The Deadly Game of Who’s In and Who’s Out

The Deadly Game of Who’s In and Who’s Out

Sermon for Time after Pentecost – Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The pharisees and the scribes asked Jesus, “why do your disciples eat with defiled hands?” What does “defiled mean”? Dirty. Unclean. So let’s do a little poll. Who washes their hands before they eat? How about every time? I guess we wouldn’t make good Pharisees, would we? But don’t we get a lot of reminders to wash hands? Seems like these days every restaurant bathroom has a sign above the sink – “EMPLOYEES MUST WASH HANDS BEFORE RETURNING TO WORK.” I sure hope they do! Let’s say we’re good and we wash our hands. How do you know they’re really clean? How long do you have to wash them? I know some people sing Happy Birthday. But what if you’re a fast singer? ok, now who thinks this is just overcomplicating things? It’s always something, right? If dirty hands don’t get us, won’t something else?

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Why Is Peace Always So Noisy?

Why Is Peace Always So Noisy?

Sermon for Time after Pentecost – Ephesians 2:11-22

I had the joy of preaching this at Emerson Avenue Baptist Church. Thanks, Pastor Justin!

What is peace? Is it when everything’s quiet and calm? Maybe you’ve got the house or apartment to yourself for a moment. Maybe you’re like my Dad and just hang out in the bathroom for a while. Alone time. You can hear yourself think for a change. I grew up out in the country, with fields and gravel roads and no traffic. Neighbors were a ways off. It was pretty quiet, but I was a quiet kid, nose always stuck in a book, so that was fine by me. But it wasn’t so fine by my Mom. If you ask her what peace is, she’ll tell you about summers with our house full of rowdy kids. I’ve got a ton of cousins – all city kids. We were the country folk, so my aunts used to ship them off to our house for a week, and it was pure chaos. Roughhousing. Busting my toys. No peace for me. But Mom actually loved it – yelling at them to behave, chasing after them. Where’s the peace in that? Well, if we were raising a ruckus, she knew we were alive. We hadn’t killed each other. We were ok, and that was her peace. She tells me when it was just me, I was too quiet. She was always checking on me to make sure I was still ok. Peace for me, NO peace for her. I guess peace is noisier than I thought. It reminds me of Pastor Justin and his family on vacation this weekend. I don’t have kids myself, but I’ve met his kids, and I bet his peace is a lot noisier than mine! Bless their hearts…..

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When Someone’s Head Winds up on a Silver Platter

When Someone’s Head Winds up on a Silver Platter

Sermon for Time after Pentecost – Mark 6:14-29

Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. The gospel of the Lord? I don’t know – that’s one messed up story. First off, it’s a story about Herod, so let’s remember who he is. This is Herod Antipas. His dad was Herod the Great. Dad’s ruthless, murderous, paranoid. Hears about the birth of Jesus, the king of the Jews, and orders the slaughter of all the male infants in the kingdom because he thinks Jesus is a threat. There’s more but you get the picture. This Herod is the son. When that’s your parental role model, you’re going to have a few issues. You’re probably used to getting whatever you want. So, this Herod goes off to Rome to visit his brother Philip, wife Herodias, and daughter Salome. He likes what he sees and steals Herodias away to be his wife. But he takes Salome too. Family values?

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The Gospel of Naked Baby Photos

The Gospel of Naked Baby Photos

Sermon for Time after Pentecost – Mark 6:1-13

I think I’ll call today’s gospel reading the gospel of naked baby photos. Imagine when you meet that special someone. Let’s pick a holiday. Thanksgiving. You bring them home to meet your family. Everything’s going great. Your parents are behaving themselves for a change. Your siblings press pause on the rivalries. It’s all nice, until…. out come your naked baby photos. Oh how CUTE you were then! Oh how MORTIFIED you are now! Has that ever happened to you? Here’s what happened to me on Facebook. SHOW PHOTO. So CUTE! So let’s fast forward a few years. The high school reunion. You’ve changed. You’re wiser. Happy. Well-adjusted. But then you run into that person or clique that always got under your skin back in the day, and the old stories come up that you thought you forgot. Maybe you haven’t moved on like you thought you did. YOU know you’re not the same person you were, but other people apparently didn’t get the memo, so you feel like you have to defend yourself now. It’s like other people only want to prove you’ve never changed.

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Is Jesus Just Letting Us Suffer?

Is Jesus Just Letting Us Suffer?

Sermon for Time after Pentecost – Mark 5:21-43

So, the lectionary likes to jump around, but these last weeks we’ve kept with the gospel of Mark. It’s interesting because you can notice repeated details. Here’s an example. In Mark, everywhere Jesus goes, this crowd suddenly comes out of nowhere and CRUSHES him. Literally. Mark says things like “the crowd came together so they could not even eat.” That means no elbow room. Or Jesus is on the shore and tells his disciples to have a boat ready so that the crowd can’t crush him. His getaway car. Or Jesus is in a house, and they want to bring a paralyzed man to him for healing, but the crowd is so thick around the house that they have to remove the roof and lower the guy down on a mat (not the same thing as Jesus blowing the roof off the place!). What kind of insanity is that? What would it feel like to be in a crowd like that? Suffocating. It reminds me of the year I went out to SF for the pride festival. The crowd was so thick that I had to move with it. I’d never been in a situation like that before. I’m not claustrophobic, but now I have an idea what it might feel like.

