“The Glory of U-Turns” December 8, 2019

Posted by on Dec 19, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“The Glory of U-Turns” Isaiah 11:1-10/ Romans 15:4-13 Matthew 3:1-12   “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” For those of us old enough to remember Andy Williams, this song and his voice are permanently burned into our brains. In so many ways, it is the perfect song for the Christmas season: it’s lively, it’s light, and, for me anyway, is always able to magically transform this, the darkest time of the year, into the “hap-happiest season of all.” The music, the lights, the celebrations – they’re all parts of this wonderful tradition that we call the Christmas season. Now, in keeping with the traditions of the season, no Advent would be complete without the introduction of John the Baptist. I know, I know – Matthew’s description of John the Baptist – his appearance and his preaching style – these are not the first things that come to mind at this hap-happy time of year. Case in point: how many Christmas cards have you seen with John the Baptist on the front? Not a one, right? I mean, let’s face it – it’s going to be a long time before Hallmark is going to start making those, but that’s OK. That’s OK, because we need the voice that cries out from the wilderness. We need an honest “heads up” about what to expect when God shows up to the world. We need a wake up call that when Jesus comes things are going to change; our understanding of God is going to change, the world is going to change, we are going to change. It was Fleming Rutledge that once said, “Advent is a season that forbids denial.” (X2) I’ve been stewing on that for a couple of days now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that is what John was driving at in our gospel message today. Matthew tells us of John who “came preaching in the wilderness of Judea” and preaching the simple message: repentance. If you want to be baptized; if you want to come clean in the waters of the Jordan, you have to come clean with your God. No more denial – time to confess of your sin. So it was that when the Pharisees and Sadducees showed up to be baptized, John rightfully figured out that they were going to skip the repentance part. They were, after all, above reproach. They were chosen by God to lead the nation of Israel in worship and obedience to the law. They were special. But they were missing the point; the point being that even though they may have been special, their sins were not. (Matt 3:7 NIV) When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the place of his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit worthy of repentance.” (CSB) “Produce...

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“Our Hope Is Built” December 1, 2019

Posted by on Dec 19, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Our Hope Is Built” Isaiah 2:1-5 Romans 13:11-14 Matthew 24:36-44   ADVENT… what a perfect word for this this four-week period that come before the day that we  celebrate the moment that our God became flesh and came to live among us. If you want a simple translation from the Latin, the word “Advent” means “coming.” In other words, “No more talking about it, no more wondering about it – this is it. The Messiah, our Redeemer, is coming. He’s on his way.” Now as a kid, I understood Advent a lot different than I do today. My 7 year old self understood this 4-week period of watching and waiting for Christmas – the greatest day ever, by the way – my 7 year old self understood this thing called Advent as nothing more than yet another form of torture cooked up by adults to make my life miserable. Some of the other kids didn’t have to do this; they didn’t have to watch and wait. No, their party started at Thanksgiving and just got better and better until they were opening presents under the tree. But here’s the thing: despite my impatience, I did manage to pick up on a few things. I managed to learn a bunch of new songs; even learned to sing harmony. And I learned that these were special songs that we only sang at this special time of year. Also, I learned about this guy named John the Baptist who was Jesus’ cousin and they were born pretty close to the same time. It was like my cousin Dale and me. I learned a lot of things, but mostly I learned that after Jesus was born, a lot of things changed. People started believing that there could be such a thing as peace on earth and good will to all men. Folks started to understand that our God loves us – really loves us – and that’s the reason Jesus was born; to prove just how much. When Jesus came a lot of things changed; it was a few years later before I realized one of those things was me. For the next few weeks as we journey through the Advent season, we will doing the traditional stuff. We will read about John the Baptist and about Mary and Joseph. We’ll also be reading from the prophet Isaiah as well as Paul’s letter to the churches in Rome and the writings of James. As we do this, though, I’d like us to stay focused on the Christ: the Christ that was born then and the Christ that lives within us now. I’m hoping that in our worship together we will stay on our toes. I’m hoping that we‘ll stay aware that Jesus is always pursuing us; he never forgets or gives up on us. So let’s choose to be awake and alert because,...

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“This Is Our King” November 24, 2019

Posted by on Dec 6, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“This Is Our King” Jeremiah 23:1-6 Colossians 1:11-20 Luke 23:33-43   Greetings and welcome to worship on this, the 24th of November in the year of our Lord, 2019. This week, the church celebrates “Christ the King” or “The Reign of Christ” Sunday and it’s kind of a big deal. It’s a big deal because this is a hinge week – sort of a pivot point – between the liturgical season of Ordinary Time and Advent. To put that into perspective, this season we call “ordinary time” began all the way back in June on Pentecost Sunday. In that time, we have read from the writings of the prophets in the Old Testament, as well as the letters of Paul. But mostly, our worship has been centered on the gospel writings of the Apostle Luke. I’ve always considered Ordinary Time to be the meat and potatoes of the church year. It’s during this time that we revisit the parables, the teachings, and the ministry of Christ. It’s a time to regroup, to rethink, and to imagine once again what it is to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It’s the time that we celebrate our place in the Kingdom of God… as Christians and as the church. But with the coming of Advent and then, the Christmas season, it has always seemed to me that things get more personal. It’s the time that we turn from the practical to the… well, the magical. The coming of Advent is the time when we stop asking “how” Jesus wants things done, and turn to the amazing truth that our God has a love too big, too pure, and too amazing for us to ever really understand. Emmanuel, God with us; these are words we will be speaking and singing for the next month. And we marvel at this incredible thing that the prophets told us would come to be. Our reading from the prophet Jeremiah today is just one of many: (Jer 23:5)  “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. “A righteous Branch, and he shall reign as King.” You have to love the power of a statement like that. The wise scholars who put together what we call the Lectionary made an excellent choice here. That’s what Christ the King Sunday is all about – – at least we would think. What I mean is that when we look at the lectionary choices for this special Sunday, we would expect something glorious from the book of Revelation; perhaps, Jesus sitting on a jeweled throne, decked out in splendid robes and a jeweled crown. Or something majestic from Isaiah: “Onto us a son is given and the government will be upon his shoulders.” Or at...

