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Sermon for December 21, 2008 (Advent 4)

Birthing a Promise
Luke 1:26-38

Advent begins in darkness. Sometimes I think the world wishes it was different. Around this time of year, the world asks us to rush into the light. Just hours after we finish the leftover turkey and trimmings from Thanksgiving, the bells start ringing, the carols start playing, and the lights blink in our neighbor’s windows. The malls have been “Christmased” since October. With a world that resists the darkness, it’s even more important to stick to God’s plan. Advent begins in darkness.

And in that darkness, God asks us to do some things that are not part of our nature. Take it slow and steady. Savor the journey. Be honest and acknowledge that how we feel inwardly does not always match how the world insists we feel outwardly. No amount of tinsel or lights can take away the aching loss of a loved one. No amount of caroling can erase a frightening diagnosis or an impending surgery. No person can make you feel merry and bright when the real worries of the wor…

Sermon for December 21, 2008 -- Advent 3

Finding Joy in the Season
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11

In an early October evening in 1843, Charles Dickens stepped from the brick-and-stone porch of his home near Regent’s Park in London. The cool air of dusk was a relief from the day’s unseasonal humidity as the author began his nightly walk. Dickens was deeply troubled. The 31-year-old father of four had thought he was at the peak of his career. The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby had all been successful novels. But now the celebrated writer faced serious financial problems. Sales of his the new novel were not what had been expected. It seemed his talent was being questioned. Dickens supported a large, extended family and his expenses were already nearly more than he could handle. His father and brothers were pleading for loans. His wife, Kate, was expecting their fifth child.

All summer long, Dickens worried about his mounting bills, especially the large mortgage that he owed on his house. He knew that he needed an idea th…

Sermon for Sunday, December 7 (Advent 2)

Messengers of Hope
Mark 1:1-8

More housecleaning will be done at this time of year than any other. You know it if you have a live Christmas tree, because you’ve already vacuumed the floor about 6 times this morning. We clean because holidays mean company. Company means you have to move the stacks of gifts, fold or hide the piles of clothes, and clean or hide the stack of dishes in the sink before anyone comes over and finds out what your house looks like most of the time. When people come, we like to prepare for them–we clean, we cook and serve food, we decorate, and do what we can to make the visitor feel welcome. In the ancient Middle East, there was a practice much like our own: people would clean and to get ready for the visit of a dignitary. When the dignitary was a king or emperor, the cleaning included improving the roads leading to the city. It was kind of like an ancient New Deal. All kinds of jobs were instantly created, and the citizens of the area would be conscripted into …

Sermon for Sunday, November 16, 2008

Our Core Values: Children and Youth
Romans 12:3-16; Proverbs 22:6

Train children to live the right way, and when they are old, they will not stray from it.

Let’s talk about the ostrich. Did you know that the ostrich doesn’t sit on her eggs to incubate them? She will lay them in desert, kick some sand over them, and then run away to insure her own safety. Not what we would call a nurturer. The mother ostrich, in fact, has become the symbol of the careless mother. The book of Job says this about the ostrich: “She forgets that a foot may crush them, or that a wild beast may break them. She treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers; her labor is in vain, without concern, because God deprived her of wisdom, and did not endow her with understanding.” [Job 39:13-18]. Yet, despite all this bad mothering, the ostrich lays the largest, most beautiful, and perfect egg of all. I got thinking about ostriches and I began to wonder if some times we see ostrich syndrome in our culture. We l…

Sermon for Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our Core Values: Outreach
Luke 4:16-21
Nov. 9, 2008

Predators seem beautifully designed to catch prey animals, while the prey animals seem equally beautifully designed to escape them. So, whose side is God on? I was thinking about this when I read a story: In the middle of a forest, a hunter was suddenly confronted by a huge, mean bear. In his fear, all attempts to shoot the bear were unsuccessful. Finally, he turned and ran as fast as he could. The hunter ran and ran and ran, until he ended up at the edge of a very steep cliff. His hopes were dim. Seeing no way out of his predicament, and with the bear closing in rather quickly, the hunter got down on his knees, opened his arms, and exclaimed, “Dear God! Please give this bear some religion!” The skies darkened and there was lightning in the air. Just a few feet short of the hunter, the bear came to an abrupt stop, fell to its knees, folded its mighty paws together, and owed its head. Then the bear began to speak: “Thank you, God, for th…

Sermon for Sunday November 2, 2008 -- All Saints Day

Core Values: Honoring Our Workers
Matthew 9:35-38; 2 Timothy 2:14-19

Another Halloween has come and gone, and how well did we do in making it All Saints’ Eve? What did we notice as the little ones with smiley faces gave cheery “Trick or Treat” greetings as their hands greedily dove into bowls of candy? Beyond the joy of giving out candy, did any of you keep track of the kinds of costumes the children wore?

It depends on the fads of the year, of course, but you can always count on scary, dark characters: murderers from horror movies, Grim Reapers, vampires, skeletons, ghosts, and monsters. There are bound to be warriors of one sort or another: Power Rangers, ninjas, and superheroes, as well as football players, soldiers, and pirates. And don’t forget the animals: This year I saw dog, a rabbit, a lion, a giraffe, and a few black cats. There are always happy characters, too: fairies, princesses, cheerleaders, clowns, ladybugs, pumpkins, ballerinas, and brides. Sometimes there are costumes …

Sermon for Sunday October 26, 2008

Our Core Values: Dealing With Differences
James 4:1-12

What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the spirit God has placed within us is filled with envy? But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.”

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he …

Sermon for October 19, 2008 -- Stewardship Sunday

A Letter from Home
2 Corinthians 9:1-15


Dear Matt,
Tragedy struck The Jerico Springs Progressive Church of the Ozarks last Sunday afternoon. It was the day of our church’s monthly potluck. We were looking forward to some of our favorite recipes: Adelaide’s Tuna and Sardine Casserole, Bea Jimsons Baked Frito and Velveeta Pie (You remember Bea Jimson, Woodchuck’s wife?), Lucille Collins’ Squash and Ritz Casserole, and Willadoll Broadfoot’s Baked Peekabeef Muffins. I was planning on fixin’ my usual recipe – your Grandma Beydler’s famous Honey Lamb Biscuits. But, I decided that Sunday was a day for change, and I had a hankerin’ for green bean casserole. I guess I wasn’t the only one. As we arrived for Sunday dinner and uncovered our dishes, every one of ‘em to the bowl was a green bean casserole. Marilyn Perkins, supervisor of the potluck committee, watched in horror as family after family arrived with the same side dish in tow. By the time grace was said over the meal, there were over twe…

Sermon for October 12, 2008

Our Core Values: Generosity
2 Corinthians 8:1-9

Whatever happened to the African killer bees? Remember during the mid-1990s, television news reported on the looming invasion of aggressive killer bees that would come from Central America and Mexico to take over the Southwestern United States. A few headlines from the Arizona Republic and The Arizona Daily Star told the story: “Africanized Bees Found at Interstate 8 Rest Stop.” “Killer Bees Blamed for 3 Attacks.” “Pit Bull Dies of Nearly 2,000 Stings; Killer Bees Blamed.” Hollywood produced a made-for-TV horror movie about the bees -- A small town sheriff grapples with a swarm of killer bees in an effort to protect his town and family. We don’t hear much about them anymore. After September 11, we all forgot about the killer bees. Instead, we heard about Al Qaeda terrorists, anthrax, dirty bombs, avian bird flu, global warming, Iraq, high gas prices and a sluggish economy. Some of these issues were legitimate concerns. Others began as legi…