God Is In The Interruptions – Sermon on Mark 5:21-43

July 1, 2018

Early in my ministry, I was complaining about not being able to get anything done for all the interruptions – people in need, questions from people in the church, phone calls …. The senior pastor I called “boss” at the time smiled and said, “Interruptions are where real ministry begins.” Continue reading

Putting Sabbath In Its Place – Sermon on Mark 2:23-3:6

June 3, 2018
Watch a video of this sermon here.

One sabbath he was going through the grain fields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” 
Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come forward.” Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (Mark 2:23-3:6)

We’re back in Capernaum, or almost there. Jesus and his disciples are on their way to church on the Sabbath, and the disciples are hungry. So they pick grain as they walk through a wheat field, and eat it on their way to synagogue. Apparently, the Pharisees use this same route to church, because they are right there, asking Jesus why he lets his followers break Sabbath laws. Jesus tells them a story they already know, but as he does, he likens himself to David – claiming a kind of kingly authority that comes only from God.

In effect, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Don’t get so bound up in your rules that they become your purpose for living. Let Sabbath do its job, which is to provide rest and refreshment, and an opportunity for worship and study. God gave the Sabbath for your benefit. God didn’t create you for the sake of the Sabbath. Continue reading

The Spirit of Adoption – Sermon on Romans 8:12-17 (Trinity B)

May 27, 2018
Watch a video of this sermon here. 

We all want to belong. When we are kids, we want to belong to the right group of friends. As we grow older, we look for places where “everybody knows your name,” places where we know we will be accepted, places we can call home. As Robert Frost put it, “home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”[1]

The desire to belong is a deeply felt need, and when it isn’t met, the consequences can be devastating. Kids especially need to belong, to know they are loved, to know that they matter.

Children who have been neglected, who don’t have a strong sense of belonging, are statistically more likely to suffer from at least one psychological disorder by the time they reach age 21. According to the Kids At Risk Action Group, “Children who experience child abuse & neglect are about 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.”[2] Feeling like you belong is an important part of growing up whole and healthy.

We all need to belong. The question is, where will we find that need satisfied? The Apostle Paul addresses this question in the 8th chapter of his letter to the church at Rome.  Continue reading

Pentecost – Sermon on Acts 2:1-21

May 20, 2018

It’s been fifty days since Easter. Fifty days of praying. Fifty days of anticipation. Fifty days of wondering what comes next. During these past fifty days, we’ve been reading from the book of Acts instead of the Old Testament each Sunday. Last week I mentioned that instead of “Second Luke” or “The Acts of the Apostles,” it might be more appropriate to call this book “The Acts of the Holy Spirit,” because the Holy Spirit has been on the move.

We’ve seen Jewish Christians become aware that Gentiles can be Christians, too. We’ve seen the established religious leaders of the day confounded by healing and preaching that they thought they’d gotten rid of when they crucified Jesus.
And we’ve seen thousands upon thousands of lives changed forever by believing that Jesus is the Christ and being baptized in his name.

Last week, we went back to the very beginning of Acts, to set the scene for
today’s passage. We heard Jesus say, “You will be my witnesses,” just before he was lifted into a cloud. The disciples who saw this happen headed back to Jerusalem and started praying. Whatever they were praying for, whatever we’ve been waiting for, this is it. We’ve arrived at Pentecost. Continue reading

Be My Witnesses – Sermon on Acts 1:1-11 for Ascension C

May 13, 2018 (Mother’s Day)

It’s time to go back to the beginning. Sometimes, we need a little refresher course in why we do what we do, who we are, and what our mission in life truly is. It’s easy to get off track. It’s easy to get lost in the details of day-to-day activities, and forget what our purpose was for doing those things in the first place.

The gospel writers knew this. As the church was forming and reforming in those early years, it was important to stay focused on the gospel, the Good News. It was important to know what to believe, and even more important to remember who to believe. The best way to keep things straight was to write down everything, from the beginning. Continue reading

Astounded by Grace – Sermon on Acts 10:44-48 for Easter 6B

May 6, 2018

Our readings from Acts during this season of Eastertide have given us a glimpse of the early church. We have seen a healing miracle provide a way for disciples of Jesus to tell others about their personal experience of Christ’s resurrection. The Holy Spirit has been on the move. Thousands have come to believe in Jesus.

Last week, you heard how the Holy Spirit nudged Philip to follow a chariot on its way to Gaza. Inside that chariot was an African eunuch – just about the last person on earth a good Jew would engage in conversation.

This African Gentile is a eunuch, or as my friend Pastor Shawna says, “a person of questionable sexuality.” Jewish law would have specifically forbidden coming into contact with such an unclean person. Yet Philip did, and the newly baptized Ethiopian eunuch becomes the very first missionary to the African continent.

In between last week’s story and this week’s reading are the conversion of Saul on his way to Damascus, and the raising of Tabitha from death in Joppa (ch 9). It’s been a busy week for the early church.

Peter has stayed in Joppa with Simon the Tanner, and one day, as he is praying around noon, he has a vision of a sheet full of animals being let down from heaven. A voice tells him to kill and eat – but there’s a problem. All the animals in the sheet are … unclean. Peter insists that he can’t do what the voice commands. He’s never eaten an unclean thing in his life. The voice tells him, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” (10:15) This happens three times. Peter can’t figure out what it means. Continue reading

Christ the Cornerstone – Sermon on Acts 4:5-12 Easter 4B

April 22, 2018
Watch a video of this sermon here. 

Here’s where we are in our Easter season readings from the book of Acts. It’s the day after Peter and John healed a man who had been crippled since birth. This man, who had never walked a day in his life, has danced and leaped around Solomon’s Porch, praising God. People came running to see what was happening, and Peter – filled with the Holy Spirit – has preached his second sermon.

The first was at Pentecost, where 3000 people believed and were baptized in the Name of Jesus. This time, even more are moved to repentance and they join the believers. This church is growing and it hasn’t even started calling itself a church yet! But it is making the priests and temple rulers nervous. Continue reading