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Showing posts from 2007

Sermon for December 16, 2007

Joy of Mary
Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:26-38

There was a perfect man who met a perfect woman. After a perfect courtship, they had a perfect wedding. Their life together was, of course, perfect. One snowy, stormy Christmas Eve this perfect couple was driving along a winding road when they noticed someone at the roadside in distress. Being the perfect couple, they stopped to help. There stood Santa Claus with a huge bundle of toys. Not wanting to disappoint any children on the eve of Christmas, the perfect couple loaded Santa and his toys into their vehicle. Soon they were driving along delivering the toys. Unfortunately, the driving conditions deteriorated and the perfect couple and Santa Claus had an accident. Only one of them survived the accident. Who was the survivor?
Answer: The perfect woman. She’s the only one that really existed in the first place.
A Man’s Response: So, if there is no perfect man and no Santa Claus, the perfect woman must have been driving. This explains why there…

Sermon for December 2 -- Advent 1

The Radiance of Christ
December 2, 2007

I learned about Jesus' birth while wearing a bathrobe. Each Advent season I got a part in the Christmas pageant, generally as either a shepherd or a wise man. At the appropriate moment, I shuffled into place and said my line—usually only one, occasionally two -- “Let us go to Jerusalem!” or “We have seen his star shining in the east.” The idea was to show Jesus' birth as history, but effort at historical authenticity never went too far. I always thought we should have real sheep and camels in the pageant. My ideas were always overruled by the Sunday School superintendent.

There are troubling parts of the Christmas story that were never told. Herod’s slaughtering of the innocents doesn’t get a lot of stage time in Christmas pageants. But it’s part of the story. We are not even aware of another violent subplot to our Christmas story. It comes from the Hanukkah story. Hanukkah is not the modern Jewish alternative to Christmas. The holiday act…

Sermon for November 18, 2007

Who do you say I am?
Matthew 16:13-23

A man was looking for a job and he noticed that there was an opening at the local zoo. He asked about the job and found that the zoo had a very unusual position to fill. Apparently, their gorilla had died, and until they could get a new one, they needed someone to dress up in a gorilla suit and act like a gorilla for a few days. The man was to just sit, eat, and sleep. His identity would be kept a secret, of course. Thanks to a very fine gorilla suit, no one would be the wiser. The man tried on the suit and sure enough, he looked just like a gorilla. They led him to the cage; he took a position at the back of the cage and pretended to sleep. But after a while he got tired of sitting, so he walked around a bit, jumped up and down, and tried a few gorilla noises. The people who were watching him seemed to really like that. When he would move or jump around, they would clap, and cheer, and throw him peanuts. So he jumped around some more and tried clim…

Sermon for November 11, 2007

Well, I thought I’d do something a little different and share with you a letter from my family in Jericho Springs, MO. You might enjoy hearing about some of the happenings at the Jericho Springs Progressive Church of the Ozarks. I don’t think I’ve ever told you about them before. My Great Aunt Georgia is a long-time member there. In fact, my family has been attending there for generations. Anyway, it’s a place like most other home churches–muddling through the same old issues and made up of the same old wonderful people, with a few colorful characters and one or two certifiable nut cases thrown in–my family excluded, of course. Anyway, here’s the letter.

Dear Matthew,
I woke up a few days ago craving apple butter, and I don’t know why. It’s not like I eat the stuff, ever. But it was a powerful hankering, and I figured I’d better not fight it. You go around fighting hankerings, and you’re just begging for trouble. By the next day, I was standing in my kitchen coating two slices of Wonder…

Sermon for October 28, 2007

The Confident Sinner

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
-- Luke 18:9-14

I used to have real problems with church people. About 15 years ago I had an experience that changed my spiritual life. I became what some might call a Bible-believing Christian. …

Sermon for October 14, 2007 - -Stewardship Sunday

Why Are You Afraid?
Matthew 8:23-27

Nine hundred miles out to sea a sail was sighted on the horizon. As the ocean liner drew closer, the passengers saw that a boat. A small sloop flying a Turkish flag had run up a distress signal and other flags asking for its position at sea. Through a faulty chronometer, the small vessel had become lost. For nearly an hour, the liner circled the little boat, giving its crew correct latitude and longitude. Naturally, there was a great deal of interest in all the proceeding among the passengers of the liner. A boy of about 12 standing on the deck and watching all that was taking place, remarked “It’s a big ocean to be lost in.” He’s right. It is a big universe to be lost in, too. And we do get lost - we get mixed up and turned around. That’s why ships and boats are ancient symbols of the church. It’s carries us across storm-tossed seas, finally reaching safe harbor with its cargo of humanity.

