December 20, 2020 “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel”

Posted by on Dec 26, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“Veni, Veni, Emmanuel” Let’s talk about music for Advent. Truth is, there isn’t a lot to choose from. When you consider the volumes of Christmas carols and songs and cantatas and even oratorios, the poor little season of Advent somehow just gets left behind. But here’s the thing: despite all the Christmas movies and Dolly Parton specials and Blue Christmas’s with Elvis, there is one song that has been with us for over 1200 years that is all about this period – this season – that we call Advent, and it has been with us that long for a reason. It was originally written in Latin (no surprise there) as a series of what are called Antiphons. Seven days before Christmas, the monasteries would sing the “O Antiphons” in anticipation of Christmas Eve at which time the final Antiphon would be sang which honored the virgin Mary. This song has evolved over the years to the point where it was known around the world by the Latin title of “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel” which you have probably figured out by now translates into “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Now, the reason I bring this up is because I had a bit of a revelation when it comes to “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” this year. I’m always curious as to why certain melodies seem to capture our imaginations and others don’t. So, I found myself on YouTube listening to countless versions of this haunting and beautiful Advent hymn – everything from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to Mrs. Smith’s Sunday School singers – when I chanced across an arrangement produced by a site called The Piano Guys and it almost brought me to tears. There was no singing, no lavish production; only a cello and a grand piano set on the porch of what looked to be the entrance to a castle or medieval cathedral of some sort. But it was stunning; it was stunning and because I couldn’t help myself, I scrolled down and began to read the comments that people had sent in. There was 5 years worth of commentary and most said just what I would have said: words like “Thank you, this was beautiful, it was touching” and that sort of thing. Others got more personal. An Aaron Deneau wrote, “This is the kind of thing we’ll be hearing in heaven.” Another wrote, “Thank you, Lord. You saved my life after 20 years on heroin. I am a Greek Christian,” followed by Robin Rubin saying, “When I listen to this song, I think of Jesus and how beautiful life can be with him in it.” What got my attention, however, was a comment from a dude who called himself Some Edgy Teenager, and he wrote, “As someone who usually listens to heavy metal, I’m not ashamed to say that this song is absolutely beautiful. I honestly don’t...

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December 13, 2020 “The Nature of Life As the People of God”

Posted by on Dec 26, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“The Nature of Life as the People of God”   “To celebrate the future as a memory, and to praise God for having already done what lies before us to do, is the nature of life as the people of God.”  Fred Craddock Welcome to this, the 3rd Sunday in the season of Advent, December 13, 2020. I’m not sure why, exactly, but for some reason I felt it important to put a time stamp on this particular day in this particular time. It happens every year, and this year is no exception: Advent begins in late November or early December; we bring out the Advent wreath, we start to light the candles; and sing the hymns about Emmanuel, God with us, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. It’s pleasant, it’s comforting, and it not only gets us in the spirit of Christmas, but it prolongs this season of light; this season that we have come to rely on for decades to get us through the dark days of winter. This year, we are having to do things different. I guess that’s overstating the obvious, but on this the 3rd Sunday of Advent, it’s especially painful. I mean, think about it: this is the Sunday known as Gaudete Sunday; Gaudete being the Latin word for “rejoice”, or simply, “Joy.” Lord knows, we could use some joy right now. So, all week long I’ve been wracking my brain how in the world to find, to create; to conjure up what it is to be joyful. Now I’m not talking about happy here. If we win the lottery, we are happy. When we are able to gaze upon our first grandchild – that is joy. When we are able to find the perfect gift for the perfect person and they even say those words: “O, it’s perfect!” we are happy. But later on when that perfect person comes up to us and tells us, once again, of the perfect love that they have for us, that is joy. That is joy. My search for joy in this season of conflict and uncertainty, surprisingly, led me to something that a preacher named Fred Craddock said some time ago. When I first read through it, I didn’t know what to think. But after a while, it started to make sense. Craddock tells us, ““To celebrate the future as a memory, and to praise God for having already done what lies before us to do, is the nature of life as the people of God.” (X 2) Now, we will come back to this later and when we do, hopefully, it will seem a lot less like some sort of word puzzle and more like a wonderful description of the source of our joy as followers of Jesus Christ. But first, a word about the writings of the Apostle Paul to the congregations of Thessalonica....

