“The Road to Jerusalem: Repentance” March 24, 2019

Posted by on Mar 25, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Road to Jerusalem: Repentance” Isaiah 55:1-9 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 Luke 13:1-9   When I get the chance, I like to stop in at Margie’s school to visit. Sometimes I’ll bring coffee, sometimes I’m dropping things off that were left at home, and sometimes just for the heck of it. I’m lucky that I can do that because sometimes that’s about the only chance we get to see each other that day. Anyway, there are times when she is tied up with other things and I find myself – you guessed it – waiting in the principal’s office. Now, I can’t say that waiting in the principal’s office as an adult brings back a flood of wonderful memories, but it’s interesting nonetheless. One thing that wasn’t around when I was a kid is the “green sheet.” This is a worksheet that you, the perpetrator, have to fill out if you find yourself in the principal’s office, and I’m glad they weren’t around when I was a kid. The first question is something like “what is it that happened?” That’s not so tough, but then it asks things like “why?” Why did you hit Jimmy in the nose? Now things are getting harder. This is followed by a series of impossible questions like “why was this the wrong thing to do“ and “what could I have done different?” and “how will I behave differently in the future?” It makes me yearn for the days when a youngster could get off with a half-hearted apology and maybe a swat with a paddle. But no. With the green sheet you have to think about it, you have to face this thing head on, and worst of all you have to demonstrate that things are going to change; that you are going to change. It’s hard being a kid nowadays: you walk in expecting punishment but instead are asked for repentance. And it’s repentance that seems to be the theme of our gospel text today. On the road to Jerusalem, there was undoubtedly a lot of slack time. Walking is slow business. The conversation was about a particularly gruesome event. Evidently, there had been an incident whereas Pilate sent his troops into the temple as some Galileans were performing their ritual sacrifice and…well, and slaughtered them on the spot. Their blood mixed with the blood of the animals being sacrificed. Now, nowhere is there another record of this ghastly deed, but I dare say it was not all that uncommon. And so we read (vs 1) Some who were present on that occasion told Jesus about the Galileans whom Pilate had killed while they were offering sacrifices. It was the news of the day, and folk were, well…they were shocked, they were afraid, they were trying to make sense of it all. And they were looking for a reason, and the talk must...

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“You Are Enough, You Are So Enough, It’s Incredible How Enough You Are” March 10, 2019

Posted by on Mar 23, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“You Are Enough. You Are So Enough. It’s Incredible How Enough You Are” Deuteronomy 26:1-11 Romans 10:8b-13 Luke 4:1-13   Welcome to what we are all hoping is the last hoorah of winter—and our reward for this is that we get to lose an hour from this beautiful day. But that’s not a big deal. It is, as you’ve probably noticed, the first Sunday in the season of Lent. You see, I have always considered the idea of Lent to be important. It’s a good thing to set aside a period of time to pause and reflect: to look at the things that give our lives meaning and give thanks to our God any and every chance we can along the way. It’s kind of like a spiritual reboot. Now, if you have to exercise some sort of denial program, if you want to give up something for Lent, to make it all work, then wonderful. But my promise to you is that we won’t spend these 40 days of Lent dwelling on how miserable Jesus must have been when he spent 40 days in the wilderness. That’s where the idea of Lent came from, after all. So we won’t moan and wail about the lack of food and water; we won’t ooh and aah at his super human strength against the hot sun and the bugs and the scorpions. This isn’t a Bruce Willis movie. Instead, we will spend these 40 days living in the promise that God gives us all: the promise of redemption, the promise of salvation to those who believe. Yes, I believe we’re all ready for some good news. This Lenten season I believe we’re ready for a renewal, a renewal of our faith. We talked a bit during the Ash Wednesday service about the 51st Psalm, especially the line where David asks the Lord, “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation.” Restore unto me the joy of my salvation; I want that joy back. You might be wondering about the sermon title for today, so I’ll admit it right off, I stole it. It came from a piece written by David Lose and I didn’t even read the commentary. I didn’t need to because the title said it all. “You Are Enough. You Are So Enough. It’s Incredible How Enough You Are.” Kinda wordy, I guess, but it rolls off the tongue nice. You see, while reading the gospel text from Luke, I was trying to figure out “What’s the true secret of temptation? What’s it all about?” Well, naturally I started thinking about the tricks of the trade in the advertising business and that opened up an interesting train of thought. But then I stumbled on Mr. Lose’s title, “You Are Enough.” Oh, really? You’re never going to sell a new car that way. You want that customer to believer that...

