Did you miss a worship service? Want to review something again, or check us out before visiting? Here is an archive of our recent sermons.

Oct. 8, 2017 – The Bible Doesn’t Say That: God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle
We are in our concluding week of the sermon series The Bible Doesn’t Say That, and this week we are examining the phrase, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Have you ever heard anyone say that to someone else? Has it ever been said to you? Said with the best of intentions, trying to be encouraging and uplifting, but somehow it seems to make things worse.   Read More…

 

Oct 1, 2017 – The Bible Doesn’t Say That: Suffering Always Comes from Sin
We are in the midst of our sermon series, The Bible Doesn’t Say That, things that we think are in the Bible or our American culture considers generally true. This week it is the idea that suffering always comes from sin, doing wrong. Another way to put it is that suffering is always a consequence of our own actions or decisions. This is another one of those ideas that on the surface we might dismiss.  I don’t really believe that.  However,
when we see things happen to other people, or we are faced with events, our thought process can be very
different.   Read More…

 

Sept 24, 2017 – The Bible Doesn’t Say That: Obedience Leads to Financial Blessings.
The first week we looked at the phrase God helps those who help themselves. We learned that what the Bible really says is that God helps those who cannot help themselves, and we all fit into that category at times. The second week we looked at the phrase Follow Your Heart, but what the Bible really teaches is that we need to Follow God. Now this week, we are looking at the idea that Obedience to God Leads to Financial Blessings. This phrase can also communicate that if you don’t have money, you must not be obedient to God, or you must be sinning.
That is one of the problems with the so-called Prosperity Gospel. It implies that it is all within our grasp, within our control, and as many of us know – some better than others – that is not so. Many of us would say, “I don’t believe in the Prosperity Gospel”, but we act and think as if we do. If we or our friends receive a financial windfall, we may refer to it as being “blessed.” If a person has a financial setback, property damage, lost their job, we may not go so far as saying that that person was\“cursed”- though some might -but most of us would not say that that person has been “blessed.”  Read More…

 

Sept 17, 2017 – The Bible Doesn’t Say That: Follow Your Heart
We are continuing our sermon series, The Bible Doesn’t Say That. Last week we talked about the phrase,”God helps those who help themselves,” and we learned that what the Bible really teaches is that God helps those who cannot help themselves. We all fit into that category, especially when it comes to developing our relationship with God. We cannot help ourselves, so we need God to help us. This week we look at the popular phrase “follow your heart.” Does the Bible tell us to do that? This one is a little bit trickier. Part of the problem is that what we in modern society mean by “heart” and what it means in the Bible is very different…
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Sept 10, 2017 – The Bible Doesn’t Say That: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves 
We are starting a five week sermons series, The Bible Doesn’t Say That, and we are starting with the phrase that the highest percentage of people thinks is in the Bible. “God helps those who help themselves.” According to Christian pollster, the Barna Group, 75% of Americans believe that this phrase is in the Bible or is what the Bible teaches, self-reliance. But this is not where it comes from. Most Americans are familiar with it through Benjamin Franklin and his Poor Richard’s Almanac, but even he did not originate this phrase. It first appears in Greek and Roman writings, such as with Sophocles, Euripides, and Ovid. It was adapted in Aesop’s Fables. A waggoner was once driving a heavy load along a very muddy way. At last he came to a part of the road where the wheels sank halfway into the mire, and the more the horses pulled, the deeper sank the wheels. So the Wagoneer threw down his whip, and knelt down and prayed to Hercules the Strong. “O Hercules, help me in this my hour of distress,” quoth he. But Hercules appeared to him and said, “Tut, man, don’t sprawl there. Get up and put your shoulder to the wheel. “The gods help them that help themselves.” Franklin could have gotten it from there or any of the Greek or Roman authors. He also could have gotten it from Algernon Sydney, and English political theorist in his book, Discourses Concerning Government, written in 1698. The issue is that this catchy slogan sounds like something that could have come out of Proverbs or something, but it did not…
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Aug 27, 2017 – See All the People: The Front Porch
We’ve been looking at the question of why. Why are we, Or do we, want to be disciples of Christ? Why do we have ministries? Are we merely being nice? Or, due to the transformation of the Holy Spirit on our lives, do we want to share God’s love with each other, with our community, and the world? John Wesley put it this way, “Being inwardly transformed by the power of God… Producing love to all humankind.” We learned that when we know our why, our what, what we do, has more impact. It could be a full-blown ministry, or it could be a small piece of a larger whole. As the Apostle Paul says in multiple places, all our gifts and roles work together for God’s glory. It can make a task like folding bulletins almost exciting. Do you realize how important this little piece of paper is for worshiping God here…
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Aug 20, 2017 – See All the People: The Harvest Is Plentiful 
We are continuing our sermon series, see all the people. It is inspired by that old rhyme. Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Look inside and see all the people, but we are changing the ending a little. It is still here is the church, and here is the steeple, but we are making it, look all around and see all the people. Last week, we touched on the question of why. Why do we do what we do as individuals? We will be looking at those more closely today. Today’s scripture looks a little at Jesus’s why, and what he did to empower all of us.  When we hear Jesus talking about wandering sheep without a shepherd, that can be something that is fairly easy to imagine. However he is also making reference to different passages in the Old Testament. In Numbers 27:17, Moses asks God to appoint a new leader for the Israelites…
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Aug 13, 2017 – See All the People: Raise the Roof
Today’s scripture passage is about a quest. Dictionary.com defines a quest as a search or Pursuit made in order to find or obtain something. Dash it also has a connotation of a noble Pursuit. There was the quest for the Holy Grail Dash the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper, for example. But as we examine this passage, we will discover that there is more than one Quest going on here. This is fairly early on in Jesus’s Ministry. He has healed some people, and he has called the first disciples. Today, he has his first encounter with Pharisees. You can see that we have this quest of these people going through extraordinary measures to bring their friend before Jesus. There is another group present on a quest, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. In their case it was a quest for information about Jesus. He had been causing quite a stir with his healings in his bold teaching. Crowds of people were starting to follow him, learn from him, healed by him. It wasn’t necessarily concerning yet, but they certainly wanted to find out more about him. They came from all over, filling the house and overflowing into the street. However, we cannot…
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August 7, 2017 – Can You Imagine? 
