“Freedom From, Freedom For” Feb. 4, 2018

Posted by on Feb 16, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Freedom From, Freedom For” Isaiah 40:21-31 2 Corinthians 9:16-23 Mark 1:29-39 Well, today is the day. Today is the day, at least, for fans of professional football and especially for those who are big fans of the Philadelphia Patriots and the New England Eagles… and by saying that, I can immediately spot who the true fans are in the congregation today. And to you I apologize; it’s the Philadelphia Eagles vs. the New England Patriots. But it’s a big deal, this Super Bowl thing – and it’s big business. Those with deep enough pockets to travel to Minnesota to watch this event live will fork out $3000 for tickets to the nosebleed seats with the top box office seats going for up to $27,000. But like I said, it’s a big deal and no matter how you feel about the pomp and circumstance of this event, there are qualities of this American tradition that cannot be denied. After all, there is a certain thrill to witness a competition like this one. All the players have prepared well; they have spared no expense in terms of time and effort and money. The stakes are high, the competition is fierce, and the whole world is watching. There is hardly a man, woman, or child that doesn’t hold their breath, at least a little, in anticipation of this glorious event./// I’m speaking, of course, not so much about the game itself but of the Super Bowl commercials. But it’s true. In fact, there have been games in the past that were such duds that if it wasn’t for the commercials, they wouldn’t have been worth watching at all. This is the one time of the year when advertisers really up their game. The commercials are cute, they’re funny, and oftentimes they touch our hearts. The Budweiser Clydesdales and the little puppy commercial comes to mind. They’re personable, they’re memorable, and they speak to the human spirit. One in particular comes to mind. It was 4 years ago, Super Bowl 48, Denver vs. Seattle. The commercial featured Derrick Coleman from Seattle who had been deaf from a young age and in a little over one minute it told the story of Derrick being bullied, picked last for teams, harassed by coaches, even not being drafted by the NFL. And then comes the signature line when Derrick says, “Everyone told me to quit. They told me it was over. But I’ve been deaf since I was 3, so I didn’t listen.” The last scene is of Coleman entering the Super Bowl arena and saying, “And now I’m here, with a lot of fans cheering me on, and I can hear them all.” This was followed, naturally, by the tagline across the screen, “Duracell: Trust Your Power.” What makes this commercial so wonderful is that it goes above and beyond trying to sell us batteries....

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“…And All I Got Was This Lousy Tent” Feb. 11, 2018

Posted by on Feb 16, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“…And All I Got Was This Lousy Tent” 2 Kings 2:1-12/ 2 Corinthians 4:3-6/ Mark 9:2-9   You know, we are a funny people. At least, we try to be; we want to be. One of the most delightful moments in the life of a parent is that moment when your child tells their first joke. It’s always hilarious – usually because they do such a lousy job of it. But as time goes by, these young comedians hone their craft until they can finally deliver the joke from beginning to end without blowing the punchline or forgetting it completely. It’s fun to watch. So yes, we are a funny people; a funny people, I might add, who are very serious about their humor. There are those who make a living out of making people laugh. It’s not enough that we can exchange knock-knock jokes for hours on end. O no, we put our jokes on billboards and bumper stickers, we print entire books of our little funny-isms, and then, or course, there’s the invention of the T-shirt. You know what I’m talking about. I mean, there is no better way to tell the world your favorite new one liner than to put it on your shirt and wear it around all day. But you have to admit, they can be hilarious. Some are very clever: “I Have CDO – it’s like OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), except with the letters in alphabetical order- as they should be!” Others serve as a warning of sorts: “You know that little thing inside your head that keeps you from saying things you shouldn’t? I don’t have one of those.” Or perhaps that’s just wishful thinking. There are T-shirts that lift up a person’s profession. “I’m a teacher. To save time, let’s just assume that I’m never wrong.” Engineers have a whole series of shirts like this. I could go on and on, but for the sake of today’s discussion, I would like to zero in on a spin-off of the funny T-shirt craze, and that is the “all I got was this lousy T-shirt” category that I’m sure you have seen once or twice. “I survived a zombie apocalypse and all I got was this lousy T-shirt,” is pretty common. My personal favorite reads, “I hacked your account and all I got was your name, address, email, bank account, passwords, and this lousy T-shirt.” And just because it had to be said, there’s a shirt that reads, “I shut down the government, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” Now I have to admit, I got sidetracked on this “lousy T-shirt” kick thanks to a man named Vince Antonucci. Vince’s journey of faith began as an unchurched and unbelieving college student who took it upon himself through extensive study to prove that the Bible was false. Somehow in the process, he...

