The Poor in Spirit

Sermon Text:  Matthew 5:3

The Beatitudes of Matthew summarize Jesus’ teaching, like the Ten Commandments summarize the Law of Moses. Jesus delivers the Beatitudes from a mountain, like God did when God spoke to Israel from Mt. Sinai, which is a hint that Jesus is making a new covenant with God’s people.

And Jesus is speaking here to his disciples. They will be the ones who will be poor in spirit, who will mourn, who will make peace, and so on. He promises them a reward, not in this world but in the coming world, which he calls the kingdom of heaven.

The radically different qualities and values of that coming kingdom are what the Beatitudes describe...Read full sermon here (PDF)

On a Mission from God

Sermon Text: Matthew 28:16-10

I love to drop in the odd pop culture reference in my messages and sermon titles. You may have noticed. So, a number of weeks ago when I looked at the lectionary scripture for today in preparation for the sermon, and I saw that it was Jesus’ final words to his disciples in Matthew’s Gospel, or as we call it, the Great Commission, I had to go with a Blues Brothers sermon title.  If you are not familiar with it, The Blues Brothers is one of the funniest, and perhaps irreverent, movies ever made. In the movie, we find Jake and Elwood Blues flying through the streets of Chicago in a beat-up old police car, trying to put their old rhythm and blues band back together to raise enough money to save the orphanage that they grew up in. While that is going on, they constantly get in trouble and are on the run from numerous police departments, the Illinois Nazis, a country and western band and a mysterious woman who is intent on blowing them up. In fact, it seems all of Chicago is after them. At one point, while being chased by the cops, riding in the Bluesmobile listening to his brother Jake complain about their predicament, Elwood delivers one of the most memorable lines from the movie, “They’re not going to catch us. We’re on a mission from God.” Okay, so that was maybe the Scottish Blues Brother. It becomes his catch phrase throughout the movie whenever one of the old band members does not want to join, or they seem to have a problem, “We’re on a mission from God.” Despite being a pair of crooks, they believe it and are faithful to the mission even in the face of many obstacles...Read full sermon here (PDF)

A New Kind of Power

Sermon Text: Acts 2:1-13, Numbers 11:24-30, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. John 7:37-39

As Sally and I listened to the breaking news of the terrorist attack in Manchester two weeks ago, I was filled with a feeling of helplessness. With ISIS on the prowl gathering recruits for lone-wolf attacks that display increasing depravity, what can anyone do?  How do you fight an evil ideology and hidden cells of suicidal fanatics? Once again – as in the Great Depression, World Wars and the Cold War of the last century, we face a world beyond our control.

But the first Christians also faced an apparently hopeless world in the First Century of the Common Era: Palestine was a Roman colony, subjected to heavy taxation with brutal force. The Mediterranean region was populated with a variety of religious cults and competing philosophies like Epicureanism and Stoicism. The big names were the Caesars: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. The church was a tiny minority, repeatedly persecuted by rival creeds and public officials...Read full sermon text here (PDF)

Take Me Higher

Sermon Text: Acts 1:6-14

This is Kenny Dalglish. (show picture) This picture hangs in my office. Kenny is my favorite football (or is that soccer) player of all time. When I was a wee boy he played for my team, the Celtics. He also played for Scotland. He scored lots of great goals. You can watch some clips on YouTube. He was amazing and up there with Messi and Ronaldo in my book. He was my hero. In 1977, Kenny did the unthinkable. He left the Celtics and joined the Liverpool team. I was 10, and it was then that I realized football players don’t have the same loyalty to their teams as the fans do. It was a growing up moment! I remember thinking, “What are we going to do now that he is gone? He was such an important player. What are we going to do? What now?” ...Read full sermon here (PDF)

Is Christ the Only Way to God?

