“Everybody Wants To Rule the World” Apr 8, 2018

Posted by on Apr 9, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” Psalm 133 Acts 4:32-35/ 1 John 5:1-6 John 20:19-31   First of all, for those who are disappointed that Easter is over, I have good news! Easter – or the season of Eastertide – is just beginning! And for those who are thankful to see Easter over and done with, well…take heart. Take heart because we are now going into a time that is not only important, it is critical in how we define who we are as believers of Jesus Christ. That being said,          the season of Eastertide, which began at sunset on the eve of Easter Sunday, will continue for 50 days and will end on Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost falls on the Sunday of May 20th this year, so we have lots of time to sing the hymns, eat the chocolate, and more specifically, to study and perhaps to rethink what it means to worship the Christ resurrected. But, of course, the Eastertide season is not without its traditions. This 2nd Sunday of Easter is often referred to as Holy Humor Sunday. Now this is not a recent thing. According to Ralph Milton, the origins of Holy Humor Sunday go back hundreds of years as a way of celebrating God’s resurrection victory over Satan. The idea was to laugh at Satan who had been outwitted by God. It’s true. You see, the medieval church believed that Satan could absolutely not stand laughter. At least not genuine laughter. If you laugh at the evil one, he has no power over you. And even though our theology has become a bit more sophisticated over the years, I can’t help but think they were on to something. In fact, I’d venture to guess that there are many churches today that dedicate this, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, to nothing more than telling jokes – the cornier the better. And I confess that I was tempted to do the same, but in the course of looking through volumes of bulletin bloopers and stories of the priest, the pastor, and the rabbi who walked into a bar, I couldn’t get the story of Thomas out of my head. We know the story well: the disciples are holed up in a room behind locked doors for fear of the authorities. After witnessing the gruesome death of Jesus, they could only figure that they were next and so were keeping a low profile. So there they were, all huddled together, when somehow Jesus is standing before them saying, “Peace be with you.” Try to imagine the wide range of emotions that went through this group at seeing this man they all believed to be very dead, yet there he was – very alive. He showed them the marks on his hands and side and gave to them the blessing...

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“Expect to Be Challenged” March 11, 2018

Posted by on Apr 3, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Expect to Be Challenged” Numbers 21:4-9 Ephesians 2:1-10 John 3:14-21   Today, I would like to talk about Nicodemus: nothing scandalous, no great revelations from some ancient historian. It’s just that as we read, once again, what is perhaps the most well known passage in all of scripture – that of John 3:16 – it’s important to understand that this isn’t just something that Jesus said to the crowds or to his disciples. No, this was part of a conversation – a conversation with a very unlikely candidate. So, I’d like to back up if I may and put our gospel reading for today in its proper context. (Jn 3:1)  Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Now we can only speculate why this Pharisee, a ruler of the Jewish people, would choose to come to Jesus at night: it was too hot during the day, or he was too busy? Maybe, but chances are good that this member of the town governing body, or the Sanhedrin, did not want to be seen talking to this upstart known as Jesus of Nazareth. And so, he came at considerable risk to himself and his position. I mean, let’s face it, the Pharisees had a pretty sweet job in Jewish society: a job for life, prestige, and great benefits. Yet, he came – Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God. What Jesus says next, however, is unexpected. (vs 3)  Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Really? I mean, we are just talking here. What’s this “born again” stuff? And Nicodemus does indeed put up quite a squall about how in the world a grown man is to go back into his mother’s womb and so on and so forth. You have to wonder if our friend Nic might have understood a little better than he let on. You have to wonder if such a man of authority might have had a problem with not being the one large and in charge here. And you have to wonder if there is more than meets the eye to this encounter in the middle of the night between the great Evangelizer and a Pharisee named Nicodemus.  My point here is that the Nicodemus story is relevant and important because it is our story as well. When we come to Christ in our moments of grief and despair looking for comfort, we will indeed be comforted. When we come to Christ in our moments of hopelessness, he will give us hope. When we come with joy and with open arms and hearts and...