So, maybe that’s what the crowd in Mark felt like. But, why are they there? Why do they always swarm in whereever Jesus goes?

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Is Prophecy the Same as Predicting the Future?

Is Prophecy the Same as Predicting the Future?

Sermon for the Birth of John the Baptist – Luke 1:57-80

Today we celebrate the Feast of John the Baptist. Do any of you know what “feast day” actually means? Ususally we just think “feast” means a big meal like Thanksgiving. But “feast” can also mean an annual religious celebration. For us Christians, feast days are when we remember certain saints. Important people in the history of the church. We like to talk about who they were, what they did, and give thanks for their witness. But you know, it’s odd that we celebrate John the Baptist in the middle of summer. Normally we talk about him in December during Advent. Our readings for today are usually Advent readings, not summer readings. Why talk about John NOW? Well, in Advent we’re building up to the birth of Jesus. Jesus and John are cousins, you know. The angel Gabriel visits Mary to drop a bomb on her – guess what? You’re unwed and pregnant! Oh happy day. Boom. Oh, and by the way, your relative Elizabeth is 6 months pregnant. So, when’s Christmas? 6 months from today. Fun facts!

But there’s a serious reason to talk about John today. What was his job?

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Mustard Trees, Immigration Policies and Politicians Who Misquote Scripture

Mustard Trees, Immigration Policies and Politicians Who Misquote Scripture

Sermon for Time after Pentecost – Mark 4:26-34

Ever notice how Jesus talks a lot about farming? Seeds and fig trees and wheat and weeds. But it’s odd. What was Jesus’ job before he started his ministry? Mark 6:3 – some kind of builder or carpenter. Not a farmer. So why talk about farming? Who knows? But a lot of the people he preaches to were farmers. Jesus wants to be relevant. That means farming sermons. Like you do. But he’s not a farmer, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he says some odd things. In the parable of the sower, the sower sows seeds on rocky paths. Who does that? No one who wants to eat. What an odd example! Here, he talks about mustard seeds, and it’s just as odd, for three reasons. First, he says the mustard seed is the world’s smallest seed. But we know that’s not true. The farmers back in Jesus’ day had smaller seeds too. They knew better. Why would Jesus say such an odd thing?

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Sin Boldly!

Sin Boldly!

Sermon for Time after Pentecost – Mark 3:20-35

So, Jesus tells a lot of parables. What’s your favorite one? (ASK) Here’s one that I bet no one ever mentions. “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.” The parable of grand larceny. It’s not cheating – no trickery. It’s not stealing – no sneaking. No, Jesus means storming in, tying everyone up, and PLUNDERING – taking EVERYTHING, like even ripping out windows and doors. That’s not far-fetched – think about how building materials get stolen all the time from houses being renovated in a bad neighborhood. Jesus is talking about an epic robbery. How disturbing is that? I don’t hear anything about a felony conviction. Is Jesus actually telling us how to get away with crime? That CAN’T be right, can it? What’s Jesus up to here?

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Talk WITH People, Not AT Them!

Talk WITH People, Not AT Them!

Sermon for Pentecost – John 15:26-27, 16:4b-19

FYI – You’ll hear me reading the gospel lesson in Greek!

So did you get all that? Now in case you didn’t know, the OT is written in Hebrew and the NT is written in Greek. But it’s not the same as modern Greek. If you visit Greece and speak this way. You’re going to get looks. Go around and quote Shakespeare and see what happens. Which makes me wonder why people still want to read the King James version of the Bible, but anyway… This Greek is older, it’s Koine, which means common. What does that mean? It’s the everyday Greek that regular folks like you and me spoke at the time. Not the old, proper, attic Greek of philosophers and historians. This is the Greek you used for conversation, and simpler for all the non-Greek speakers to understand. That’s why the NT is in Koine. So everyone could understand.

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When It’s Time to Let Go

When It’s Time to Let Go

Sermon for Jesus’ Prayer for the Disciples – John 17:6-19

Happy Mother’s Day! Ever notice how Mother’s Day has become a sacred holiday? It’s almost on the scale of Christmas and Easter. In a lot of congregations today there are going to be special services where all the mothers get a rose. Choirs will sing sentimental songs. We love to have the kids take first communion on mother’s day. There’ll be a special lunch afterward. And if we DON’T make a big deal we’re going to hear about it. Now, I don’t begrudge any of this. I appreciate the reminder to call my mom and let her know I’m thinking about her. “You never call!” She’s not perfect but she has given a lot for me, and I need the reminder. But life is also complicated, and we know that every holiday has baggage. We lose our mothers. We become estranged from our mothers. We want to be mothers but can’t, for a whole host of reasons. We feel like bad mothers. When some of us hear “mother’s day”, it digs up these feelings of loss or regret that we manage to avoid thinking about most of the time. So, maybe we should make it a question. Happy mother’s day?

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