“Love Without Conditions” May 10, 2020

Posted by on May 13, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“Love Without Conditions” “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” ~ G. K. Chesterton “The difference between the poet and the mathematician is that the poet tries to get his head into heaven, while the mathematician tries to get the heavens into his head.” ~ K. Chesterton [John 14:1-14] I found a little chuckle that, in a roundabout way, really hits home to those of us who are getting tired of being at home. It seems that the visiting pastor was trying to have a conversation with a child while her mother was in the kitchen preparing the tea and cookies that would add even more pounds to his mid-section. Not really knowing what to say, the preacher asked, “So tell me, what does your mother do for you when you’ve been a good girl?” The little girl didn’t bat an eye. “I get to stay home from church,” she said. See what I mean? It’s hard to imagine we would ever find ourselves considering “staying at home” to be a punishment, but here we are. The upside is that when the time does come that we are no longer “staying home from Church” we are bound to have a new found appreciation for our places of worship. God speed that that day arrives. The 14th chapter of the Gospel of John – I have to say, I don’t know where to begin. There is so much packed into this wonderful piece: “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me.” “My Father’s house has room to spare.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (One of the ‘I Am’ statements) “When you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.” This is like hitting the jackpot. There is a great sermon in every one of these little gems. But to be honest with you all, I’m just not feeling it. What I mean is, the more times that I have read through this marvelous text, the more irritable I seemed to get. At first I chalked it up to lack of sleep and aching joints. But I finally came to realize the source of my discontent: the disciples were getting on my nerves. (Jn 14:3) Jesus tells his disciples, When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too. You know the way to the place I’m going.” And rather than rejoice and give thanks, it is Thomas who says, Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” to which Jesus replies that he is “the way and the truth and the life.” What follows next is truly the crux of our faith; a truth we hold most dear. The 2nd...

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“When Jesus Speaks” May 3, 2020

Posted by on May 13, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“When Jesus Speaks” John 10:1-10 Some years ago, the question was posed to a small group that I was leading: “What is Jesus to you?” In other words, “How would you describe your personal understanding of Jesus Christ to someone who doesn’t have a clue?” Well, there was some initial chin scratching and nail biting, but eventually folks opened up. Now, “What is Jesus to you” is a pretty broad question – I have to admit that. But it’s surprising, once you put your head to it, how much we find that the life and teachings of Christ really do impact our everyday lives. When I asked the question, a few folks answered with long, deep theological expositions on incarnation and the Holy Trinity and prophesies of the Messiah to come. I had to agree with all that – this is how we understand what Jesus is according to scripture. But the question remains: “What is Jesus to you? How do you sense his presence whether you are praying hard or hardly praying? How does Jesus speak to you?” And then a funny thing happened. One woman in the group spoke up saying, “I’d say Jesus is my conscience. Whenever I’m tempted – whenever I am frustrated or angry or just mixed up trying to figure out what to do next – that’s when Jesus speaks to me. I can’t explain it, really, but I don’t know what I’d do without him.” At that point, I noticed the rest of the group nodding their heads. “Yes,” they said, “that’s the same way with me.” Our Gospel text today is one in a series of the “I Am” statements of Christ found in the Gospel of John. For example, in chpt. 6, Jesus explains “I am the bread of life,” and thousands of sermons have expounded on that truth.  Later, in chpt. 8 we hear, “I am the light of the world;” chpt. 11, “I am the resurrection and the Life” to name a few. One thing is for certain, one thing is constant about the ministry of Jesus Christ: he didn’t seek to impress, he didn’t seek to intimidate. What Jesus sought to do in the short time he was with us was to touch our hearts. He sought to touch our hearts by inviting us in. And this begins with helping us understand – really understand – who he is; who “I AM.” You know, a lot of things will never change with people. One of them is that we will always want to know who you are. Where’d you come from? What do you do? We accept this. It’s an important piece of living in community. Now Jesus could have proclaimed, “I am the great enforcer and I have been sent by God to straighten you people out!” He could have cast visions of pain and suffering...