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“This Is the Day” April 1, 2018

Posted by on Apr 3, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“This Is the Day!” Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 John 20:1-18   Two old friends met each other on the street one day.  One looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears.  His friend asked, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?” The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you:  three weeks ago, my uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.” “That’s a lot of money.” “But you see, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand dollars, free and clear.” “Sounds to me that you’ve been very blessed.” “You don’t understand!” he interrupted.  “Last week my great-aunt passed away.  I inherited almost a quarter of a million from her.” Now the man’s friend was really confused. “Then why do you look so glum?” “This week . . . nothing!” That’s a problem with receiving something on a regular basis.  Even if it is a gift, we eventually come to expect it.  The natural tendency is that if we receive a gift long enough, we come to view it almost as an entitlement.  We feel hurt, even angry, if we don’t receive it any longer. It is the same way with the blessings God gives us every day.  I don’t deserve my comfortable home that I live in, the beautiful scenery around me, the clean water I drink.  But after receiving these gifts (and a multitude of others) for years, I sometimes fail to be grateful.  I’ve come to expect these good things.  And when one of them disappears, even for a short time, I get upset. One of the practices of the Benedictine Monks is the memorization of the Psalms, and for some reason this has always intrigued me. Now granted, in my advancing years, the prospect of memorizing much of anything is fairly remote. But it fascinates me, I believe, because I’d like to think that with all the other noise and nonsense that runs through my brain on a daily basis, wouldn’t it be great to be able to bring to mind these beautiful and ancient songs any old time I felt like it? I know it would. I know this because there are certain bits and pieces of the Psalms tend to stick with me like that. The 118th Psalm is one of them. Verse 1 is simple, straightforward, & direct: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” It is comforting – reassuring – but then it changes into something like a cheer at a basketball game. (vs 2) “Let Israel say, ‘His love endures forever.’ Let the house of Aaron say, ‘His love endures forever.’ Let those who fear the Lord say, ‘His love endures forever.’” Which makes the 118th Psalm the perfect reading for this day, the day that we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. And so...

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“The Boy From Bethany” March 25, 2018

Posted by on Apr 3, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“The Boy From Bethany” Isaiah 50:4-9a Philippians 2:5-11 Mark 11:1-11/ John 12:12-16   Hi there- my name is Yoseph. I am 10 years old and live in the little town of Bethany. Now Bethany is not so bad a place, I guess, except we have a lot of sick people. My dad says they won’t let them live in Jerusalem, so they bring them out here. The Essenes have built some places for the really poor people to live, too. I like the Essenes. They’re not so bossy like the Pharisees. A lot of people come through our little town, especially folks coming from Galilee. I think they travel down the east side of the river so they don’t have to go through where the Samaritans live. They don’t like the Samaritans- I don’t know why. Lately, there’s been a lot of people traveling through, what with the Passover celebration and all. I like to sneak over where they are staying and just, you know, hang out. That’s the good thing about being a kid: no one pays any attention to you and if you stay out of the way you get to listen to their stories and the way that some of them talk funny. My mom says as long as I’m home before dark and stay out of trouble, then it’s OK. My trouble started, though, when Jesus of Nazareth came to Bethany. It wasn’t just Jesus, though. He had a bunch of men and women with him, and even though I’m just a kid, I could tell there was something special about him. He wasn’t like the rest of the adults. He laughed – a lot – and he even smiled and said hello to me. Now that was different! Every day they went into Jerusalem and I begged to follow them into town, but I had too many chores around the house and Dad wouldn’t let me go. But I heard stories. I heard that on the first day, somebody brought out a little donkey and this Jesus of Nazareth rode on that little donkey through the East Gate into Jerusalem and the people cheered and hooted and hollered “Hosanna, hosanna,” and they threw their coats and palm branches on the road for Jesus to ride on. Boy, I wish I could have seen that. They next day, I heard that Jesus went to the temple and flipped the money changers’ tables upside down saying something like, “My house that should be a house of prayer has been turned into a den of robbers.” That would have been something to see. I bet he made a lot of people really mad. The next day, Jesus stayed in Bethany longer than usual and I was glad about that. He and his disciples were at Simon the Leper’s house and even though I wasn’t supposed to go...