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“The Road to Jerusalem: First Steps” March 17, 2019

Posted by on Mar 23, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Road to Jerusalem: First Steps” Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18/ Philippians 33:17-4:1 Luke 13:31-35   Courage – you say the word and all kinds of things come to mind. We talk about it, write books about it, and all agree there isn’t enough of it in the world. We have a lot of names for this magnificent quality; names like bravery, pluck, fearlessness, backbone, hutzpah, salt, resolve, guts, fortitude, and the list goes on. I might mention that if the word “guts” is a little too crass for the company you keep, you might want to use “Intestinal fortitude” instead. It means pretty much the same thing but sounds a bit more academic. Anyhow, it’s safe to say that no matter what we think about it or what we call it, courage is basically the ability to do something that would normally scare you half to death. The reason I even bring up the subject of courage is because our scripture readings for today all seem to deal with some folks who are, well…scared. Abram, who later is known as father Abraham, is troubled – troubled that his legacy and his inheritance will all be left with the head of the household, a servant, because it was obvious that Abraham and his wife were never going to have children. But God promised him as many offspring as there are stars in the sky and it put his fears to rest. Later, Paul is telling his church in Philippi not to lose heart, to keep their eyes on those who live as disciples of Christ, to stand firm. Paul has taken plenty of hard knocks for preaching salvation in Christ. He is hoping to be the example, to bolster their faith, to inspire some courage. Then, in the gospel text from Luke 13, we find the Pharisees, of all people, all shook up because word is on the street that Herod is looking to have Jesus killed. (vs 31) reads, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” Well, alright, then. Sounds like it’s time to move on. Now, there are those that speculate that the Pharisees were just trying to get Jesus out of town with the knowledge that Herod wouldn’t have Jesus killed in front of all his followers. That would be bad politics. It would be better to get him isolated and away from the population before you did the dirty deed. It’s possible, I suppose, but that’s not the point. The point is that Jesus didn’t want to be bothered with the whole silly affair and surprises us all by saying, “Go tell that fox I’ve no time for him right now. Today and tomorrow I’m busy clearing out the demons and healing the sick; the 3rd day I’m wrapping things up. Besides, it’s not proper for a prophet to be killed outside...

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“The Renewal of Our Faith: That’s What Mountaintops Are For” March 3, 2019

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Renewal of Our Faith: That’s What Mountain Tops Are For” Exodus 34:29-35/ 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2/ Luke 9:28-36   Transfigure, transfigured, transfiguration: these are words we don’t use quite so much. Most dictionaries will tell us that to transfigure a thing means that we have transformed or changed that thing, but that’s not all. We also have transformed that thing into “something more beautiful or elevated.” If a frog turns into a prince, he is transfigured; but if a prince turns into a frog, he is, what…disfigured? I don’t know. Today, as you probably noticed, is the Sunday we set aside to celebrate the transfiguration of Christ. This mountaintop experience is recorded in all 3 of the synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark, & Luke – and is important. When Jesus appeared to Peter, John, and James as this intense and bright and beautiful spirit, it wasn’t by accident. It was meant to impress, it was meant to inspire, it was designed to be remembered for all time. They needed that mountaintop experience to get them through some of the rough times ahead. They needed a vivid memory of what it is to see and to hear and to touch and to taste and to breathe in the power and the glory of God. They needed that because sooner or later, they were going to have to come down to the valley floor; and that’s when they will need to shine, that’s when they will need to be the light of Christ. So this is the story of Transfiguration Sunday: the last Sunday before the Lenten season begins. It’s all about power and majesty and ends with the voice of God telling the disciples, and all who have ears, “This is my son whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” Every time I read through this text, I know it’s a little far-fetched but I can’t help but myself: I can feel the crackle in the air, I can see the bright light. It has always been the perfect uplifting and inspiring story to take us into the Lenten season. But not this time. Right about now, I’m having a hard time feeling elevated or beautiful or even spiritual, for that matter. Most of you are aware that our denomination held a special General Conference last week in St. Louis to settle once and for all the church’s position on homosexuality and same sex marriages. The debate is based on paragraph 304.3 in the United Methodist Book of Discipline which reads, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” This ruling was made in 1972, and a movement has been growing for the last 40 years or so to change this language, especially in the United States;...

