“Never Holler ‘Whoa!’ In a Bad Spot”

Posted by on Nov 4, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Never Holler ‘Whoa’ In a Bad Spot” Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4/ Ephesians 1:11-23 Luke 6:20-31   Have you noticed how every occupation seems to have its own language? Just sit across the table from a group of engineers or doctors or, heaven forbid, teachers and you’ll see what I’m talking about. In the same way, every occupation seems to have its own lingo; unique sayings and expressions that just happen over the years from people who work together to do this work. The oldest joke in the books is the elevator operator who will tell you that his job has its ups and downs. I spent enough time in the woods that I have collected a truckload of colorful expressions – most of which I can’t repeat here. But there was one that stuck with me; one that a fellow named Gordon used to say all the time: “Never holler ‘Whoa!” in a bad spot-” he’d say it all the time. It made a lot of sense to those who knew Gordon because that’s how he lived: full speed ahead, no hesitation. On the very first week my son had his driver’s license, he approached an intersection going way too fast for a road that was covered with ice. The way he explained it to me was, “I say that pickup coming, but when I hit the brakes it just started to slide. That’s when I remembered what you always used to say – Never holler whoa in a bad spot – so I punched it. I almost made it, too, but he couldn’t stop any better than I could.” The moral of the story, I suppose, is don’t invest a lot of money in your kid’s first car. Today is the Sunday we choose to celebrate All Saints Day. It was one of John Wesley’s favorite “Special” days in the church calendar year, and I’d have to agree with that sentiment. With Thanksgiving right around the corner and as we approach the season of Advent, it’s a good thing; it’s a good thing that we force ourselves, in a way, to take a little breather and give some credit – give some recognition – to the saints that have blessed our lives. It’s a good thing and hopefully it will cause us, once again, to remember that we aren’t that special – not by ourselves. I mean, think about it -every word we speak, every habit, every quirk and peculiarity that we possess has been learned from someone, somehow, somewhere along the way. Our lesser selves, our greater selves, even our not-so-exciting selves are pretty much a result of the people and ideas that have touched our lives. They inspire us, and when we are inspired, we are changed. Who are the saints in our lives? Not everyone gets to grow up with Augustine for an uncle or Mother...

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“Goody Two-Shoes” October 27, 2019

Posted by on Nov 4, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Goody Two Shoes” Joel 2:23-32/ 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 15-18 Luke 18:9-14   We’re all familiar with the expression “Goody Two Shoes,” and I imagine we can all pretty much agree on what it means in normal conversation. The official definition of goody two shoes is “a person who always does everything right and always follows the rules, so much so that it becomes annoying.” Does that sound about right? Yea, I thought so. Now, as far as we know, this quaint expression became famous thanks to a children’s book written in 1765 called, “The History of Little Goody Two Shoes.” It’s the story of a poor orphan girl named Margery Meanwell who goes through life with only one shoe. When a rich gentlemen gives her a complete pair, she is so happy that she tells everyone that she has “two shoes.” She later becomes a teacher, marries a rich widower, and (wouldn’t you know it) lives happily ever after. The moral of the story was popular at the time – virtue and goodness will be rewarded. End of story. So, you have to wonder how it is that if someone calls you a goody two shoes, it is meant as an insult. Little Margery Meanwell was a darling character; everyone loved her. She wasn’t annoying at all. But we’ve twisted it up over the years, as we are sometimes want to do. So what I’m trying to say is that if perhaps some mean person were to call you a goody two shoes, just relax. Give them a big smile and thank them, because it’s not that big of a deal- – not when you know the real story of Goody Two Shoes. In this week’s gospel story, Jesus tells a parable to a group of folks that Luke says “had convinced themselves that they were righteous.” That’s all we know. They’re not Pharisees or religious leaders necessarily; Luke only tells us they were “certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else in disgust.” You talk about a tough audience. So Jesus tells a parable. Two men go up to the temple to pray. The first is a Pharisee, a religious leader, an insider, and a big part of the spiritual life in the community. His prayer is meant to be a prayer of thankfulness – of genuine gratitude – but it comes off more like a progress report to God: “I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers.” And then with all the humility he can muster, he brags about how pious he has been: “I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of my income.” When he is finished, he gets up and goes on his way. We can assume that – and this is important – we can assume that he leaves...

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“We Are the Church” October 20, 2019

