A Change of Mood

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Sermon text: 2 Samuel 11:1-5, 26-27; 12:1-13a

Our Scripture lesson today is about a change of mood in the story of David. Until now everything has gone smoothly for David. Ever since Samuel anointed him king in Bethlehem, luck and success have been with him every step of the way. He felled the mighty Goliath with a mere slingshot. He was blessed with Jonathan’s friendship. He escaped the murderous jealousy of Saul. He thrived in the wilderness as a mercenary. Now Saul is dead. The throne is his, and he has lead Israel into a golden era of power, peace and prosperity. His life has unfolded like a fairy tale from shepherd boy to king and conqueror...See full sermon here

The Bigger They Are...

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Sermon Text: 1 Samuel 17:4-11, 40-51

I love Frederick Buechner’s description of Goliath:  “Goliath stood ten feet tall in his stocking feet, wore a size twenty collar and a 52 inch belt” – reminds me of a defensive tackle for the Jaguars. “When he put his full armor on, he not only looked like a Sherman tank but weighed like one. Even stripped to the bare essentials he had plenty to carry around, and flesh and bones were the least of it. There was the burdensome business of having to defend his title against all comers. There were the mangled remains of the runners-up. When he tried to think something out it was like struggling through a hip-deep bog. When he tried to explain something it was like trying to push a truck uphill. His dark moods were leaden and his light moods elephantine. He considered underarm deodorant a sign of effeminacy.” ...See full sermon here

Why Evil?

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Sermon text: Job 2:1-10

 “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job,” begins our story. The location of the land of Uz is unknown, but one commentator suggests that Uz is wherever trouble is. 
Job was “blameless and upright,” says v. 1. Job may not have been an historical person but an ideal figure who stands for everyone who suffers undeservedly.
Job is materially blessed. He has ten children, who all get along with each other. He offers extra sacrifices for his kids, just in case they do anything wrong. He has thousands of herds and flock. He’s a prominent and highly respected person in his community. 
All this is evidence of God’s favor, and those in the ancient world who read this story would assume Job was rewarded for his good behavior. “Blessed are those who walk not in the counsel of the wicked…but delight in the law of the Lord,” says Psalm 1. Illness and poverty, personal and national catastrophes were generally believed to be divine punishments for sin. And wealth and prosperity and health and peace were the rewards of righteousness...
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Shoveling With Teaspoons

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Sermon Text: Mark 4:26-34 and Matthew 13:33 

I was a youth pastor in Charlotte more years ago than I care to mention. It was my first full-time job in the ministry. And the first year was awful. Only a few kids came to the Sunday night youth meetings. I wasn’t a charismatic speaker or a pied piper who could draw teenagers to meetings with my personal magnetism. I was a boring scholar just out of seminary with my head still full of Greek and Hebrew and systematic theology. The programs I planned were boring. One night I gave them a lecture on the proofs of God in Medieval theology. Some kids snored through it, while others heckled me from the back seats with snide comments. Needless to say, many didn’t come back after that. I sense a similar discouragement and fear today in our Presbyterian denomination at dwindling membership and money. But I find the parables before us today from Mark and Matthew encouraging. Let’s call them parables of growth. They describe several characteristics of Christian growth...see full sermon here

How Do We Know God?

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Sermon Text: John 3:1-15

How do we know God? I don’t know about you, but I have spent a lot of my adult life in a struggle with doubt, trying to prove God’s existence to myself in various ways. I think this is a sermon for people who wrestle with doubt, like me, and for people who wish they could help others with their doubts.

Nicodemus, says John, came to Jesus “at night.” Why? The rabbis said nighttime was the best time to study the law, because it was quiet, and all the other chores were done. But I think it’s more likely that Nicodemus came under the cover of night in order to keep his visit a secret...See full sermon here

What to Do About Guilt

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Sermon Text: Ephesians 2:1-10 and Hebrews 10:1-4, 11-18

Ever feel guilty? It can be a terrible burden to bear. Captain Charles McVay of the U.S. Navy took his own life on November 6, 1968. He’d been the skipper of the U.S.S. Indianapolis that sank in World War II with a loss of 900 crew members. His biographer writes, “He tried hard to convey his sense of grief and loss in letters that he wrote to the bereaved families…He was consumed with guilt over the deaths of so many young men. His punishment, he felt, would be a long life.” Unable to endure such a life, he ended it. Maybe our frenetic American lifestyle is an effort to distract ourselves from an uneasy conscience...See full sermon here

The Invisible Ruler

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Sermon Text: Hebrews 2:5-9  and  Acts 1:1-11

This is the last Sunday of the season of Easter. Next Sunday is Pentecost, the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church. So, it’s fitting that today we deal with Acts 1, which describes the ascension of Christ to God’s right hand in heaven. When he was raised from the dead, he didn’t go immediately to heaven but spent several weeks with his disciples convincing them that he was really alive after being crucified and teaching them as much as he could about the coming kingdom of God. Now he’s going to ascend to his position as Lord over all things, and this is his last conversation with them... See full sermon here

The Four Loves

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Sermon text: John 15:9-17

Our lesson from John today is part of a long discourse Jesus gave to his disciples during his last supper with them on the night before he died. It’s a farewell address giving them instructions for their ministry and their life together after his departure. Their challenge will be how to carry on without him, without having his physical presence among them anymore. Jesus is reassuring them in this long speech that he will continue to be with them spiritually in the Lord’s Supper and in the community that celebrates it...See full sermon here

God's Pruning Hook

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Sermon Text: John 15:1-8  

I’d like to focus our attention this morning on something in our lesson that the English reader doesn’t see. It all happens in verse 2. To set the stage, let me read again for you verses one and two. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser [the one who trims the vine]. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, to make it bear more fruit.” The English seems clear enough, but it’s hiding something significant in the Greek, namely a word play. The Greek word for “remove” is AIREIN, and the Greek word for “prune” in the same verse is “KATHAIREIN ” So you have AIREIN and KATHAIREIN, and that’s a play on words! A much better translation of vs. 1-2, a bit clumsy but truer to the Greek, would be this: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he cuts clean, to make it bear more fruit.”...See full sermon here

Time for a New Ark

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Sermon text: Genesis 9:8-17  

       As our passage today begins, God says to Noah, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature, that is, with the birds, the cattle, and every beast that is with you, as many as came out of the ark.” No heaven-sent flood will destroy the creation again. “While the earth remains,” says Genesis 8:22, “seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” The rainbow that appears in the clouds will serve as a reminder of this promise. The Hebrew storyteller thought of the bow in the clouds as a weapon hung up on the wall forever as a sign of peace between God and the creation...See full sermon here