July 25, 2021 “The Unknowable Love of Christ”

Posted by on Sep 28, 2021 in Sermon Archives

“The Unknowable Love of Christ” Ephesians 3:14-21 John 6:1-21 “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because he loves us.” ~ C. S. Lewis “One who has been touched by grace will no longer look on those who stray as “those evil people” or “those poor people who need our help.”…. Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are.” ~ Phillips Brooks “What makes a man’s 80 year old Irish uncle skip like a little boy? ‘Me Father is very fond of me!’” ~ John Ortberg Jr. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ It was a man named Phillips Brooks who wrote, “One who has been touched by grace will no longer look on those who stray as “those evil people” or “those poor people who need our help.” Nor must we search for signs of “love-worthiness.” Grace teaches us that God loves because of who God is, not because of who we are.” If any one truth exists in this world that we need to be reminded of over and over, it is this: God loves because of who God is. Our reading today from Ephesians is a prayer – a prayer in every sense of the word – and in this prayer, the writer of Ephesians encourages us to seek out this kind of love. (vs 18) And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love—how wide, how long, how high, and how deep that love is. 19 Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. And no, this is not a contradiction in terms because even though we can never know the greatness of Christ’s love, we can know enough that it just might change everything. This is the crux of this prayer, I believe: that by believing that a love like this can even exist, we are changed, we are blessed, and we are able to do, as the prayer states, much, much more than we can ask or even think of. This is a prayer that needs to go on the refrigerator. This is a prayer that needs to be printed or embroidered and hung on the wall for all to see. I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love. Wow – just wow. There’s not a whole lot else to say here. Now, I’ve got a notion that the idea of pairing up this prayer from Ephesians with John’s story about the feeding of the multitudes was a really good idea. You might remember that in our reading last week from Mark’s gospel, we skipped over his account of the loaves...

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July 11, 2021 “When the Good News Ain’t So Good”

Posted by on Sep 28, 2021 in Sermon Archives

“When the Good News Ain’t So Good” Mark 6:14-29 “Count your blessings, not your problems. Count your own blessings, not someone else’s. Remember that jealousy is when you count someone else’s blessings instead of your own.”  ― Roy T. Bennett “Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” ― Charles Dickens “Don’t count your blessings, let your blessings count! Enjoy Life!” ― Bernard Kelvin Clive, _____________________________________________________________________________________________ All right, picture this if you will. Let’s say that you’ve experienced some kind of a medical situation which prompted you to go to a doctor who examined you from top to bottom, took vials of blood for testing, and then ran you through a CAT Scan and MRI. A week or so later, you get the phone call to come in for a “consultation.” Now there’s no way that anyone can walk into that doctor’s office without a care in the world. It is nerve-racking knowing there might be something going on- something wrong- but you don’t have any idea what that something might be. You’ve looked up your symptoms online, but that was no help unless you consider ramped up anxiety to be helpful. You’ve asked around – discretely, of course – but it turns out that no one knows a whole lot more than you do, which is next to nothing. So finally, there you are in the doctor’s office about to get some real answers. You’ve been running all the best case scenarios and the worst case scenarios through your mind for over a week, and that’s what makes this moment unique – not special, but unique. It’s a unique moment when a part of you wants desperately to cling to hope: hope that the tests will come back negative or at least say that what you have is treatable and everything is going to be fine. But the other half of you is dreading the worst and it is all you can do to keep that knot in your stomach from pulling tighter and tighter. It’s not a pleasant feeling being torn in two like that. Anyway, let’s say that in this imaginary situation you are finally sitting in the doctor’s office and after the preliminary chit-chat, the doctor leans over and says something that I imagine doctors are trained not to say to their patients: “I’ve got some good news, and I’ve got some bad news.” At this point, you are faced with a bit of a dilemma: do you take the good news first hoping that it might make the bad news not so bad? Or do you ask for the bad news right up front just to get it over with. Like I said, doctors usually won’t give you this choice. They will tell you what the tests indicated and then tell...

