November 11, 2018 @ 12:29 am

“The People Standing Here” (All Saints’ Sunday - Sun, Nov 4, 2018)

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Sermon text: John 11:1-44 

Sermon title: "The People Standing Here" 

 

Sermon excerpt: 

During their lifetime, the crowd of saints who stood where we now stand must have seen their faith grow through struggle and suffering. And they must have witnessed first-hand the beauty that God can grow out of tragedy. Their faith in this beauty has sustained the church for generation after generation, just as it sustains us today.

This is our inheritance as descendants of these saints: the knowledge that we are never alone but that we are part of the crowd of saints, the communion of saints; knowing that when our faith slips or when we start to doubt, we can borrow a little bit of someone’s else faith for a while until we find ourselves on steady ground again.

The life of faith was never meant to be lived in isolation, but rather in the company of others, in the crowd standing there together, asking questions and searching for hope together.

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October 29, 2018 @ 10:54 pm

Gifts of Love: “Spurring Each Other On” (Sun, Oct 28, 2018)

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NOTE: For a variety of reasons, this is a SUPER-SIZED podcast including more of the service than usual which takes place in the chapel rather than the sanctuary so the sound is a little different.

The anthem ("I Need Thee Every Hour") starts at  21:53 and the sermon starts at 27:47 with an introduction and then the Hebrews reading. 

Sermon title: "Let's Do It!" 

Sermon text: Hebrews 10:11-25 (from "The Message") 

 

Sermon excerpt: 

You know, the more I think about and marinate in this passage, the more I wonder if it isn’t God saying to us, “Here is my Son, whom I love. He is the greatest gift of love I can give you. He will bleed for you and die for you and love you forever, even on the days when you don’t love him. So what are you going to do with my gift of love?”

And the best response I can think of is that we ought to spend every single breath living these words from Hebrews; to do everything within our power – and with a little help from the Holy Spirit – to encourage love and to help each other out, seeing how inventive we can be in coming up with ways to spur each other on in the faith; and to do it all joyfully and gratefully and enthusiastically.

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October 24, 2018 @ 12:51 am

Gifts of Love - Two Small Copper Coins (Sun, Oct 21, 2018)

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Sermon title: "Two Small Copper Coins" (Gifts of Love series #2) 

Sermon text: Mark 12:38-44 

 

Sermon excerpt: 

On any other day in the temple, this widow and her two small copper coins would have gone unnoticed.

On any other day, she would have slipped in, dropped her last two coins into the treasury, which was either a small box or a special room in the temple, and then slipped out again.[i]

Her gift wasn’t large and extravagant like those who contributed out of their abundance. Those people, those gifts, they would have gotten noticed; they would have gotten a lot of special attention.  

But no one would have ever known this widow and her little gift of love, her two small copper coins, had even been there.

 

[i] NRSV New Interpreter’s Bible, note on 12:41, p. 1835.

 

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October 17, 2018 @ 8:20 pm

Gifts of Love - Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength (Sun, Oct 14, 20181)

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Sermon title:  "Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength" 

Sermon text: Mark 12:28-34 

Sermon excerpt: 

Growing up near Pittsburgh, I can’t help but think of Fred Rogers when I hear the word neighbor. Through his children’s programming on public television, Mr. Rogers shaped generations of young minds, teaching love, kindness, and respect for others.

As an ordained Presbyterian pastor, he loved God by loving his youngest neighbors. He loved God by honoring the image of God in each child, valuing them in a way grown-ups often forget. Valuing them the way Jesus did.

He loved God by taking the time to explain difficult things to children in a careful way; things like divorce and death and racism.

In the days of the Civil Rights Movement, there was an evening news story of a hotel manager dumping bags of pool chemicals into the hotel pool while several African-Americans were swimming in it. It is a horrifying video to watch.

And in one of the next episodes of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” we see the radical Mr. Rogers sharing a kiddie pool with Francoise Clemmons, the African-American man who played Officer Clemens on the show.  At the end of the scene, he even helps Officer Clemmons dry his feet with a towel.

Sometimes a simple gift of love is the only lesson we really need to see.

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October 9, 2018 @ 1:12 am

Season of Creation - “I see humans but no humanity” (Sun, Oct 7)

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Sermon title: "I see humans but no humanity." 

Sermon text: Mark 10:35-45 

 

Sermon excerpt: 

Jesus draws them together for a little talk.

He doesn’t reject them; he doesn’t even rebuke them, really. He just gently chastises them, saying (and this is from the Allison paraphrase version of the Bible), “I know you want to be great. But being great according to this world is to be harsh and tyrannical, to abandon your humanity and to become utterly selfish.

In my world, in the kingdom of heaven, to be great is to be a servant and to live for the sake of others, to become vulnerable in order to trust like a child.”

