“The Temptation of Twofers” July 29, 2018

Posted by on Aug 2, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“The Temptation of Twofers” 2 Samuel 11:1-15/ Psalm 14 Ephesians 3:14-21/ John 6:1-21   In the world of socially awkward moments, I think I have just found one that belongs in the top ten. Imagine, if you will, Jane and Joe. They’re a nice couple: they work hard and appreciate the joy of good conversation with friends. And so it was that when Jane and Joe received a flyer for the opening of a new restaurant in town, they immediately thought of the Martins and asked if they would like to join them. Good food, good conversation- this will be fun. The food was good and there was lots of it; so much so that both couples decided to each buy just one meal and split it. When the waitress brought the check, Jane reached in her purse and pulled out the flyer that said, “Special introductory rates! Buy one meal, get the 2nd for $1.00.”  At this point, Mr. Martin reached in his wallet, slapped a dollar bill onto the table, and with a big grin said to Joe, “This oughta’ cover it. Thanks so much for inviting us along. This has been great!” Yeah, that’s awkward. For the last 8 Sundays, we have been reading from the Gospel of Mark. Today begins another series, if we dare call it that. It’s a series that will be devoted strictly to the 6th chapter of John. Our reading today is John’s version of the stories that were left out of last week’s text from Mark – namely the feeding of the 5000 along with the story of Jesus calming the waters of the Sea of Galilee. It’s interesting to note that this story is told in all 4 of the gospels, which is not always the case, but I have to say that my favorite version will always be from the Gospel of John. I like it best because John gives us so much more detail. It speaks to the actual miracle sure, but it also speaks to the human condition and the somewhat selfish ways that we act when faced with the generous nature of the divine. At the same time we are continuing our study of the rise to greatness of David, the lowly shepherd boy. Today’s text from 2 Samuel tells the heartwarming story of King David who (vs 1) In the Spring when Kings go off to war, finds himself hanging around the palace with a little bit too much free time on his hands. You know, I can’t help but to find it funny and frustrating at the same time that our biblical heroes are so…. well, flawed. “Idle hands are the devil’s tools,” so they say, but surely this shouldn’t apply to David. Let’s face it, David had everything. His enemies fell before him and his people loved him. And David was well...

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The Death of a Conscience” July 15, 2018

Posted by on Jul 22, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“The Death of a Conscience” 2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 Ephesians 1:3-14 Mark 6:14-29   We’ve all seen the comic strip “Family Circus” written by Bill Keane. I admit that if given the chance, this is a comic that I never skip over. It’s funny, sure, but what makes it especially likeable is that it touches on our human condition. The funny part happens when Mr. Keane shows us this human conditions through the eyes of little kids. The strip that came to mind while reading this gruesome and icky account of the death of John the Baptist just happened to be one in which the little boy was at his bedside saying the Lord’s prayer. In it he on his knees at his bedside with hands clasped together and is saying, “As we forgive those who trespass against us. And leave us ninety two temptations….” You know, that wouldn’t be such a bad deal. I mean, if there were only 92 temptations to deal with in this world, then at least we might eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel. But of course, the temptations of this world are both infinite and diverse. With that being said, I have to admit that I was tempted to skip over this rather perplexing story. It’s the kind of scripture that, no matter how you slice it, is going to leave a bad taste in your mouth so why bother? More importantly, where is the good news in this? Where is the lesson – the gospel truth – that we can take away, that brings us closer to God? So yes, I have to be honest with you: I just wasn’t feeling it. It’s all so petty and …well, worldly. I don’t need scripture to tell me about the world we live in; I get to see it and hear it and smell it and taste it and touch it every day, thank you very much. But you know, I couldn’t let it go. I kept thinking that if the writer of the gospel found it important enough to put down, then we shouldn’t ignore it. Also, unlike most of the writings in Mark, this account is detailed; lengthy almost. So I had an idea. What if instead of reading this as just another account of disgusting behavior by another disgusting Roman governor, what if we read this as if it were a parable? That works for me. That works for me because I simply can’t believe that Herod Antipas would have offered this 14 year old girl anything she wants. (vs 23) “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” See what I mean? This is the guy that poisoned his half brother and tried to kill his own father to get this job; and he’s going to offer it up because of what….a...