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December 6, 2020 “This Is How It Begins”

Posted by on Dec 26, 2020 in Sermon Archives

“This Is How It Begins” Isaiah 40:1-11 Mark 1:1-8 Let’s talk about Mark- particularly the gospel of Mark. I was told long ago that if you were only allowed only one gospel to read and study to understand the life and death and teachings of Jesus Christ, then pick Mark. Mark’s Gospel is almost exactly half the length of Matthew and Luke which in the day when scrolls were quite expensive, made Mark’s gospel a real bargain and I’m sure there were quite a few of them floating around. Now, it’s safe to assume that the gospel was written by a John Mark, the same John Mark that had somewhat of a falling out with the Apostle Paul early in his ministry.(Acts 13:13) It’s the time he spent with Peter, however, that proved to be so valuable. The Lord smiled that Peter was able to tell so many of the stories of Christ’s ministry on earth and that Mark was able to record them. In fact, a goodly portion of the  gospel writings of Matthew and Luke came from – you guessed it – the writings of John Mark. Our Gospel lesson today is the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel. This is the opening salvo, the declaration of what’s to come – of what to expect. But here’s the thing: as we find ourselves approaching the middle of the Advent season and looking forward to decorating and doing whatever we can to make Christmas meaningful, is John the Baptist really what we need right now? I mean, in better times when the nation wasn’t ripped apart by our politics and the world wasn’t under siege by a devastating disease; in better times, we could get behind the whole idea of “A voice crying out in the wilderness; a voice telling us to prepare the way of the Lord – to make his paths straight.” In better times- in normal times – this would have been simply a part of the Advent liturgy that we are used to: on the 2nd Sunday of Advent, it’s always all about John the Baptist. We read the story and roll our eyes at this man who eats bugs and wild honey dressed in a camel hair shirt. It ain’t a pretty sight. I met a kid years ago who grew up in central California. He used to show up with his guitar and we played songs and just enjoyed ourselves that way. But I remember him telling me about an old guy he knew when he still lived in California: a sheepherder whose family came from the Basque region of Spain. John used to go visit him any chance he could get and this old guy was always glad for the company, being as he spent his days with no one except – – sheep. John said that he was wise beyond his...

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“It’s So Obvious That It’s Not” August 19, 2018

Posted by on Sep 7, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“It’s So Obvious That It’s Not” 1 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14 Psalm 111 Ephesians 5:15-20 John 6:51-58   I was driving around Mac last week running errands when I found myself listening to an interview with Bob Moore, the founder, along with his wife Charlee, of Bob’s Red Mill. Now I always suspected that the whole stone ground organic thing that Bob’s Red Mill flour promises was just a marketing gimmick, but I don’t think that so much any more. No, I can’t think that and as I found myself looking for other places to drive around just so I could keep listening to this interview, I found myself not only believing in the product but I found myself believing in the heart of the man who founded it; a man who saw an opportunity to do some good in this world and did it; against all odds, he did it. But it was when he talked about his 81st birthday that I started to see the hand of God at work. Imagine his employees’ surprise, if you will, when instead of receiving gifts Bob decided to give his greatest gift away – ownership of his business. Bob surprised all his employees on that day by creating an Employee Stock Ownership Program and making everyone an employee-owner. Quoting from the Red Mill website, “For those who know Bob, it’s just another example of his kind hearted generosity. As Bob puts it, ‘It was just the right thing to do. I have people that have worked for me for 30 years and each and every one deserves this.’” The interviewer said, “Mr. Moore, your company made over 100 million dollars last year, yet you’re giving 2/3 of it away. Aren’t you worried that you will end up just like you started with nothing?” Bob replied, and this was the clincher for me, “You know, the bible says to do onto others as you would have them do onto you, and I really believe that. I didn’t get where I am all by myself, so why should I keep it all to myself.” I have to say, Bob Moore’s story made an impression on me. He is selfless, caring, and compassionate and in the business world, these are not necessarily qualities that lead to success. Yet, here he is and you can find products from Bob’s Red Mill in every grocery store in the northwest. Now the reason I even bring this up, besides the fact that I think Bob Moore is an exceptional human being, is that our theme in scripture today seems to be about that elusive thing that we call wisdom. To be more specific, it’s the type of wisdom that’s begrudgingly know as discernment. Now discernment is a funny word. When Samuel as a young man found himself as king of the nation of Israel, it had to...

