Weird Worship

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Sermon Text: John 4:16-26

The phrase ‘in spirit and in truth’ describes two essential characteristics of true worship: in spirit, as distinguished from place or form or other sensual limitations; in truth, as distinguished from the false conceptions resulting from imperfect knowledge.” - Word Studies in the New Testament

We have come to week 3 in our Keep Church Weird series and this morning we’re going to be talking about Weird Worship. My whole inspiration for this series actually began here with the subject of weird worship when I read an article by a young woman named Rachel Held Evans in which she said that the church ought to “keep worship weird.” If you haven’t heard of Rachel Held Evans, she is a writer and a blogger and she is also a millennial. She writes and speaks about her spiritual journey and search for what she calls a “truer and more authentic Christianity.” At some stage she left the church for a time, but she has since returned, and Rachel’s journey out of church reflects the trend that we are seeing in our culture, especially among young people. You have likely heard the statistics about how membership and attendance in our denomination have been shrinking in recent years along with other alarming statistics that tell us a quarter of the US population now identify as “none” (meaning people with no religious affiliation)…See full sermon here

Weird Love

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Sermon Text: John 13:1-17

Last week we started a sermon series called “Keep Church Weird,” and I told you that one of the first things that I want you to know about your new pastor is that I’m a little weird and that I am going to be committed as your pastor to keeping Lakewood a weird church. I have to tell you that it was really endearing to me this past week how many of you came to me and told me that you are weird, too. It’s like, “great! These are my people!”

I love quirky things and quirky people, but in this series we’re talking specifically about the ways that we are weird because of our faith in and relationship with Jesus. If we are Jesus’s followers and if he is living in us, we are going to be different because the way of Jesus is different than the way of a world that is under the curse of sin. As Christians, we are people who have been set free from the curse of sin and we’ve accepted Jesus’s invitation to be part of his kingdom and Jesus has actually formed us into a community that exists to bear witness to the reality of the new life that can be found in him and I really want the congregation at LPC to be great witnesses to the new life and the new reality that comes through Jesus. So there are some specific “weird” things that we need to hold on to hard and fast so that our witness is fruitful, and powerful, and effective. Last week we talked about holding on to this weird message that we get to share that says you don’t have to work hard to make yourself acceptable to God. You just have to trust in the work of Jesus on your behalf. We’re accustomed to having to earn our way into acceptance but God says we are already accepted. We just have to come to Jesus and we are already loved. This week, I want us to think about weird love…See full sermon here

A Weird Message

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Sermon Text: Galatians 1:6-10

I want to start by saying that it is good to finally be here! We have been looking forward to getting here, and I have to thank you for the beautiful and warm welcome you have given to us. It has been a very smooth transition so far and that is in no small part because of the way you have welcomed us and helped us with things as we’ve tried to get settled in. We would be eating on the floor if Lenora and William Wilson hadn’t loaned us a folding table because ours broke in the move, and we might not have eaten at all in the first 48 hours if the Wilson’s, and the Griffins, and the Mitchells hadn’t fed us.

Our first week here we got mostly unpacked and attended to the important things like getting Wi-Fi hooked up, and this past week, our first week of “real life,” we have been trying to figure out a lot of things like what time we need to leave for school in the morning, and what day the garbage gets collected, and which grocery store is the most convenient. As you know, if you’ve moved, there is so much to learn when you start over in a completely new city and we are definitely in the thick of it, but I’m aware as I am meeting many of you for the first time today, that my girls and I aren’t the only ones who are on a learning curve right now. Ours may be a little steeper than yours in general since we can still barely even drive anywhere without the GPS yet, but you have a brand new pastor and you have a pretty steep learning curve in front of you when it comes to getting to know me. I’m grateful that so many of you have expressed that you are excited about meeting me and getting to know me, but chances are there’s a part of you that’s wondering, “what are we in for with this lady? What is this woman really like and what is she going to do here?”

Of course, I can’t answer all of those questions right away, partly because I don’t think you’re interested in a 2 hour sermon and partly because I don’t even know yet everything that I am going to do here as your pastor. What I can tell you is that there are a few things that I think are really important that I want us to embrace and carry with us no matter what we end up doing together in this new season of ministry, and those are the things that I want to talk about in our sermon series over the next few weeks. So, here it is, one of the first things you’re learning about me is that I think church should be weird and I am going to be committed to keeping this church weird.

Now those of you who are weird and like to embrace your weirdness- and I’ll admit to being in that category myself- you guys may be feeling really good about that, but some of you who have never been or done a weird thing in your life may be wondering what is about to happen here so before anyone decides to jump ship, let me explain myself… See full sermon here

Cookies

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Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

I googled typical Scottish person this week. Can you imagine what popped up? A lot of pictures of pasty white people wearing tartan, mostly with bright red hair and beards. And Sean Connery.

