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Sermon for December 19, Advent 4

Doing the Right Thing

The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn't know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God's angel spoke in the dream: "Joseph, son of David, don't hesitate to get married. Mary's pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God's Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—'God saves'—because he will save his people from their sins." This would bring the prophet's embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for "God is with us").

Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God's…

Sermon for December 12, 2010

Choosing Life

Advent is a time of waiting. Preparing. But what are we waiting for? For what are we preparing? For happier times? A better world? For our longing for peace and justice to be stilled? Advent is a time of waiting and wondering, looking back and looking forward. Advent is a time of hoping and searching. Advent is the time of light shining in the darkness, peace overcoming conflict and war, and warmth entering the cold of the world we live in. Advent is a chance of new beginnings – often small, but almost always significant. Keep this in mind as we hear today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel.

John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and…

Sermon for November 28, 2010

Reflections

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again -- rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9

I’ve been struggling this week to find the right words for today. I have a lot I want to tell you before I leave…

Sermon for November 14, 2010

Habits of Healthy Churches: Boundaries

Would you ever eat a snake? There’s a story in the Bible about the apostle Peter and a snake. God shows Peter a vision of a banquet coming down out of heaven. In the vision there’s a snake and a bunch of reptiles on a picnic blanket and God tells Pete to kill himself some and have a bite. I don’t know if anyone here has ever eaten snake before. Some people say it tastes like chicken. In case you’re interested, I scoured the Internet and found a recipe for an East Texas fried rattlesnake dinner that contains all four food groups.

1. Bake a chocolate cake. This is the 1st food group.

2. Fry two pounds of bacon in a cast iron skillet. Bacon is the second food group. Leave ½ pound on the drainboard to munch on while you’re cooking, and put the rest in the fridge.

3. Go outside and find a big rattlesnake. Kill the snake. Nail its head to a tree.

4. Go in the house, skin and boil six large potatoes. Go back outside and cut the snake down …

Sermon for November 7, 2010

Habits of Healthy Churches: Nurture

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. Galatians 6:2-6

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…

Sermon for October 31, 2010

Habits of Healthy Churches: Experiential

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alo…

Sermon for October 24, 2010

Habits of Healthy Churches: Independence and Community

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ab…

Sermon for October 10, 2010

Habits of Healthy Churches: Meeting Needs
October 10, 2010

As the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” [Everyone liked this idea, and they chose seven men, including Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit).] These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them. So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests w…

Sermon for September 26, 2010

Habits of Healthy Churches: Diversity

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us of these words: For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven (3:1). I think it should say, “For everything there is a nut, bolt, nail or screw, and a correct tool for every activity under heaven.” Do you know people like that -- people who have exactly what’s needed for any home repair job that needs to get done? I’m not like that. I’m the kind of person who grabs whatever is around and tries to make it work. I’ll bang wood screws into place with a hammer becau…