April 25, 2017 @ 8:34 pm

Redeeming “Doubting” Thomas

thomas_2.jpg   thomas_1.jpg


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Read along with John 20:19-31


Redeeming "Doubting" Thomas 


Sermon excerpt: 

Frankly, he’s not the only doubter, if you want to call it that. Mary Magdalene saw the empty tomb herself and she didn’t believe he had risen until Jesus came and spoke to her directly.[1] Then, when she told the other disciples about talking to him, they dismissed it because they hadn’t seen it for themselves. It wasn’t until Jesus appeared to them personally that the disciples believed.

So why do we give Thomas such a hard time? He was just asking for what everyone else got. He needed more than a secondhand story of someone else’s interaction with Jesus. He wanted it for himself.

Who doesn’t, really?


[1] FotW, Copenhaver, pp. 395-396.

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April 24, 2017 @ 8:14 pm

Afraid Yet Filled with Joy


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Read along with Matthew 28:1-10


Easter Sunday: "Afraid Yet Filled with Joy" 


Sermon excerpt: 

Between you and me (and don’t tell my mother!), “Afraid yet … (filled with joy”) is totally something I would consider getting a tattoo of.

I can’t think of better way to describe what the women and the other disciples were feeling on the morning of the third day.

And I can’t think of a better line to describe what it feels like to be a follower of Christ—to know him as your Lord and Savior. It is both terrifying and exciting as God draws you closer to him. Your first instinct may be to run away, but the joy of the Lord will turn your fear into awe.

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April 24, 2017 @ 5:03 pm

“Let Your Alleluias Rise”

Our graduating SSU choir students: Sydney Metz, Jonnie Carpathios, Natalee Swallows --we're going to miss them!! 

Sunday worship @ Second Presbyterian Church (Portsmouth, OH)
"Let Your Alleluias Rise" (K. Lee Scott) 
Tenor soloist, Jonnie Carpathios 

Lift your voices rejoicing, Mary, Christ has risen from the tomb; 
On the cross a suffering victim, now as victor He is come. 
Whom your years in death were mourning, welcome with your smiles returning. 
Let your alleluias rise! 

Raise your weary eyelids, Mary, see Him living ever more; 
See His countenance how gracious, see the woulds for you He bore. 
All the glory of the morning pales before those wounds redeeming.
Let your alleluias rise! 

Life is yours forever, Mary, for your light is come once more; 
And the strength of death is broken; now your songs of joy outpour. 
Ended now the night of sorrow, love has brought the blessed morrow. 
Let your alleluias rise! 

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April 3, 2017 @ 8:38 pm

Lent 5: Broken Hearts - Raising Lazarus


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Read along with John 11 here. (I summarize the first 38 verses then read from verse 39 to 45, then 45-53 at the end.) 


Special note: for those of you listening at home: we borrowed a thurible from our friends at All Saints' Episcopal Church and they burned some frankinsence and myrrh in it for this sermon that particularly appeals to our sense of smell. These Lenten sermons about engaging all the senses are great "live" but I know they lose a little something when you listen to them later on. So maybe as you listen to this, light some sort of scented candle to get a simiarl effect! 


Sermon excerpt: 

The Bible frequently talks about the pleasing aroma of properly motivated sacrifices and of Jesus as the supreme fragrant offering.[1] And Revelation tells us that, in God’s presence, each of the 24 elders are holding “golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”

That has to be one of the loveliest images I’ve ever read. “Golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.” I love the idea that God collects our prayers, that he honors them so much that he keeps them in golden bowls, an infinite number of prayers eternally burning as an act of praise and worship.


In our next hymn, we will sing the words, “When friend was lost, when love deceived, dear Jesus wept, God was bereaved.” The death of Lazarus broke Jesus' heart. 

What other things break Jesus’ heart, do you think?

How many times a day is God bereaved?

Who are the people and where are the places that make Jesus weep today, in our world?


