“When God Whispers” June 23, 2019

Posted by on Jun 26, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“When God Whispers” 1 Kings 19:1-15a/  Psalm 42 Galatians 3:23-29 Luke 8:26-39   If we learn anything at all about long term relationships, we learn the importance of communication. And if we value these relationships, we also understand that you better have some tact and finesse if you sense that this communication is going south. For example, an elderly gentleman was wondering if his wife had a hearing problem. So one night, he stood behind her while she was sitting in her lounge chair. He spoke softly to her, “Honey, can you hear me?” There was no response. He moved a little closer and said again, “Honey, can you hear me?” Still, there was no response. Finally he moved right behind her and said, “Honey, can you hear me?” She replied, “For the third time, yes! I can hear you!” You’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as a coincidence. Now, we can debate that but I do find it to be a funny thing; I find it to be a funny thing that just about every year, if we follow the lectionary, the gospel text for the Sunday after Annual Conference is the story of Jesus visiting the Gerasenes. It’s a bizarre story. For no apparent reason and at great risk, Jesus and the disciples cross the Galilee to visit a little village full of Gentiles that happen to have a herd of pigs outside of town. There they were greeted by the local Wildman, a man possessed by “unclean spirits.” Jesus calls them out, the demons scream not to be thrown back into the abyss, so they are transferred into the herd of pigs which flip out and run into the lake and drown. The wild man, however, is cured but rather than rejoice over this fact, the townspeople tell Jesus that he’s caused enough trouble and would he please leave. Like I said, it’s a bizarre story. It’s loud, it’s raucous, and I imagine many fiery sermons have been preached on this story at the east shore of the Sea of Galilee. But let’s not do that. Instead, I believe we’re going to find more inspiration in the coincidence that the final act of the prophet Elijah is also being read in hundreds of Methodist churches today; churches like us, perhaps, whose Annual Conferences have left them with more questions than answers. You know, fear is a funny thing. It can be a hindrance, or it can be a motivator. Fear can bring things into razor-sharp focus or make a blurry mess of it all. (I Kngs 19:1) (King) Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, how he had killed all Baal’s prophets with the sword. 2 Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah with this message: “May the gods do whatever they want to me if by this time tomorrow I haven’t made your...

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“But Wait, There’s More!” June 16, 2019

Posted by on Jun 26, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“But Wait, There’s More” Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 Psalm 8 Romans 5:1-5 John 16:12-15   You know, Jesus had a knack for asking awkward questions. They were blunt, they were surprising, and they usually caught his listeners off guard. One of my favorites is found in both the gospels of Mark and Matthew. It starts with the simple question to his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They answer by reciting what they’ve been hearing on the street – not so tough. Then he asks, “But who do you say I am?” and here things start to get interesting. I swear we’ve been trying to answer that question ever since. It’s easy to repeat the gossip around town; not so easy when things get personal. But we have tried; Lord knows, we have tried. There are libraries filled with volume upon volume of every type of theology we could dream up in an effort to, you guessed it, “Say who Jesus is. So just for kicks, let’s try to imagine that same conversation, if you will, if Peter and the disciples were living in more modern times and had an understanding of modern theology. It might go something like this: Jesus said, “Who do people say that I am?” His disciples replied, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elijah or another of the prophets.” Jesus replied, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Logos, existing in the Father as his rationality and then, by an act of his will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only because Scripture speaks of a Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple.” And Jesus answered, saying, “What?” Today, as you’ve probably figured out, is the day we celebrate the Trinity. It’s unique in a way because it is the only festival that celebrates a doctrine of the church rather than an event in its sacred history. (hats off to Helen O) Since we were young, we have been told about the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. We speak it in our prayers, it’s a part of our wedding ceremonies, and no memorial service is complete without a reference to “God in three persons/ blessed Trinity.” But God never spoke to Moses about the Trinity; Jesus never mentioned it by name. No, the notion of God in 3 persons was created, quite simply, to help us answer that age old question that Jesus asked us a long time ago: “Who do you say...

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“Gettin’ In the Spirit of Things” June 9, 2019

Posted by on Jun 26, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Gettin’ In the Spirit of Things” Psalm 104:24-34, 35b Acts 2:1-21/ Romans 8:14-17 John 14:8-17, (25-27)   There’s something I’ve been noticing lately that, well…I don’t know what to think about it, to be honest. And so, I’d like to bounce it off of your folks, if I could. What I’ve noticed is that the standard greeting of “How are you?” has been changed somehow and for the life of me, I don’t understand why; and I think I want it back. I like “How are you?” I like “How you doing, how’ve you been.” They’re non-specific questions that can be answered with non-specific answers, and society has been fine with that. I mean, you can be having the worst day of your life, but when the cashier at BiMart asks, “How’s it going?” you can answer, “Fine, just fine,” and that’s perfectly acceptable. But that seems to be changing. I first noticed this new way of greeting at Dutch Bros coffee. I had pulled up and ordered my usual concoction –just minding my own business – when out of the blue, a young man leaned out the window and asked, “So, what have you got going on today?” I wasn’t expecting that; he caught me totally off guard. What have I got going on today? Well gee, let me think…nothing, a million things; I don’t know, I’ll know better after I’ve had my coffee – how’s that? The thing is, by asking for specifics I was being asked to engage. By asking for specifics, I was put in that somewhat awkward position of having to decide just how much of my personal stuff I want to share with this perfect stranger. “How’s it going?” was so much easier. So I’ve done my research and found that this is a thing in most all the coffee shops in the area, not just Dutch Bros. It’s a thing and I guess I can live with that; it’s just something that coffee shops do. At least that’s what I thought. But last week I found that this “thing” has spread. I was at the Doctor’s office for a routine check-up. The nurse had taken me on the “walk of shame” to the scales, poked a thermometer in my ear, cuffed my wrist for a BP reading, and all the other poking and prodding that is involved. We were discussing medications and the normal stuff when, from out of the blue, she asked, “So, do you have any plans for the weekend?”  At this point, I’d had enough. I figured that I would tell her that I was a pastor and that I planned on preaching this weekend, particularly on Sunday. I’ve found that telling folks that you are a preacher is usually a good way to stop a conversation dead in its tracks. But she surprised me again. She surprised me...

