On Christmas Day In The Morning

Sermon Text:  Isaiah 9:2-7 & Luke 2:1-14

I Saw Three Ships

I saw three ships come sailing in

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;

I saw three ships come sailing in

On Christmas Day in the morning.

            Hey … did you hear?  It’s Christmas Day in the Morning!

            What does that mean for us?  Well, it provides us the luxury of forgetting all of the hurt and pain and drama in our lives for a little while … and remembering a birth, a life, a death and a resurrection.  And oh, what a life it was and continues to be:

º   A Life that has demonstrated for me a new way ... a loving way ... a forgiving way.

º   A Life offered for me and for you … because of God’s great love for us.

º   A Life that brings joy in the midst of the hurt and crude of this life.

º   A Life that says to me “You are loved so much, that I want you to live with me forever.”

º   A Life that declares that no matter how dark my world, your world, this world gets ... there is a Light that shines ... a Light that burns with an immoveable Hope; a penetrating Peace; a contagious Joy; an undying, unconditional, unfathomable Love...Read full sermon here (PDF)

I'll Be Home For Christmas

Sermon Text:  Luke 2:8-20

Thank you Tony. (Tony played the song before I preached.)  Through the years that song has meant different things to me at this time of year … depending upon the circumstances.

            One such time I will never forget … occurred when we lived in Colorado.  It was a Christmas present for my parents.  A couple of weeks before Christmas, Karen, Kerry, Jeremy (1 year old at the time) and I recorded a few Christmas songs on a cassette tape (accompanied by my guitar) and then sent it to my brother, Sam, with very detailed instructions.  Our family Tradition was to gather in the afternoon on Christmas Day at Mom and Dad’s home for a gift exchange and then dinner.  Well, Sam was to have them open our present when they all sat down to eat.  As Mom and Dad listened to the songs, along with the rest of the family, they didn’t really understand the full significance.  They thought it was nice, but ...

            However, the last song we recorded was I’ll be Home for Christmas.  Now understand, we had lived in California prior to Colorado and we hadn’t been home for Christmas in 7 years.  As the song ended, we all said, “Merry Christmas!  We will be home for Christmas.”  An hour later, after our flight from Denver, renting a car and driving to their place from Pittsburgh … we were all together again in their home!...Read full sermon here (PDF)

Holy Ground...You Are To Be Love

Sermon Text:  Matthew 1:18-25

In a world filled with conflict, where hate often abounds … you ARE TO BE LOVE.  How?  In the birth of a Babe.  Whether you realize it or not, no matter where you are or who you are with … you are standing on Holy Ground.  Even in the most unlikely of places … God is there through His Son … and through each of us!

            I’ve been preaching it to you for almost 13 years.  Have you got it?  What is the most important thing we can do in our lives?  What has God called each of us to do and never veer from the choice?  What is the one word that should typify how others see us and experience us?  What is that word?  LOVE!

            I don’t believe there is any other time or season of the year that reinforces this mandate more than Christmas.

            And so today … I want to ask you a couple of questions to see if you agree with me that Christmas is that time of year where love does indeed manifest itself like no other.

            THE FIRST QUESTION IS THIS: Does Christmas open your heart?

            Is Christmas a sentimental journey, a trip down memory lane that brings tears to your eyes?  A favorite Christmas carol includes the words: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”  Do you know which one it is?  You should … we just sang it at the beginning of our service as our Hymn of Advent Love: O Little Town of Bethlehem.

            “The hopes and fears of all the years…”  Those are exactly the kinds of feelings we spend most of the year avoiding!  The last thing we want to think about [most of the time] is that vertical dimension of our soul ... the deep places in our lives ... our self-consciousness about the reality of “the hopes and fears of all the years.”  We don’t want to think about that, because we’re afraid that if we get in touch with our hopes and dreams for the future … we will be disappointed.