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“Ubuntu” July 22, 2018

Posted by on Jul 22, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Ubuntu” 2 Samuel 7:1-14a Ephesians 2:11-22 Mark 6:30-34, 53-56   A western Buddhist woman was in India, studying with her teacher. She was riding with another woman friend in a rickshaw-like carriage when they were attacked by a man on the street. In the end, the attacker only succeeded in frightening the women, but the Buddhist woman was quite upset by the event and told her teacher so. She asked him what she should have done – what would have been the appropriate, Buddhist response. The teacher said very simply, “You should have very mindfully and with great compassion whacked the attacker over the head with your umbrella.”           Our gospel text for today threw me for a loop, at first. As I have said before, I try to follow what is called the Revised Common Lectionary. In a nutshell, the lectionary is a collection of scripture suggestions for each Sunday, as well as special holy days, that encompasses a 3-year cycle. Scholars and clergy from over 20 denominations gathered together in the 80’s to come up with what was called the Common Lectionary, which was revised in 1993. So you see, I don’t pick out scripture at random for the themes of our worship together. I try to stick to the lectionary. Sometimes I have to scratch my head wondering what the creators of the lectionary were thinking, and at other times the wisdom of their choices is quite obvious. Take today’s selection from the gospel of Mark for example. At verse 30, the disciples are returning from a major evangelical mission. They were tired and excited at the same time, and Jesus seems pleased with them. (vs. 31) And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. So you get the idea: everyone is dog-tired and Jesus suggests that they sneak off to some out of the way place to rest. And so they hopped in a boat to go to this out of the way place, but the crowds wouldn’t have it. They raced along the shoreline and were waiting for them when they pulled up on the shore. (vs 34)  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. So much for getting some rest; but the key phrase here – the one that I believe we are meant to take home from this lectionary text is “and he had compassion on them.” At this point we skip to verse 53. What happens in this space that we skip over? A lot. Jesus preaches to the crowd, heals the sick and the lame, it gets late, the disciples want to send folks away to...

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“You Can’t Go Back Home Again” July 8, 2018

Posted by on Jul 14, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“You Can’t Go Back Home Again” 2 Samuel 5:1-5,9-10 or Ezekiel 2:1-7 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 Mark 6:1-13   First of all, let me say it is good to be back – back home – and I have to confess that nothing gives you new perspective on the place you now call home more than by going back to a place that you used to call home, only to find out that it is no more. Different time, different place. Now right off the bat, I have to give Mark credit for writing about Jesus’ homecoming the way it was. I mean, if we are to totally believe in the ultimate powers of Christ, how are we to understand the statement, “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them;” a statement which was followed by, “and he marveled at their unbelief.” And so today I’d like to talk about homecomings. They’re complicated, they’re confusing, and they rarely turn out to be a heartwarming as we had hoped. I’d like to start this conversation by reading you a letter, but first you will need a little background to get the full understanding of why it is that I say you can’t go back home again. Last week I was in south western So. Dakota where Margie was born and raised. Her two sisters also showed up and besides celebrating the fourth together, which was a family tradition, they had also committed to sorting through the last of their mother’s things that were locked in a storage unit. When I walked in the house I was surrounded by boxes and boxes of paper. There were magazines, old sheet music for band and piano and who knows what else, and then there were letters. I swear her mother kept every letter and note that had ever been written to her and here they all were. It was a nightmare. There was the obvious tension over who gets to keep what and all that, but the revelation that made me chuckle was learning that grandma Grace, who everyone simply adored, had a bit of a mean streak. Now, I know this is private family stuff but I did get their permission to speak on this today. So OK, 3 things: (1) all the grandkids loved grandma Grace. She was quirky, she spoke her mind, and she let you do whatever you wanted.  (2) Grandma Grace was a bit on the bossy side, especially to her own children, and (3) Mary Two Eagle was a local native American woman who made her living by dressing in traditional beads and buckskins and posing for pictures with the tourist crowd that showed up by the thousands in Custer, S Dakota every summer. So there’s the set up. Grandma Grace is writing her daughter...