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“God Doesn’t Leave Voice Mail” Jan. 14, 2018

Posted by on Jan 17, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“God Doesn’t Leave Voice Mail” 1 Samuel 3:1-20/ Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18/ John 1:43-51   As most of you know, when you find yourself in the working world, you usually don’t have much say so as to who you get to work with. And when you work in the woods, you get all sorts. I’ve worked with or supervised guys with Master’s degrees and guys that barely made it through the 8th grade. I’ve had intellectuals and anti-intellectuals, neer-do-wells and do gooders, as well as an assortment of atheists, agnostics, and religious zealots. One thing about it: it was never boring. Reading our passage from 1st Samuel today made me think of Wayne. Now Wayne was fairly well educated, played a mean banjo, and didn’t have much use for organized religion, particularly the ones that knocked on his front door. One of his favorite stories that always got on my nerves was how he treated the Jehovah Witnesses when they rang his doorbell. He would ask them, “Who told you to come bang on my door to tell me this stuff?” and they would usually reply, “Well, God told me.” Here, Wayne went in for the kill, “Well, I’m God and I don’t ever remember telling you to come out here and bother me.” The look of shock on their faces was usually followed by, “What makes you say that?” to which he replied, “Because every time I pray I find I’m talking to myself.” Yea, it was good for a couple laughs, but I wish I had had the presence of mind at the time to tell him, “That’s because you never shut up.” (1 Sam 3:1-5) Meanwhile little Samuel was helping the Lord by assisting Eli. Messages from the Lord were very rare in those days, but one night after Eli had gone to bed and Samuel was sleeping in the Temple near the Ark, the Lord called out, “Samuel! Samuel!” “Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” He jumped up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. What do you want?” he asked. I love the images we have here. Young Samuel, who had been pledged to the Lord from birth, is basically the caregiver for Eli whose age has left him crippled and almost blind. “What is it? Here I am. What do you want?” Picture, if you will, this young man – probably about 14 years old- sleeping in the temple; sleeping with one eye open and his ears pealed. Of course, he’s going to leap up and run to the old man when he hears his name called. That was his duty, that was his job, that was his calling. I don’t know; the whole scene of this teenage boy hopping out of bed over and over thinking that his master was calling him – – it just gets me every time. Which is, in itself, not...

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“A Different Road” January 7, 2018

Posted by on Jan 10, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“By a Different Road” Isaiah 60:1-6 Matthew 2:1-12 Mark 1:4-11   It is good to be back, and I would like to thank you all for the warm welcome that was given to Pastor Booth in my absence. He was a little concerned about walking on with no introduction and all, but I assured him that with his accent he could stand and read the dictionary and folks would love it. I thank you and it gave Margie and I a chance to get away for a bit. You know, most folks head to Phoenix or Mexico when the weather gets nasty, but not us. We decided to head north to Victoria, B.C. While we were there, we went to a converted limestone quarry called Butchart Gardens. Now, there wasn’t a lot of gardening going on, but there was the most incredible Christmas light display I have ever seen. It stretched over an area of 50 acres or so, and was truly remarkable. The theme was the 12 days of Christmas, starting with a tree full of pear shaped lights with a single partridge perched in the branches. After that, things got bigger and brighter, complete with 7 giant LED swans out in the lake. It was pretty cool. But it got me to thinking about this whole 12 days of Christmas thing which ends, wouldn’t you know it, on the day of Epiphany which was yesterday, January 6th. Every year, I have to marvel at this day called Epiphany. When it comes to special days on the Christian calendar, this one is loaded. For example, Epiphany, which like I said, is the 12th day after Christmas is also the day before the Orthodox Church’s Christmas day – Jan. 7. The Coptic Churches in Egypt are celebrating Christmas today, so that’s all the more reason to keep singing carols. But depending on your tradition, how and what we celebrate Epiphany can cover a lot of ground. In some Christian traditions, Epiphany celebrates the day Jesus was baptized: his divinity on earth is revealed as he comes out of the water and is filled with the Holy Spirit. This seems the most likely theme. Epiphany, from the Greek word epiphania, means simply a divine manifestation. Other Christian traditions included Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana to be a part of the Epiphany celebration. In the United Methodist Church, Epiphany marks the arrival of the Magi from the east who bring worship and gifts of devotion to the Christ-child, which reveals his divinity. This story has always fascinated me. The problem lies in the fact that Matthew doesn’t give us a lot of details about these guys, and so we just consider it part of the nativity story and leave it at that. But I could never accept that. The idea of singing “We...