            And we sure don’t want to be in touch with our fears because they can be so dad gum scary.  And so we spend our life avoiding “the hopes and fears of all the years.”  It takes courage to really take a trip down memory lane ... a sentimental journey ... to be in touch with who we really are in all our feelings...Read full sermon here (PDF)

Holy Ground...You Bring Peace

Sermon Text:  Micah 5:2-5a & Ephesians 2:11-19

In a world filled with conflict, where worry often abounds … you BRING Peace.  How?  In the birth of a Babe.  Whether you realize it or not, no matter where you are or who you are with … you are standing on Holy Ground.  Even in the most unlikely of places … God is there through His Son and through each of us!...Read full sermon here (PDF)

Holy Ground...You Are The Hope

Sermon Text:  Exodus 3:1-5 & Luke 1:26-38

In a world of lost hope, where despair often abounds … YOU have been chosen to bring to the world a New Hope.  How?  In the birth of the Babe.  Whether you realize it or not, no matter where you are, you are standing on Holy ground.  Even in the most unlikely of places … God is there through His Son and through each of us!
   
    Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor of New York City during the Depression, and he was quite a character.  He would ride the city fire trucks, take entire orphanages to baseball games, and whenever the city newspapers went on strike, he would get on the radio and read the Sunday “funnies” to the children.
    At any rate, one bitter cold winter’s night in 1935, Mayor LaGuardia turned up in a night court that served the poorest ward in the city.  He dismissed the judge for the evening and then took over the bench himself.  After he heard a few cases, a tattered old woman was brought before him, accused of stealing a loaf of bread.
    She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick and her grandchildren were starving.  But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, insisted on pressing charges.  “My store is in a very bad neighborhood, your honor,” he said.  “She’s got to be punished in order to teach other people a lesson.”
    The mayor sighed.  He turned to the old woman and said, “I’ve got to punish you,” he said.  “The law makes no exception … ten dollars or ten days in jail.”
    But even as he spoke, LaGuardia was reaching into his pocket and pulling out a ten-dollar bill.  “Here is the woman’s fine,” he said, “and furthermore, I’m going to fine everyone in this court room fifty cents for living in a city where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat.  Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”
    The following day, the New York Times reported that $47.50 was turned over to the bewildered old woman.  These fines were given by the red-faced storeowner, some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations and city policemen … and they all gave their mayor a standing ovation as they handed over their money.
    That’s how it should be in God’s world.  Just when it seems that all hope is lost … Even in the most unlikely of places … we find ourselves standing on Holy Ground where WE have the CHOICE to make a difference.  And because of Christmas … God is there through His Son and through each of us!...
Read full sermon here (PDF)

 

That's What Friends Are For

Sermon Text:  John 15:12-17

I believe this passage of Scripture in John may contain one of the most important messages we can receive from Christ.  In it … Jesus makes the promise of friendship to us.  Do you understand the full impact of its meaning?  Jesus says, “I do not call you servants any longer … but I have called you friends.”

                This is the day before Christ is betrayed.  And even though he knows what’s about to happen, Jesus wants his disciples to be sure and KNOW that they are his friends.  In this brief, little paragraph, Jesus gives four proofs of the friendship.  Two are from His side and two are from our side.

              The First Proof of the friendship from Jesus’ side is a very famous proof.  He says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  This first proof we are his friends is the most ancient and important of all the signs of friendship.

                In our relationships with one another, sometimes [or even often] we place conditions on our friendships.  We say or think something like: “Oh, you’re my friend?  Well then, what have you done for me lately?”  That is definitely a little crude, but we have to admit that it’s the oldest sign of friendship … the sign of what you do for someone that proves your friendship.

                We hate to admit it, but that is the test … isn’t it?  Be honest now … because when push comes to shove, we discover who our friends are by what they do for us … and we find it out sometimes in emergency situations...Read full sermon here (PDF)

Let It Go to Let It Grow

Sermon Text: Philippians 2:1-13

There’s a classic picture of heaven and hell that I’m sure many of you have seen before.  To the left of the picture you see hell.  There’s anger and dissention.  Everybody has a long spoon and they’re trying to eat and there’s no way they can get the spoon to their mouths.  And so, chaos ensues.

            Move your eyes to the right and you’re in heaven.  There you sense joy, affirmation and celebration.  As you look a little closer … you see everyone has the same long-handled spoon … but in this case they are feeding each other.

