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Sermon for Dec. 10, 2006, Advent II

Heralds of Jesus
Luke 3:1-6

We begin in the year 587 BC. If we could time travel to Jerusalem, we would see a city ravaged by war. Babylon, the merciless and dominant military power, has captured the King of Jerusalem and his family. One by one, The conquering army slays King Zedekiah’s sons as he is forced to look on. Men and boys are taken to the sanctuary of the Temple and killed. These moment of terror are the last things King Zedekiah sees before soldiers gouge his eyes out. The king and all of the Jewish survivors are shackled and marched across the desert to Babylon as political prisoners. It’s a lampoon of a victory parade as 15,000 prisoners march away from Jerusalem. Most of them will never see their homes again.

Israel’s prophets warned that their defeat was the punishment for Israel’s sin. The leaders hated justice and honesty, and led the people in the worship of the fertility gods of the other nations. God’s patience had run out. Judgment had come.

We don’t know much about w…

Sermon for December 3, 2005

The Days are Coming
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Luke 21:25-36

As we prepare our hearts for Advent, I invite you to listen to the Christmas Story.
“Once upon a time, a decree went out from Caesar in August that everyone should be taxed so that the deficit would not get too big. Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem. Mary rode on a donkey named Rudolph, who was embarrassed to be seen carrying an unwed mother. He blushed so at the thought that his nose glowed red. Upon arriving at Bethlehem, they could not find a place to stay. (It was, after all, the Christmas season, and the press of tourists was crushing.) As they knocked at the door of the last inn in town, the innkeeper pushed back the shutter and threw up the sash. His figure appeared so nimble and quick. They knew in a moment his name must be Nick. Meanwhile in a field nearby, seven dwarfs who were shepherds were startled to hear a group of angels singing Handel's Messiah. At the end of the concert, they were told to stand up and to …

Sermon for November 26, 2006 -- Christ the King

Serving the King
Revelation 1:4b-8 / John 18:33-37

When you think of Jesus - what image or metaphor do you comes to mind? Sometimes I think of Jesus as my brother and my friend -- someone who walks the journey of life with me, someone who talks with me and counsels me on the way, someone to whom it’s comfortable to talk and share life.

When you think of Jesus - what image or metaphor do you most often use? Some people think of Jesus as the good shepherd -- as one who guides and leads -- as the gentle savior who seek out the lost and injured sheep and carries the wounded and the lame on his shoulders till they are safe back in the fold.

What image do you have of Christ? How about Jesus as King? We don’t talk about that one much. Today we celebrate Christ as King. When I think about kings, here’s what comes to my mind:
« fairy-tale kings: benevolent, often dead, with a wicked queen
« king of the hill: the game where the strongest pushes everyone else off the hill
« “king me” -- checke…

Two Sermons -- Nov. 12 & 19

I was lazy and forgetful last week -- so here are two sermons at once -- a two-part series from the Book of Esther. Your feedback is usually appreciated.

When God is Silent
Esther 1:9-2:18
November 12, 2006

I hear the same questions in my office all the time. “Where was God?” “How could any God let this happen?” I look into eyes that are overflowing with pain and confusion and grief and rage - and they demand an answer. Why a holocaust, God? Why cancer? Why do few get fed while many more go hungry? Why do you allow people to suffer, God? Why September 11? Why were thousands of innocent men, women, and children were destroyed in senseless acts of violence. And for everyone who died in that attack, why do dozens more die throughout the world because of the terrorist whims of evil people?

Then there are the events that hit us in the gut–the personal events that cause us to questions God. People come to me and want to know WHY God didn’t protect them from the assaultive father, the molesting u…

Sermon for November 5, 2006

Whose Side is God On?
Luke 4:16-21

“If you’re a rock worshiper and a tree-hugger and an animal-rights activist and an anti-war draft dodger, you might want to stay home and tune in to NPR on the radio because you ain’t going to have a good time [here this morning] you ain’t a flag-waving, Bible-waving American.”

Can I get an "Amen"? Anybody?