Posted by on Nov 4, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“We Are the Church” Jeremiah 31:27-34 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5/ Luke 18:1-8   In the United Methodist Church, we have chosen to celebrate the 3rd Sunday of October as Laity Sunday. It is a “time to recognize the work and the mission of all the laity – not only in the walls of the church, but in everyday lives.” So now, that’s the official explanation: “To recognize the work and the mission of all the laity.” That’s kind of funny when you consider that 90 some odd years ago when a group of Methodist men created “Laymen’s Sunday” the women of our congregations seemed to have been left out. So yes, some things have changed; and for the better I might add. But by and large, this thing we call “church” hasn’t changed structurally since John Wesley first set it up. A group of like minded folks (laity) get together and decide they would like to gather together on a regular basis to fellowship, sing hymns, and worship God. The next thing you know, these same folks, (plus a few more, maybe) are constructing a building of some sort. They’re making a church. Now, keep in mind that all kinds of decisions need to be made in a project of this sort. Everything from the color of the outside to the design of the pews and furniture has to be decided as the people are building the church. Worst of all, these decisions – the decisions for every detail, every major and minor thing – has to be made by a committee, of sorts – the laity, the lay people of the church. But they do it. Sure, there’s some discussions along the way; disagreements here and there. But in the end it is the resources and the time and the energy and the love of God by the people – the laity – that make this wonderful thing happen. Finally, a pastor or minister is brought in to lead in worship, offer the sacraments, and perform the duties asked of them. They may be wonderful or not so much, but either way they will serve the church for a few years and then, inevitably, they will move on. So if you were to ask if it makes any sense to honor a “time to recognize the work and mission of all the laity;” if you were to ask if we even need to bother, I would have to answer, “You bet we do.” You bet, because the laity is the heart of the church; the laity is the soul of the Kingdom of God on this earth. Laity Sunday – a whole day dedicated to the people of the church. How do you summarize that in 1000 words or less? Well, you just can’t. If we were to take turns sharing stories of those we have known on our...

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“When We Say Grace” October 13, 2019

Posted by on Nov 4, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“When We Say Grace” Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 2 Timothy 2:8-15 Luke 17:11-19   So, how are you? (……) Come on now, it’s a question we get asked every day. So just for kicks, I’d like to ask you again and invite you all to speak out the way that you always do when someone asks, “How are you?” So, here goes: “How are you today?” (…..) Very good. See, it just comes natural. It’s about the easiest thing in the world to do, which is a good thing, because we do it every day all day long. “So how’re you doing?” someone will ask. “Fine, thank you,” we reply. It is the perfect exchange. Someone asks about your well-being, you give them a report and then thank them for asking. It’s perfect. Now I bring this up mainly because of the today’s gospel text from Luke: the story of Jesus and the healing of 10 lepers. This story is unique to the gospel of Luke – it’s not told anywhere else – and right off the bat we sense that there is an important lesson to be learned. But like so much of the teachings of Christ, this lesson is as “plain as the nose on your face,” as they say. Is it about the horror of things like Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and how we should be grateful that we live in a time & place where it is under control? Well, yes you could say that. Or is it about the incredible compassion of Christ? I mean, think about it: to give aid and comfort to a beggar was one thing. We buy a meal, we donate to the Food Bank, we offer up money to homeless relief – these are things that we do willingly. But lepers were worse off than beggars. Lepers were done for – beyond hope – and worst of all, to approach them, to breathe the same air that they breathe, was putting yourself at risk of catching this horrible disease. It’s hard for us to imagine. It really is, but we need to try if are to hope to understand the depth of compassion that was in Christ. He was approached by not just one leper.  (vs 12) And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” And I imagine that the first thing that Jesus said to them was not, “Hey, how’re you guys doing?” No, he sends them off to be certified by the priest because their prayers had been answered – they were healed. So is the lesson to be learned here simply that no matter how desperate and grim our situation might be, we can rely on God’s mercy to pull us through?  Well, yes, you could say...

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“Extraordinary, Ordinary Faith” October 6, 2019

Posted by on Nov 4, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Extraordinary, Ordinary Faith” Lamentations 1:1-6 2 Timothy 1:1-14 Luke 17:5-10   A nun who works for a local health care agency was out making her rounds when she ran out of gas.  As luck would have it, there was a station just down the street. She walked to the station to borrow a can with enough gas to start the car and drive to the station for a fill up. The attendant regretfully told her that the only can he owned had just been loaned out, but if she would care to wait he was sure it would be back shortly. Since the nun was on her way to see a patient, she decided not to wait and walked back to her car. After looking through her car for something to carry to the station to fill with gas, she spotted a bedpan she was taking to the patient. Always resourceful, she carried it to the station, filled it with gasoline, and carried it back to her car. As she was pouring the gas into the tank of her car, two men walked by. One of them turned to the other and said. “Now that is what I call faith!” In our Gospel text today, the disciples make what seems to me a reasonable request: “Increase our faith!” they say. “We want to go to the next level; we want to have faith that is bigger and better and faster…and, well Jesus, we want a faith as big as yours.” At first glance, like I said, this seems a reasonable request. They’re not asking for wealth or prestige or comfort or safety. They’re not even asking for world peace or the cure for cancer. They’re simply asking for faith. I don’t know – isn’t that a good thing? Well, apparently not because rather than give them a simple “yes” or “no,” Jesus instead seems to get a little impatient with them, saying “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this Mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Say what? Now I can’t help but put myself in the apostles’ shoes at that particular moment. “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed?” What’s that supposed to mean? Does that mean that my faith is so miniscule and pathetic that I’m at the atomic level? Even smaller than that? Sub-atomic? If I were one of the disciples at that moment, I would be upset, I would be confused; I would be hurt. And I would be wrong. The beauty and the wisdom of this teaching of Christ is in how it points out the fact that we are not a people of great faith or a people of little faith – the beauty and wisdom lies in the fact that we can rejoice that...

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