Today, our scripture passage comes from Matthew 14. You may be familiar with the story, The Feeding of the 5000. It is the only miracle that appears in all four of the gospels. Just before this event another sort of feeding is described. This one is in King Herod’s Palace. This is not the same King Herod, Herod the Great, that had forced Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus to flee to Egypt. This is his son. When Herod the Great died, the Romans divided the territory among several of his sons and his sister. The area of Galilee was given to Herod Antipas. That is why Pontius Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas when he learned of the Jesus was from Galilee. So on Herod Antipas’s birthday he had a party, a birthday feast where there was drinking and dancing. One of the dancers was his stepdaughter. Meanwhile, John the Baptist was languishing in Herod Antipas’s prison. John the Baptist had aroused his fury by questioning his “romantic” relationship with Herodias, the wife of his brother. Antipas’s step-daughter’s dancing so impressed him that he offered her anything she asked. With his mother’s prompting, she asked for the head of John the Baptist, conveniently removing that thorn from the family’s side. So, John the Baptist was executed. His disciples buried the body and went to tell Jesus what happened. This is where our scripture passage begins today at …
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July 23, 2017 – The Kingdom: God Comes Down
Here we have a picture of when the kingdom comes to full fruition. And, the strangest thing to me is perhaps that we humans don’t leave this place and go up to God, but that God comes down to us. There is this idea that the purely spiritual is better. If we could only get rid of the corrupting imperfection of our physical bodies, we would be all right, we could live in bliss. This idea comes less from the Bible and more from Plato, the Greek philosopher. He said that all that is on Earth is an imperfect copy of the perfect, which is elsewhere. Here in Revelation, we have a vision not of humanity being whisked away to some perfect spiritual realm, but perfected physical reality. God creates a new Heaven and a new Earth. We have seen this before. The Gospel of John explains it this way in 1:14. “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The entire birth narrative in the Gospel of Luke is to make the point that God did come down to live the human experience with us in the flesh, in this physical world. With this vision from John…
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July 16, 2017 – Sowing the Kingdom 
We have this very familiar parable of the Sower. The first question to think about is why does Jesus tell this parable? In the preceding chapter (and of course through the rest of the Gospel to an increasing degree), Jesus has encountered a lot of hostility to his message and preaching that the Kingdom has come near. The Jewish authorities, his family. There are throngs of people around him now as he teaches and heals people. There will be even more as he feeds them (Think of the feeding of the 5000.), but most will fall away when things become more difficult. This parable describes these different groups. The same is true of the people we encounter when we try to share the Gospel, the Good News of the Kingdom, the message of how much God loves them and has not forgotten them. Of course, we can do this in many different ways. Verbally, talking to them, but we can also do it through our actions, through service, a kind word, etc. (cooking, gardening, building, being a friend, etc.) To some people it will be meaningless. They may even find it insulting and unwelcome. Not our favored outcome, but a true one. Some people, for whatever reason, have no interest in the message. Some we will see what looks like an initial burst of enthusiasm…
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July 9, 2017 – Do This and You Will Live 
I started the day with a Breathing prayer – it is an easy thing, you can do it when you are driving the car or washing the dishes. It is going to play on the themes for today and in our conferences for the next four years. As you breathe in, say Love, as you breathe out say Live. Then switch them … live, love. Inhale: Love. Exhale: Live. Inhale: Live. Exhale: Love. What if Jesus knew that there would be trials in every age? What if the whole creation waits in breathless anticipation? What if we ourselves groan and wait to be set free? What if a whole crowd were waiting on a hillside for a life-giving word? And what if Jesus were asking us right now, what do you have to feed them? What if a man was harassing two women on a train?
What if a man with a rifle walked into a baseball stadium? What if Jesus needed UM Christians in the greater northwest to do something fresh and courageous and wonderful, something world changing, Something we’ve never done before, something we never thought of doing before? Something abundantly more than we can ask or image? What would Jesus do with us?
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July 2, 2017 – United Methodist Women Reach Out in Mission
The United Methodist Women are concentrating on four areas of study. They include maternal and children’s health, equity for women, mass incarceration of women, and climate justice. We learned a little about the outreach in maternal and children’s health during Mission Moments. Now we will hear about the other three areas. EQUITY: Women have always struggled for equity in all areas of their lives: education, employment, housing, and the rights to property, finances, and family decisions. There is a saying, “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family than a nation. An educated woman is better able to educate her own children who, in turn, will be more likely to receive school education themselves. The family will be healthier, with a lower prospect of infant mortality and better…
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June 25, 2017 – The Kingdom: God’s Treasure 
One of the defining characteristics of the Gospel of Matthew are its five great discourses or speeches that Jesus makes. As Matthew was writing to a predominantly Jewish-Christian community, these are thought to parallel the first five books of the Bible, the Torah, or the Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Today’s Scripture comes from one of these, The Parable Discourse, where Jesus tells several parables about the Kingdom and what it is like. The most well-known of the five discourses is the Sermon on the Mount. What is a parable? Have you ever heard the saying that a picture is worth 1000 words? A parable is kind of like that. It is words, of course, but it is more than the sum of its parts. Like a piece of art, it is open to interpretation. It may not have an easily identifiable clear cut meaning.  (Though it is not completely ambiguous like a Rorschach inkblot where one person may see a flower and another a charging rhino.) It is intended to challenge your thinking, helping you to think deeply and perhaps see things in a new way. So, here we have two parables, very short and concise…
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June 18, 2017 – The Kingdom: Thy Kingdom Come 
We are in our sermon series, The Kingdom, a phrase that Jesus refers to over 80 times in the Gospels, so it is a good idea for us to understand what it means. Last week, we looked at the when of the Kingdom. It is already here, it is within our grasp, but it is not fully realized yet. Today, we look at the question of what. What is the Kingdom? And this week our theme scripture comes from a passage that is very familiar. We say it every week. It comes from Matthew 6: 10. “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” Just because we say it, does not mean that we know what it means. In one aspect that could be okay. We may not be sure, but we trust God, so it has to be good, right? Have you ever listened to a song thinking you knew it, to find that when you read the lyrics that you had it mixed up. It is easy to do. Here are a couple that are very famous (or notorious): 1) The Rolling Stones: “I’ll never be your beast of burden” – becomes “I’ll never leave your pizza burning.” 2) Elton John: “Hold me closer tiny dancer” – becomes  “Hold me closer Tony Danza.” In a similar way some children were overheard as they were in the process of learning to the Lord’s Prayer. A mom was listening to her child say his prayers. He started, “Dear Harold…
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June 11, 2017 – The Kingdom: Already; Not Yet 
You may have seen this a movie or on TV when a psychologist asks their patient to say the first thing that pops in their mind when they say a particular word or phrase. Maybe you’ve done it yourself, or you played it as a game at a party. I’m going to do something like that… What are the first images that come to mind when you hear the phrase “Kingdom of God?” Really, tell me. What are the first images that come to mind when you hear the phrase Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven? The exact way that it looks is very individual and personalized with each person’s imagination, but there are some general themes that many share. It could be paradise (whatever that means for the person). Peace on earth. No more war. Perfect justice where the people who have be trodden on and kicked all their lives are lifted up, and the people responsible for the abuse are punished. It could be cataclysmic. Or, it could be a world where we all love and care for each other, enjoying God’s creation. It reminds me of a picture of heaven and hell…
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May 28, 2017 – The Ascension 