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“Ubuntu” July 22, 2018

Posted by on Jul 22, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“Ubuntu” 2 Samuel 7:1-14a Ephesians 2:11-22 Mark 6:30-34, 53-56   A western Buddhist woman was in India, studying with her teacher. She was riding with another woman friend in a rickshaw-like carriage when they were attacked by a man on the street. In the end, the attacker only succeeded in frightening the women, but the Buddhist woman was quite upset by the event and told her teacher so. She asked him what she should have done – what would have been the appropriate, Buddhist response. The teacher said very simply, “You should have very mindfully and with great compassion whacked the attacker over the head with your umbrella.”           Our gospel text for today threw me for a loop, at first. As I have said before, I try to follow what is called the Revised Common Lectionary. In a nutshell, the lectionary is a collection of scripture suggestions for each Sunday, as well as special holy days, that encompasses a 3-year cycle. Scholars and clergy from over 20 denominations gathered together in the 80’s to come up with what was called the Common Lectionary, which was revised in 1993. So you see, I don’t pick out scripture at random for the themes of our worship together. I try to stick to the lectionary. Sometimes I have to scratch my head wondering what the creators of the lectionary were thinking, and at other times the wisdom of their choices is quite obvious. Take today’s selection from the gospel of Mark for example. At verse 30, the disciples are returning from a major evangelical mission. They were tired and excited at the same time, and Jesus seems pleased with them. (vs. 31) And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. So you get the idea: everyone is dog-tired and Jesus suggests that they sneak off to some out of the way place to rest. And so they hopped in a boat to go to this out of the way place, but the crowds wouldn’t have it. They raced along the shoreline and were waiting for them when they pulled up on the shore. (vs 34)  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. So much for getting some rest; but the key phrase here – the one that I believe we are meant to take home from this lectionary text is “and he had compassion on them.” At this point we skip to verse 53. What happens in this space that we skip over? A lot. Jesus preaches to the crowd, heals the sick and the lame, it gets late, the disciples want to send folks away to...

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“The Boy From Bethany” March 25, 2018

Posted by on Apr 3, 2018 in Sermon Archives

“The Boy From Bethany” Isaiah 50:4-9a Philippians 2:5-11 Mark 11:1-11/ John 12:12-16   Hi there- my name is Yoseph. I am 10 years old and live in the little town of Bethany. Now Bethany is not so bad a place, I guess, except we have a lot of sick people. My dad says they won’t let them live in Jerusalem, so they bring them out here. The Essenes have built some places for the really poor people to live, too. I like the Essenes. They’re not so bossy like the Pharisees. A lot of people come through our little town, especially folks coming from Galilee. I think they travel down the east side of the river so they don’t have to go through where the Samaritans live. They don’t like the Samaritans- I don’t know why. Lately, there’s been a lot of people traveling through, what with the Passover celebration and all. I like to sneak over where they are staying and just, you know, hang out. That’s the good thing about being a kid: no one pays any attention to you and if you stay out of the way you get to listen to their stories and the way that some of them talk funny. My mom says as long as I’m home before dark and stay out of trouble, then it’s OK. My trouble started, though, when Jesus of Nazareth came to Bethany. It wasn’t just Jesus, though. He had a bunch of men and women with him, and even though I’m just a kid, I could tell there was something special about him. He wasn’t like the rest of the adults. He laughed – a lot – and he even smiled and said hello to me. Now that was different! Every day they went into Jerusalem and I begged to follow them into town, but I had too many chores around the house and Dad wouldn’t let me go. But I heard stories. I heard that on the first day, somebody brought out a little donkey and this Jesus of Nazareth rode on that little donkey through the East Gate into Jerusalem and the people cheered and hooted and hollered “Hosanna, hosanna,” and they threw their coats and palm branches on the road for Jesus to ride on. Boy, I wish I could have seen that. They next day, I heard that Jesus went to the temple and flipped the money changers’ tables upside down saying something like, “My house that should be a house of prayer has been turned into a den of robbers.” That would have been something to see. I bet he made a lot of people really mad. The next day, Jesus stayed in Bethany longer than usual and I was glad about that. He and his disciples were at Simon the Leper’s house and even though I wasn’t supposed to go...

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