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“Don’t Be a Bean” March 18, 2018

Posted by on Apr 3, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Don’t Be A Bean” Jeremiah 31:31-34/ Hebrews 6:5-10/ John 12:20-33   The following is a conversation reportedly to have taken place in a courtroom in Killarney, deep in Munster, Ireland between a lawyer and a local farmer named O’Shea. Lawyer: ‘At the scene of the accident, Mr. O’Shea, did you tell the Garda officer that you had never felt better in your life?’ O’Shea the farmer: ‘That’s right, sir.’ Lawyer: ‘Well then, Mr. O’Shea, how is it that you are now claiming you were seriously injured when my client’s car hit your horse cart?’ O’Shea the farmer: ‘When the Garda arrived, he went over to my horse, who had a broken leg, and shot him. Then he went over to Darcy, my dog, who was badly hurt, and shot him as well. Then the policeman came across the road, gun still in hand, looked at me, and said, ‘How are you feeling?’  I just thought under the circumstances, it was a wise choice of words to say: ‘I’ve never felt better in my life.’ And for this, I do beg your forgiveness. It’s just that last Friday I took part in a St. Patrick’s Day program at an Assisted Living Facility in Hillsboro and it seems I still have a little blarney to work out of my system. It was a fun thing to do, though. We had a chance to sing some of those old Irish favorites; even the corny ones, which was about all of them. I was able to wear my bright green shamrock tie without fear of shame or slander, and we told stories. One resident tried desperately to remember the name of a tune that his father used to sing during the depression, which led to a whole series of stories about living in those times. Another lady claimed she was raised in N. Ireland and thought we were about as close to home as she had been in a while. It reminded me that the Irish do, indeed, like their stories. But don’t we all. I mean, we are at the bottom of it all, a people of stories. “What’s your story, kid?” “So, tell me your story,” or the one I get asked a lot: “What kind of story is that?” The parables of Jesus were just that: stories. The new book Margie is reading for her book club is called, “Short Stories By Jesus.” In it, the author, Amy Levine, has revisited the parables of Jesus and written them as short stories and I have to say I can’t wait to read it. The idea fascinates me. We love our stories – but then, there’s the gospel of John. Have you ever wondered why John is always considered somewhat of a “stand-alone” amongst the gospels. It’s true; Mathew, Mark, and Luke are grouped together and called the “synoptic” gospels while John is all alone. There’s...

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“Turning The Tables” March 4, 2018

Posted by on Mar 5, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Turning The Tables” Exodus 20:1-17 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 John 2:14-22   (1 Cor 1:21 )   21 In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. 22 Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 24 But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. 25 This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. The foolishness of preaching – how do you like that? You know, there was a time when a statement like that would have left me out in the cold, but nowadays I say, bring it on. I think upon a Certified Lay Ministry training I attended up in Vancouver a while back. The room was filled with lots of folks like me: folks who had answered the call to ministry later in life. We were going around the room doing the introduction thing: the typical way to start sessions of total strangers. We all took turns standing and giving our name and where we were from; the usual stuff. It was fairly ho-hum until a gentleman from Eastern Oregon took the floor and after giving us his name, rank, and serial number he stated in a loud, clear voice, “And I am not ashamed of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and I will preach the gospel of Christ any and every chance I get as long as the Lord gives me the strength to do it.”  The awkward moments that followed didn’t last long, but it did get me to thinking. It got me to thinking of what would motivate this person to proclaim that he will preach without shame, especially before a group of folks who were studying to be…well, preachers? And I came to the conclusion that he was not trying to show off or make a big impression; or that he was trying to dominate the conversation; or that he was wishing to set the tone for the day ahead. No, I came to believe that he just couldn’t help it. He just couldn’t help himself. These were not words of great theological importance, these were not words of incredible signs that have happened. No, this was a profession of faith that was in his heart and just couldn’t wait to get out. He just couldn’t help himself and, you know, you have to admire that. (vs. 21) In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. Today, on this the 3rd Sunday in the season of Lent, I would like to examine...

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