Stewardship as Joyous Gratitude

Sermon Text: 1 Timothy 6:17-19 & Luke 19:1-10

         The first week of this sermon series I talked about ownership as stewardship in the Christian tradition – our management of God’s property - and the sharing of all things with those in need. Last week I talked about the dangers of wealth and the impossibility of escaping those dangers and therefore the impossibility of entering God’s kingdom. It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s realm, in other words. His disciples then said, “Who then can be saved?” “With human beings it is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” said Jesus. ...Read full sermon here (PDF)

 

The Dangers of Wealth

Sermon Text:  1 Timothy 6:6-10 & Mark 10:17-31

Last week in my sermon I talked about ownership as stewardship in the Christian tradition, as using everything we have for God’s purposes, including sharing all things with the needy. Today we come to the problem of the danger of wealth that manifests itself in various forms.

            The story before us begins with a rich young man’s question to Jesus. Mark doesn’t tell us he’s young; we get that from Matthew’s version of this story, and Luke tells us in his version that the young man is a “ruler,” maybe the ruler of a synagogue. At any rate the young man asks, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”...Read full sermon here (PDF)

Ownership as Stewardship

Sermon Text:  Acts 4:32-37 & Luke 16:1-9

This is the time of year when lots of organizations, including churches, are raising money. So you might expect this sermon to be an effort at fund-raising for Lakewood Presbyterian, you know, the “Sermon on the Amount.” 

Ben Franklin went to hear the famous Methodist evangelist George Whitefield preach a sermon about the need for funds for an orphanage in Georgia. Franklin thought the plan for the orphanage impractical and refused to contribute. Here’s what happened next in Franklin’s own words: “I happened soon after to attend one of his sermons, in which I perceived he intended to finish with a collection, and I silently resolved he should get nothing from me. I had in my pocket a handful of copper money, three or four silver dollars and five pistoles in gold. As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the coppers. Another stroke of his oratory made me ashamed of that, and determined me to give the silver; and he finished so admirably that I emptied my pocket wholly into the collector’s dish, gold and all.”

I wish I had Rev. Whitefield’s ability to get people to pony up, but that’s not what this sermon series is about. What I want to do instead is look at the spiritual side of stewardship, that is, its truly Christian basis and source and quality. What is genuine stewardship and why is it important for those who want to follow Jesus?...Read full sermon here (PDF)

Let It Rain Down

Sermon text: Isaiah 55:1 & 6-12 and John 7:37-39

As most of you know I grew up in a country that is no stranger to rain. And Scottish rain is not like Florida rain. We get that afternoon downpour every day in the summer, and no one bothers. It’ll be gone shortly, and we will get on with the sunshine. Scottish rain tends to go all day and be a bit more drizzly and a lot colder. I remember being asked if I enjoyed my summer one year and replying that, yes, we had a nice picnic that afternoon. I exaggerate, of course, but it is rainy a lot.
We’ve all seen lots of rain in our lives; sometimes it makes us feel good, sometimes not so much. I lived in a farming community in Ohio for a while, and it seemed to me the farmers were always complaining about not enough rain or too much rain... 
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Taste and See

Sermon Text: Psalm 34:1-10

I often tell people, there was only one thing that stopped me from becoming a professional soccer player, one thing. I knew enough about the game, played through elementary and high school, played at college, played on church, community, work teams, even coached high school in Ohio for 15 years. One thing stopped me going professional. I wasn’t very good.
I have spoken to friends who grew up in the USA who have similar stories. I have grown to love baseball in my time here. Having spent such a long time in southern Ohio, I became a big Cincinnati Reds fan, not much to cheer about there I know, but I love talking about baseball with folks who know the game. I have heard numerous times statements like, “I could have made it, but,” or “That kid would have been a star, but he couldn’t hit the curve ball.” The curve ball is the pitch that comes at you off speed, with an unexpected trajectory. Designed to disrupt a batter’s timing, it is not the norm...
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Born to Serve

Sermon text:  Jeremiah 1:4-10 & Matthew 16:21-28

Each of us was born for a purpose. “Before you were born I consecrated you and appointed you a prophet to the nations,” God tells Jeremiah in our lesson today. Thomas Merton writes, “Each one of us has some kind of vocation…Each one of us is called to a special place in (God’s) Kingdom. If we can find that place we will be happy. If we do not find it we can never be completely happy…You and I can’t individually save the whole world, but God calls us to make a difference where we can. That’s our vocation. We’re not all called to be prophets like Jeremiah, though we all share in the prophetic mission of the church to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. But each of us was born to do something very important for God. In fact, most of us have multiple vocations in the world and in the church. Retirement, for example, brings new vocations, such as grand-parenting, which Sally and I are enjoying greatly... Read full sermon here (PDF)

God is Always in Charge

Sermon Text:  Genesis 45:1-5, Romans 8:18-25, 28-35, 37-39

At the beginning of our text today from Genesis, Joseph weeps uncontrollably. He has to send all his Egyptian servants out of the room, but they can still hear him from the next room weeping in the presence of his brothers.

His older brothers had sold him into slavery when he was a boy because he was favored by his father and they were jealous of him. Besides, he was an obnoxious kid. He had dreams that he told his father and brothers about, in which he was to rule over his brothers and his father. So his brothers hated him and got rid of him by selling him to some Midianite traders, who, in turn, sold him in Egypt as a slave. Then they lied to his father, saying a wild animal killed him...Read full sermon here (PDF)

Science and Religion

Scripture Text:  Psalm 8

I almost decided to preach a different sermon this morning, one dealing with the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that I am deeply disturbed by the racism, hatred and violence there, and the neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups that seem to be growing in numbers and boldness. I may eventually have to deal with that in a sermon, but for now, let me encourage all of us to make our voices heard on this matter in whatever peaceful and appropriate ways we can, like the young people who held a candlelight vigil Wednesday night in Charlottesville for Heather Hoyer, the young woman killed at the protest. In Germany, the Nazi’s were helped by the silence of timid and complacent people, who didn’t speak out against them. Let’s not make the same mistake in our time...Read full sermon here. (PDF)

 

The Persecuted

Sermon Text:  Matthew 5:10-12 & Matthew 10:16-25

As William Sloan Coffin observed, “Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies;’ he didn’t say, ‘Don’t make any.’  Rather, he said, ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’” There are lots of different kinds of human suffering: illness, loneliness, and natural disasters. But Jesus like the prophets before him, endured – in addition to all the other forms of suffering -- a special kind of suffering called prophetic suffering, which is the backlash of power against truth....Read full sermon here (PDF) 

The Peacemakers

Sermon Text: Matthew 5:9

Sixteen years after 9-11, with ISIS afoot and war raging in Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Afghanistan and threats from North Korea - what can we learn from this Beatitude about dealing with our enemies?

In the Aramaic language, which Jesus spoke, “the children of God” means “those who are like God.” The peacemakers are like God because God is peaceful. War is a human invention.

Peace means a couple of things in the Bible. One is reconciliation through forgiveness. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” who died for our sins, says Romans 5:1. Christ had no enemies in the sense that he refused to regard anyone as an enemy. Instead, he forgave his adversaries, and his love summons us to do the same. We can’t control how our enemies see us, but we can control how we see them. “If possible, so far as it depends upon you,” says Paul in Romans 12:18, “live peaceably with all people.” So: reconciliation through forgiveness...Read full sermon here (PDF).