May 30, 2021 “On Being Jesus”

Posted by on Sep 28, 2021 in Sermon Archives

“On Being Jesus” John 3:1-17 “God so loved the world that he gave his son to that world, that those who put their confidence in him would not lead a miserable, failing existence, but have eternal life, which is the kind of life God has.” ~ Dallas Willard “It isn’t sacrifice if you love what you’re doing.” ~ Mia Hamm For the baseball fans in the crowd today, the name Jim Palmer should sound familiar. In his 19 year career with the Baltimore Orioles, Palmer made quite a name for himself. He was the winningest MLB pitcher in the 1970’s, with 186 wins. He also won 3 Cy Young awards and 4 Gold Gloves during that same decade. His career number of 268 wins is still a Baltimore record. So you get the idea: Jim Palmer was one heck of a pitcher, especially for a right hander. He was also somewhat of a pistol, and even though he was always quick to give his teammates credit when it was due, he didn’t hold back when they fell short. His long standing feud with manager Earl Weaver was legendary. Now Weaver had played in the minor leagues, but never made the cut to major league baseball before becoming a manager. To this fact, Palmer had stated, “The only thing Earl Weaver knows about big-league pitching is that he couldn’t hit it;” also adding that, “Most pitchers are too smart to be managers.”  But in Weaver’s defense, I have to concede that Jim Palmer had constantly nursed one injury after another during his career with the Orioles. Weaver once told the press, “The Chinese tell time by ‘The Year of the Horse’ or “The Year of the Dragon.’ I tell time by ‘The Year of the Back’ and ‘The Year of the Elbow.’ This year it’s ‘The Year of the Ulnar Nerve.’ Someone once asked me if I had any physical incapacities of my own. ‘Sure, I do,’ I said, ‘One big one – Jim Palmer.’” Now, I know that we did not gather here today to talk about baseball. It is Trinity Sunday, after all. This is the Sunday that kicks off the long season in the Christian calendar called Common Time or Ordinary Time: both of which I find a bit disagreeable. But from now until Advent, we will be focusing on the ministry of Jesus through the gospels of John and Mark, along with a return to our ongoing visits to the prophets and letters of Paul and James, and the book of Hebrews. But on this day – Trinity Sunday – let’s have a look at the big picture before we dive into the boatload of scripture in the months ahead. The Trinity – everybody knows what that is, right? The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Easy. But everybody also knows that whenever we get...

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May 23, 2021 “The Heart of the Matter, the Letter of the Law, & the Spirit of Truth”

Posted by on Sep 28, 2021 in Sermon Archives

“The Heart of the Matter, the Letter of the Law, & the Spirit of Truth” John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 “When you strip it of everything else, Pentecost stands for power and life. That’s what came into the church when the Holy Spirit came down on the day of Pentecost.” ~ David Wilkerson “I used to tell young preachers, in order to preach, you’ve got to have the power of God on your life. Now I tell them, in order to tie your shoes you’ve got to have the power of God on your life.” ~ Paul Washer You know, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember the last time that I pulled an all-nighter. It might have been the time when an old friend of mine showed up from El Paso and we stayed up playing guitar and singing and talking about all the goofy things we did as kids until, all of a sudden, the sun was coming up. Or it might have been the time in high school a week before graduation that a group of us made it our mission to stay up until morning – and we did it! One of us had to give a speech the next day for valedictorian or some such thing, (and that was hilarious,) but we did it. We pulled it off. Needless to say, as we older grow the prospects of staying awake until the rooster crows are slim at best. Now the reason I bring this up is because when you think about it, our message from the gospel of John is a small part of what turned out to be an all-nighter. The Passover meal was finally over and Jesus had sat with his disciples to give them their final set of instructions before his arrest. The all-nighter ended, you might say, when later in the courtyard, Peter denied knowing the Christ on 3 separate occasions. It was only the crowing of a rooster that woke him up to what he had done. It had truly been a long night. Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe this day and night in similar terms: they eat the Passover meal, Jesus presents his body and his blood in the bread and the cup, Judas sneaks off, and then Christ is arrested once they venture out after dark. John, on the other hand, devotes 5 entire chapters to the time spent that evening. It begins with the act of washing his disciples’ feet and ends with John’s record of the prayer for protection that Jesus prays to the Father just before they went out to the garden, where he was arrested. We read from part of this prayer last week. My point is, if you are looking for the nuts and bolts of what Jesus wants his disciples to do and to be, his teachings here in John’s gospel are...

