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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August 28, 2018 @ 8:26 pm

08.26.18 From the Beginning to the End

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Sermon title: From the Beginning to the End 

Scripture text: John 6:56-69

 

Sermon excerpt: 

Home is where you have abided, in good times and bad. It is where you have remained steadfastly, a place that felt secure, perhaps even a sanctuary from the rest of the world.

“Home is [or should be] the promise of safety, of security; a place where fear does not have the upper hand.”1

When Jesus says, "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them,” he is inviting the disciples (and us) to be at home in him, just as he is at home in God.

 

1 Amy C. Howe, Pastoral Perspective, "Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season after Pentecost 1," (Kindle Locations 13479-13483).

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August 24, 2018 @ 5:42 am

08.19.18 Flesh & Blood

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Sermon title: Flesh and Blood 

Scripture text: John 6:52-58

 

Sermon excerpt: 

For example, in verse 49-51, Jesus uses the common word esthio for eating the bread from heaven. But in verse 53, he uses the word trogo which has a connotation closer to “munch” or “gnaw,” noisy eating, like a wild animal devouring its prey.

This kind of eating is urgent, even desperate. It is eating as though life depends on it … because it does.[i]

Heard in that way, Jesus’ words start to make more sense. He’s not literally talking about feeding on his physical body like some scene from The Walking Dead … but rather offering himself as life-giving and life-sustaining spiritual nourishment for the world, a world that is desperately hungry for something real and something significant, something we can (metaphorically) sink our teeth into.

Throughout John 6, Jesus reveals himself as the bread of heaven, broken and given as food for the soul, and we ourselves partake of it in the sacrament of Communion, eating the bread and drinking the cup as though our very lives depend on it.

 

[i] https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=371

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