“But We Had Hoped” April 26, 2020

Posted by on Apr 28, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“But We Had Hoped” Luke 24:13-35 Today’s gospel reading for this, the 3rd Sunday of Easter, comes from the gospel of Luke. The story of the Road to Emmaus is unique. It is found only in the gospel of Luke, but here’s the thing – it is first and foremost a resurrection story. So, we’re going to take a little break. We’re going to take a break from images of the empty tomb and of the disciples holed up, locked in a dark room afraid for their lives. Today we find ourselves traveling a road, and if we give it half a chance we’ll notice that it’s a road that is all too familiar to our journey of faith – right here and right now. I have to say that I love this story; I love it for its own sake. I mean, think about it: it has all the ingredients of a great story. First of all, when Jesus met these two men on the road to Emmaus, they didn’t have a clue who he is. His identity was hidden from them. They didn’t know, but we do which adds to the suspense. Now, it’s safe to assume that these two were part of a larger group of followers that traveled with Jesus throughout his ministry – the larger group apart from the 12 disciples that we know well. But that was all over – it was done. That part of their life was kaput. The events of the past few days had left them anxious and fearful and staring at a future that looked bleak. The betrayal, the arrest, and the cruelty of crucifixion – they had seen it all. Now they were heading home wondering to themselves, “What’s next?” And so when Jesus asked them what they had been talking about, it was Cleopas that snapped at him, (vs. 18) Are you the only one in Jerusalem that hasn’t heard what’s happened during the last few days? For Jesus, it was a classic Columbo moment. “Tell me,” he said, “what’s happened?” So they did, and all of the pain and agony and disappointments of the last few days came pouring out. It’s funny how we can sometimes share what is really on our hearts better with a total stranger than with someone we know. A stranger doesn’t know you; they don’t know your quirks; your good points and your bad. A stranger is not in a position to judge. If this wasn’t so, there’d be a lot of therapists out of work right now. Imagine if they had known somehow. Imagine if all the doubt and frustration had spilled out only to find that they were in fact speaking with the Son of God himself. But Jesus let them speak. Jesus listened, Jesus loved, and then Jesus spoke up. He proceeded to school them, you might...

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EASTER LETTERS April 19, 2020 “Seeing Isn’t Always Believing”

Posted by on Apr 20, 2020 in Sermon Archives

Notes from the pastor ~ “Spring has sprung, the grass is ris – I wonder where the flowers is?” I had a neighbor when I was growing up that was infatuated with Spring. Starting mid-February, you could rely on Chet to step out his front door whenever the mood hit him and holler, “C’mon Spring!” He even put signs in the front yard counting down the days: “18 days until Spring!” “17 days until Spring!”  Well, wouldn’t you know it but all that hollering paid off because every year the grass grew and flowers popped up and Spring showed up right on time – just like always. Thanks, Chet. Thanks for the help. I caught myself looking at the early signs of Spring a few weeks back: the first Robin, daffodils, hyacinths, and then later the riot of color on the trees. And as I wiped the pollen off the windshield of the car, I thought, “This is wonderful – but it’s just not right!” It was a silly thought, I admit. It was silly to think that just because my world has been disrupted, the natural order of the world should somehow shift to accommodate little old me. Silly. For what it’s worth, I happened to hear a radio commentator express the same concern a few days later. He came to the same conclusion as me: God is good and we will get through this. In the meantime, enjoy the season and treasure the moments that will come from living in these unique times. The question that haunts me, however, is what will we look like as the body of Christ when we come out on the other side of the period of isolation? Will churches be remembered as nothing more than institutions that hunkered down and kept to themselves? Will religious institutions be remembered as a body of do-gooders that didn’t do much good? I think not. So what can we do? What can we do to show the world that the church can be a healing power in a hurting world? In a recent article titled Church Is Not “Cancelled,” our conference Stewardship consultant Cesie Delve Scheuermann asks the question, “What are we doing to be church NOW?” Hundreds of signs on hundreds of doors at hundreds of churches tell the same story: “Sorry, we’re closed.” What does this say to a person who is out of work? What does this say to a family that has been hit hard by the effects of wide spread disease? “What are we doing to be church NOW?” Well, we can start by changing the signs on our front doors. Sure, we need to inform folks that our worship services are suspended. But why not provide a listing of food banks and assistance programs that the church supports? Why not invite folks to visit our web sites and Facebook...

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LENT LETTER April 5, 2020 “The Beauty of Christ, the Glory of Christ”