Have you ever seen the movie It’s a Wonderful Life? Indeed, for many years it was almost impossible to avoid this Christmas classic where George Bailey is shown what a significant effect his life has had on all the people around him. In the very beginning of the movie, we hear many of his friends and family praying for him. Those prayers are heard in heaven and different angels are discussing what should be done to help George. We see a picture of the night sky with stars and galaxies. As the angels talk, the stars and galaxies pulse when they speak as if that is heaven, and of course, it is not. We hear that in the Ascension that Jesus is “taken up” into heaven. After all, what does the word “ascend” mean but to go up? We often use that kind of language with we talk about God and heaven being “up there” or “the Man upstairs.” Even when we talk about the sky and what might be in outer space, we refer to it as “the heavens.”…
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May 21, 2017 – The Church Has Left the Building: Making a Home for God
Have you ever thought, If only I could have Jesus physically with me, like he was with the disciples during his earthly ministry. It would be so much easier. I could sit at Jesus’ feet like we hear Mary and the other disciples and listen to Jesus tell his parables and stories? If only I could have been there when Jesus healed the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19) or when that woman touched the edge of his robe and the bleeding she had been suffering with for twelve years instantly stopped (Mt 9:20-22). These people who were ostracized by society were able to resume a normal life because of him. If I could just hear him teach, would it be so much easier to understand? Jesus tells us that it would not have been easier. We can see it for ourselves if we really look at it. All through the Gospels we have so many opportunities to see how dense the disciples are. They are hanging out with Jesus practically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and yet, they bicker about which one of them is the greatest, which one of them will be sitting at Jesus’ right and left hand in his royal court. They tell people to quit bothering Jesus. Even now, they are not sure of who he is. Having Jesus there…
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May 14, 2017 – The Church Has Left the Building: Seeing the Heart of God
The name of our current sermon series is Church Has Left the Building. That title is a take-off of the phrase “Elvis has left the building.” How many of you are familiar with that phrase? I was interested to learn that it came from an announcement used at the end of Elvis concerts to let the people continuing to linger after the show hoping for another encore that the concert was over. It was time to go home. It has also come to mean departing a place in a dramatic fashion. Elvis had died before I became acquainted with that phrase, so it has come to have another meaning for me. That someone famous or important has passed. Our Scripture passage for today comes from the Last Supper when Jesus was preparing to “leave the building,” and these are his parting words to the disciples. It is known as the Farewell Discourse, and it continues through chapter 16. In it he explains why he is leaving, where he is going, and what he wants, what he expects the disciples to do while he is …
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May 7, 2017 – The Church Has Left the Building: Believing Is Seeing
One of the things that Acts is showing us in this passage is an example of the abundant life, the abundant life that Jesus promised when he said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 NRSV) Our call to worship this morning also gave an illustration of the abundant life. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. // He makes me to lie down in green pastures; // He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; // He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. // Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; // For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. // You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; //  You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.// Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; // And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. (Psalm 23 NKJV) The 23rd Psalm speaks as an individual. Our passage in Acts today speaks as a community, a community that lived as a single family. How many of you have a sibling or siblings, brothers or sisters? Can you imagine having 3000 brothers and sisters? This…
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April 23, 2017 – The Church Has Left the Building 
This week we begin a section on the Acts of the Apostles. It is by the same author as the Gospel of Luke. We don’t know if this Luke is the one mentioned in Philemon and elsewhere as the Apostle Paul’s traveling companion. If not, it was someone writing in his name, which was quite common at that time, considered flattering or a compliment. In any case I will refer to him as Luke. While this is a clear companion piece to the first volume of the Gospel of Luke, also being addressed to Theophilus, we don’t know if it was written at about the same time as the gospel or much later. There is quite a wide estimate of 30 years, anywhere from 70 AD to 100 AD. The gospels featured the life and Ministry of Jesus. Acts features what happened with the apostles and the early church, but it really illustrates the mighty acts of God both done to them …
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April 16, 2017 – Easter: Raised to Life
How many of you still have photo albums? Anyone at your house do Scrapbooking? It has become very popular, using special papers that coordinate with themes and color schemes. Materials are acid free, so that they will keep for a long time, so they won’t fade, so they won’t become lost. Now, many people keep their photos on their phone or their computer with online backup to make sure they aren’t lost. If you let it, your computer will make albums for you if you don’t want to take the trouble. Why do we have these things? Why is it important that they aren’t lost? They help us remember. They tell our story. Have you ever been to someone’s house, and they get out the family album. This is my great-grandfather, Matthew (pictured with my mother). He came over to the United States during the Russian Revolution, and he helped to bring over my Aunt Rose, his youngest sister. Here is a baby picture of my mother with my grandmother. And, it continues until, I show you a picture of a three year old child in on a “brisk” Easter morning … Not Joseph, but New Jersey. This is me. This is where I enter the story. This is what the Apostle Paul is doing in this passage in 1 Corinthians. He is taking down the family album and reminding the Corinthians of how they got to this place. He starts at the beginning with Christ Jesus dying, rising, and being seen by many. Then, Paul shows how he fits into the story…
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April 2, 2017 – Outcasts, the Friends of Jesus: The Greatest Blessing 
When we are talking about leprosy in the Bible, we are not necessarily talking about the same disease we call leprosy in modern times, but it could have been among them. It was any kind of contagious skin disease. There was a very specific course of action required in the law. The person determined to have leprosy was put outside of the community. No one was allowed to touch them. They could not be restored unless all of the symptoms have gone away, and it was certified by a priest. This is actually understandable among this group of people that we meet in The Exodus who have escaped Egypt and are wandering around in the desert. Basically, the people determined to have leprosy or quarantined. When I was living in Charleston South Carolina, I worked for a home health agency. What are the things we had to do in the terms of our employment was have what is called a PPD test. It tested whether we have been exposed to tuberculosis or not, what you may know is a highly contagious disease. One year, one of the girls in the office had a positive test…
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March 26, 2017 – Outcasts, the Friends of Jesus: Beyond Redemption?
Imagine that we are at this dinner party at Simon’s house. How do we imagine the room? Is it with a big long table with chairs all around, like in Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting, The Last Supper? (Except, of course, people would be seated around the whole table.) So, we would get this picture of a woman sitting on the floor, beneath all these men, crying on Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair, putting on the ointment. It would seem to be a rather complicated procedure, especially contending with all of those chair legs. But there’s a problem with that picture. In verse 36, it says that Jesus, “reclined at the table,” and in verse 37 it says that the woman stood behind Jesus.  So, if we want to get an accurate idea of what is going on here, we have to replace that picture in our minds. At this point in time, Jewish people had adopted the Roman custom laying on couches, often about 18 inches off the floor, with their heads towards the table leaning on their left arms while they ate with their right. Their feet and legs would be pointed away from the table. So, Jesus is reclined at the table and the woman has come in and is standing behind him…
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March 19, 2017 – Outcasts, the Friends of Jesus: Loving the Unlovable 
[The song “Zacchaeus” was sung … See sermon post for music.]
