2017-07-23 Sermon on the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds – Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
So, how many of you would call yourselves farmers or gardeners? Well, blessed are you! I don’t really have a green thumb, but every once in a while I try to grow some flowers or something. And every time I learn the same thing. I’m not very good at growing flowers or vegetables, but I’m REALLY good at growing weeds. I don’t even have to try. In fact, the less work I put into it, the more weeds I get. It’d be great if that’s what I was going for, but it’s not. Please tell me I’m not the only one who has that experience. But there’s something else – when I do get all responsible and try to weed, I have a lot of trouble telling the difference between weeds and not-weeds. Sometimes it’s obvious – even I know what a thistle looks like. But after a while everything just looks the same. I don’t know what to pull out.
That’s kind of the basic problem in Jesus’ parable today. A farmer sows wheat in a field, but when it finally comes in, bonus! Two crops. Wheat AND weeds. You know, last week it was all about seeds that DON’T grow, and weeds that choke, and how rare a good harvest was. But that’s not our situation here. There really is a crop of wheat, and everyone sees it, and it’s totally abundant, and the weeds DON’T choke. That’s good news! But with all these weeds everywhere, how do you get the wheat without killing yourself or giving up in frustration?
2017-07-16 Sermon on the Parable of the Sower – Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
I don’t know about you, but I love Jesus’ parables. Especially those ones in the gospel of Matthew that end with weeping and gnashing of teeth, because they’re just SO HOPEFUL! But let’s save that for another time. Seriously, the parables are great for a lot of reasons. They’re easy to remember – and even when you get the details wrong, the basic point sticks. They’re interesting – you hear one a thousand times and still get hooked. But we know Jesus isn’t just telling stories – he’s teaching. So what we really want to know is how we fit into the story. Well, how fabulous that Jesus actually explains this parable, just so we might get his point.
2017-04-14 Sermon on Good Friday – Isaiah 52:13-15
See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. Just as there were many who were astonished at him — so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals — so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
This is one of our lectionary texts for Good Friday, though we didn’t read it this year. But I’ve been reading a lot of Isaiah lately, and something about this text won’t let me go. And it’s also a really strange vision of God and servanthood, and maybe that’s why we need to hear it right now, because Good Friday is really strange. When did we ever dress all in black for anything good?
2017-02-12 Sermon on Matthew 5:21-37
The gospel of the Lord? Hard to say. We just want to hear Jesus talk about grace, mercy, forgiveness. Evidently Jesus just wants to pound law. You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not swear falsely. That’s 3 commandments that we already know – 7 more to go, right? So how can this possibly be gospel. Gospel means good news. If it’s not good, and it’s not news, then it’s not gospel. Kind of simplistic, but it’s absolutely true. This just feels like Old Testament on repeat. But in fact, we don’t even need Jesus to tell us that this is bad stuff. We know how they tear apart our communities. Every day people are killed. Relationships fall apart. People lie. Cheaters cheat. And we’re all wounded by it in one way or another. Either it’s you, or someone close to you, or maybe you just hear a story and it doesn’t feel obvious that you’re affected, but I bet you’d expect Jesus to say you are, even if you don’t believe it, right? I know it sounds cynical, but isn’t it hard to imagine things changing any time soon?
My good friend Kathy shared this on Facebook, and tagged me about how this might be translated into Biblical Greek, and of course, I couldn’t pass up the learning opportunity…
2016-11-13 Sermon on Luke 21:5-19
A couple weeks ago, we gave my mom a surprise birthday party. 80 years old. It’s ok, she won’t mind that I told you all. The cousins even showed up! It was nice to catch up. Now, my family has a lot of big personalities. I’m actually one of the quiet ones, believe it or not! By big, I mean opinionated. Strong conservative opinions. I see their chatter on Facebook and I wonder who ARE these people! So do you want to guess what they’ve been talking about lately? Probably the same thing you’re all talking about. The election. So at the party they all want to know who I’m voting for. I don’t know why they even bother to ask. Surely they can figure it out. But I know they’re itching for a fight, so I don’t say a word.
You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death.
2016-08-21 Sermon on Luke 13:10-17
All of our readings today talk about the Sabbath. What do you think of when you hear “Sabbath”? I think of Sunday rest. I also think of how I’m a failure at keeping God’s third commandment – keep the Sabbath holy. I’ve always got something I’ve got to do. So much for rest. Shouldn’t this be the easiest commandment to keep? Rest. But it’s not. The world never stops moving. Some of us actually have jobs with Sunday shifts. Heck, pastors even get paid for what they do on Sunday, right? Now, we can get creative and say that Sabbath doesn’t have to mean Sunday. Pick a day. After all, God creates for 6 days and rests on the 7th, but that doesn’t mean Sunday. So, then you have to consider what the word “Sabbath” actually means. It’s a Hebrew word – SHABBAT. It means rest, but it also means to cease, to stop, to come to an end. We don’t get to pick which definition makes more sense. So this doesn’t mean taking things easy for a day. This means completely stop everything. If you want to take the letter of the law at face value, then we’ve got a pretty big problem. And I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced that when we try to qualify laws, we always make a mess of things.