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May 16, 2021 “Just As God Intended”

Posted by on Sep 28, 2021 in Sermon Archives

“Just As God Intended” Acts 1:1-11 Luke 24:44-53 “A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.” ~ John Calvin “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” ~Oscar Wilde “Good intentions are not enough. They’ve never put an onion in the soup yet.” ~ Sonya Levien A while back, I put a sign up in the Sheridan church that said something like: “Warning – anything that you post on Facebook can and will be used in a sermon.” So, fair warning, people. The fact is, when you are tasked once a week to come up with new ways to describe old familiar stories, just about anything helps: a radio interview, something you read, or even just a casual remark that tickles your sermon bone. Last week, Margie & I were in eastern So. Dakota to witness a Master’s degree celebration at Dakota State University. On the day before the big event, we gathered together for a meal. It was a full house complete with grandparents, brothers, sisters, and a whole raft of kids making a whole lot of noise. Outside the star of the show was cooking on the grill and it was a meat lover’s paradise: beef burgers, venison, antelope, bratwurst – you name it; it was jammed in there. I came out to compliment the cook when he said something that struck me funny: “Yea, we eat a lot of red meat around here,” he said, “just as God intended.” I didn’t think anything of it until two days later when we were discussing pickups, particularly Chevy trucks versus Toyota. I knew that the older brother had owned a couple Toyotas, but when I asked about it, I was promptly told, “No, he got rid of those and bought himself an American made truck, just as God intended.” Now, I’m a firm believer in verifying opinions that have been stated as a fact, but I didn’t run to the nearest Concordance to find the exact scriptures that instruct us to eat red meat and buy Chevy trucks. That would be silly. I suppose that “just as God intended” was only being used here to make a point; to give it a little oomph – a little pizzazz. But it did get me thinking. It’s been 6 weeks now since Easter Sunday. During this time, we have read of how and why Jesus visited with the disciples after his death and resurrection. We’ve witnessed the disciples’ behavior as they all got the shock of a lifetime by having a meal and conversation with someone they thought was dead and gone. But he wasn’t gone; Christ was alive and had a few important things to do before he returned to his rightful place with God Almighty. And this is where “just...

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May 9, 2021 “A Love Letter From God”

Posted by on Sep 28, 2021 in Sermon Archives

Dear readers: because I will be out of town this Sunday, I’d like to republish a sermon from May of 2018 based on John 15:9-17 titled – “A Love Letter From God” John 15:9-17 “If you have never known the power of God’s love, then maybe it’s because you have never asked to know it – I mean really asked, expecting an answer.” ~ Frederick Buechner “It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”  ~ David Steidnl-Rast “Well and good if all things change, O Lord God, provided I am rooted in You.”  ~ St John of the Cross I think we all might agree that one of the most brilliant minds that ever was belonged to one Albert Einstein. Although he was best known for being a theoretical physicist and winning the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics, Einstein had a human side that was not only blessed by his intelligence but was also colored by his understanding of humanity and of God. It was while reading through our gospel text today from John that I chanced across Einstein’s last letter to his daughter, Lieserl, that somehow makes God’s command to love a whole lot easier to swallow. I would like to share this with you now: “Dear Lieserl, There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe and has not yet been identified by us. This universal force is LOVE. When scientists looked for a unified theory of the universe they forgot the most powerful unseen force. Love is Light, that enlightens those who give and receive it. Love is gravity, because it makes some people feel attracted to others. Love is power, because it multiplies the best we have, and allows humanity not to be extinguished in their blind selfishness. Love unfolds and reveals. For love we live and die. Love is God and God is Love. This force explains everything and gives meaning to life. This is the variable that we have ignored for too long, maybe because we are afraid of love because it is the only energy in the universe that man has not learned to drive at will. To give visibility to love, I made a simple substitution in my most famous equation. If instead of E = mc2, we accept that the energy to heal the world can be obtained through love multiplied by the speed of light squared, we arrive at the conclusion that love is the most powerful force there is, because it has no limits. After the failure of humanity in the use and control of the other forces of the universe that have turned against us, it is urgent that we nourish ourselves...