Sermon Text:  Acts: 17:22-31 & John 14:1-14

Is Christ the only way to God? As a Christian, I affirm this. “I am the way, the truth and the life,” says Jesus in our Gospel Lesson today. “No one comes to the Father but by me.” In Acts 4:12, referring to Christ’s name, Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” For Christians, Christ is God incarnate and apart from him there is no salvation. But if that’s true, what does it mean for people of other faiths or no faith?...Read full sermon here (PDF)

 

A New Kind of Family

Sermon Text:  Acts 2:42-47 & 1 Peter 2:1-10 & John 15:1-11

Family can be a wonderful thing, or not! Some families look forward to gathering together, while others dread the holidays precisely because that’s when they gather. A woman told me once that when she was growing up she dreaded every meal with her family because her father was so strict about table manners that everyone was on edge. You don’t pick your families like you do your friends. Even adoptions come with many unknowns about personalities and health and childhood traits that may blossom into success or develop into failure in the adult. All things considered, Sally and I are lucky to have the families we do. I don’t know where I’d be without the love and care of my family. How about you?...Read full sermon here (PDF)

Suffering and Security

Sermon Text:  Psalm 23

Life seems to contradict the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. . . . Yea, though I walk through the valley of death I will fear no evil,” it says. Jonathan was a soldier from Orange Park. He told his mother not to worry when he left for Iraq. “God is my rear guard, and Psalm 23 [is my] heartsong,” he told her. But he died in an ambush in southern Iraq. He was her only child. John Claypool was a Baptist minister. His 8 year old daughter Laura Lue was diagnosed with acute leukemia and died 18 months later. How do we understand the promises of Psalm 23 in the light – or maybe I should say, in the darkness – of tragedies like these? ...Read full sermon here (PDF) 

Christian Rules of Speech

Sermon Text:  James 3:1-12 & Matthew 12:33-37

James warns us not to underestimate the power of speech. “The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits,” says James. It can be very creative or very destructive. We live in an age of fake news, alternative facts, and incivility. “Every species of beast has been tamed by humans,” says James, “but no one can tame the tongue.” If you squeeze toothpaste out of a tube, once the toothpaste comes out you can’t put it back in. Just so with words: once they come out of our mouth we can’t put them back in. Once they’re said we can’t un-say them. Therefore, Jesus warns us in Matthew, “On the day of judgment you will have to give an account of every careless word you utter. For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.” And Paul advises, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.” How do we do that? How do we speak in a Christ-like way? I’d like to mention seven rules of Christian speech today. Taken together they provide helpful guidance in our use of language....Read full sermon here (PDF)

How Do We Know Christ was Raised from the Dead?

Sermon Text:  1 Peter 1:1-9 & John 20:19-31

How do we know Christ was raised from the dead? Why do we believe it? All four gospels mention doubters among Jesus’ followers at the news of his resurrection. Matthew 28:17 says that when Jesus appeared to this disciples in Galilee, “they worshipped him, but some doubted.” How about you? Do you struggle with doubt, like I often do?

Thomas also doubted. His story begins with Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples in Jerusalem the evening of the day of his resurrection. The disciples are gathered in a room with the doors locked because they were afraid of suffering the same fate as Jesus did at the hands of the religious leaders.

But suddenly Jesus “came and stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he showed them his hands and his side, which still bore the wounds of his crucifixion,” says John. Notice the doors are still closed. So there are two levels of meaning here. On the physical level, Jesus’ body is still a physical body but is now capable of passing through walls and locked doors, so he is already showing signs of his transition to eternal life. And on the spiritual level, his resurrection breaks through his disciples’ fears and gives them joy....Read full sermon here (PDF)

Light My Way

Sermon Text:  John 20:1-18

Our journey to Easter morning this week has led us from a Palm Sunday celebration where, incidentally, I should have realized every time I said “donkey,” you would think of Shrek. We then experienced a very meaningful Maundy Thursday service, where many took part in our prayer vigil, and our thoughtful Good Friday service. We have travelled well. We have experienced the emotions of Holy Week. We traveled through those dark days so that the joy of Easter morning finds its proper context. The joy of the Risen Lord finds its context in the pain and sorrow that leads to resurrection. We do not expect to hear more about darkness on Easter morning. Instead it is a time of sunrise, light and brightness....Read full sermon here (PDF)