“The Case for Bubble Gum & Umbrellas” August 4, 2019

Posted by on Aug 5, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Case for Bubble Gum & Umbrellas” Hosea 11:1-11 Colossians 3:1-11/ Luke 12:13-21   When I read through today’s gospel text earlier in the week, I groaned. I really, really didn’t want to preach on the “Parable of the Rich Fool;” I just didn’t. Every time this particular scripture comes up, you can just about bet there is a stewardship sermon coming and we’re going to be made to feel bad about our level of giving to the church, to the community, to whatever. I really, really didn’t want to do that. And so, when I find myself in a quandary like this, I’ve found it helpful to just let my tired brain go blank and simply pay attention to whatever happens to come along.  And so it was that as I was driving through traffic in the middle of the day on Baker St. that I happened to think about the time that I won the bubble gum blowing contest. Go figure. Now, for a 9 year old boy, there are few things in this world more entertaining than a lawn fete. These events are always held outdoors in the summer and are usually a fundraiser for something or other, but we didn’t care about that. All we were concerned with is that fact that there were lots of goodies to eat, lots of contests, and best of all, prizes. I had taken a few throws at the dunking tank, came in third in the sack race, and been told I was too little to compete with the big guys in the pie eating contest; all in all, the day wasn’t going as I had planned. But that was about to change when I chanced upon a table with the words “Bubble Gum contest. Blow the biggest bubble and win a prize!” Just my luck, it was about to begin, so I grabbed a bunch of Palooka Joe and jammed it in my mouth and proceeded to chew on it. Now, bubble gum is not my specialty – we could never afford such fancy things – so when the time came, it was just sheer luck that I found myself staring at a 5” bubble in front of my face. No one was more surprised than me. The tape measure came out and before I knew it, I had been declared the winner. But here’s the kicker: the grand prize for blowing the biggest bubble was, of all things, an umbrella. It was a great day, and when it was all over, I took my umbrella and went home with mom & dad. I went to bed and the umbrella went in the hallway closet. And that’s where it stayed – – for quite some time. I had all but forgotten about it until one day my dad asked, “So, what are you going to do with that...

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“If You Only Pray When You’re In Trouble, You’re In Trouble” July 28, 2019

Posted by on Aug 5, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“If You Only Pray When You’re In Trouble, You’re In Trouble” Genesis 18:20-32 Colossians 2:6-15 Luke 11:1-13   The N. Carolina preacher Delmer Chilton tells about his son and a particular struggle with the Lord’s Prayer. Young Joe wanted to play basketball in the summer league and the only one around was at Father Ryan High School. Now as you can tell by the name, Father Ryan High was a Catholic school, but they let Joe play with them anyways. There weren’t many folks went to the summer league games- just a few family and friends – and you could hear just about everything in that big empty gym. Now, at Father Ryan they’d say the “Our father” right before they would go out to play and Joe, being the good son of a Lutheran pastor, would chime right in. Of course the Roman version is more biblical: it doesn’t have the “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory” at the end. It just stops. Well, the first time they were praying it and everybody else stops, you could hear Joe go “for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glor-“ and then he looked around funny and afterwards he asked me about it, and I just said, “Well, the Romans are just more biblical about it and that’s not in scripture; it’s not in Matthew or Luke.” So he said OK, next time he’ll try to stop, but you know sometimes we just get on a roll. And so the next time he got about half way though the “For thine is the kingdom, and the power” and then just trailed off. The third time and they got praying and they all stopped and you could hear him saying, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power” and then he says “O, crap!” And you could hear him all over the gym. And I’m thinking to myself, “How many of our prayers do we just feel like stopping…and saying ‘O, crap!” Now I tell that story not just for the humor for me, but because of the nature of prayer. Too often we get all hung up on the piety of prayer; that we ought to say it this certain way and we ought to feel this way about it. There are important things about prayer as Jesus teaches us, but one of the things to recognize, as we see in this story from Genesis, is that it has to do with communication in a relationship of a very personal nature with the creator of the universe. (2) And that includes frustration and anger and not always being clear about what we’re asking for. If we only pray when we know what to say, we won’t pray very often. That being said, the same thing holds true that if we only pray...