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“Darn That Dream” May 26, 2019

Posted by on Jun 26, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Darn That Dream” Psalm 67/ Acts 16:9-15/ John 24:23-29   There are many different words for when a song gets stuck in your head. Examples include earworms, repetunitis, and melodymania. Stuck song syndrome and Involuntary Musical Imagery (IMI) are some of the lesser known descriptions of this annoying little condition. As far as we know, they can’t hurt us; they’re just a sign that our brains are looking for something to do to stay busy. My mental ding-a-ling for the last few days has been an old jazz standard from the late 30’s called “Darn That Dream.” Billie Holiday made it famous and since then, most every singer worth their salt has given it a shot. The first verse goes something like, “Darn that dream I dream each night/ You say you love me and you hold me tight./Then I awake and you’re out of sight/ O, darn that dream.” It’s a catchy little tune all about some guy (or gal) who keeps dreaming about the object of his affection but is frustrated with the dream because this other person won’t even give him (or her) the time of day. O, darn that dream. Like I said, it’s catchy but that’s about it. The perfect song to get stuck in your head. In our reading today from Acts 16 we find the Apostle Paul in the biblical area of Asia, which was made up of what we now know roughly as the nation of Turkey. Things weren’t going so well. (Acts 16:6) reads, 6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the regions of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit kept them from speaking the word in the province of Asia. .After leaving Galatia they ventured back into northern Asia but, once again, (vs. 7) When they approached the province of Mysia, they tried to enter the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them. Now, this had to have been frustrating. After all, this is country that Paul knew well. He had established churches in Ephesus, Galatia, Colossae, and who knows where else. This was his home turf; Asia was his back yard. And now, it’s as if he was being stonewalled. Paul’s dream of establishing the church of Christ in this little part of the world was looking grim. Darn that dream, anyhow. So Paul puts his finger in the wind, it seems, and ends up in the town of Troas on the banks of the Aegean Sea where (vs 9) A vision of a man from Macedonia came to Paul during the night. He stood, urging Paul, “Come over to Macedonia to help us.” And that was it; that’s all it took. Paul and his crew couldn’t wait to pack up and book passage to go west. I’ve always marveled at this move that Paul made. It was gutsy-or so it seemed. Courageous even. But...

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“It’s That Kind of Love” May 19, 2019

Posted by on Jun 26, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“It’s That Kind of Love” Psalm 148 Acts 11:1-18 John 13:31-35   For over 3 of the last 4 weeks, we have been working with Easter passages – stories of the resurrection and Christ’s appearance to the disciples. But this week, we go back to a story just before the cross and the resurrection. In John’s account, it is Thursday night: the night that we remember on Maundy Thursday. In fact the word Maundy comes from the Latin word manda’tum, meaning a mandate or command. So yes, on the night before Jesus’s death he is with his disciples – these are the ones who will bring the gospel to the world – with a grim reality: his death. Jesus is preparing the disciples for a life without him, at least a life without his physical presence. He is doing his best to comfort them and help them understand, but I don’t imagine there was a lot of understanding going on.  I can only imagine the incredible sense of dread that must have been hanging in that room: the shock, the disbelief, the burning ache in your gut because you just know that things are going terribly wrong. And so, Jesus speaks words of comfort; things are a little tense and everyone is on edge. But at the same time he is coaching, he is directing, he is showing them the mission that will lay before them after he is gone. I don’t imagine that the men who were eating the Passover meal with Christ understood the enormity of what Jesus had in mind. How could they? And so to prepare them to bring the good news in the world, to prepare them to be the body of Christ, he needed to show them the love of Christ. In John’s gospel, they went through that awkward moment when Jesus went around the room and washed their feet to show them the love of Christ. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke we know of how Jesus offered his body and his blood in the form of the bread and the wine to show the love of Christ. Wild stuff – extravagant! The time for stories and parables was pretty much over. Jesus needed to show them a love that they had never known, a love that they could only imagine. They had to be able to feel it, to taste it, and trust that it was real and forever. They had to believe it in their gut because this all led to the mandatum, the mandate that is the crux, the core of our Christian faith. We read it in vs.34 when Jesus spoke, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Now, I have to ask, does...

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