Before we heard the Scripture passage, what did we already know? Zacchaeus was a “wee little man.” He climbed a sycamore tree because he wanted to see Jesus. He sure picked the right tree on the right route because Jesus not only sees him but calls him by name! Then, Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus’s house, and Zacchaeus is very happy about it. With all the songs based on the Bible, this is one of the most accurate, but it does leave out some key details. When the song describe Zacchaeus as “a wee little man,” we might get this picture of a fun-loving shorter guy, skipping along excited to see Jesus. He decides to climb a tree. I mean climbing trees is fun, right? I don’t know if you remember last week when I was talking about the parable of the prodigal son, when dad went running up to him? Part of what makes that story so extraordinary is that the father ran. Rich leaders were dignified, and they did not run…
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March 12, 2017 – Outcasts, the Friends of Jesus: God’s Crazy Love
Have you ever spent a long time in a desperate search for something that was right in front of you the whole time, or in this case over you. We have our favorite things that seem to wander away, a favorite pen, that tool that you need in the kitchen, hiking boots, even pets. And pets do wander, while the other things may have really been misplaced or dropped without our realizing it. But, with things like my glasses, I might be able to get by in a lot of ways, but I quite literally would be lost without them. The idea of losing them is difficult. Not to mention, that because I can’t see properly during the search, it makes them much more difficult to find. Then there is the joy of finding them. Again, literally, I was blind, but now I see. I know people who experienced similar joy on finding hearing aids. What about losing a cell phone? Fewer and fewer have landline telephones. Even if we do, they are often cordless, so there is still the problem of misplacing the handset. With cell phones there is so much more information there. Even the most basic includes an address book. If we lose it, we lose the contact information for our loved ones. If it’s a smart phone, it’s our camera, our photo album. We may have our banking information on it. Access to the weather forecast, the news. And, they’re expensive. It could be a catastrophic …
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March 5, 2017 – Outcasts, the Friends of Jesus: Jesus Outcast in the Desert
One of the Scripture passages that parallel this one has to do with another temptation. The one in the Garden of Eden. The setting is very different. Adam and Eve are not in the desert. They are not fasting or suffering. Their only duty is to tend the garden, and they have the run of the place. There is only one rule. Don’t eat food from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 2:17) The tempter is there too, twisting God’s words, sewing doubt, and they are not able to make the choice of absolute trust in God. The result is that they are cast out. This story illustrates how we are all made outcasts, or maybe in our own way, we cast out God. The difference is that in our Gospel passage for today (or another way of saying it is, our Good News passage) is that through Jesus is drawing us back. Often we think that we are making a good choice, a logical choice, but it is one that draws us away from God. We have needs. God knows that. What’s wrong with satisfying those needs? Does it mean that it’s wrong to eat, wrong to seek power and influence to affect positive change? No, but we have to be careful. It is very easy to rationalize…
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Feb 26, 2017 – The Wisdom of God: The Transfiguration 
The Transfiguration is one of the more spectacular events in the Bible, but it’s not merely a light show.  You might be asking the question, why? Why this event? Why now? Why did Jesus bring these people? Why the light show? Some people can find these episodes inspiring, while others have a hard time relating to them in the Bible because they seem so far outside our normal human experience. However, really this is one of those that could come close to something we might experience. Imagine that you are on top of a high mountain … during a thunderstorm. The wind is blowing. The lightning is flashing. The trees are swaying. You can hear the branches creaking.  Jesus has moved a little ways from you. He’s already dressed in a light colored cloak, and you can see him. Then, with the lightning flashes, he appears to glow, his face is highlighted. It looks like he is talking to a couple of other people, who can they be? So, imagine all that. It doesn’t seem so strange. Does it? Okay, picture that, but there is no thunderstorm. But, think about it. Put yourself there…
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Feb 19, 2017 – The Wisdom of God: We Belong to Christ
I encountered this Scripture in several different contexts this week, in meetings and gatherings in addition to preparing for today. The power of it always gives me chills. “… all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” (1 Cor 3: 22c-23) We begin with this foundation that Paul talks of, this foundation that he started with when he first came to Corinth, the foundation that our lives with God starts with, Jesus Christ. Paul is building something, a Temple. This is not a Temple of bricks and mortar, or even of fine marble, gold, and silver. This Temple is the church, the assembly. He says, “Don’t you know that y’all are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in y’all’s midst?” (1 Cor 3:16) Yes, I said it, “y’all.” When Paul refers to the Holy Spirit living within you here in this passage, he really means y’all (or all of you).  The word is second person plural. Contemporary English is very limiting in this way by not having a distinct second person plural. While the Holy Spirit is with each of us, transforming us, guiding us on our journey to be made holy, we as the assembly are a Temple of God with the Holy Spirit in our midst. We come to events. We come together in ministry and mission.  We come to worship. We praise God. We sing. We pray. We listen to God’s Word. Do we think of the Holy Spirit being in our midst, right here, right now? God is with us. As this group we are God’s Temple. If we remembered this how would it change the way we…
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Feb 12, 2017 – The Wisdom of God: Growth Through God
…We are starting to get to the part of the letter where Paul isn’t holding back. In the beginning, he complimented them on the variety of Spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has bestowed on them. He contrasted wisdom with folly or foolishness, implying that they were able to obtain true, godly wisdom as followers of Christ. There were some moments of uncertainty with some suggestions that they were acting more worldly, but he went on to explain that he does have wisdom to pass on to those who are mature in the faith. They should be able to accept this wisdom because they have the mind of Christ. Well yes … they should, and maybe they even think that they are, but Paul tells the Corinthians, Guess again. You are not mature enough in the faith to be taught about the deeper wisdom. In fact, you are not even children. You are infants. Not mature enough even to be given solid food (or meat), I have only been able to give you milk! Not only that, but you are proving by your behavior that you are still not ready for anything more substantial…
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Feb 5, 2017 – The Wisdom of God: Our Spirit Guide
We are continuing in our journey through the first part of 1 Corinthians, focusing on the Wisdom of God. A quick reminder of where we are.  Paul is writing a letter to a church he founded several years prior. A letter that cost him at least $2500 to send. They had sent him a list of questions, but word had also gotten to him that factions had developed within the church, separating and dividing the people there. In short, rather than coming together as equals and lifting each other up in community, they were setting up new hierarchies that mimicked the Greco-Roman culture that they supposedly left behind. They were forgetting the big truths of what they learned and were overly focused on the mechanics of their new life. It’s February now. How many of you made New Year’s resolutions? How are you doing on them? How many of you have ever made New Year’s resolutions? Most of the time folks have fizzled out on their resolutions by the beginning of February. I won’t ask if you’ve have really dropped them. Of course, there are types of resolutions that you can make that are more likely to be successful, and if you can keep going for six weeks, it’s likely to become a habit (or you will succeed in breaking a bad habit). But normally, we fall back into our old patterns. We’re tired. We’re strapped for time. We may find it too difficult. We stop focusing on it because some new crisis …
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Jan 22, 2017 – The Wisdom of God: The Cross, the Power of God
We are continuing with our sermon series, The Wisdom of God. Remember what we learned last week. First, this is a letter. We are actually reading someone else’s mail from 2000 years ago. This was an actual person, who was writing to a group of people that he knew personally and cared for, people who he introduced to faith in Jesus Christ. They had sent him a list of questions, and he was responding to them. He had also heard from some people that we’ll learn about shortly who told him some additional things that were going on in the community. But, since this is a letter, like when you’re overhearing a phone call, we only get one side of the conversation. We can tell a lot from what we hear, but that’s something to keep in mind. Second, we learned that the Corinthians were thinking very highly of themselves. Many of them thought that they had it all figured out, but they didn’t agree on what it should look like. (Of course, we don’t have that problem in the church today, right?) We also learned that the Apostle Paul was not above using satire and other forms of humor to get their attention, referring to them in straight English as “you holy holy ones.” Perhaps, most importantly, we learned that being a saint isn’t a destination of personal perfection (for the Corinthians or for us), but rather it is a call from God to go on a journey to be made holy. We have all been called on this journey to be saints, to be made holy. This week we are continuing with this letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians. This week, I’m not going to ask you to find the Scripture in your Bibles (though you may certainly look at it there). In the pews you will find … copies of this week’s part of the letter, and I will ask you to look at it with me, remembering that we are looking at a letter from the past. Keep it handy because I will be reading part and then coming back to it periodically…
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Jan 15, 2017 – The Wisdom of God: Strong in the Wisdom of the Lord 
We are in the middle of our sermon series, The Wisdom of God. This week we are beginning several weeks in 1 Corinthians. The city of Corinth was an important sea port between the eastern and western parts of the Roman Empire. It was full of the “vice” that one associates with sea ports, full of a transient population with plenty of money. The Apostle Paul established the church there I about the year 51 A.D. and he wrote the letter we call 1 Corinthians in about the year 55 A.D. Even though we call this letter 1 Corinthians, we know from its text that it wasn’t the first time Paul wrote to them. Most of the people in this church had recently become followers of The Way of Jesus Christ (or Christians), and they weren’t as familiar with the God of Israel. They were used to living in a community where hierarchy was quite literally king, and they tried to adapt their new life in Christ to look and feel like the Greco-Roman life they had known all their lives. They had sent a list of issues to Paul in Ephesus that they needed help to resolve. The thing that we need to remember is that even though we read this as a book in the larger book of the Bible, it is, in fact, a letter. When we read this, we are reading someone else’s mail. True, it was intended to be a community document and shared with other churches, but it is a letter.