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“Going Against the Grain” June 3, 2018

Posted by on Jun 7, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Going Against the Grain” 1 Samuel 3:1-20/ 2 Corinthians 4:5-12/ Mark 2:23-3:6 You know, I’ve said it before: “If you want the bare bones of the gospel, if you’re looking to learn about the life of Christ and his ministry on this earth, and what it means to you, and you are pressed for time, then the gospel of Mark is for you.” David Lose calls it a narrative whirlwind. For example, in the first chapter alone, Jesus is baptized, tempted in the desert, announces his ministry, calls his disciples, casts out an unclean spirit, heals a bunch of people gathered at Simon Peter’s home, goes on a preaching tour, and cleanses a leper. All in a mere 45 verses! And by the end of all this, his fame has spread so far and wide he finds it hard to even go out for bite to eat without getting mobbed by a crowd. So you get the idea; a narrative whirlwind. Now, I’m telling you this because for the next 8 weeks we will be reading from the gospel of Mark, and so a little back story would be a good idea. Folks thought for years that Mark was written by John Mark who had traveled with the Apostle Paul for a short time, but scholars pretty much agree that’s not the case. We’re not really sure who wrote it, but we do know that Luke and Matthew both borrowed from it. The gospel of Mark, then – at least to me – has a certain air of authority to it, if for no other reason than it was written first. But there is more to it than that. Our study today takes us late into the 2nd chapter, and Jesus’ new found celebrity has put him crossways with – wouldn’t you know it – the authorities. And not just your regular run of the mill authorities; no, and this is the crux of our lesson today. I find it incredibly interesting that Jesus’ first confrontations aren’t with the Romans, or with the local politicians, or with those living on the fringes of society; but with those who are the most religious. And it goes without saying that these confrontations only gets worse until finally the Pharisees and Sadducees have the ultimate satisfaction of seeing Christ on a cross. Today’s brouhaha starts out innocent enough: it’s a fight over the Sabbath; a fight over who enforces the rules. I have un-fond memories of working on Forest Service timber sales. The rules were hard and fast and woe to anyone who thinks they can ignore them. The date for the beginning of fire season, if I remember, was May 20th. After this date, all equipment had to have the proper fire safety tools or you were simply shut down. There were times when we considered putting anti-freeze in the water...

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“No Guts, No Glory” May 27, 2018

Posted by on Jun 2, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“No Guts, No Glory” Isaiah 6:1-8/ Romans 8:12-17/ John 3:1-17 There was a party going on in this particular cruise ship. Yes, I understand that every day on a cruise is supposed to be a party, but this was special. The grand ballroom was packed and the ship’s purser had been given the miserable task of counting heads; miserable because no one would sit still. It seemed that every passenger on the ship was there and they were all milling around, talking, and laughing and everyone was in high spirits. It was one heck of a party, especially for 1:00 in the afternoon on a Monday. At the front of the ballroom was a long table with a blazing white tablecloth and seated at this table was the caption, the first mate, and pretty near the entire staff of the cruise ship. Every one of them was beaming as they laughed and joked with passengers and fellow staff members alike. Like I said, it was a special gathering and spirits were high. Now, at the center of the table, between the caption and the 1st mate, sat an elderly man. He stood out by the obvious fact that he was the guest of honor. He also stood out by the obvious fact that he was not having a good time. In fact, he looked downright miserable. He squirmed in his chair and kept looking off to the side doors as if he was planning his escape. But he was the guest of honor and all eyes were upon him. You see, the day before, the unthinkable had happened on this pleasure cruise: someone had fallen overboard. The alarm had sounded, but by the time the crew arrived to toss in the life buoys to save this poor woman, it looked like she was about to go under for the last time. That’s when everyone noticed the guest of honor flying through the air and into the water below. He immediately swam to the drowning woman and was able to cling to her long enough that a life raft could be deployed and soon everyone was back on deck, safe and sound. So, yes there was reason for celebration and the time had finally come for the fidgety, uncomfortable guest of honor to stand up and address the crowd. A hush fell upon the room as every single man, woman, and child held their breath to hear the words that this wonderful, brave man might have to say. “This is a moment we will never forget,” they thought to themselves. And they were right, because as the old man cleared his throat and scowled across the room, every man, woman, and child heard him say the words, “All I want to know is which one of you pushed me in!” Now my point is: this is not bravery. I mean,...

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