Now there are pasty white red heads in Scotland but that is not the place I know. Scotland was and is a melting pot, long before The United States claimed that phrase. It is a country formed by Britons/Picts/Welsh, Irish, Scots, Gaels, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings/Danes, Normans, and later joined by Italians, Poles, Ukrainians, Romanians, Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese, Africans and many more. A land, not unlike the United States, of many different heritages and cultures trying to live well together. The common link is they are all Scottish. People that are different but trying to co-exist together. A bit like us. A bit like the church in Corinth that Paul is writing to in today’s passage. Corinth was a port town and therefore very cosmopolitan. Travelers from different lands and cultures settle there and make up society including the fledging Christian Church…See full sermon here

Some Parting Suggestions

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Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 3:5-15

I want to start out today by thanking you for your welcome and hospitality and kindness to Sally and me this past year and a half. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed being part of this community. I know I have grown stronger in my faith because of you, and I have learned important things from you. We are grateful.

I’m also grateful for the very fine staff of this church: Brian Mitchell, Tony Testino, Suzanne Deaton, Sara Maguire, Cierra Griffin, Billy Bray, Daniel Madoff, Chris Ross, Nancy Brown, Robyn Ossi of the Preschool and her staff, and also to Meg Sheffield, Doris York, and Dennis Ice, who were on staff when I came. And I should mention Marty Succi, who coordinates Meals-on-Wheels from our kitchen. It’s been a joy to work with all of them, and I think this church is very blessed to have them.

And I should mention - maybe most emphatically of all — my wife Sally for all her support and advice during my time here. She too enjoyed Lakewood, her Sunday school class, the great music, Brian’s preaching, and the fellowship events and all your other ministries…See full sermon here

What's in a Name?

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Sermon text: Isaiah 43:1-7 and Luke 3:21-22

Names, according to the Bible, have power. In Luke’s Gospel, the disciples come back from a mission trip and reported to Jesus, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name.” (10:17). Frederich Buechner wrote, “My name is Buechner…If somebody mispronounces it in some foolish way, I have the feeling that what’s foolish is me. If somebody forgets it, I feel that it’s I who am forgotten…When I tell somebody my name, I have given him a hold over me that he didn’t have before.” Native Americans have objected to the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. The Florida State Seminoles have endured controversy over their name but enjoy the backing of the Seminole tribe council in their use of it. I was a second-string guard on my high school football team. In a game one Friday night the first-string guard was injured. I’d been warming the bench most of the season, and not paying much attention to the action on the field. “Borland!” shouted the head coach. I nearly jumped out of my skin. “Yes sir?” I said, as I grabbed my helmet and ran up to him. “Get in there!” he growled. So, I did. Just hearing my name called for the first time that season snapped me into action. In Johnny Cash’s song, “A Boy Named Sue,” a boy’s father names him Sue and then leaves home. Sue spent his whole life being mercilessly teased about his name and fighting his tormenters. Years later he finds his father, who explains why he named him Sue…See full sermon here

The Homesick Human Heart

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Sermon Text: Isaiah 60:1-3, 5 and Matthew 2:1-12
We three kings of Orient Are,” says the hymn. Isaiah calls them “kings,” but Matthew calls them “magoi” or “wisemen,” probably astrologers, probably from Babylon, who watched the skies for portents of meteorological events and plagues and the births and deaths of important people. Were they also kings? It’s possible.
That there were three of them was inferred from the three gifts they brought - “gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” And the church tradition even gave them names: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. But we really don’t know how many there were.
What we do know is that they were pagans, non-Jews, who were looking for the Christ-child, so they could worship him. There had always been hints of universalism in the Jewish tradition…
See full sermon here

Clothes

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Sermon Text: Colossians 3: 12- 17 and Luke 2: 41-52

We will look at two different passages that are provided in the lectionary this morning. I am going to read the Gospel passage which tells of Jesus in the temple aged twelve and we’ll try to blend in the passage from Colossians that Kassidy read for us.

(Scripture) Luke 2:41-52.

I am sure we have all had the experience of being lost, or losing someone. Perhaps you were the one who was lost, perhaps you lost a child, and it is not a pleasant experience.

I have a friend in Ohio who used to be a youth leader. He once took a group of youth out west on a mission trip. On this particular day they were visiting the Grand Canyon. But they were not on the south rim where most tourists go…See full sermon here

How We Grow

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Sermon Text: Philippians 1:3-11 Luke 3:1-6

What I’m going to say today is directed at people who are not satisfied with themselves spiritually and worry about themselves and others, that they may not be growing or may actually be losing ground in their faith. Let me first call attention to our Gospel Lesson today to set the stage for Paul’s words in Philippians. At first, I didn’t see the connection between these two scripture lessons, but now I think I do. Let’s have a look…See full sermon here

Worlds in Collision

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Sermon Text: John 13:33-38

What does the world to come have to do with this one? Sam Harris wrote this critique of doomsday religion in Newsweek Magazine: “Given the most popular interpretation of biblical prophecy, nearly half the American population is eagerly anticipating the end of the world. It should be clear that this faith-based nihilism provides its adherents with absolutely no incentive to build a sustainable civilization — economically, environmentally, or geopolitically.” Is he right? Karl Marx called religion “The opium of the people,” that is, religion offers us happiness in the coming world, so it doesn’t matter what happens to this one. Is Marx right?…See full sermon here