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Jan 8, 2017 – The Wisdom of God: The Baptism of Jesus
We are in the second week of our sermon series, The Wisdom of God. We will be looking at what the wisdom of God is as compared with the wisdom of the world, or even what we might think are rational and logical ways to do things. And yet, God’s ways always turn out the way God intends. We may not understand when we are in the midst of things, but when we look back, we go, “Ahhhh, that’s why ….” Or, we may not understand until we see God face to face, understanding that God’s perspective is one that is beyond our comprehension. Today, we’re looking at baptism, specifically Jesus’ baptism. When you think about it dunking yourself in water … or having it poured over you or sprinkled on you is kind of strange. Why would a physical washing take away our sins or give us new life? Does it really do that? Why would a sinless man have to do that anyway? Was that the purpose in Jesus’ baptism? When we think of the last three weeks, the last three Sundays, what have they been about? Identification. At Christmas we have the celebration of Jesus’ birth, of course, but when we look at the Scripture for that day, what was its purpose … or at least one of its purposes?…
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Jan 1, 2017 – The Wisdom of God: Coming to Seek the One 
We’re beginning a new sermon series this week, The Wisdom of God. The theme comes from that verse in 1 Cor 1:30 that you can see on the front of your bulletin. “… Christ, who has become for us wisdom from God…” Starting in a few weeks, we’re going to spend quite a lot of time in 1 Cor. This is part of a longer section that says, “27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” (1 Cor 1:27-30) Jesus, himself, says in Mark 10:15, “15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” But wisdom is good right? There are whole sections of the Bible …
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Dec 24, 2016 – Christmas Eve: Peace
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! As we draw to the close of 2016, we must admit that it has been an exciting year. Many people may say that it has been much too exciting. There is a saying from China. May you live in interesting times. It may have been coined by a British diplomat there, Joseph Chamberlain. There has always been a question as to whether this is a blessing or a curse. It feels like we are in the midst of a major world change. There are those moments that we can pinpoint where it seemed like the world changed in an instant. Some of them are good, some not so good. Some of you will remember where you were when President Kennedy was shot. What about when Neil Armstrong took that first small step on the moon. He was right, it was a giant leap for mankind. There was the day that the Berlin Wall came down signaling the end of the Cold War. The ending of apartheid in South Africa, and the election of Nelson Mandela. After these things the world was never the same, or at least the way that we looked at the world. Now, we seem to be on the cusp, the beginnings of another major change. Some are saying hip-hip hooray! It’s about time. Others are not quite so sure. None of us know where it is going or what it will look like…
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Dec 18, 2016 – Songs of Christmas: O Little Town of Bethlehem
We’re finishing up our sermon series, The Songs of Christmas, and our song for this week is “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The lyrics are by Phillip Brooks, a Presbyterian minister from the mid-1800s. He was the senior pastor of a very large congregation in Philadelphia during the Civil War. As you can imagine, it was a very difficult time. As the war went on, more and more people knew soldiers that had been severely wounded or killed. More and more women came to worship each week wearing black for mourning. People wanted inspirational messages filled with hope and peace, but Brooks found it harder and harder to give it to them. His energy and his hope was being sapped, too. Then it came, the end of the war, but on its heels came a new tragedy, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Can you imagine that? Despite the fact that Brooks was not President Lincoln’s pastor, due to his great reputation as a preacher and orator, he was asked to speak at President Lincoln’s funeral. The whole process was so draining to him that he felt the need to take a sabbatical to restore his faith. He wound up taking a trip to the Holy Land, and found himself there during the Christmas season. The trip was so powerful…
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Dec 11, 2016 – Songs of Christmas: The Savior Is Coming to Town
We think of the song “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” as an upbeat positive song, or at least, I have always perceived it that way. Subsequent verses talk about all the toys and things that Santa will bring, but when I was looking at the verse we sung, it’s not that different than what John the Baptist is saying in our Scripture passage for today. The song says, “You better watch out … He’s making a list and checking it twice; He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice … [He’s] coming to town.” Meanwhile, John says, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” in verse 2.  He continues in verse 11, “I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.” The song goes on with, “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” Okay, John the Baptist’s language may be a little more intense with his …
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Dec 4, 2016 – Songs of Christmas: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 
The song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” can seem sad and sentimental, especially if you are missing loved ones or are anticipating missing them. The song was written for the film Meet Me in St Louis in the middle of World War II. At that time, of course, there were a lot of people who were separated from loved ones. It may interest you to know that one of the earlier drafts of the song was even less cheerful. Actually, the words aren’t so sad as you might think. “Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light. Next year all our troubles will be out of sight.”  It gave people hope that there would be a time when they could all be together again. The music brings out the poignancy of the song. This song can remind us of the hopes and dreams that we have for the season. If those hopes and dreams don’t look like they’re going to come to pass, it can leave us feeling a little melancholy or even more than a little melancholy. For others, this is simply not a good time of year…
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Nov 27, 2016 – Songs of Christmas: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas 
It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go, at least what is associated with Christmas in a northern climate with Western European traditions. We had snow last week, and while the snow in town has melted, it’s still on the mountains, and more is forecast for tonight. The town is decorated in its best holiday lights. We may not have a grand hotel with a tree in it here in Joseph, there is a tree in one of the courtyards among the Main Street shops. We’re in the midst of Jingle Through Joseph, and last night we had our lighted parade. People are putting up Christmas trees and lights on their house and/or in their yards. How many of you have finished your Christmas shopping? How many haven’t…
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Nov 20, 2016 – Neighbors: When Do I Love
We are finishing up our sermon series, Neighbors. We have taking three weeks to consider at what loving our neighbor looks like in our daily lives. The first week we looked at the question of “What is love?” Last week we asked “Who do I love?” And this week, we are considering “When do I love?”Our featured Scripture, occurs just after a story that may be very familiar to us, “The Woman at the Well,” but it’s a part of the story that we don’t necessarily focus on so much. The disciples left Jesus near the well to go into town to get some food, and a woman comes to draw water from the well at the hottest part of the day. Surprising no one more than the woman, Jesus talks with her, despite her difficult life, after making some choices or having choices forced upon her. He knows all about the rejection of her town, so much so that she has to come to draw water from the well when she thinks that no one else will be there … Jesus offers her the living water of new life, gives her the hope of a future, goes so far as…
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Nov 13, 2016 – Neighbors: Who Do I Love