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“Hiatus Of Love” Advent 4 Dec. 24, 2017

Posted by on Jan 3, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“A Hiatus of Love” Isaiah 52:7-10 Hebrews 1:1-4 John 1:1-5   In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. This, the opening passage from the Gospel of John, is well known. I mean, what’s there not to like about the image that comes into your mind when you read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Since we have been able to think, we have wondered…stuff. I remember as a kid laying on the grass looking up at the stars when my good buddy said out of the blue, “You know what I think? I think that the night sky is like a big old blanket and behind that blanket is this bright incredible light. I think that what we’re seeing is nothing but little holes that somebody pocked in that big old blanket. That’s what I think.” Now, even though I was only 12 years old, I knew enough about the existence of stars and light and shadows and the position of the sun to shoot his theory full of holes, I kept it to myself. I mean, what the heck – it’s fun to think about. Our text from the Gospel of John is a bit like that. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” See what I mean? It’s beautiful, it’s poetic, and it’s mysterious. But for this, the 4th and final Sunday of Advent and the Sunday we dedicate to the theme of love, I thought it would be a good idea to have a closer look at what John might have meant by “the Word” with a capital W. Language is a funny business, and it’s a thing that drives translators bonkers at times. For one thing, there are words that exist that just don’t translate well at all. Put differently, there are words or concepts with no single equivalent in other languages. For example, there is no “logic” or “romance” in Chinese. One of my favorites was brought to mind by Geo. W. Bush when he remarked that “the problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.” There is the Indonesian word “Jayus” which describes a joke so poorly told and unfunny that one cannot help but laugh. No easy translation there. The Scottish word “Tartle” is the act of hesitating while introducing someone because you forgot their name. I guess we could translate that as “senior moment.”  And last...

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“Hiatus Of Joy” Advent 3 Dec. 17, 2017

Posted by on Jan 3, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“A Hiatus of Joy” Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11/ Luke 1:47-55 1Thessalonians 5:16-24/ John 1:6-8, 19-28   In December 1903, after many attempts, the Wright brothers were successful in getting their “flying machine” off the ground. Thrilled, they telegraphed this message to their sister Katherine: “We have actually flown 120 feet. Stop. Will be home for Christmas. Stop.” Katherine hurried to the editor of the local newspaper and showed him the message. He glanced at it and said, “How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas.” Now I ask you: what other event or season or distraction could have caused this editor to miss one of the greatest discoveries of all time; the discovery of flight? /// Only the season of Christmas, that’s what. You know, I have been told many times that if you wish to make an impression on folks, it doesn’t matter so much what you say or what you do. No, what matters is how you make them feel. People don’t forget how you make them feel. Christmas is like that. It is far more than a holiday; far greater than a celebration. Christmas is a season. It is the one time of the year when we- as people who choose to live with other people- it’s the one time of the year when we go all out; pull out the stops. We light up the night and anything that glitters or shines is fair game. The color red shows up …well, everywhere. The longest night of the year has come and gone and we are on the path to Spring and warmth and new life. It is, without a doubt, the perfect season for the delightful distraction of joy. And so, that’s where I would like to go today: a hiatus of joy. On this, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, I’d like to take a break, a pause from the things that are maybe a little on the dull side. Let’s shut the door on the craziness of this world. Let’s step back and, just for today, let’s focus on gratitude and forgiveness and giving of ourselves. Let’s focus on joy. You’ve heard it said, I’m sure, that Christmas is for children and there’s some truth to that. There is something to that because no one gets as worked up and excited about Christmas as kids do. Believe it or not, I can still remember that feeling of pure unadulterated joy that washed over me on Christmas morning. I remember a train set that my dad laid out on a sheet of plywood, complete with little hills and green grass and houses – the works. I can also remember hiding a brand new bicycle at the neighbor’s house so that my son couldn’t peek, only to get mauled by the neighbor’s dogs on Christmas Eve when I snuck over to get it. We have made...

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