"DEDICATION" - Deuteronomy 8:11-20 & Matthew 25:14-30
"REFORMATION" - Psalm 100 & Romans 3:21-27
Every now and then, a dramatic series on television gets our attention in our home. I wonder if you have seen the drama entitled “This Is Us,” which just started its second season and appears on Tuesday nights on NBC.
“This Is Us” gets our focused attention because all the characters are complex – like real people; none of the storylines are straight-forward, like real life; and this drama seems so willing to delve into the colorful dysfunction that often touches so many of our lives.
"BLESSINGS" - Genesis 27&32 Selections
The famous comedian George Burns once said that the real secret to a great sermon is to have a good beginning, . . . and a good ending, . . . and to have the two as close together as possible.
I will try to do that today.
But we have a big subject – REFORMATION.
Today is Reformation Sunday; it is always the last Sunday in October. This year, the Reformation deserves special attention because we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
"HALF-BROTHERS" - Genesis 21
If we play the “word association” game – you know – that game where one word almost automatically leads to another –
I say “smoke;” you say “fire” – and we’ve had, unfortunately, our share of that this week at the church. And we certainly keep in our prayers the man who was injured in the explosion in our boiler room.
I say “lock;” you say “key.”
I say “peanut butter;” you say “jelly.”
This is how we think . . . certain words go together.
If I say “SIBILING,” you might say, . . . “RIVALRY.”
"SIBLINGS" - Genesis 4:1-16
The first 11 Chapters of the Bible – in the book of Genesis - talk about cosmic things. God creates the world and calls it good. God creates all things in the world – day & night, sky & earth, and every living thing. God creates humankind – Adam and Eve – and gives them instructions in how to live. Two weeks ago, we looked carefully at one of those early stories in Genesis – the story of the first children born into the world, Cain and Abel - and the first murder: Cain killed his brother Abel.
"UNFINISHED" - Psalm 150, Matthew 10:5-15
Late last Saturday afternoon, Ginger and I took our regular walk in our neighborhood. . . . You might remember last Saturday.
Many of us gathered here in the Sanctuary for the memorial service for Linda Harrah. That was my primary focus for that day. But Saturday, you recall, was also the day that our city, and especially the neighborhood around Monument Ave, flowed with excessive anxiety and uncertainty and racial tensions.
"WHOLENESS" - Psalm 27
God is so powerfully at work here!
This is what people of faith celebrate. God is always doing new things. God is present and active in the midst of life. Our lives are always lived in the context of God’s love, toward God’s purposes, and trusting in God’s steadfast faithfulness and care. We belong to God. Our lives strive to serve God always.
“DORCAS” - Acts 9:36-43
Perhaps many of you are familiar with the cartoon character “Ziggy.” “Ziggy” has been around for several decades. In one cartoon, Ziggy has taken his pet parrot to the doctor because his parrot is frazzled, frenzied, and stressed out to the maximum. The parrot’s feathers are awry, eyes are askew. No telling what has caused this awful state. And then Ziggy presents his parrot to the doctor, saying, “I left him at home all day with the TV turned to CNN.”
"Held By Hope" - Romans 8:12-25, Psalm 139: 1 -12
When certain momentous events happen in life, especially on a Saturday, the preacher is presented with a challenge: drop the planned sermon and re-group, or continue on as planned.The events yesterday – the vitriol and violence in Charlottesville – certainly present a challenge. But I am not sure another text is better than those words from Isaiah today. I am deeply moved by the anthem that Nathan offered. And the story of Dorcas – the window – also calls us appropriately today to discipleship. Se we carry on.
"SHALOM" - Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Imagine with me a parable of two people, two different people, each coming to the end of a long day, each looking back and reflecting on the day’s events. The first person thinks: “Well, that’s a relief. Whew. I made it through. I did well all day. Kept to myself, stayed away from anything controversial, anything too inflammatory...
"ALL" - Ephesians 1:3-14
The story of God and God’s people begins with the story of Abraham and Sarah, which begins in Genesis 12. Across the recent weeks and months, several of my sermons have engaged us with the early stories: God calling Abraham and Sarah and telling them to go, go to the land that he would show them. God would be their God and they would be God’s people. He would bless them and make them a blessing in the world.