We are in the middle of our sermon series, Neighbors, we are taking three weeks to look at what loving our neighbor looks like in our daily lives. Last week we focused on the question of “What is love?” This week we are asking “Who do I love?” And next week, just before Thanksgiving, we will be considering “When do I love?” I have to tell you that when I was choosing this sermon series or this Scripture for this date, I did it months ago.  I did not give a thought to the election cycle or what could be going on in our country right now. One thing I am sure of is that God knew, and I think that it is the perfect passage for this day. Our Scripture passage comes out of Mark Chapter 12 starting at verse 28, and prior to this Jesus has made his final entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, and people waving palm branches in his honor. They thought that they were welcoming the messiah …
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Nov 6, 2016 – Neighbors: What Is Love
We’re beginning our new sermon series, Neighbors. We will be taking three weeks to look at what loving our neighbor looks like in our daily lives. This week we will be focusing on the question of “What is love?” Next week will ask “Who do I love?” And the final week, just before Thanksgiving, we will be considering “When do I love?” Today, we’re asking the question “What is love?” And will be focusing on a scripture passage that is often read at weddings, but it was never intended that way. So, this is another one of those times when I’ll be asking you to pay extra close attention. When we’ve heard a passage many times, there is a tendency to either tune it out, “Boring!” Or to think about it the way we always have, our default. When we get to it, I’m going to ask you to try to listen to it as if you had never heard it before. So, what is it? What is love? Take a few seconds to think about that…. Is it a feeling? Something that can change over time? Is it a thing? What does the world have to say about love? We hear about it in songs all the time. There’s a song …
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Sept 4, 2016 – Vision Map: Charting a Path Forward with God
We have completed a God sized vision, a vision that could only have been completed with God’s help. We have a choice. We can either sit back and admire this beautiful building, or we can more forward to make sure that is used for God’s purposes. Right now, we mostly have exercises classes scheduled in there. Exercise classes are great, but we did not build the Place merely to host exercise classes. It is time to figure out what we want to do next as a church. A church is not a sanctuary (though it is nice to have this space to worship). A church is not a kitchen or a fellowship hall (though it is helpful to have those things for ministry). We are the church, the people filled and gifted by the Holy Spirit doing his work in our community, helping his people, creating a path, showing people what God is like by what we say or do. Recognizing that God is already at work within them, and we are there to help in what ways we can. There is a question that a church has to continually ask itself. If we closed up shop tomorrow, would anyone notice? Would anyone care? As we go forward over the next three weeks (and beyond), keep those questions in the back of your minds.
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Aug 28, 2016 – Don’t Worry ‘Bout a Thing
We are finishing up our sermon series, Treasure, where we have been looking at passages in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus is talking to the disciples about how to keep God at the center of our lives. Last week, we talked about holding ourselves up for glory and recognition by trying to show off as opposed to doing things with the purpose of showing God’s glory. We want our insides and our outsides to match. We talked about how, we in the church can do things together by combining our gifts, talents, abilities, and resources for God’s glory that we could never do by ourselves. We talked about how God can do anything, but amazingly allows us to take part. In the preceding weeks, we talked about how God wants our primary focus to be on him. God doesn’t want this because he’s an egomaniac. Rather, if we are focused on God and God’s priorities, we are focusing on the right things in helping the world, instead of being seduced by it.  This is because God knows that no matter what our higher ideals might prefer, “Where [our] treasure is, there [our] hearts will be also” (Mt 6:21), with mortgages, car payments, other bills, time commitments, and responsibilities … drawn away from God. If we want to even try to do all of this, it might have us a bit concerned or worried. We may be filled with anxiety. In today’s Scripture, Jesus talks about that…
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Aug 21, 2016 – Giving Your Treasure Back to God
We’re in the middle of our sermon series, Treasure.  Our theme verse for this series comes from Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Last week, we talked about how we have so many responsibilities and commitments that we can have trouble putting God first. We can try to justify and rationalize serving two masters, God and the world, but it just doesn’t work. When we build our life with God, the other priorities fall into place. This week, we are moving back to the beginning of chapter 6. In chapter 5, Jesus teaches about the relationship the disciples should have with the law and other people. One of the things he says in verse 16 is, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”
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Aug 14, 2016 – The Problem with Two Masters
We are in the second week of our sermon series, Treasure. Our theme verse for the series is “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6: 210. We talked about how treasure does not just mean our money or our financial resources, but also our time. How are we spending or investing it as well as how we use or give our talents, abilities, and expertise? We talked about how we get caught up investing our treasure on things other than what we would desire or what would be our first choice, but once we do that, once we make that investment, we are committed and our hearts are drawn away. When we think of our hearts, we usually think of the center of our emotions, our desires, or what we love, but that is not what it means in the Bible. In the Bible the heart is the center of our being, our whole being…
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Aug 7, 2016 – Where Is Your Treasure?
Over the next four weeks, we will be exploring what we treasure, and the effect it has on our hearts. These days when we think of treasure, we may think of money, but it is so much more than that. It is the time we invest. It is our talents or gifts. How are we using them? Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21 NIV). We often think that the opposite is true. We think that if something is important to us that is where we will invest our time, money, and effort. However, Jesus, as he often does, says that it actually works the other way. Where we spend our time, money, and effort is where our heart goes. We may wish it were different. I may wish I could spend more time with my family, but I find that my obligations keep drawing me away. I may wish that I could study the Bible or pray more, but I never seem to have time. I have so many things I have to do. So, we find ourselves drifting from God, and we become “invested” in these other things.
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July 24, 1016 – Have I Got a Deal for You!
Have you ever woke up in the middle of the night, or maybe it’s early on a Saturday morning, turned on the TV, and there’s this person talking… To you… “Do I have a deal for you, for the low low price of 19.99 … plus shipping and handling.” He or she will send you the latest cooker, baker, smoothie maker that will chop up a bushel of vegetables in 60 seconds, and wash all your dishes. If you order the next 10 minutes, they will send you a second one for free. You wonder how have you lived your life without this amazing product. Before you know it you’re calling them up to order one. You just want one. The sales rep tells you they really can’t do that. They have to send you two, and they can’t accept a PO Box address either… And it goes on getting more complicated by the minute. This is kind of how the Colossians….
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July 17 – Double Secret Probation
First I’d like to tell you a little bit about the Colossians. Colossae was a town about 120 miles east of Ephesus, which was on the Aegean Sea, across from Athens. So it’s well up the coast from Jerusalem and Judea. Quite a ways East as well, in modern Turkey. So Colossae is about 120 miles east of that inland. Paul founded many churches around the Mediterranean, but this was not one of them. It was founded by Epaphras. Paul has not even met these people. Paul is probably in prison at this time in Ephesus. In fact, this letter is referred to as one of the prison letters, along with Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. So why is Paul writing to the Colossians?