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July 4, 2021 “Shake The Dust”

Posted by on Sep 28, 2021 in Sermon Archives

“Shake The Dust” 2 Corinthians 12:2-10/ Mark 6:1-13 “True gospel preaching always changed the heart. It either awakens it or hardens it.” ~ Chan Kilgore “Well, it’s just painful to see them with nothing to eat and at the same time no God. So let’s share our food and our God.” ~ Jestoni Revealed “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another where to find bread.” ~ D. T. Niles ______________________________________________________________________________________________ I’m guessing that it was during the 70’s that the Hare Krishna movement was going full swing. It was a marketing push like I had never seen. In parking lots, airports, bus stations; anywhere they were permitted to be, you would see the followers of Krishna trying their best to enlighten their fellow citizens to the joyous revelation that we humans are eternal spiritual beings trapped in a cycle of reincarnation. The first one that stopped me was in an airport, I believe. There was no mistaking who I was dealing with: the long flowing robe, the shaved head, and the overpowering smell of patchouli oil were a dead giveaway. But I’m a curious guy so I stood and listened to his pitch about the supreme god Krishna and how we are nothing more than a collection of the lives that have come before us and peace and tranquility and spiritual awareness and then it was time for me to leave. I said something about having a plane to catch, thanked him politely for his time and his concern for my, and turned to walk away – but he followed me, talking the whole time. I was done, but he wasn’t, so to put an end to this awkwardness I’ll admit that I got a little rude. In fact, I got very rude – but he did leave me alone. But, just when I thought I was out of the woods, I arrived at my gate and there was another Hare Krishna person and he was heading straight for me. What to do, what to do. That’s when I thought, “I’ll pretend that I don’t speak English.” Now, I knew how to say “I don’t understand” in Spanish, but my face might make that a little hard to believe. So as he was getting started with his spiel about eternal reincarnation and my spiritual essence I scrunched my face up as best I could and blurted out, “Je en comprends.” I know now that I totally butchered the French pronunciation and anyone who actually spoke the language would have figured me out, but this time it worked. What happened next, however, caught me off guard. Rather than apologize in the same soft, sweet voice that he had been using up to this point, he simply looked at me and with a totally different voice, he said, “O, you don’t speak English, huh bub. Yea, well catch you later,” and...

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June 27, 2021 “God Knows Us Good, God Loves Us Better”

Posted by on Sep 28, 2021 in Sermon Archives

“God Knows Us Good, God Loves Us Better” Mark 5:21-43 “A powerful prayer is one that does not let go. It does not quit. It is profitable and powerful because it is persistent.” ~ Michael Catt “Who is of so little faith that in times of disaster or heartbreak has not called to his God?”  ~ Og Mandino “Fight you battles through prayer, and win your battles through faith.”  ~ Luffina Lourduraj    ___________________________________________________________________________________________ It was Maya Angelou that once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I have found this to be true. For as many times as we might shout the word “hot” to a toddler who is reaching for the wood stove, it only takes that one touch to make everything perfectly clear. Or, to be truer to what Ms. Angelou meant here, I like to think of the great writers and speakers of the world along with the great builders and makers of all sorts of things. But you know, if all their greatness never manages to touch us where it counts – in the heart – then they are forgotten the instant the next “great one” comes along. These two stories or parables of healing are like that. I’ve seen them analyzed every which way. I’ve been told that I should be fascinated by the coincidence that the woman on the street had suffered 12 years with her hemorrhaging which was the exact same age as Jauirs’s daughter. But I’m not even curious. I’ve also heard all the commentary that the scholars could offer. Yes, I get it that Jesus might have really goofed up here. Allowing himself to be touched by an “unclean” woman on the street could have gotten him in a lot of trouble, according to Jewish law. And likewise, touching a dead person, in the case of Jairus’s daughter, was a crime of the highest order. I get all that; but the fact that Jesus defied the law doesn’t get me all excited. This is nothing new. My confession today is that this particular scripture has always touched me on a different level. The details and the time and place don’t much matter. There’s something else; something far more powerful than what seem at first glance to be nothing more than the healing powers of the Son of God and the Son of Man. I swear that every time that I read these stories: the story of the woman who risked it all simply to touch the hem of his garment, and Mark’s telling of the very sick daughter of a very important man – every time, it just warms my heart. And for the life of me, I can’t say why that is so, but it does. But they do. You...

