that he started. This all sounds fine and good, but to be honest I have my doubts that they were listening all that well. You might say they were a little distracted. All they could think about was the fact that Jesus was about to be killed and they couldn’t do a thing about it. You might say that things were going bad – really bad – for these, the most dedicated followers of Jesus Christ. And like I said, when things are going bad, folks always have lots of questions. But you know, we have a definite advantage here – we know how it all ends. We’ve come to terms with that and every year we go through the period of Lent; we relive the story of the arrest and conviction and the agony of the crucifixion. And then, on Easter Sunday, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead. As Christians, we not only hear the story, we live it. Not so with the disciples. This was all coming so fast; they thought there was plenty of time. What the heck is going on here? Keep in mind that in chapter 13, Jesus had wrapped a towel around his waist and insisted on washing their feet. What was he trying to show them? How could this possibly be beneficial? The exchange with Peter in vs. 6 sheds some light on this (13:6)  6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”...

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