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

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

Imposters in the Church

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Sermon Text: Mark 12:38-44

Once when my family and I lived in Nashville some children down the street were approached by a stranger, who invited them into his car. “We’ll get some ice cream,” he said. But they refused his offer and ran home — thank goodness! My wife Sally decided it was time to have a talk with our younger son Scott, who was then four years old. “Scotty,” she said, “If a man you didn’t know drove up in a car or a truck and said to you, ‘Son, you want to come with me to get an ice cream cone or some candy?’ What would you say to him?” Scott thought for a minute and said, “Please?” Clearly, he needed to be educated about dangerous imposters…See full sermon here

God's Hidden Hand in Things

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Sermon Text: Ruth 1:8-18

The story of Ruth begins with a famine in Israel that prompts a man name Elimelech to move his family from Bethlehem of Judea in Israel to the plains of Moab in hopes of making a better life there. But while they are there Elimelech dies, leaving his wife Naomi to manage with her two sons. Her sons then marry Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. Then Naomi’s sons both die, leaving her with her two daughters-in-law. Being a widow without a husband or sons to provide for her puts Naomi in a precarious financial situation…See full sermon here

Our Turn to Sacrifice

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Sermon Text: Hebrews 12:1-2

Our lesson today begins with a definition of faith. “Faith is confidence in what is hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” that is, faith means trusting in the as-yet-unfulfilled promises of God and the invisible power of God. Hebrews seems to use the words faith and hope interchangeably, suggesting that faith is about the future of the world and our own personal future. Faith means not giving up on God, no matter what happensSee full sermon here

Six Principles of Christian Giving

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Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 2 Corinthians 8:1-7

According to our lessons today, Paul was on a missionary journey through Macedonia and Greece, and was collecting money from the churches there for the poor church in Jerusalem. The previous year he had gotten promises from a number of churches in that area to contribute to the gift for their brother and sisters in Jerusalem. Now he’s coming back to those churches to collect what was promised and deliver it to Jerusalem.

Something that surprised even Paul happened during this process. The Christians in Macedonia were dirt poor and sorely afflicted - probably by local persecutors of the church— yet they gave generously anyway. Why did they do that and how did they manage to despite their poverty and suffering?…See full sermon here

Christian Time Management

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Sermon Text: James 4:13-17, 7-11

We Americans are busy people. We’ve always been hard workers, but Time magazine reported, “Sometime in the (1980’s) Americans came to worship career status as a measure of individual worth, and many were willing to sacrifice any amount of leisure time to get ahead.” Money is elastic in the sense that we can stretch it temporarily by borrowing, and it can accumulate in our bank account if we earn more than we spend. But time isn’t elastic. We all have the same amount of it every day, and there’s no way to borrow it or stretch it.

Hurried children skip their youth rushing from school to swim practice to homework to bed. Idleness is the devil’s workshop, they say, but so is a childhood with no time to throw rocks in the creek, chase butterflies, daydream or wonder…see full sermon here