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June 13, 2021 “Explaining the Unexplainable: the Kingdom of God 101”

Posted by on Sep 28, 2021 in Sermon Archives

“Explaining the Unexplainable: The Kingdom of God 101” Mark 4:26-34 “The good deeds you do now are the treasures for the future.”  ~ Philippine proverb “Give good and get good.” ~ Estonian proverb “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson ______________________________________________________________________________________ “The Kingdom of God is like…” We’re going to be hearing that opening phrase a lot in the next few months. “This is what God’s kingdom is like,” are the first words of Christ in today’s gospel message. I’ve always imagined what it would be like to sit before Jesus and hear him say those words…to me – live, in person, in the flesh. I imagine the exhilaration I would feel knowing that after all this time – a lifetime, actually – I will finally learn the great mystical secret of God’s Kingdom. At last, I will be able to pray the words, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – I can pray these words with the satisfaction that I know how the whole thing works. After all, Jesus told me himself. But you know, that’s about as far as my imaginings go because like the disciples, Jesus doesn’t give me the password or show me the secret handshake. No, like the disciples, Jesus explains the Kingdom of God to me (and to us all) through parables. And like I said, we’re going to be hearing a lot of parables in the next few months; and most of them begin with the words, “The Kingdom of God is like…” So what is a parable? In some ways, maybe it’s easier to say what it’s not. According to theologian David Lose, a parable is not simply some kind of word puzzle for us to figure out where A=God and B=Jesus and C=us. Some do seem to work that way but they are not generally this secret encrypted message for us to decipher. They are also not tales or fables of morality. There is rarely a moral at the end for us to apply. Again, some parables have some definite moral implications, but they’re not the pearls of wisdom that we would like to think. No, instead parables are meant to shake things up. The word parable comes from two Greek words para, meaning “beside” and ballein, meaning “to throw.” So think of a parable as a story that is thrown beside your story. It is throwing one thing, like a vision of God’s kingdom, beside another, like the world as it is, just to see what happens. That’s the beauty of parables: they are unpredictable, they are disruptive, and because they often seem to challenge the things that we accept as truth, at least by the world’s standards, they can be a bit challenging. So what about these two...

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June 6, 2021 “Taking Leave of our Senses”

Posted by on Sep 28, 2021 in Sermon Archives

“Taking Leave of Our Senses” Mark 3:20-35 “The heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time.” ~ Douglas Wood “If the only prayer you said was ‘Thank you’, that would be enough.”  ~ Meister Eckhart “Got no checkbooks, got no banks. Still I’d like to express my thanks. I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night.” ~Irving Berlin It was the Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson who once made a rather humbling observation. He said, “It’s funny, isn’t it? That you can preach a judgmental and vengeful and angry God and nobody will mind. But you start preaching a God that is too accepting, too loving, too forgiving, too merciful, too kind…and you are in trouble.”  Now whether you agree with Bishop Robinson’s statement here or not, our message today from the gospel of Mark is all about the pitfalls and perils of goodness for goodness sake. So, let’s back up just a bit and picture the scene one more time. (Mk 3:20) 20 When he returned to the house where he was staying, the crowds began to gather again, and soon it was so full of visitors that he couldn’t even find time to eat. “The crowds began to gather again.” So yes, this had been going on for a while. In fact, if you back up, say, to chapter two you’ll see that Jesus has indeed covered a lot of ground in a very short time. At a house in Capernaum, the place was so packed that four men cut a hole in the roof so that they could lower a dear friend who was paralyzed into the room. And their plan worked; Jesus healed the man on the spot, but he got in trouble for it. Later he made friends with a tax collector, which would be about the same as palling around with the local drug dealer today. He ended up having a meal with this tax collector and some other riff-raff where he preached the good news of the Gospel and otherwise treated them with love and compassion. But he got in trouble for that, too. (Mk 2:16) 16 When some of the legal experts from among the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples, “Why is he eating with sinners and tax collectors?” 17 When Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.” He got into trouble because his disciples didn’t fast the way that the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees did. He got into trouble when his disciples pulled a few stalks of wheat to chew on during the Sabbath. (I guess that was considered work!) But what got him into big trouble was...

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