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“But We Had Hoped” April 26, 2020

Posted by on Apr 28, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“But We Had Hoped” Luke 24:13-35 Today’s gospel reading for this, the 3rd Sunday of Easter, comes from the gospel of Luke. The story of the Road to Emmaus is unique. It is found only in the gospel of Luke, but here’s the thing – it is first and foremost a resurrection story. So, we’re going to take a little break. We’re going to take a break from images of the empty tomb and of the disciples holed up, locked in a dark room afraid for their lives. Today we find ourselves traveling a road, and if we give it half a chance we’ll notice that it’s a road that is all too familiar to our journey of faith – right here and right now. I have to say that I love this story; I love it for its own sake. I mean, think about it: it has all the ingredients of a great story. First of all, when Jesus met these two men on the road to Emmaus, they didn’t have a clue who he is. His identity was hidden from them. They didn’t know, but we do which adds to the suspense. Now, it’s safe to assume that these two were part of a larger group of followers that traveled with Jesus throughout his ministry – the larger group apart from the 12 disciples that we know well. But that was all over – it was done. That part of their life was kaput. The events of the past few days had left them anxious and fearful and staring at a future that looked bleak. The betrayal, the arrest, and the cruelty of crucifixion – they had seen it all. Now they were heading home wondering to themselves, “What’s next?” And so when Jesus asked them what they had been talking about, it was Cleopas that snapped at him, (vs. 18) Are you the only one in Jerusalem that hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days? For Jesus, it was a classic Columbo moment. “Tell me,” he said, “what’s happened?” So they did, and all of the pain and agony and disappointments of the last few days came pouring out. It’s funny how we can sometimes share what is really on our hearts better with a total stranger than with someone we know. A stranger doesn’t know you; they don’t know your quirks; your good points and your bad. A stranger is not in a position to judge. If this wasn’t so, there’d be a lot of therapists out of work right now. Imagine if they had known somehow. Imagine if all the doubt and frustration had spilled out only to find that they were in fact speaking with the Son of God himself. But Jesus let them speak. Jesus listened, Jesus loved, and then Jesus spoke up. He proceeded to school them, you might...

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EASTER LETTERS April 19, 2020 “Seeing Isn’t Always Believing”

Posted by on Apr 20, 2020 in Sermon Archives

Notes from the pastor ~ “Spring has sprung, the grass is ris – I wonder where the flowers is?” I had a neighbor when I was growing up that was infatuated with Spring. Starting mid-February, you could rely on Chet to step out his front door whenever the mood hit him and holler, “C’mon Spring!” He even put signs in the front yard counting down the days: “18 days until Spring!” “17 days until Spring!”  Well, wouldn’t you know it but all that hollering paid off because every year the grass grew and flowers popped up and Spring showed up right on time – just like always. Thanks, Chet. Thanks for the help. I caught myself looking at the early signs of Spring a few weeks back: the first Robin, daffodils, hyacinths, and then later the riot of color on the trees. And as I wiped the pollen off the windshield of the car, I thought, “This is wonderful – but it’s just not right!” It was a silly thought, I admit. It was silly to think that just because my world has been disrupted, the natural order of the world should somehow shift to accommodate little old me. Silly. For what it’s worth, I happened to hear a radio commentator express the same concern a few days later. He came to the same conclusion as me: God is good and we will get through this. In the meantime, enjoy the season and treasure the moments that will come from living in these unique times. The question that haunts me, however, is what will we look like as the body of Christ when we come out on the other side of the period of isolation? Will churches be remembered as nothing more than institutions that hunkered down and kept to themselves? Will religious institutions be remembered as a body of do-gooders that didn’t do much good? I think not. So what can we do? What can we do to show the world that the church can be a healing power in a hurting world? In a recent article titled Church Is Not “Cancelled,” our conference Stewardship consultant Cesie Delve Scheuermann asks the question, “What are we doing to be church NOW?” Hundreds of signs on hundreds of doors at hundreds of churches tell the same story: “Sorry, we’re closed.” What does this say to a person who is out of work? What does this say to a family that has been hit hard by the effects of wide spread disease? “What are we doing to be church NOW?” Well, we can start by changing the signs on our front doors. Sure, we need to inform folks that our worship services are suspended. But why not provide a listing of food banks and assistance programs that the church supports? Why not invite folks to visit our web sites and Facebook...