[1] Ibibd. 

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March 20, 2017 @ 5:56 pm

Lent 3: From the Woman at the Well’s Perspective


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Read along with John 4:1-42


Many thanks to Anita Steva for this monologue from the perspective of the Woman at the Well, which I have modified in a few places. Always grateful for colleagues in ministry who are willing to share their creativity with others! 

Sermon excerpt: 

But even as he was telling me all about myself, things I didn’t particularly want to hear … he didn’t mock me, or even judge me.   

He just spoke matter-of-factly. 

And my guilt covered me like ashes.

I felt faint and I bent over the well to splash some cold water on my face.   

It was as if I could see my life in the dark water beneath.

I saw myself for what I was.

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March 13, 2017 @ 2:46 pm

Lent 2: Out of the Darkness and Into the Light


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Read along with John 3:1-21

**EXTRA AMBIANCE: We lit candles and turned off the lights for this one. You should too! 


Sermon excerpt: 

If there really is a little Nicodemus in all of us gathered here in this church, and I suspect there is, I wonder what would happen if we all stepped out of the darkness and into the light together.

What would happen if we decided, as a community of faith, to step out in public and speak in a place where we have previously been silent because we thought faith was meant to be private?

If we did this, what would we say? To whom would we say it? And where would our feet take us, if they followed our words?

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March 8, 2017 @ 3:28 pm

Lent 1: Temptation


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Read along with Matthew 4:1-11.


Sermon excerpt: 

Blaise Pascal, a 17th century French philosopher once rather famously said that in our sinful human condition, we each have a God-shaped hole in our hearts.[1]

And the tempter knows we will go to tremendous lengths to fill up that hole, to gain what we lack, with anything we think of—a new car or the latest gadget; a better house or a better job; a bottle or a needle or another race at the track; a perfect spouse or a perfect life. Adam and Eve concluded in a heartbeat that the hole in their hearts is shaped just like that fruit they weren’t supposed to eat.[2]

We live our lives occupied, obsessed even, with finding something, ANYTHING, to fill the hole in our hearts, to find that which we lack to fill up the emptiness. It’s our greatest human weakness, and the tempter knows exactly how to take advantage of our insecurity.


[1] 17th century French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, "What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?

This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself." [Pascal, Pensees #425]

[2] http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=902 

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February 28, 2017 @ 5:06 pm

The Foolishness of Holiness


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Read along with Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 here


Sermon excerpt: 

Right now you’re probably thinking: “Alright, I’m with you so far—God is holy and we are not, but since we’re his people, God calls us to be holy, and we do that by being different from the unbelievers around us. But how on earth do we do THAT?”

Everyone in this room could probably give a different answer to that question. And I’m pretty sure you’d all be right. But I want to send you home with one, simple answer you can practice all week long.

The reading from 1 Corinthians says in verse 19 “for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” Indeed, “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1:25). God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, what is weak to shame the strong (1:26).

How should you be different from the un-believers and non-believers around you?

Be a fool.

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February 28, 2017 @ 4:52 pm

Our Beautiful, Terrible World



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Read along with Matthew 17:1-9


Sermon excerpt: 

Today, Jesus says to us, “Here is the world. Beautiful things will happen here”—beautiful things that will make us, like the disciples, want to pitch our tents on the mountaintop and cling to the moments of glory that occasionally shine into our lives. But we can’t stay there. Eventually Jesus and the disciples came down off the mountain and returned to everyday life and entered into the suffering of the people around them.

Jesus says to us, “Here is the world. Terrible things will happen too—humiliation, persecution, crucifixion.”

And we can’t have the one without the other. Joy is sweeter once we have tasted the depths of sorrow. And sorrow is not quite so bitter when we know the sweetness of joy.

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February 21, 2017 @ 11:12 pm

Second Pres sings, “Holy, Holy, Holy”


Second Pres sings, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" on Sun, Feb 19. 

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