Category Archives: Sermons

United In Christ – Sermon on Philippians 4:1-9

March 19, 2017*
Video 

Judy was only half-listening as the reader continued on and on. She knew that the letter they were hearing was important, and that she should be paying better attention, but her mind was elsewhere.

Judy and her good friend Cynthia had been through a lot together. They had been among the first women to join Lydia’s house church when it had formed only a few years before, and Paul himself had trained them for ministry (Acts 16). As the church grew and the good news spread, Judy and Cynthia had made a great team, teaching together and encouraging new believers in their faith.

Maybe it was natural for the two women to grow in different directions as their faith increased. Maybe one woman was maturing faster than the other. Perhaps they should have anticipated that, at some point, through their discussions of scripture and discipleship, they would reach conflicting conclusions.

Judy could live with that. What bothered her, though, and kept her from listening to Paul’s letter with her whole heart, was the nagging suspicion that she had caused a division in the church by arguing with Cynthia in front of the others.

Judy felt like she’d lost her best friend. She wished they could go back to the way things used to be, before the church had grown so large. She longed for the old days, when the few close friends who had begun the church could gather around a simple meal and share the joy of serving Christ Jesus as they served one another. Continue reading

Heading for Deep Water – Sermon on Luke 5:1-10

March 12, 2017
Watch a video of this sermon here. 

If you’re a guest today, you have come into a church that is on an exciting adventure with God! We’re spending the 6 weeks of Lent together inviting God to change us in any way that God wants to. The Spirit of God is moving in our church. Some of you have told me stories of the Spirit working as you talk about what’s happening with your small groups, your prayer exercises, and reading the book Unbinding Your Heart.

Would you like to join us? There’s still time to join a small group this week. In fact, one group meets right after coffee time in the pastor’s study today. There’s one early on Tuesday morning, and a couple of groups meet on Wednesday night as part of Family Night. Thursday options include an afternoon study and an evening group. Whichever group you join, we’ll bring you up to speed!

Here’s what we know so far: mainline Christian churches are rapidly declining in membership and influence in our country. We’ve grown reluctant to bring new people into Christian faith, and that reluctance prevents us from sharing our faith with others.

Last week, we explored why it makes a difference in our lives that we are Christians. We considered what our motivations might be for sharing the Christian faith with people who don’t have a faith. We considered that some of us don’t have a dramatic faith story to share, like Paul on the road to Damascus. Some of us are more like Ananias. Our personal stories might not be very dramatic, but God can use us as the domino that tips someone else into following Jesus.

In fact, there’s someone here today who has had just that kind of experience. I’d like to invite her to come share her story with you. Kris?

Continue reading

The Reluctant Evangelist – Sermon on Acts 9:1-10

March 5, 2017 (Lent 1A)
Watch a video of this sermon here. *

Have you ever been jealous of people who can tell a dramatic conversion story? Some people have a clear “before and after” testimony of how Jesus Christ has made a difference in their lives. Many of us, though, especially if we grew up in the church, might think our stories of coming to faith aren’t very exciting.

If you like satire, there’s a website called the Babylon Bee  that posts fake news stories every day. Each story is a piece of Christian satire, an intended joke, with headlines like “Congregation Sings 10,000 Reasons for the 10,000th Time” or “Church introduces New Maximum Security Nursery.” The Babylon Bee operates from the premise that Christians shouldn’t take themselves too seriously. Recently, they published an “article” about ways to spice up your testimony. It starts like this… Continue reading

The Great Invitation: Shine! Sermon on Matthew 17:1-8

February 26, 2017
Transfiguration A
View a video of this sermon here

We are skipping ahead in today’s gospel reading. For the past few weeks we have been listening to the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has finished his teaching on the slopes above the Sea of Galilee. He has gone on from there to heal and teach, to spread the good news that the Kingdom of heaven is near. He has fed the 5000, and another 4000. Peter has confessed that Jesus is indeed, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus has told his dearest friends that he will soon be betrayed and killed, but will rise again on the third day. They have a hard time accepting this news. But Jesus knows his mission. He won’t be stopped.

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. – Matthew 17:1-8

 

Three disciples follow Jesus up a mountain. Peter, James, and John are the same ones who will go with him to the garden of Gethsemane on the night he is betrayed. Luke’s account (Luke 9) of this story says that they went up to pray, and that the disciples became sleepy, and this gives us another parallel to the Gethsemane story, where these same three disciples fall asleep while Jesus goes a little further into the garden to pray.

But in this story, the disciples do not fall asleep. What they see cannot be brushed off as a dream. This is real. Jesus is transformed right before their eyes. Continue reading

Do It Like Deborah – an Ordination Sermon on Judges 4:1-10

For Vicki

February 18, 2017

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD after
Ehud died. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan,
who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in
Harosheth-hagoyim. Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help,
for he had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly
for twenty years.

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that
time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel
in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for
judgment. She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-
naphtali and said to him, “Has not the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded
you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of
Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of
Jabin’s army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his
chariots and his troops,
and I will give him into your hand’?” Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I
will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely
go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to
your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then
Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. And Barak called out Zebulun
and Naphtali to Kedesh. And 10,000 men went up at his heels, and Deborah
went up with him. – Judges 4:1-10 

When I first met Vicki, she was serving as a youth pastor in a Methodist church.
Now I’m the one serving in a Methodist church, and I’m the one trying to get
teenagers hooked on reading the Bible. This is no easy task, especially when it
comes to the Old Testament. But I have learned that Judges is a great book for
Confirmation classes. There’s plenty of blood and gore! Who needs zombie
movies when you’ve got Judges? Continue reading

The Great Invitation: To What End? Sermon on Matthew 5:38-48

February 19, 2017 Epiphany 7A
Watch a video of this sermon here. 

What’s the point, exactly, of following Jesus? Why do we do it? Over the past several weeks, Jesus has been issuing The Great Invitation to us through his Sermon on the Mount. Christ has been inviting each of us into his life. He has told us that we are salt and light, seasoning the world with God’s love and shining into the world’s darkness.

Jesus has raised the barre for the way we behave toward one another, inviting us to live into the spirit of the law. He encourages us toward a higher quality of righteousness than following the letter of the Law can provide.

Today’s passage brings us to the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. Continue reading

The Great Invitation: This, Not That – Sermon on Matthew 5:21-37

February 12, 2017
Epiphany 6A
View a video of this sermon here.

Effective teachers know that good corrective instruction starts with an evaluation of what the student has already mastered. That’s just a fancy way of saying it’s easier to help a student fix what needs to be fixed if you start by affirming what’s already going well. Good teachers point out the positives before they get to what needs to be improved. So, Jesus has begun his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount with the good news: You are blessed, you are salt and light.

Jesus reminds us that God is at work, and we already are salt and light to the world, seasoning it with God’s love and shining God’s light into every dark corner. We also heard him insist that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.

As Jesus digs deeper into what it means to live into the spirit of the Law, he makes it clear that being his follower requires more from us than obeying a few rules. In this week’s passage, Jesus is moving from the positives to what we, his students, need to improve, as citizens of the Kingdom of heaven. Continue reading