“An Unusual Request” April 22, 2018

Posted by on Apr 27, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“An Unusual Request” Psalm 23 Acts 4:5-12/ 1 John 3:16-24 John 10:11-18   Back in my mountain man days in western Montana, I lived in an old log cabin and spent my spare time digging in McCormick Creek looking for the giant pocket of placer gold that I just knew was buried there waiting for me to dig up. Unfortunately, I found just enough to keep me from giving up. Needless to say, it is now my firm belief that there has been far more money put into the ground than has ever been taken out; at least by small operators like me. But it was an experience. Part of that experience was the neighbors that I got to know out in the Nine Mile Valley. My closest neighbor was named Dick Fluto who spent the summers working a claim that his father had established back in the 40’s. Now Dick was a real character and had some great stories about growing up outside of Shelby, Mt just south of the Canadian border. The one that comes to mind was about the teen dances that were held in the nearby town of Cut Bank, which was next to the Blackfoot Indian Reservation. According to Dick, the chaperone of choice at these dances was a native Blackfoot and a deputy sheriff. He wasn’t the favorite of law enforcement for his negotiating skills. No, this deputy was always the first choice to chaperone teen dances because, quite simply, he was a big man – and I mean really big – and strong as an ox. His technique for keeping the peace was both simple and effective. Whenever two young lads would start getting into a pushing match, usually over a young lady I might suppose, the deputy would walk up to them, grab them by the shirt collars, lift them both in the air at the same time, and as he banged their heads together, he would shout, “No fight! No fight!” And that was it. The fight was over before it even began. /// Oh, that our God could be such a God. Oh, how we wish sometimes that our God was such a God. And that is why the message for this 4th Sunday of Easter can be a problem. On this, the Sunday referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday,” we are given a clear message; clear enough if you don’t mind being compared to …well, sheep. It’s not a comparison that I am comfortable with. Why couldn’t the 23rd Psalm and the writings of John read more like, “I am the big boss man – the CEO of the universe – and I’m here to tell you to get busy. I’m here to order you to get right with the world.”  Or if we take it to the other extreme, God could tell us that we are like...

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“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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“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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