“Making the Sabbath Work” August 25, 2019

Posted by on Aug 30, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Making the Sabbath Work” Jeremiah 1:4-10 Hebrews 12:18-29 Luke 13:10-17   Does anyone remember the movie called “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”? It was based on the 1962 Broadway hit by the same name. I never had the chance to see it, but I do remember that Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics and it had an all-star cast. It was a situation comedy involving slaves and kings and senators in ancient Rome. But even though I never saw “A Funny Thing..” I remember it because it became such a common expression. Everyone had their own take on this catchy phrase: “A funny thing happened on the way to the grocery store,” or, “A funny thing happened on the way to the airport” – these might be stories that I could blab about today. But it is the gospel text from Luke that made me think of this. In a way, the story of “healing of the Sabbath” could fall under the category of “A funny thing happened on the way to the temple.” In fact, we could say that to be true about the bulk of Jesus’ ministry, because it seems like whenever he showed up, things happened that got people’s attention. (vs 10) reads Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. Not a big deal, right? I mean, in those days there were priests and such assigned to the temple, but just about anyone could get up and read to the congregation. There wasn’t a designated “preacher,” you could say. Bu these speakers were under the watchful eye of the chief priest. It was understood that everyone knew the rules and you don’t break the rules. The rest of the story you have just heard: Jesus spotted a woman bent over with what was probably advanced   rheumatoid arthritis. He had compassion for her – which Jesus seemed to do a lot – he healed her, and that’s when the trouble began. (vs 14) The synagogue leader, incensed that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, responded, ‘There are 6 days in which work is permitted. Come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’ Now, on a side note, I find it amazing that this dude considers the act of miraculous healing a form of work in the first place, but Jesus goes along with it. He explains to them what a bunch of phonies they are for saying such a thing because they technically do “work” on the Sabbath all the time. The priest doesn’t have much to say and the people in the temple are tickled pink. And so, the story ends, a point is made, and a lesson is learned. That really should be the end of it, but the beauty of the gospels and what makes them fascinating is the fact that...

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“When We Take This Stuff Seriously” August 18, 2019

Posted by on Aug 30, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“When We Take This Stuff Seriously” Isaiah 5:1-7/ Jeremiah 23:23-29 Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2 Luke 12:49-56 I’d have to say that one of the tough parts of writing a sermon is coming up with the proper title. It can be catchy, but not too cute; it can be corny, but not ridiculous; but most of all a good sermon title should give you an idea what is coming without giving it all away. As you can imagine, there have been some doozies over the years. I’m thinking of a pastor whose church was in the middle of big stewardship campaign. The treasurer and finance committee had strongly encouraged him to speak on the importance of tithing and giving to the church, which is always a touchy subject. It’s hard to say, but I have my doubts that the congregation was comforted with the sermon title that day, which read “The Sermon On the Amount,” especially those who maybe weren’t so familiar with the real Sermon On the Mount and therefore wouldn’t get the joke. And then we have today’s gospel text from (Lk 12:49) I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled. (51) Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, I have come to bring strife and division. So what do you think? What might be a good title if you were speaking on this troubling text? I spotted a few: “Disturber of the Peace” was one of them. “A House Divided” and “Jesus Lights a Fire” were some others. However, I have to admit that my first thought for a sermon title was something like, “Things I Wish That Jesus Had Never Said,” because this is not the kind and loving Jesus that I like to think about. This is not the warm and fuzzy Jesus; this is not the “Jesus is my best friend” kind of story that I pick to read to my grandkids. But here it is in both the gospels of Matthew and of Luke: From now on a household will be divided – 3 against 2, and 2 against 3. So let’s take a closer look at this somewhat troublesome text and hope to find the good news in the gospel of Luke. First of all, we need to consider that Jesus is speaking to a group of men who gave up their careers to follow him. Some had families, wives, and children that they left behind and I don’t imagine that everyone involved thought that this Jesus of Nazareth was worth it. From now on, a household will be divided.             Next, if you were Jewish, the idea of following Jesus was a problem. I mean, the Jewish people knew what a Messiah is like: he is all-seeing, all-knowing, and the liberator of the people of...

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“The Case for Bubble Gum & Umbrellas” August 4, 2019