In my recent week off, I read another book by thoughtful and well-known preacher, writer, and podcaster – Rob Bell. You may recall other books of his that I have read and referenced. He has several very good ones. Bell’s most recent book is entitled, What Is the Bible? – how an ancient library of poems, letters, and stories can transform the way you think and feel about everything.
"RECEIVE" - from Acts 2 and Pentecost
How do you feel welcome? Every time we enter a space with other human beings in it, whether it is outside, inside a building, or a new group of people, we are greeted in some way. And each greeting is a little bit different.
"REDEMPTIVE" - Selections from Genesis
Today, Pentecost Sunday, is the one of the few Sundays of the year when we wear RED. If we were in our Sanctuary, and you are familiar with this church, it is the Sunday when we have those wonderful “tongues of fires” banners hanging and slowly twirling over us. Let’s pause and just imagine them.
"DEATH" - I Corinthians 15:12f
The book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible, is a fascinating and fantastic story. Genesis begins, you recall, when the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind of God swept over the face of the waters. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis presents the truth that all creation comes from God. God was before. God is Creator. God reigns over all.
"Why are you standing there?" - Acts 1:1-11; 2 Kings 2
A few of you know that I have become a big fan of “THE DAILY.” “The Daily” comes out each weekday - a free podcast - and once you download the app, it shows up every weekday for your listening pleasure. Hosted by Michael Barbaro, 20 minutes each day, you get some really important and fresh insights on pertinent news. Michael Barbaro writes for the New York Times and, on “The Daily,” he simply calls up his colleagues all around the world, who also work at the New York Times, but who are working on the hottest stories. You get a great conversation and keen insights into the latest news. It is fascinating, fun, and so informative.
"BECOMING" - Acts 17:16f
I wonder what other bible stories this passage brings to your mind. Perhaps the first connection you made is the most obvious one—this story of Christ’s ascension sounds a lot like the story we heard from 2 Kings, where Elijah is swept away by a chariot and Elisha gazes after him, before he stoops to pick up his mantle.
"BELIEVE" - John 14:1-14
In the Richmond Times Dispatch on Thursday of this week, there was a large picture depicting significant events in New Orleans. The picture showed a crane removing the statue of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard. The headline reported: “3rd Rebel Statue pulled down in New Orleans.” Then, a few paragraphs into the article the mayor of New Orleans commented: “Today we take another step in defining our city not by our past but by our bright future. While we must honor our history, we will not allow the Confederacy to be put on a pedestal in the heart of New Orleans.”
"TOGETHER" - from Psalm 23 and Acts 2:42f
As we continue this “Word of the Week” series, one of you suggested to Kathryn and me that we preach a sermon, not on one word, but on the many small words in our language, for example – the prepositions. As we think about words and language, it is not just the words that matter, but how the words connect to other words. Critical prepositions often frame the meaning of words. In fact, the one who suggested this knows, not just about language, but about translations, even Bible translations. The critical issue in translating the Bible is so often how the little words, the connecting words, the prepositions get translated. Those little words determine much about the larger words.
"What Things?" - Psalm 116: 1-4, 12-19; Luke 24:13-35
Some of you know that the first church I served as pastor was Pickens Presbyterian Church, in Pickens, SC. From 1988-1997 (nine wonderful years) Ginger and I lived in the upstate of SC and continue to love the people of that church and place. Our children had their formative years there. The congregation in Pickens nourished us, shared faith with us, and taught us so much about ministry.
“After the Resurrection, why is Jesus so…weird?” This is what Michael said when we were talking about the scripture a little earlier in the week. He pointed out: “Jesus never appears in front of a crowd, he only appears to a few people at a time—he walks through walls, he vanishes into thin air, he cooks up a fish breakfast on the beach. If the disciples were really trying to convince us of Jesus’ resurrection, why do they make it seem so odd? Why doesn’t it make more sense?”