The Church is a boat. But what kind of boat do you think we ar…

Sermon for September 30, 2007

The Prophet Without Honor
Matthew 13:54-58

The following sermon draws heavily upon remarks by James Buchanan at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago: http://www.fourthchurch.org/%202000/04.09.00.html

Remember Junior High romance? I do. There was a girl. And there was a school dance coming up. Not just any dance – our fist middle school semi-formal dance. I was sure this girl would go to the dance with me. I thought she was pretty and fun. But mostly, I knew she would say yes. So, I did what many self-respecting 6th graders do. I had my best friend to ask the girl if she would go to the dance with me. As I saw it, there was only one slight glitch in my plan. My best friend always tried to convince people that he was a Martian who was left on earth as an orphan child. In hindsight, putting my romantic future in the hands of an orphaned Martian may not have been a good move. We all sat on the bleachers in gym class -- the girl and her friends on one side, my best friend and I on the other.…

Sermon for September 23, 2007

The Unforgivable Sin
Matthew 12:22-37

Three ministers and their wives got into a car crash and died one day. They found themselves standing at the pearly gates together before St. Peter. St. Peter opened his big book, pointed to the first minister, and said, “You’re going to Hell.”

“What? Why?” cried the minister.

“Because you lusted after money. You never actually stole any money, but in your heart, you were constantly thinking about money. You had money on your mind so much that you even married a woman named Penny. So you’re going to Hell.” And in a puff of smoke, the first minister disappeared. St. Peter flipped a few pages in his book and pointed to the second minister. “You are also going to Hell,” he said sternly.

“Why?” said the anguished minister.

“Because of your love of alcohol. You never actually drank any alcohol, but you constantly yearned for it in your heart. You thought about it so much that you even married a woman named Brandy. So you’re going to Hell. “And in a puff of s…

Sermon for September 16, 2007

The Unforgivable Sin
Matthew 12:22-37

Three ministers and their wives got into a car crash and died one day. They found themselves standing at the pearly gates together before St. Peter. St. Peter opened his big book, pointed to the first minister, and said, “You’re going to Hell.”

“What? Why?” cried the minister.

“Because you lusted after money. You never actually stole any money, but in your heart, you were constantly thinking about money. You had money on your mind so much that you even married a woman named Penny. So you’re going to Hell.” And in a puff of smoke, the first minister disappeared. St. Peter flipped a few pages in his book and pointed to the second minister. “You are also going to Hell,” he said sternly.

“Why?” said the anguished minister.

“Because of your love of alcohol. You never actually drank any alcohol, but you constantly yearned for it in your heart. You thought about it so much that you even married a woman named Brandy. So you’re going to Hell. “And in a puff of s…

Sermon for September 16, 2007

Reviver of the Dead
Matthew 12:9-14

This morning, I invite us to hear, with fresh ears, a story about Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew says, “Then Jesus went over to the synagogue, where he noticed a man with a withered hand.”

I went to High School with a girl who suffered from crippling rheumatoid arthritis. She rode a scooter from class to class because she could barely walk. Her body was frail and tortured. I always remember her hands. They were usually bandaged. However, on the rare occasion her gauze wrappings were off, we saw her swollen, blistered, and twisted hands. I’m embarrassed to say, we were not kind to this girl. She was ridiculed and mocked without mercy. She was different. She was an easy target. School must not have been a safe place for her. She was one of our schools outcasts, excluded by those of us who felt that she did not belong among us healthy and robust teenagers.

I imagine life was hard for the man with the withered hand in today’s gospel reading. In…

Sermon for September 9, 2007

“Therefore You Shall Choose Life”
Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Matthew 11:1-6

In a tiny house lived a mother and her two children — a girl and a boy. The mother loved her children and worked hard to support them. Their house was very small — barely big enough for the three of them — but it had a little yard. In that little yard, the family had a modest garden that provided some food. They had a couple of chickens that gave them eggs. And in that small yard they had a duck. The duck was precious. The duck would one day be dinner for the little family.

On one spring day, the boy was in the tiny backyard throwing rocks, as little boys like to do. His young hands were barely as big as the rocks he threw, and his aim was not as sure as his desire. For a while, he threw them at a mark on the fence, missing it nearly every time. Then a voice from somewhere inside him told him to throw a rock at the duck. He threw the rock, and for once his aim was true. He killed that duck.

The boy was horrified. In pa…