Posted by on Apr 19, 2020 in Sermon Archives

 Notes from the Pastor ~ We’ve certainly learned a lot in the past week or so. “How big is a virus,” the 5 year old asked. The teacher replied, “Well, do you know what a cell is? We are made up of zillions of little teeny cells that you can only see with a microscope. They are like Legos, all hooked together to make us who we are. But they are really, really teeny. A virus is even teenier than a cell. Here’s a way to look at it: if a cell is as big as a 3-story building, then a virus would be the size of a soccer ball. That’s how teeny a virus is.” I was showing off my new found knowledge about viruses to my son this week. I told him that a virus is neither alive or dead. “It is simply a strand of DNA or RNA covered with a protective layer of some protein/fat stuff; if you can remove the fat, then the DNA/RNA strand falls apart. That’s why things like alcohol and bleach and scrubbing with soap works on these little guys.” “Sounds kind of like a string of computer code,” he said. My son is a software engineer, by the way. “But what you’re saying is that it’s actually like a string of bad code; and once it gets into a cell, it rewrites the cell’s code and makes a big mess. Yeah, I get that.” Which makes perfect sense for a guy who spends the better part of his day writing computer code. It’s all Greek to me. Like I said, we have certainly learned a lot in the last few weeks. So how do we even begin to approach Palm Sunday in this time of quarantine? So many of our Easter traditions are steeped in our acts of worship: the decorating of the church, the waving of palm branches, the telling of the story, and of course, the music. How do we do all that? The simple answer is: we can’t – at least not the way that we used to do things. What we can do is to follow our heart. But not only that, we need to follow our gut. We need to pay attention to the restlessness we feel in this time of uncertainty. We need to pay attention to that nervous notion that seems to hang over our communities. We need to pay attention to  where we place our trust. It was Shannon Alder that once said, “Fear is the glue that keeps you stuck. Faith is the solvent that sets you free.” When this pandemic is over, let our prayer be that we emerged as a people of faith; a people of trust. The Franciscan friar Richard Rohr writes, “For many of us, this may be the first time in our lives that we felt...

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LENT LETTER March 29, 2020 “All the Light We Can See”

Posted by on Apr 19, 2020 in Sermon Archives

Notes from the pastor ~     Comedian Steve Martin gave a series of classes on the art of ……well, comedy. I chanced across it the other day and found some valuable life lessons. He said, “A lot of people that are starting out ask me questions; questions like: ‘How do I find a good agent? What is the best way to advertise to get the best exposure for the best price?’ Things like that. What they need to be asking, I think, is, ‘How do I get good?’ That’s what they need to work on – getting good.” How strange it is to be a church without a building. For those of us who have stopped in, or even drove by, our place of worship, I get it. I understand that sinking feeling in your stomach: that sense of loss, that sense of dread that this may go on for a very long time. We’ve put our hearts and sweat and resources into this building we call the church. We’ve been good at it, and it has made us better.  But now, everything…is…on…hold. Or is it? We’ve heard it before: “The church is not its steeple, the church is its people.” This is true enough, but even the persecuted Christians in the time of Peter and Paul could sneak down to the river to worship. My point is that we don’t miss our buildings so much as we miss the fellowship of the Spirit in our time of worship. The act of worship feeds our weary souls: the singing, the sacraments, the hearing of God’s word, and oh….did I mention singing?  They are part of who we are. But it’s time, at least for a while, to do things different. We are without the tools that we know and love; maybe what we need to do is work on getting good. We can work on getting good at seeing the hand of God in this world we live in today. The gestures of kindness, the offers of help to those who are out of work or out of touch: this is what being Christ in the world is all about. So, heads up. Keep your eyes peeled. You might be surprised at how much the “church” can do in a hurting world. You might be surprised at how good we really are, even when the “church” can’t go to church. Another piece of advice that Steve Martin gave his students was, “Never open your set by saying, ‘How ya doing?’ You’ve just wasted the most important part of your routine. It’s the only chance you get to make a first impression. Don’t blow it by saying something like that.” Well, I’m going to break that rule and ask, “How are you doing?” l want to know – we all want to know. Maybe this is another way we can...

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Easter Message April 12, 2020 “God Bless the Amateurs”

Posted by on Apr 19, 2020 in Sermon Archives

Notes from the pastor ~ Have you ever found something amongst all your “stuff” and was thoroughly frustrated because you had no idea where it came from? Like so many of us, I have collected a lot of music in my day. I have boxes of vinyl, tons of tapes, and enough CD’s to repave Main Street. They all have a story – there is a reason why I have these in my possession, even if it’s because the kids left them behind. But a few years ago, I ran across a CD that still has me baffled. It was a home-made affair; nothing special. Written on the front is “John Prine + Mac Wiseman ~ Standard Songs for Average People.” I must have packed it around for a year before I took the time to listen to this little treasure…and it still brings a smile to my face years later. Now, I have always liked the music of John Prine but wasn’t familiar with Mac Wiseman. It took some research to discover that Wiseman was a bluegrass singer whose career started in the 40’s and continued for 50 plus years. He was known as “The Voice With a Heart.” But back to this little treasure of a CD… I like to call it a treasure because it is full of gems. Wiseman was 82 years old when this was recorded, and even though his voice was showing its age, he still had the touch. The songs on this mystery CD were delightful as well; songs like “Pistol Packin’ Momma” and “Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Age” to name a few. But what really turned my head was when I first heard the opening verse to “The Old Rugged Cross.” My first reaction was that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. I mean really – the idea of placing a hymn on the same album as “Pistol Packin’ Momma” was just… well, it caught me off guard. It didn’t take long, however, before I got over it and soon I had no problem at all listening to “Blue Eyed Elaine” followed by “In The Garden.” I fell in love with this collection. It is relaxed, it is comfortable and it is real. Bottom line is that this album wasn’t created to set the world on fire. It was simply the effort of two old guys that decided to do some great music they had always wanted to do. Mac Wiseman died in 2019 at the age of 94. John Prine passed away last week from complications of the Covid 19 virus. He was only 73. I salute you gentlemen – for your heart, for your music, and, in your own way, for your love of the Lord our God. I only wish I could find out who it was that gave me that CD so that I could...

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