“The Renewal of Our Faith: That’s What Mountaintops Are For” March 3, 2019

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Renewal of Our Faith: That’s What Mountain Tops Are For” Exodus 34:29-35/ 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2/ Luke 9:28-36   Transfigure, transfigured, transfiguration: these are words we don’t use quite so much. Most dictionaries will tell us that to transfigure a thing means that we have transformed or changed that thing, but that’s not all. We also have transformed that thing into “something more beautiful or elevated.” If a frog turns into a prince, he is transfigured; but if a prince turns into a frog, he is, what…disfigured? I don’t know. Today, as you probably noticed, is the Sunday we set aside to celebrate the transfiguration of Christ. This mountaintop experience is recorded in all 3 of the synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark, & Luke – and is important. When Jesus appeared to Peter, John, and James as this intense and bright and beautiful spirit, it wasn’t by accident. It was meant to impress, it was meant to inspire, it was designed to be remembered for all time. They needed that mountaintop experience to get them through some of the rough times ahead. They needed a vivid memory of what it is to see and to hear and to touch and to taste and to breathe in the power and the glory of God. They needed that because sooner or later, they were going to have to come down to the valley floor; and that’s when they will need to shine, that’s when they will need to be the light of Christ. So this is the story of Transfiguration Sunday: the last Sunday before the Lenten season begins. It’s all about power and majesty and ends with the voice of God telling the disciples, and all who have ears, “This is my son whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” Every time I read through this text, I know it’s a little far-fetched but I can’t help but myself: I can feel the crackle in the air, I can see the bright light. It has always been the perfect uplifting and inspiring story to take us into the Lenten season. But not this time. Right about now, I’m having a hard time feeling elevated or beautiful or even spiritual, for that matter. Most of you are aware that our denomination held a special General Conference last week in St. Louis to settle once and for all the church’s position on homosexuality and same sex marriages. The debate is based on paragraph 304.3 in the United Methodist Book of Discipline which reads, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” This ruling was made in 1972, and a movement has been growing for the last 40 years or so to change this language, especially in the United States;...

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“The Glory of Our Faith: To Love As Jesus Loved” Feb. 24, 2019

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Glory of Our Faith: To Love as Jesus Loved” Genesis 45:3-11,15 1 Corinthians 15:35-38,42-50 Luke 6:27-38   From the Jewish website Aish.com I found this little gem about forgiveness. Rabbi Epstein was giving his Yom Kippur sermon about forgiveness and during his speech he asked his congregation, “how many of you have forgiven your enemies?” About half held up their hands. He then rephrased his question, “how many of you want to forgive your enemies?” Slowly, every hand in the congregation went up, except for one. Little old Sadie Horowitz. “Mrs. Horowitz?” inquired the Rabbi, “are you not willing to forgive your enemies, especially on this Day of Atonement when God forgives us all?” “I don’t have any enemies” Mrs. Horowitz replied, smiling sweetly. “Mrs. Horowitz, that is most impressive. How old are you?” “Ninety-eight,” she replied “Oh Mrs. Horowitz, what a blessing and a lesson to us all you are. This is remarkable. Would you please stand up and in front of this congregation tell us all how a person can live ninety- eight years and not have an enemy in the world?” Little old Mrs. Horowitz got up slowly, smiled, faced the congregation, and said “I outlived all those old yentes, that’s how.” This will be our 7th week in the season of Epiphany – that is the time period between January 6th and Ash Wednesday. And during this time, we have read from the prophets Jeremiah & Isaiah, we have read from Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth, have looked at the Psalms of David, and have visited again the early ministry of Christ as told in the gospel of Luke. This is normal stuff for this time of year, but this time around I have tried to preach these timeless scriptures with a different twist. I have looked at them as a way to explore our faith: our individual faith, our faith as a congregation, and our faith as United Methodists. And it’s been challenging – challenging because rethinking our faith will always require a certain level of honesty that, well…is not always that comfortable. For example, while reading the 2nd part of the well known “Sermon on the Plain” in the gospel of Luke, it occurred to me how easy it is for us to dismiss the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” – hmm. “If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer them the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either.”  Wonderful sentiments, don’t you think? But honestly, it just ain’t going to happen; not for those of us who live in the real world. And so – let’s be honest – we dismiss them. We blow them off, and we do...

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