Those remarks come from the Rev. Jeff Fugate, a southern Baptist minister from Kentucky who has trying to get his congregation psyched up about an upcoming religious rally. Fugate’s “I Love America” sermon lived up to his billing. At the July 2 event -- which cost his church more than $50,000 to stage -- Fugate criticized liberals, homosexuals, cross-dressers, HBO, Hollywood stars, rock musicians and the U.S. Supreme Court, as thousands applauded. He told non-Christian immigrants to “leave your religions, your Bibles, all the other things back where you came from.” How did it become possible to say that to be a follower of Jesus is to be a f…

Sermon for October 29, 2006 -- Reformation Sunday

Unforgivable Sin
Genesis 45:1-28

Is there a sin that’s so bad that it’s unforgivable? Is there be a betrayal so treacherous that God would refuse to pardon it? Murder? Suicide? Adultery? Will God forgive the perpetrators? Has any one ever done something to you that was unforgivable? Has anyone ever shown such deep disloyalty to you that the very thought of that person makes you sick?

If anyone could have felt that way, it could have been Martin Luther King Jr. One night, his home was burned down by a group of white men who hated his message about racial equality and the black voter initiative in the south. Under the leadership of Dr. King, African-Americans grew more confident of themselves, less willing to be oppressed and neglected by society. And they were angry -- angry about their treatment by white society. They were particularly angry on the night that their leader’s home was destroyed. A crowd of Dr. King’s friends and supporters gathered. Some talked about getting guns. Others t…

Sermon for October 8, 2006

Mrs. Job Evaluates God Job 2:2-10 We like to think that there is a reason for everything, don’t we? When I was a teenager, I was in a car accident. I was stopped at an intersection on a snowy day. Another driver tried to make a right hand turn, but the roads were slippery and he crashed into my driver’s side door. The obvious reason for this accident was a lapse in judgment. He was going too fast to make the turn. Deep down, I knew the accident was my fault. That morning, I did something that I knew I wasn’t supposed to. I convinced myself that the car accident was God’s way of telling me that He didn’t approve of my behavior. It was my wake-up call. As adults, many still think about God this way. I hear people say, “There is no such thing as coincidence” and “Everything happens for a reason.” It’s as if God is some the fate-weaver who twists the threads of time to shake us up. If everything happens for a reason, then clearly God made it happen. The argument goes like this: If an all-po…

Sermon for October 1, 2006 -- World Communion Sunday

A World Devoted to God
Genesis 12:1-9

Why can’t the religions of the world get along better? After all, isn’t Abraham the spiritual father of the Jews, the spiritual father of the Christians, and the spiritual father of the Muslims? Why is there so much conflict among Abraham’s spiritual children? What is wrong? Hebrew Scripture declares that Moses is a son of Abraham. The New Testament says that Jesus is a son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1). The Koran states that Mohammed is a son of Abraham. Does that imply that Moses, Jesus and Mohammed are brothers? If so, then why can’t the religions of the world get along better?

Today, I invite us to think about Abraham once more. 200 million Jews, two billion Christians and one billion Muslims trace their origins to Father Abraham. If all the descendents of these religions spiritually related, then why has there been so much conflict and war within the family through the centuries? If Abraham is declared a friend of God in the Jewish Torah and if Abr…

Sermon for September 17, 2006

"Do We Need Any More Heroes?"
Genesis 11:27-12:4
I love the automated carwash. I don’t go there often, but I love it. Not those places that make you get out of the car, either. It has to be the one where you pull up to the track, put your car in neutral, take your hands off the wheel, and get dragged through a tunnel of spraying foam, slapping spaghetti, whirring brushes, and air blowers. I think it’s exciting – an outside force pulling me closer to a clean car. The an outside force pulled our car into a dark tunnel as spraying foam, slapping spaghetti, and whirring brushes violently beat the car. My soothing ministrations from the front seat did nothing to alleviate their terror. An outside force pulled them forward, and none of us could control it. It’s terrifying when you think about it. Sound familiar? Have you ever felt that life pulled you along and you were not in control? Most of life feels that way. Life seems to take us for a ride and we don’t do much to resist. Some…