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“Thanks Be to Our God” November 17, 2019

Posted by on Dec 6, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Thanks Be to Our God” Isaiah 65:17-25/ Isaiah 12 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Luke 21:5-19   When I was 15 or so, my folks sold the ranch style house that I grew up in and bought what my dad used to refer to as “a gentleman farm.” It was a great place: old farm house that was in good shape, outbuildings, a big old barn, and it even had what was left of a milk house. The previous owners weren’t terribly ambitious, which might explain why they had to “sell the farm,” but for us it was perfect. For my dad, it was his dream come true. He picked up a handful of horses and even boarded horses for other folks around the area. Funny thing is, though – I never saw him ride. Someone asked him about that once: “Bernie, what are you doing with all these horses if you don’t want to ride them?”  All he would say was, “I like listening to them eat.” My folks lived there and loved that place for 40 some years until health issues forced them to move into a duplex – a whole lot less maintenance. Years later when I went back for my dad’s memorial service, I asked my mom if she’d like to take a drive out to the old place. She hesitated a bit, but finally said, “Sure.” But once we got there, I realized that maybe this had been a mistake. The new owners lived overseas, mostly, and although it wasn’t terrible bad, you could see at a glance that this place-this place that they had loved for so long-was getting run down. It bothered me to see a piece of siding on the west side of the house just hanging there – ready to fall. It broke my heart to see my mom rubbing her eyes as she told me, “Let’s go. Let’s go; I don’t ever want to come back.” Our gospel story today finds us in Jerusalem, the center of the nation of Israel. Israel was not, however, the proud nation that they used to be, yet they still clung to the hope of deliverance, the hope of reliving those days of glory.  (Lk 21:5) 5 Some people were talking about the temple, how it was decorated with beautiful stones and ornaments dedicated to God. Jesus said, 6 “As for the things you are admiring, the time is coming when not even one stone will be left upon another. All will be demolished.” 7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will these things happen? What sign will show that these things are about to happen?” Jesus obliges them with a long list of …well, rather unpleasant things. “Imposters will come in my name with tales of doom and gloom. Don’t listen to them. Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other. Don’t sweat it. There will be earthquakes and...

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“Hypotheticals and What Ifs” November 10, 2019

Posted by on Dec 6, 2019 in Sermon Archives

“Hypotheticals and What Ifs” Haggai 1:15b – 2:9 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17 Luke 20:27-38   A 4th grade elementary teacher was wanting to teach her students about self-esteem, and she had an idea but she wasn’t so sure about it. So, one day in a staff meeting she said, “What if – hypothetically now – what if I were to ask in the classroom; what if I were to say something like “Anyone who truly thinks that you are stupid, stand up?” Most of the other teachers thought that this would be a fine idea. It would encourage the kids. It might teach them that even though they might struggle, they still have worth; they’re smarter than they think.” And so the next day, that’s what she did. But when one kid stood up, she was surprised. She really didn’t think anyone would actually stand up, so she asked, “Why did you stand up?” His answer was one for the books when he said, “I didn’t want to leave you standing up by yourself.” In our gospel text from Luke, the Sadducees are looking to trip up the master with a “what if” situation that is almost bizarre. First off, let’s remember that the big difference between the Pharisees and the Sadducees was their understanding of the writings of Moses when it comes to resurrection.               The Pharisees believed and preached in life after death, while the Sadducees did not, and that was the point of this crazy hypothetical with the 7 brothers all marrying the same wife. According to the law, if a man dies childless, it is his brother’s obligation to take the widow as his wife and raise up children for his brother. Now that, in itself, to our modern ears is way out there, but it was the law. And to the Sadducees, the law was everything. So to disprove the resurrection, they spin this crazy hypothetical about a man who dies childless. His brother then does the lawful thing by marrying the widow but he too dies with no children, and on down the line a total of 7 brothers- until everyone has passed from this world and there are still no children born. The “gotcha” question comes when they ask Jesus whose wife she would be in heaven. You have to wonder if they stayed up half the night thinking up this brilliant scheme. But here’s the thing – Jesus doesn’t rise to the bait. Instead, he patiently tells the Sadducees that they have missed one important point. Their conception of God is too small. To understand- to grasp- the whole idea of a resurrection according to our earthly terms and conditions is, frankly, impossible. We may know how to make a Key Lime pie and we might understand advanced algebra, but all the knowledge and experience in this world combined don’t bring us...

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