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June 5, 2016 – But God Will
We’re in the middle of our sermon series The Story of Joseph: The Life of a Dreamer. Joseph was the son of Jacob and Rachel. He was Jacob’s favorite son, and when he was around 17, Jacob gave Joseph a very special coat. You may know it as the “coat of many colors” or the “Technicolor Dreamcoat.” What it did was prove to Joseph’s many brothers that he was the favorite, and Joseph love wearing his coat. At that time Joseph was also doing the dreaming, and he dreamed that all the people in his family would bow down to him, despite the fact that he was one of the youngest son’s, and it was very unlikely that anything like that would happen. After taunting his brothers, whether intentionally or due to self-centered thoughtlessness, his brothers plotted to kill him but decided to sell them into slavery instead. …
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May 22, 2016 – Dreams Going Astray
Today, we begin a new sermon series, The Story of Joseph: The Life of a Dreamer. We have been concentrating on the time after Jesus’ resurrection and the possibilities that can make for our lives. One thing, I know for sure, the best way to understand what the writers are talking about in the New Testament is to be familiar with the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, or as the New Testament writers would have thought of it, the Bible. We are moving way back, almost to the beginning. For the next several weeks we will be in the last section of Genesis, following the story of Joseph, the 11th son of the last of the Patriarchs. The first of the Patriarchs was Abraham. God made a promise to him, a covenant, that he would be the father of many nations. He would have more descendants than grains of sand on the seashore, more descendants than there were stars in the sky. At this point, Abraham and his wife Sarah were already fairly “mature,” and long past the age when most people have children. Yet, eventually, together, they have …
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May 15, 2016 – Adopted into God’s Family
When Jesus prepared the disciples for his eventual departure, he talked about it in John 14. Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the father, and he will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14: 15-17) This is part of the gift that we receive by being in Christ. This day of Pentecost is the day that we remember when this kind of personal contact with the Holy Spirit was first offered or given to a wider group of people. Pentecost is such a strange word. Why do we use it? The meaning of the word has no direct connection with the Holy Spirit. It means fifty. The name comes from our Jewish Heritage. It came fifty days after Passover. Both of these were/are very important on the Jewish calendar. Passover, celebrates God rescuing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.
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May 8, 2016 – VIVID: Staying in Step
We are in the process of wrapping up our sermon series Vivid. We’re answering the question. What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to live life in light of Jesus’ Resurrection. We’ve talked about looking at life through Resurrection glasses and how different it can make the world look. It’s like seeing colors that you didn’t even know were there but have been all the time because that’s what looking at life through Resurrection lenses really is. Every day all the time, regardless of what season it is on the calendar in the church. There is not one of us who has been born before a time that Jesus was resurrected. We’ve been focusing on the letter that the Apostle Paul sent to the church in Rome. This was not true for the people Paul was writing to. It might have been for some, but there were many who were alive before Jesus had been crucified and resurrected, including Paul. Most of Paul’s letters to different churches around the Mediterranean were to teach them how to live in the reality of Jesus Resurrection, and why they were allowed to do so – different than before the Resurrection happened, different than their parents or grandparents could. There is a phrase that is heard in churches all around the world, “This is the way we’ve always done it.” The problem in many of these churches was that it hadn’t been done before, but that didn’t stop them from slipping back to their old ways of life. Paul tries to teach them how to break that cycle. He also teaches us how to do that…
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May 1, 2016 – VIVID: Declare-Decide-Devote
We are in the middle of a sermon series about looking at life in the light of the resurrection of Jesus on that first Easter day. We have been talking about something that is a mystery to many Christians, something that many of us have been blind to even those who have been in church all their lives. It’s like we have to put on our Resurrection glasses to see life around us in a new way, a way we may have never seen it before. Giving the possibilities for our lives now a new vividness that we have never experienced before. Even if you are already aware, it can be so exciting to hear it acknowledged. This wonder that you see all around you as new people start seeing it too.
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April 24, 2016 – VIVID: Now You Know
We are currently in the Easter season, that time between Easter day and Pentecost. We’re in the middle of our sermon series VIVID, where we are looking at what life can look like in the light of Jesus resurrection. We all exist in that world that time after Jesus’ resurrection, but most of us don’t live like it. Just like I can’t see properly without my glasses [take off glasses] we cannot see life around us properly without our Resurrection glasses. When we first start doing this, we will be amazed by the new things that we can see. Things around us that we didn’t notice, but have been right next to us all the time. However, since we couldn’t see it, we can really haven’t claimed all the benefits. We don’t live in the freedom that came with the Resurrection. We know that Jesus died for our sins that we are forgiven, but we stop there and continue to try to live life under the old system instead of claiming the new life that we receive through the Risen Christ, Jesus. We continue to live under the old system even though it has no power over us. Apostle Paul describes this problem in Romans 7:15 – 20…
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April 17, 2016 – VIVID: Didn’t You Know?
For the last several weeks, we have been talking about looking at life through Resurrection tinted lenses or glasses. The life that is possible for us is different than what was possible before this period. Up to this point we have been looking at how the disciples wrapped their heads around the idea that even though their Messiah died, with his resurrection, their whole idea of what was possible, what was important, completely changed. Their ideas about the Romans and their occupation of Israel seems like small potatoes compared with the cosmic consequences of Jesus effectively defeating death, like death was a physical enemy in the way that the Romans were. It was a complete paradigm shift for them, and it took a while for them to make the adjustment. We talked about it being like seeing colors that we’ve never seen before, except this is like discovering possibilities for life that we may not have imagined before. The last several weeks we’ve been looking at it from the perspective of the disciples, but this week we will start looking at how it applies to our lives now. Because many of us, while claiming the name of Christian, or follower of Jesus, are walking around without our Resurrection glasses. We know that Jesus died for our sins, but we don’t experience the new life we can have through Jesus resurrection. We still try to live life the old way.
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April 10, 2016 – VIVID: See and Recognize
This week the disciples try to regain some kind of normalcy in their lives after the strain of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, resurrection. Jesus has appeared to them and provided the Holy Spirit. He has given them a task. He says, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” (c.f. 20: 19 – 28)  A week later they were still huddled in the upper room, when they saw Jesus again. Today’s passage starts sometime after that, but we don’t really know how long. It just says, “Afterword.” It might have been a few days, as long as it would take them to walk from Jerusalem to Galilee, or it could have been a couple of weeks. The author, who we are intended to think is the Apostle John, presumes that we are familiar with the disciples and their background, as he tells us very little …
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April 3, 2016 – VIVID: The World with Resurrection Tinted Lenses
With today’s scripture, we can consider this Easter: Part 2, the Sequel. That’s perfectly appropriate on the second Sunday of Easter or the Easter season. Today, we pick up right from where we left off last week. It is the same Easter day. Remember, the breathless excitement as Mary found the tomb open. Peter and the other disciple flat out ran to the tomb, looked inside, rather perplexed, and went home. Mary looked inside and saw the angels, turned around to see Jesus, right there. She talks with him, then reports everything to the disciples. “I have seen the Lord!” Now, we continue later that same day…
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March 27, 2016 – Sunday’s Here (Easter)
It’s Easter Sunday. Today, we celebrate the Risen Christ, the defeat of death, new life. We reach the culmination of the roller coaster ride of Holy Week. Instead of ending up at the bottom, we wind up higher than we began. We started with the excitement, the shouts of “Hallelujah” and parades of Palm Sunday. We continued a downward slide in the events of the last supper with the revelation that not only is Jesus going to be betrayed, but he knows it. It’s not only by Judas Iscariot, though he may have initiated it by bringing the authorities to arrest Jesus, but he’s betrayed by all the disciples who fled and denied him. We pick up speed on our roller coaster as we descend further…
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March 13, 2016 – An Extravagant Love
For the past five weeks we have been traveling with Jesus from the day he was driven into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Traveling through Galilee and Judea as he teaches and heals people, as he shares the Good News that God is reaching out to them in love for renewal and restoration, offering abundant life. There are banquets and parties. Jesus is talking of celebrations. He is getting such a following that the leaders and power brokers are getting nervous. People are warning of death threats, but Jesus continues on. In today’s Scripture passage, Jesus is in Bethany, practically at Jerusalem’s gate, at another dinner. It is a celebration in his honor after he has raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus is the brother of Martha and Mary, yes that Martha and Mary where at another dinner, Martha complained to Jesus about having to do all the work while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to what Jesus had to say with the rest of the disciples. Jesus had a special relationship with this family, staying with them numerous times.