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“The Glory of Our Faith: To Love As Jesus Loved” Feb. 24, 2019

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Glory of Our Faith: To Love as Jesus Loved” Genesis 45:3-11,15 1 Corinthians 15:35-38,42-50 Luke 6:27-38   From the Jewish website Aish.com I found this little gem about forgiveness. Rabbi Epstein was giving his Yom Kippur sermon about forgiveness and during his speech he asked his congregation, “how many of you have forgiven your enemies?” About half held up their hands. He then rephrased his question, “how many of you want to forgive your enemies?” Slowly, every hand in the congregation went up, except for one. Little old Sadie Horowitz. “Mrs. Horowitz?” inquired the Rabbi, “are you not willing to forgive your enemies, especially on this Day of Atonement when God forgives us all?” “I don’t have any enemies” Mrs. Horowitz replied, smiling sweetly. “Mrs. Horowitz, that is most impressive. How old are you?” “Ninety-eight,” she replied “Oh Mrs. Horowitz, what a blessing and a lesson to us all you are. This is remarkable. Would you please stand up and in front of this congregation tell us all how a person can live ninety- eight years and not have an enemy in the world?” Little old Mrs. Horowitz got up slowly, smiled, faced the congregation, and said “I outlived all those old yentes, that’s how.” This will be our 7th week in the season of Epiphany – that is the time period between January 6th and Ash Wednesday. And during this time, we have read from the prophets Jeremiah & Isaiah, we have read from Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth, have looked at the Psalms of David, and have visited again the early ministry of Christ as told in the gospel of Luke. This is normal stuff for this time of year, but this time around I have tried to preach these timeless scriptures with a different twist. I have looked at them as a way to explore our faith: our individual faith, our faith as a congregation, and our faith as United Methodists. And it’s been challenging – challenging because rethinking our faith will always require a certain level of honesty that, well…is not always that comfortable. For example, while reading the 2nd part of the well known “Sermon on the Plain” in the gospel of Luke, it occurred to me how easy it is for us to dismiss the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” – hmm. “If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer them the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either.”  Wonderful sentiments, don’t you think? But honestly, it just ain’t going to happen; not for those of us who live in the real world. And so – let’s be honest – we dismiss them. We blow them off, and we do...

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“The Strength of Our Faith: God’s Gift to a Parched World” Feb. 17, 2019

Posted by on Feb 21, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Strength of Our Faith: God’s Gift to a Parched World” Psalm 1:1-6/ Jeremiah 17: 5-10 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 Luke 6:17-26   I would venture to guess that everyone here who has owned a television is familiar with the long running series called “Hee Haw.” It was a music and comic variety show starring Roy Clark and Buck Owens, full of one liners, country music, and short skits that entertained in spite of the fact that the show took the concept of cornball to a level no one had ever dared to go in the past. But people loved it and it lasted some 23 years; the final episode was aired on June 19, 1992. Now I bring this up because for some reason while studying our Gospel text from Luke today, I got to thinking about ‘’Oh, that’s good. No, that’s bad.” Do you remember that skit? Once a week, Roy Clark would walk into the barber shop to get a haircut, and the barber, played by Archie Campbell, would pretend to cut his hair and engage in some kind of goofy conversation. The ones I remember best were the “Oh, that’s good. No, that’s bad,” skits. “Say Roy, I suppose you heard I won the lottery. $50,000!” “Oh, that’s good.” “No, that’s bad, because the IRS came along and took half of it.”  “Oh, that’s bad.” “No, that’s good, because with that $25,000 I went and bought myself an airplane and took me some lessons to learn how to fly it. I got pretty good at it, too.” “Oh, that’s good.” “No, that’s bad. See, I got showing off and while I was flying upside down I fell out of the plane and was falling to the ground.” “Oh, that’s bad.” “No, that’s good, because I looked below me and saw that I was heading for the biggest haystack you’ve ever seen.” “Oh, that’s good.” “No, that’s bad, because in that haystack was a pitchfork sticking up pointing right at me.” “Oh, that’s bad.” “No. that’s good because I missed the pitchfork.” “Oh, that’s good.” “No, that’s bad because I missed the haystack, too.” Oh, that’s good; no, that’s bad. Like so much of our humor, the funniest stuff is the material that rings the truest. Today’s reading from Luke probably sounds familiar. “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blesses are you who weep now, for you will laugh…” These words that Jesus spoke to his disciples in what is called the “Sermon on the Plain” sound a lot like the words he spoke to the crowds in Matthew’s record of the “Sermon on the Mount.” Now we could argue all day about whether these are just two different versions of the same thing or what have you, but...

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