Jesus is at this very moment living life the way God intended humans to live from the very beginning, serving and not being served. And the disciples are faced with the choice of serving themselves or serving others.

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October 2, 2018 @ 8:59 pm

Season of Creation - “Keep It Holy” (Sun, Sept 30, 2018)

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Sermon title: "Keep It Holy" 

Sermon text: Exodus 19:1-25 

 

Sermon excerpt: 

Left standing at the foot of the mountain, they are relieved yet still terrified. They dare not enter into God’s presence. Even though Moses has consecrated them, making them ritually clean, and they have washed their clothes, they know they are still separated from the holiness of God by their sinfulness. And they have never more aware of their sinfulness than on that day.

God has drawn a line, set limits around the mountain, and commands them to keep it holy. To cross into territory designated as off limits will result in death. Instead, they stand in awe of the holiness of the Lord manifested and displayed in the creation.

The root of the Hebrew word for holy means separation or withdrawal. God is intrinsically holy by nature and necessarily separated from creation and humanity.[i]

Yet God longs for fellowship with humanity; God longs to be in relationship again with those who have been made in his own image. But sin keeps humans separated from God.

 

[i] “Holiness, Holy,” Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 598.

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September 26, 2018 @ 6:55 pm

Season of Creation - “What the Heavens are Saying” (Sun, Sept 23, 2018)

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Sermon title: "What the Heavens are Saying" (Season of Creation sermon series) 

Sermon text: Psalm 19

 

Sermon excerpt: 

No less than Bach, Beethoven, Handel, and Haydn – all master musicians – have used the words of this psalm to delight and to preach to listeners throughout the ages using the images and reflections of God in Creation.

Yes, you heard that right: they used these words to PREACH to their listeners. For in fact, that’s what the Creation does: it preaches to us of God’s glory.

The Creation, the heavens above and the earth below, witnesses to God. God’s glory is preached through the sunrises and sunsets; in the ocean waves; and in the stars in the sky. 

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September 26, 2018 @ 6:48 pm

Season of Creation - “Subdue the Earth?” (Sun, Sept 16, 2018)

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Sermon title: "Subdue the Earth?" (Season of Creation sermon series) 

Sermon text: Genesis 1:1-31

 

Sermon excerpt: 

Perhaps another way to think of our role in subduing the earth as God’s partners is to remember the image of pruning in John 15.

“I am the true vine,” Jesus tells his disciples, “and my Father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.”

My friend Chris continues to say, “As God subdues that in us which leads to death rather than life (sin), so too we subdue in nature that which leads to death, turning it around so that it yields life.”

So part of being created in God’s image and acting as God’s partners in managing creation is to allow ourselves to be pruned as well as to be a pruner, one who nurtures and encourages that which creates and sustains life, protecting what (and who) is defenseless and pruning away the branches that do not bear fruit.  

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September 12, 2018 @ 8:03 pm

09.09.18 A Good Name

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Sermon title:  A Good Name 

Sermon text: Proverbs 22: 1-2, 8-9, 22-23 

 

Sermon excerpt

James Limburg is a man who has spent his entire life studying the book of Proverbs and he describes it as “a guide for steering the ship of your life, the ocean of the life, when the sailing is smooth and when it is not.”[i]

...

But the wisdom of the book of Proverbs is not meant just to benefit the character formation of an individual; it is concerned with the formation of a wise community rooted in the peace and justice of God.[i]

How a community reckons with poverty is front and center in these three separate yet related proverbs:

1A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.
The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all.

8Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail.
Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.

22Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate;
23 for the Lord pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them.

 

[i] Stephen C. Johnson, (Kindle Locations 1204-1206), Bartlett, David L.. Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 4: Season after Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ) (Feasting on the Word: Year B volume) Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.

 [i] https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3764 (James Limburg)

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September 5, 2018 @ 10:53 pm

09.02.18 Looking in the Mirror

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Sermon title: Looking in the Mirror 

Sermon text: James 1:17-27

 

Sermon excerpt: 

When you looked in the mirror getting ready for church this morning, you might have thought, “I’m too fat” or “I’m too thin” or “Great, another pimple or another bad hair day.” You might have looked disheveled and wrinkled, worn and scarred.1

But that’s not really what James wants us to look at. He wants us to look deeper to see the image of God implanted in each one of us; to see ourselves as ones who have been saved by the blood of Jesus; people who are new creations in Christ, brought to new life through God’s word. James says you are a “first fruit,” set aside as someone who belongs to and is dearly loved by God.

But when we forget that, when we forget that we are God’s beloved, we look in the mirror and see a spiritually distorted version of ourselves. We turn away from the mirror in disgust and promptly forget what we’re supposed to look like, what kind of fruit should be growing in our heart.

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=382

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