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March 6, 2016 – We Had to Have a Party!
We’re in the middle of our Lenten series, It Is Finished: Jesus Road to the Cross. Next week, we start getting close to Jerusalem, and the fateful week, but today, Jesus is talking about the parties in heaven and earth when the lost are found. We have heard about a sheep and a coin. Now, Jesus goes in a different direction. Many know this as the story of “The Prodigal Son.” It’s very familiar to many of us, so it can be difficult to really listen to it to hear what God might be saying to us today through it. The first thing I’m going to do is change the title. The titles we see in the Bible are not part of the Scripture itself. They were made up as summary statements by the translator or editor. The title we associate with a story can also affect how we hear it. So, today, my title for this story is “We Had to Have a Party.” I will also be reading this out of The Message Bible translation. The change in the wording can help us to hear it with fresh ears.
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Feb 28, 2016 – You Have to Jump
Today’s scripture comes from the prophet Isaiah. It is a part of Isaiah that is talking about the return of the Jewish people from exile. It is an invitation to return to God, as God has returned to them. Like the promise that God made to Noah never to destroy the earth again by flood, promise that we can be reminded about every time we see a rainbow, God promises to never abandon God’s people again. God will love them with an unfailing love and compassion. Then God offers them this invitation…
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Feb 21, 2016 – Pharisees, Foxes, and Chickens
Last week we had the obvious tests of Satan with Jesus alone in the desert. It was a time of wrestling and deciding. While a person can get worn down over time, it can be easier to withstand this frontal, obvious attack. The final verse in that passage says, that Satan “left him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Today’s reading maybe one of those times…Quite some time had passed from this testing in the desert, and Jesus has withstood and had an answer to every attack since. Most of these have been by those either thinking he was leading the people down a dangerous path. (Many were following primarily because of his feelings and that he provided food. They were listening to what he said teaching what he said often contradicted what the authorities talk.) It was a threat to their power, but they also thought he was wrong. Today’s attack is more subtle.
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Feb 14, 2016 – It Starts in the Desert
In today’s Scripture passage, Jesus is being tempted in the desert. It is a very familiar story to many. It is in all three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. As all three are similar, we can tend to combine them into a single story in our heads. Yet, each one has subtle differences, emphasizing different things. With Luke, it is the Holy Spirit. Today’s passage comes from Luke. Just before this, Jesus is baptized. We hear the public announcement by God that Jesus is God’s son, and Jesus received the Holy Spirit. One last thing happens before Jesus begins his public ministry. A time of testing.
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Feb 7, 2016 – Jesus’ Resurrection: Is There Hope
We’ve been on a journey for the last 7 weeks as we’ve explored what is essential in being a follower of Jesus. What is the least I can believe and still be a Christian? We found out some things we don’t have to do like judging others, whether they measure up. We don’t have to choose between science and God. We are allowed to have questions and doubts. In fact, they can be very good because they show that we are interested and we care. The bottom line is that we have to believe in Jesus. Christians have to believe in Christ, and therefore we have to take what he did and said seriously. Jesus said that what matters most is loving God first and then loving our neighbors. Jesus said that he will be with us in our suffering. As we looked at last week, he knows what it means to suffer, through his whole life really in ways that all people do, but especially through his crucifixion and death. This week we look at the hope Jesus brings us through His resurrection.
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Jan 31, 2016 – Jesus’ Death: What about Suffering
Today’s Scripture reading comes from the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus has been arrested, been falsely accused, convicted, and condemned. He is now going through the process leading up to his execution. 27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. (Mt 27:27-31) The scene we just heard is not unlike something that might happen on a playground anywhere around the world. Even with the best supervision, someone’s back might be turned, a child may be singled out for ridicule, perhaps even struck or beat up.
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Jan 24, 2016 – Jesus’ Example: What Brings Fulfillment
Today, our scripture comes from the Gospel of John. At this point in John, Jesus has been teaching and healing. He has gone to Jerusalem for his final Passover. He has been preparing the disciples and his other followers for his death. He does this by alluding to and speaking about it specifically. He also does it by telling them things that they will need to know after he is gone. Today’s Scripture is one of those practical theology lessons. How do we live it out? The disciples have had Jesus with them as an example for two to three years, but they have been inconsistent at best. Soon Jesus will be gone. They will have to carry on. Jesus physically demonstrates what it means to be his disciple in a very intimate, personal way.
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Jan 17, 2016 – Jesus’ Work: Where Is God?
This week our scripture passage comes from the Gospel of John. It is the most mystical of the Gospels. Scholars think that it was written last, about 15 to 20 years after the last of the others, around the year 80 A.D. The author has had more time for reflection and consideration. Many people say that this is the Gospel that they like or connect with the best, but it can also be the most difficult to understand. It draws a lot from the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, and there are times when its form draws a parallel to the Hebrew Bible. Our Scripture passage this morning does that. The first several verses of John draw their inspiration from the first chapter of Genesis. Let me read a little bit of that as a reminder…
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Jan 10, 2016 – Jesus’ Grace: Am I Accepted?
Several decades ago, a group of theologians gathered in England for a conference on comparative religions. They wrestled with the question, “Is there one belief completely unique to the Christian faith?” As they debated that question, world-famous theologian and author CS Lewis walked into the room. “What’s going on?” he asked. Someone told him that his colleagues were discussing the question, “Is there one belief unique to Christianity?” CS Lewis responded, “Oh that’s easy: it is grace.” By the end of the conference, the theologians agreed with Lewis. The one belief that is completely unique to Christian faith is grace: God’s unconditional love and acceptance of us just as we are.[1] That is why Jesus is in trouble with the Pharisees again…
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Jan 3, 2016 – Jesus’ Priority: What Matters Most?
We are in the middle of our sermon series, “What Is the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” Another way to ask that question is,”What matters most?” Aside from the ideas wrapped around who Jesus was or is, what did Jesus think was most important? As it happens, this is a question that is brought up in the Gospels. It appears in some form or another in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Today, will be looking at it in Mark’s Gospel 12:28-34 … Imagine your house is on fire, what do you make sure comes out of the house with you (e.g. family members, pets, a special photo, etc.)? Now it must include your cell phone if you have one. It has so much information on it including the secondary ability to call the fire department. As you watch the rest of your things being destroyed, you realize that you made some significant decisions. There were so many things to choose. You picked what was most valuable to you. That is very much what this teacher of the law was asking Jesus. Of all the law, what is the most valuable, or what matters most?
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Dec 27, 2015 – (Don’t) Give Me That Old Time Religion
This week we are beginning our sermon series, “What Is the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian?” It is based on Martin Thielen’s book by that name. He is a United Methodist pastor in central Tennessee. In today’s service, I’ll be introducing the series and the first part of the book with a sermon titled, “(Don’t) Give Me That Old Time Religion.” Over the next six weeks, I’ll be focusing on the second part of the book. There’s a schedule of the sermon topics printed in your bulletin, so you’ll know what to expect. This is a great time to invite guests to church, anyone who might be seeking or wondering. I’m so excited about this seven week adventure that we are going on together …
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