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?
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.
2016-08-07 Sermon on Luke 12:32-40
A watched pot never boils. We all know that saying. What does it mean? Well, have you ever tried to watch a pot boil? There you go. Actually, there’s a lot of meaning in that little phrase. One thing it gets at, is anticipation. When we’re waiting for something, doesn’t it feel like time slows down? And the more you want or need whatever it is you’re waiting for, the worse it gets. We encounter this in a lot of ways – waiting for a restaurant order. Waiting for medication to take effect. Waiting for an appointment. Waiting for an answer. These are totally different situations, but it all comes down to the same basic thing. Waiting. And don’t we do a lot of it?
2016-07-31 Sermon on the Parable of the Rich Fool
You can’t take it with you. Isn’t that the old saying? That’s kind of what Jesus seems to be saying here – “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you” That’s death by the way. “And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” You spend your life building your fortune, and then you die. The Lord giveth and taketh away, and there’s not much good news about that, is there? Now, considering this is a parable, what do we usually do when we hear one? We always try to figure out which character we are. Why? Because we figure Jesus is trying to use a story to tell us what to do. Who do we associate with here? The rich guy, right? Well, the only people in the story are God and the rich guy, and I’ve never met anyone who associated with God. So, what do you think the message is going to be? Things can’t save you? Stuff weighs you down? Be generous? That’s all good, but it sounds just like common sense, so I don’t know that we need the Bible for that. Maybe Jesus is up to something else here…..
2016-07-10 Sermon for the Parable of the Good Samaritan
So, a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan walk into a bar. Ouch!
This has got to be one of the best-known parables in all of scripture. Surely everybody knows who the Good Samaritan is. We call people Good Samaritans. We’ve got laws named for him. Sometimes when you’re driving on 465, you might see one of the CVS/Samaritan vans on the side of the road, helping out a stranded motorist. Really, it’s fascinating how this story even sticks with people who don’t profess any sort of religion at all. Maybe it’s because it sounds like a simple lesson about being a good neighbor, and you don’t have to be Christian to know that’s a good idea.