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“Ain’t No Profit In Being a Prophet” July 21, 2019

Posted by on Aug 5, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Ain’t No Profit In Being a Prophet” Amos 8:1-12/ Psalm 52 Colossians 1:15-28/ Luke 10:38-42   Moishe was a medieval Jewish astrologer. One day, he happened to prophesy that the king’s favorite horse would soon die. Sure enough, the horse died a short time later. The king was outraged at the astrologer, certain that his prophecy had brought about the horse’s death. He summoned Moishe and commanded him, “Prophet, tell me when you will die!” Moishe realized that the king was planning to kill him immediately no matter what answer he gave, so he had to answer carefully. “I do not know when I will die,” he answered finally. “I only know that whenever I die, the king will die three days later.” No one, I don’t believe, has ever set out to become a prophet – at least not a prophet in the true sense of the word. I mean, think about it: to be a prophet is to be the mouthpiece of God. At first, that sounds like it might not be such a bad thing. Think of the sense of importance that you would feel. Think of how it would feel if whenever you would walk into a room, all conversation would stop; folks would find themselves speechless in your presence. Imagine what it would be like to rarely have to wait in line and always get the best seat in the house. Yea, it wouldn’t be a bad job. And when you would speak – O my – when you would speak, everyone would hang on every, every word. //// Now, I imagine that you’re all way out ahead of me on this because we all know that even though the words of the prophet are what brings them fame, they are also what gets them into trouble. To be a prophet is to be the mouthpiece of God; that’s understood. But there are times when that doesn’t matter. People are going to take it personal. This is the 2nd week of our study of the minor prophets, but don’t be fooled. Even though the books of Micah and Amos and Zechariah and the like are a little on the short side, they are packed with wisdoms that ought to be heard today. Our text today from Amos 8 starts out similar to last week’s text where the Lord showed to Amos a simple plumb line. (Amos 8:1) reads, This is what the Lord showed me: a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?”  I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again forgive them.”           “A basket of summer fruit.” A perfect symbol of prosperity, of wealth, of abundance; and that pretty much describes King Jeroboam and the northern nation of Israel. That, in...

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“You Can’t Judge Someone and Love Someone At the Same Time” July 14, 2019

Posted by on Aug 5, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“You Can’t Judge Someone and Love Someone At the Same Time” Amos 7:7-17/ Psalm 82 Colossians 1:1-14 Luke 10:25-37   Many years ago, I found myself and a few friends at the county fair in Missoula, MT. Like most young folks in their 20’s, we were looking stir things up a bit; we were looking for something new, something exciting. And so it was that when we came across a stand that read “The Great Madame So & So, fortune teller” there was a mad scramble to see who would go forward and part with the $5.00 that it cost to catch a glimpse of what the future had in store. Now, I can’t recall how it happened but it ended up being me who sat before this lady who was looking very intently at the lines in the palm of my hand. As she was doing this, she was asking me questions: “Where are you from? What are your hobbies? What is your line of work?” I answered truthfully, I guess, but the truth is that all I could think was that this is nothing but a waste of time and money. When she asked what I did, I told her that I was a musician, which was true enough. What I didn’t tell her was that I was doing all kinds of things to make a living besides playing and singing. Anyhow, she pointed out all the different lines on my hand explaining what they meant and then she dropped the bomb: she looked right at me and said just as plain as day that I would never be truly happy until I found another line of work besides being a musician. Well, I was flabbergasted. I stood up and stormed out telling her something to the effect that she has a lot of nerve and didn’t know what she was talking about. I was angry and I was upset. The truth is, there was a lot of wisdom in what she was saying. The bigger truth is that I didn’t want to hear it. I had to wonder why in the world the incident at the county fair just happened to pop into my head until I realized that the prophet Amos had been on my mind most all week. Now here is a man who understood the dangers of telling folks what they don’t want to hear. Amos, like I said, was from the south country. There was nothing special about him- he was a shepherd and worked with wood- but the Lord had sent him north to prophesy to the people of Israel. The words that God instructed him to say were harsh words. They were words that the chief priest and the King of Israel did not want to hear. (Amos 7:7) 7 This is what the Lord showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall, with...