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May 2, 2021 “The Path of the Disciple”

Posted by on Sep 28, 2021 in Sermon Archives

“The Path of the Disciple” Acts 8:26-40 John 15:1-8     “Immature love says : I love you because I need you. Mature love says: I need you because I love you.” ~ Erich Fromm     “What makes one strong is not the ability to confront adversity and cruelty, but rather the ability to love in spite of it.” ~ Christopher        Earle “You will never know the purest love you can give a person, until the day you hurt because they hurt. You genuinely want them to succeed in life and be free from all the chains that keep them from being happy, whether you are in their life or not.” ― Shannon L. Alder Although it’s not so common a practice around here, one of the rites of spring in MT is burning of the ditches. Every year, rather than clean out the old grass and knapweed that grew up the year before, it’s a common practice to simply torch it and call it good. It’s quick, it’s efficient, and doesn’t take a lot of time and energy. The trick is to pick your time. If the grass is too wet, it won’t burn; if it’s too dry -especially with a little wind – you might have a real problem on your hands. The same thing goes for hedgerows. Our house at the time was one of those historical landmarks. It was built in 1912 and I’m pretty sure the lilacs that surrounded the back yard were planted about the same time. Anyhow, one year I got the bright idea to clean things up a bit. I raked and I pulled and I prodded but these lilacs were so massive and tangled that after an hour or so, it was obvious that I had to figure out some other way. Then it hit me: “I’ll just burn it.” Quick, efficient, and doesn’t take a lot of time and energy. As it turned out, it was a bit too quick and efficient because when I struck a match to a 30-some year accumulation of dried grass and leaves buried in one of the corner lilac bushes, it burned – and it burned real good. It burned so good that by the time I got the water turned on we had flames taller than me roaring up into the sky. Well, I did manage to get the fire out and after a few days, I could see that the lilac was toast (no pun intended.) What was once an eight foot beautiful bush was now a series of black stubs sticking out of the ground. Add to that the fact that it cost me $174.00 to replace the neighbor’s trampoline that flying ashes had potholed, and I wasn’t feeling too proud of myself. It’s hard to call something a “learning experience” when you knew better in the first place....

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April 25, 2021 “Gettin’ Our Groove Back”

Posted by on Sep 28, 2021 in Sermon Archives

“Gettin’ Our Groove Back” 1 John 3:16-24/ John 10:11-18 “I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because the Lord is my shepherd.”  ~ Charles Spurgeon “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” ~ Romans 8:31 Madeliene L’Engle, in her book “Glimpses of Grace,” tells a story that is custom made for today. She writes, “There’s a true story I love about a house party in one of the big English country houses. Often after dinner at these parties people recite poetry, sing, and use whatever talent they have to entertain the company. One year a famous actor was among the guests. When it came his turn to perform, he recited the Twenty-third Psalm, perhaps the most beloved psalm in the Psalter. His rendition was magnificent, and there was much applause. At the end of the evening, someone noticed a little old great aunt dozing in the corner. She was deaf as a post and had missed most of what was going on, but she was urged to get up and recite something. In those days people used to memorize a lot of poetry! So she stood up, and in her quavery old voice she started, “The Lord is my shepherd,” and went on to the end of the psalm. When she had finished there were tears in many eyes. Later one of the guests approached the famous actor. “You recited that psalm absolutely superbly. It was incomparable. So why were we so moved by that funny, little old lady?” He replied, “I know the psalm. She knows the shepherd.” And with that, I bid you a joyful welcome to Good Shepherd Sunday. Now, this particular Sunday can hold different sentiments for different folks. There are those who just can’t get over the sheep and shepherd metaphor, and I’ll admit that in this day and age it’s a bit of a stretch to be able to relate. Not many of us have fond memories of spending our summers as teenagers watching over a flock of sheep. And the metaphor itself makes us uncomfortable. If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, as he says, then what’s that make us? You guessed it, and for any of you who have spent any time at all with these, well – not so bright – animals will find themselves cringing just a bit. So here’s an idea: rather than wish we humans could be compared to eagles or gazelles or roaring lions, today – just for today – let’s look at it from God’s point of view. Time and again, our Lord sent his prophets to the nation of Israel and Judea. When Moses instructed the nations through the law and the commandments, it was God’s plan to keep...

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