            Now, take a moment and try to imagine eating with your hands tightly grasped?  You’re trying to eat with two fists, and there’s no way you can eat comfortably.  Notice the Scripture ... Philippians 2:5-6 reads:

            “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.”  That word, “exploited” in other translations suggests: “grasped.”

            As you continue to read, you realize Jesus emptied himself … no GRASPING on his part.  He opened his hands, his life and his heart.

            So this morning, as we prepare to come to the Lord’s Table, gathering together as God’s family called LPC, is God possibly calling us to realize that our reach must exceed our grasp...Read full sermon here (PDF)

 

Generations of Generosity Today

Sermon Text:  1 Timothy 1:12-18

The theme for our stewardship month is: Generations of Generosity.  We’re delving into the theme a lot, but from the perspective of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  Where have we BEEN?  Where are we NOW?  And where will BE on into the future?  These are the questions we are addressing.
    I want to ask you this morning to look in two directions.  First, look toward CALVARY.  WHAT do you see?  There at that cross-crowned mountain Christ is suffering, dying, giving himself for you.  WHY did he do that?  Simple answer.  To show you just how much he loved you.  Can you SEE his love?  Would you not agree with me, that his death on a cross was the ultimate expression of “Generosity”?  
    Fix that picture in your mind.
    Now … turn in another direction: look around you, look at the others around you here in THIS PLACE right now.  WHAT do you see?  Here are your fellow-followers of the Christ … some of them anyway … your fellow-disciples in our time, your fellow-pilgrims on the journey.  Here is the church, the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, at least the part of it anyway, called Lakewood Presbyterian.  Do you SEE the love in each other’s faces?  Have you FELT the love others express to you?  Would you not agree their love for you is a very “Generous Love”?  
    Now, fix that picture in your mind.
    There is a profound connection between what we SEE when we look at Calvary and what we SEE when we look at each other.  Those of us right HERE … are the reason he did what he did THERE.  We have this identity with one another and with him because he loved the church … loving her even before she was born … and by his death and resurrection … giving her BIRTH.
    Self-identification is always important … it is important that we KNOW who we are.  And who ARE we, the people assembled in this place on this day?  We are the CHURCH … THIS is who we are.  We are the church Christ loved and for whom he gave himself.  “Merchants, bakers, or candlestick makers.”  Let us try TODAY to see ourselves as the church Christ loved.
...Read full sermon here. 

 

Generations of Generosity Yesterday

Sermon Text:  Hebrews 13:1-8

The theme for our stewardship month is: Generations of Generosity.  We’ll be delving into the theme a lot, but from the perspective of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  Where have we been?  Where are we now?  And where will be on into the future?  Those are the questions we’ll be addressing in relation to Stewardship.

            John Ruskin was hired by the Lakewood Chapel Council in 1952 to come up with a design that would be our first home.  Along with the artist’s rendering, John Ruskin penned these words:

            Only once in a lifetime comes the privilege of helping to build a church that will stand for generations in the community for which it is built...When we build, let us think we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think as we lay stone upon stone, that the time is to come when these stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labor and the wrought substance of them, “See this our fathers did for us.”

            “See this our fathers (and mothers) did for us.”  Today we look back at our legacy … a legacy of commitment and love.  Commitment and love of God for sure, and commitment and love for a church family.

            How aware are you of our church history?  Some of you, I’m sure, know how it all started, but others may not be quite up to speed.  Let me give you a little history lesson for a few moments, as we think about Generations of Generosity: Yesterday....Read full sermon here. 

The Household of God? The Whole World!

Sermon Text:  Luke 14:15-24

I will not preach long today … the gospel is being proclaimed in so many ways on this World Communion Sunday: The music, our liturgy, the Table.

    I heard a story about a preacher who was known for his very long-winded sermons.  (No comments from you about the length of mine!)  One Sunday during an especially long sermon, one of the ushers got up and left mid-sermon.  The next day the preacher asked him why he got up and left.  The usher replied, “To get a haircut.”  “Why didn’t you get a haircut before the service?” the preacher asked.  The man replied, “Before the service … I didn’t NEED a haircut.”...Read full sermon here (PDF)