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“There’s A Little Naaman In All of Us” July 7, 2019

Posted by on Aug 5, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“There’s A Little Naaman In All of Us” 2 Kings 5:1-14/ Galatians 6:1-16 Luke 10:1-11, 16-20   So, let’s talk about this Naaman fellow: a general – a great general of the Syrian army. (2 Kings 5:1) tells us Naaman was a great man and highly regarded by his master, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. (Syria) He had a lot going for him: fame, success, and the respect and admiration of his people. There was only one problem – Naaman had leprosy. We can’t say for certain what that means for Naaman’s time. It could have been any number of skin diseases, and not just Hansen’s disease, as Leprosy is called today. But it was probably still pretty miserable. The word used here is meṣora, and Leviticus spends two chapters on it. The important thing for us to understand is that with the disease he was considered unclean, he was unable to go to worship with other folks, he could occasionally be quarantined, which definitely could interfere with his job of being a general. This had to be a serious issue with him not just physically, but also vocationally and I’m sure his social life was the pits. Now, before we go any further, I’d like to say a thing or two about warfare in the time of Elisha. Unlike today, warfare in biblical times was almost friendly. It was such a normal part of everyday life that folks just accepted it. And it seems like it rarely got personal between those fighting these wars because everyone pretty much believed that the battle was won by whoever had the best god at the time. It reminds you of professional football players who fight it out at the stadium only to get together later on for one of their kid’s birthday party. This brings us to the real hero of the story: the Israeli slave girl that belonged to Naaman. She had been captured in some battle or other and worked in the house. But she had pity on Naaman. Now Naaman, being a man, would never complain or seek out any kind of help for his condition so she knew not to approach him about it. So she mentions to Naaman’s wife that there happened to be a prophet named Elisha in Israel who could cure him of this disease. The wife tells Naaman and he decides it’s worth a shot, so he goes to the king of Syria to get a letter of recommendation, along with a bunch of money and gifts to sweeten the deal, to cross into enemy territory to ask to be healed of this terrible affliction. He and his men travel to Israel and the King of Israel goes into a panic thinking that Syria is only trying to pick a fight, but here’s the kicker – Elisha finds out the...

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“Don’t Look Back” June 30, 2019

Posted by on Aug 5, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Don’t Look Back” 2 Kings 2:1-14/ Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20 Galatians 5:1, 13-25/ Luke 9:51-62   During Annual Conference this year, Ralph and I got to talking about baseball, particularly that unique relationship between catchers and pitchers. It got me to thinking about Bobby Weaver. Now Bobby was just an average pitcher. What made him good was his ability to distract the batters. Bobby had lots of tricks, one of them being he would do his homework. He would gather up any information he could on the opposing team and then, because I was the catcher, would relay it to me. It was my job to drop these little bombs at the perfect moment. So imagine that you are a teenage boy standing at the plate. You’re nervous, everybody is watching you and you have 2 strikes called on you. O, the embarrassment of striking out in front of your family and friends. So, just when the pitcher is about to wind up for that fateful pitch, the catcher says something about seeing your girlfriend at the mall with some other guy. What? How does he know these things? And could this be true? The ball sizzles by: “Strike three, you’re out!” says the umpire, and the only thing that might make you feel better is if you knew how much time and effort went into the distraction that just caused you to strike out. Then, there’s the story involving Yogi Berra, the well-known catcher for the New York Yankees, and Hank Aaron, who at that time was the chief power hitter for the Milwaukee Braves. The teams were playing in the World Series, and as usual Yogi was keeping up his ceaseless chatter. As Aaron came to the plate, Yogi tried to distract him by saying, “Henry, you’re holding the bat wrong. You’re supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark.” Aaron didn’t say anything, but when the next pitch came he hit it into the left-field bleachers. After rounding the bases and tagging up at home plate, Aaron looked at Yogi Berra and said, “I didn’t come up here to read.” Commitment, staying focused – these seem to be the themes of our scriptural texts today. Last week, we read about how Elijah lost his focus after Jezebel announced to the world that she would have him killed. Now you have to admit, that might tend to rattle a person’s nerves, but God brings him back with the question, “Elijah, why are you here?” and then simply tells him to go back and make things right. The Lord instructs Elijah to appoint a new set of kings for Syria and Israel and to also appoint Elisha to take his place. In chpt. 19 of 1 Kings, Elisha is asked to come with Elijah, which he does gladly. A series of wars and periods of peace take...

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