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LENT LETTER April 5, 2020 “The Beauty of Christ, the Glory of Christ”

Posted by on Apr 19, 2020 in Sermon Archives

 Notes from the Pastor ~ We’ve certainly learned a lot in the past week or so. “How big is a virus,” the 5 year old asked. The teacher replied, “Well, do you know what a cell is? We are made up of zillions of little teeny cells that you can only see with a microscope. They are like Legos, all hooked together to make us who we are. But they are really, really teeny. A virus is even teenier than a cell. Here’s a way to look at it: if a cell is as big as a 3-story building, then a virus would be the size of a soccer ball. That’s how teeny a virus is.” I was showing off my new found knowledge about viruses to my son this week. I told him that a virus is neither alive or dead. “It is simply a strand of DNA or RNA covered with a protective layer of some protein/fat stuff; if you can remove the fat, then the DNA/RNA strand falls apart. That’s why things like alcohol and bleach and scrubbing with soap works on these little guys.” “Sounds kind of like a string of computer code,” he said. My son is a software engineer, by the way. “But what you’re saying is that it’s actually like a string of bad code; and once it gets into a cell, it rewrites the cell’s code and makes a big mess. Yeah, I get that.” Which makes perfect sense for a guy who spends the better part of his day writing computer code. It’s all Greek to me. Like I said, we have certainly learned a lot in the last few weeks. So how do we even begin to approach Palm Sunday in this time of quarantine? So many of our Easter traditions are steeped in our acts of worship: the decorating of the church, the waving of palm branches, the telling of the story, and of course, the music. How do we do all that? The simple answer is: we can’t – at least not the way that we used to do things. What we can do is to follow our heart. But not only that, we need to follow our gut. We need to pay attention to the restlessness we feel in this time of uncertainty. We need to pay attention to that nervous notion that seems to hang over our communities. We need to pay attention to  where we place our trust. It was Shannon Alder that once said, “Fear is the glue that keeps you stuck. Faith is the solvent that sets you free.” When this pandemic is over, let our prayer be that we emerged as a people of faith; a people of trust. The Franciscan friar Richard Rohr writes, “For many of us, this may be the first time in our lives that we felt...

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LENT LETTER March 29, 2020 “All the Light We Can See”

Posted by on Apr 19, 2020 in Sermon Archives

Notes from the pastor ~     Comedian Steve Martin gave a series of classes on the art of ……well, comedy. I chanced across it the other day and found some valuable life lessons. He said, “A lot of people that are starting out ask me questions; questions like: ‘How do I find a good agent? What is the best way to advertise to get the best exposure for the best price?’ Things like that. What they need to be asking, I think, is, ‘How do I get good?’ That’s what they need to work on – getting good.” How strange it is to be a church without a building. For those of us who have stopped in, or even drove by, our place of worship, I get it. I understand that sinking feeling in your stomach: that sense of loss, that sense of dread that this may go on for a very long time. We’ve put our hearts and sweat and resources into this building we call the church. We’ve been good at it, and it has made us better.  But now, everything…is…on…hold. Or is it? We’ve heard it before: “The church is not its steeple, the church is its people.” This is true enough, but even the persecuted Christians in the time of Peter and Paul could sneak down to the river to worship. My point is that we don’t miss our buildings so much as we miss the fellowship of the Spirit in our time of worship. The act of worship feeds our weary souls: the singing, the sacraments, the hearing of God’s word, and oh….did I mention singing?  They are part of who we are. But it’s time, at least for a while, to do things different. We are without the tools that we know and love; maybe what we need to do is work on getting good. We can work on getting good at seeing the hand of God in this world we live in today. The gestures of kindness, the offers of help to those who are out of work or out of touch: this is what being Christ in the world is all about. So, heads up. Keep your eyes peeled. You might be surprised at how much the “church” can do in a hurting world. You might be surprised at how good we really are, even when the “church” can’t go to church. Another piece of advice that Steve Martin gave his students was, “Never open your set by saying, ‘How ya doing?’ You’ve just wasted the most important part of your routine. It’s the only chance you get to make a first impression. Don’t blow it by saying something like that.” Well, I’m going to break that rule and ask, “How are you doing?” l want to know – we all want to know. Maybe this is another way we can...

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