“I Have Called You By Name” January 13, 2019

Posted by on Jan 22, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“I Have Called You By Name” Isaiah 43:1-7/ Acts 8:14-17/ Luke 3:15-17, 21-22               But now, says the Lord – the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel: Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers they won’t sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched and flame won’t burn you. I am the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, your savior. Because you are precious in my eyes, you are honored, and I love you.             Funny thing: I’m having a hard time getting this out of my head. This wonderful passage from Isaiah, this ancient text, got hold of me somehow and has refused to let go. At first glance, it seems to be just the normal sort of poetry that prophets write that begins with, “But now says the Lord..” But this time it’s different. This time, it is a love letter; a love letter to the nation of Israel and therefore a love letter to you, a love letter to me, and a love letter to us all. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” It is comforting, it is reassuring, and it is the perfect text to hold in our heart if we are to wanting to better understand this thing called Baptism. Hello, my name is Ken Johnson: husband of Marjorie, son of Bernard and Emma, father of Zach and Elizabeth, and step father of Justin, Austin, Autumn, and Drew. I am called by lots of names: Ken, Kenny, Kenneth (if we want to get all formal), as well as titles like pastor, dad, friend, and dirty rotten so-and-so depending on who you ask. But for today, let’s have a look at who I am -and therefore, who we are – in the eyes of God. And I say that, I ask you to ask that, because it seems to me that this is what the Christian baptism is all about. It’s all about telling the world about our journey of faith, it’s all about our personal relationship with Christ – simply put, it’s all about the moment that we answer when God calls our name. The most common definition of Baptism – the one that I’ve heard for years – is that baptism is “A visible and outward sign of an inner spiritual reality.” Sounds pretty official; all nice and tidy. Our Gospel text today tells the story of the baptism of Christ according to Luke. I might mention that Jesus’ baptism by John is told in all 4 of the Gospels and even though they are worded differently, they all end the same way. They all...

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“Epiphany: Let’s Do This” January 6, 2019

Posted by on Jan 9, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Epiphany: Let’s Do This”   Isaiah 60:1-9/ Ephesians 3:1-12 Matthew 2:1-12   Epiphany, theophany, Denha, Little Christmas, Three Kings Day – no matter how we look at it, this day – January 6th, the 12th day after Christmas – has all the markings of greatness. It’s too bad that because it has meant so much for so many over the years that we have kind of lost our appetite for the Feast of the Epiphany. It wound up taking a back seat to the huge season that Christmas has become and then, let’s face it, after New Year’s most of us are ready for a little down time. I always felt sorry for kids who had birthdays right after Christmas. The enthusiasm level is never quite what you would expect. Now, some Eastern Orthodox denominations choose Jan. 6th as the day to celebrate the birth of Christ, and to further complicate matters this particular Sunday is sometimes set aside to celebrate the Baptism of Christ. So yea, a lot of stuff seems to be going on; too much stuff, actually. So here’s my take on Epiphany Sunday this time around: let’s just enjoy it. Let’s give thanks for who we are and for where we are and for what we do. Let’s turn off the news, get off our phones, and tone down all the noise the world loves to keep blasting at us and take gratitude in the few things that we hold to be constant and to be true. Above all else, let’s be thankful for our faith. Let’s be thankful that we, who come from all walks of life and different backgrounds, have this one wonderful thing going for us: our faith. It’s something that we tend to take for granted, but in reality it is a big deal. This is the epiphany I’d like to enjoy in this New Year: to be the church, to be the body of Christ. Webster defines “epiphany” as “A moment of sudden revelation; a poignant, sudden, and profound understanding of something.” You can’t help but to like the idea. Everyone can appreciate a good “aha” moment now and then, and I for one will jump at the chance for a “profound understanding” of just about anything, but maybe the year that lies ahead doesn’t need to defined by sudden revelations. Maybe our epiphany can be something like, “Wow, look at us; we are the church. Let’s do this.” In Bulgaria on this day, folks will gather for the traditional “Manifestation of God” or “Day of Jordan” celebration. On this day, a wooden cross is thrown by a priest into the sea or river or lake, and young men race to retrieve it. It is early January after all and the waters are close to freezing, but for some strange reason this is considered an honorable act and it is said...

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“I Had to Be in My Father’s House” Dec. 30, 2018

Posted by on Jan 9, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“I Had to Be in My Father’s House” 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 Colossians 3:12-17 Luke 2:41-52     When an Arab peasant discovered a collection of ancient manuscripts in upper Egypt in December of 1945, it caused quite a stir amongst the religious scholars of the world. These writings are still a source of lively debate to this day. It’s too bad that many of these manuscripts were sold on the black market, were used as fire starters, or otherwise just lost. It might help clarify things because those that remain serve to raise more questions than provide answers. These, combined with other discovered manuscripts, have become known as the gnostic gospels. They are the writings of the life and teachings of Christ from others besides Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And like I said, they raise more questions than answers. I picked up a copy of The Gospel of Thomas some years ago; supposedly the writings of the disciple we know by the same name, and it didn’t take long to realize why this was never included in the canon- this Bible- that we use today. It was puzzling and full of contradictions, but I found that if you don’t take it so serious as to consider it “Scripture” it was interesting to read. For example, in the Thomas book, there is a story of Jesus as a young lad playing with his friends. They were making birds out of wet clay when, according to the writings, Jesus the boy commanded that these clay birds flap their wings and fly away – which they did! And that was it; no lesson, no deeper meaning, no wonderful metaphor…just kind of a magic trick for our amusement. It was disappointing. But it does help a little, I guess. It does help because we are naturally curious. We can’t help it that we would like to know everything about the life of Christ, including how he grew up. What was he like as a child? Was he serious or kind of a prankster? Did he get along with people – (I certainly hope so!) or did he mostly stay to himself? Yes, it’s true that we want to hear stories of Jesus as a child. Think of all they fun that we have telling stories about the stunts we pulled as kids. Unfortunately, the story of Jesus getting left behind in Jerusalem is the only record we have of Jesus as a kid, at least in accepted scripture. To be honest, I don’t know what to think about it. It’s all so…well, unusual. First of all, it is every parent’s worst nightmare – the shame and the horror of leaving your own child behind; of losing sight or losing track of this young person that you are responsible for. It’s awful. I was tempted to find a copy of “Home Alone”...

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