Posted by on Aug 5, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Case for Bubble Gum & Umbrellas” Hosea 11:1-11 Colossians 3:1-11/ Luke 12:13-21   When I read through today’s gospel text earlier in the week, I groaned. I really, really didn’t want to preach on the “Parable of the Rich Fool;” I just didn’t. Every time this particular scripture comes up, you can just about bet there is a stewardship sermon coming and we’re going to be made to feel bad about our level of giving to the church, to the community, to whatever. I really, really didn’t want to do that. And so, when I find myself in a quandary like this, I’ve found it helpful to just let my tired brain go blank and simply pay attention to whatever happens to come along.  And so it was that as I was driving through traffic in the middle of the day on Baker St. that I happened to think about the time that I won the bubble gum blowing contest. Go figure. Now, for a 9 year old boy, there are few things in this world more entertaining than a lawn fete. These events are always held outdoors in the summer and are usually a fundraiser for something or other, but we didn’t care about that. All we were concerned with is that fact that there were lots of goodies to eat, lots of contests, and best of all, prizes. I had taken a few throws at the dunking tank, came in third in the sack race, and been told I was too little to compete with the big guys in the pie eating contest; all in all, the day wasn’t going as I had planned. But that was about to change when I chanced upon a table with the words “Bubble Gum contest. Blow the biggest bubble and win a prize!” Just my luck, it was about to begin, so I grabbed a bunch of Palooka Joe and jammed it in my mouth and proceeded to chew on it. Now, bubble gum is not my specialty – we could never afford such fancy things – so when the time came, it was just sheer luck that I found myself staring at a 5” bubble in front of my face. No one was more surprised than me. The tape measure came out and before I knew it, I had been declared the winner. But here’s the kicker: the grand prize for blowing the biggest bubble was, of all things, an umbrella. It was a great day, and when it was all over, I took my umbrella and went home with mom & dad. I went to bed and the umbrella went in the hallway closet. And that’s where it stayed – – for quite some time. I had all but forgotten about it until one day my dad asked, “So, what are you going to do with that...

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“If You Only Pray When You’re In Trouble, You’re In Trouble” July 28, 2019

Posted by on Aug 5, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“If You Only Pray When You’re In Trouble, You’re In Trouble” Genesis 18:20-32 Colossians 2:6-15 Luke 11:1-13   The N. Carolina preacher Delmer Chilton tells about his son and a particular struggle with the Lord’s Prayer. Young Joe wanted to play basketball in the summer league and the only one around was at Father Ryan High School. Now as you can tell by the name, Father Ryan High was a Catholic school, but they let Joe play with them anyways. There weren’t many folks went to the summer league games- just a few family and friends – and you could hear just about everything in that big empty gym. Now, at Father Ryan they’d say the “Our father” right before they would go out to play and Joe, being the good son of a Lutheran pastor, would chime right in. Of course the Roman version is more biblical: it doesn’t have the “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory” at the end. It just stops. Well, the first time they were praying it and everybody else stops, you could hear Joe go “for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glor-“ and then he looked around funny and afterwards he asked me about it, and I just said, “Well, the Romans are just more biblical about it and that’s not in scripture; it’s not in Matthew or Luke.” So he said OK, next time he’ll try to stop, but you know sometimes we just get on a roll. And so the next time he got about half way though the “For thine is the kingdom, and the power” and then just trailed off. The third time and they got praying and they all stopped and you could hear him saying, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power” and then he says “O, crap!” And you could hear him all over the gym. And I’m thinking to myself, “How many of our prayers do we just feel like stopping…and saying ‘O, crap!” Now I tell that story not just for the humor for me, but because of the nature of prayer. Too often we get all hung up on the piety of prayer; that we ought to say it this certain way and we ought to feel this way about it. There are important things about prayer as Jesus teaches us, but one of the things to recognize, as we see in this story from Genesis, is that it has to do with communication in a relationship of a very personal nature with the creator of the universe. (2) And that includes frustration and anger and not always being clear about what we’re asking for. If we only pray when we know what to say, we won’t pray very often. That being said, the same thing holds true that if we only pray...

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“Ain’t No Profit In Being a Prophet” July 21, 2019

Posted by on Aug 5, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Ain’t No Profit In Being a Prophet” Amos 8:1-12/ Psalm 52 Colossians 1:15-28/ Luke 10:38-42   Moishe was a medieval Jewish astrologer. One day, he happened to prophesy that the king’s favorite horse would soon die. Sure enough, the horse died a short time later. The king was outraged at the astrologer, certain that his prophecy had brought about the horse’s death. He summoned Moishe and commanded him, “Prophet, tell me when you will die!” Moishe realized that the king was planning to kill him immediately no matter what answer he gave, so he had to answer carefully. “I do not know when I will die,” he answered finally. “I only know that whenever I die, the king will die three days later.” No one, I don’t believe, has ever set out to become a prophet – at least not a prophet in the true sense of the word. I mean, think about it: to be a prophet is to be the mouthpiece of God. At first, that sounds like it might not be such a bad thing. Think of the sense of importance that you would feel. Think of how it would feel if whenever you would walk into a room, all conversation would stop; folks would find themselves speechless in your presence. Imagine what it would be like to rarely have to wait in line and always get the best seat in the house. Yea, it wouldn’t be a bad job. And when you would speak – O my – when you would speak, everyone would hang on every, every word. //// Now, I imagine that you’re all way out ahead of me on this because we all know that even though the words of the prophet are what brings them fame, they are also what gets them into trouble. To be a prophet is to be the mouthpiece of God; that’s understood. But there are times when that doesn’t matter. People are going to take it personal. This is the 2nd week of our study of the minor prophets, but don’t be fooled. Even though the books of Micah and Amos and Zechariah and the like are a little on the short side, they are packed with wisdoms that ought to be heard today. Our text today from Amos 8 starts out similar to last week’s text where the Lord showed to Amos a simple plumb line. (Amos 8:1) reads, This is what the Lord showed me: a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?”  I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again forgive them.”           “A basket of summer fruit.” A perfect symbol of prosperity, of wealth, of abundance; and that pretty much describes King Jeroboam and the northern nation of Israel. That, in...

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