The Best Invitation You Will Ever Receive

The Best Invitation You Will Ever Receive

Sermon on Song of Solomon 2:8-13 and Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 for Pentecost +5, July 9, 2017

Song of Solomon 2:8-13

The voice of my beloved!
 Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
 bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
 the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtle-dove
 is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
 they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
 and come away.”

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 

[Jesus said:] “But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
“For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is indicated by her deeds.”

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

There is a love story in the Hebrew bible which does not get much attention.  It is called the Song of Solomon, or the Song of Songs, or Canticles.  It is about a Hebrew boy and girl who are desperately in love with each other.  They go back and forth singing each others’ praises in poetry.  If it were read on the radio today, it would come with a disclaimer that the language may not be appropriate for “younger or more sensitive audiences.”   

Continue reading “The Best Invitation You Will Ever Receive”

The Way Christians Look at the World

The Way Christians Look at the World

Sermon on Genesis 18:1-14 and Matthew 10:40-42 for Pentecost +4A, July 2, 2017

Genesis 18:1-14

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.  He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.  He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.  Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.  Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”  And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.”  Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.  Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.”  Then he said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.  So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?”  The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’  Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Matthew 10:40-42

[Jesus said:] “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

When I lived in outside of this country, I often had experiences that I did not expect to have.  I expected to have to learn new words for things, but I did not expect the meanings to be different.  In Croatian, I learned how to say, “Good morning”, and for over a year I would greet people at the college when I arrived with “good morning.”  Finally a Croatian told me that I should be saying “Good day” because “good morning” was only used when people just got up.  All that time I had been, in effect, telling the people whom I greeted that I had just rolled out of bed.

Continue reading “The Way Christians Look at the World”

The Counter of of Uncountable Nouns

The Counter of of Uncountable Nouns

Sermon on Psalm 86 and Matthew 10:29-31 for Pentecost +3, June 25, 2015

Psalm 86 

Matthew 10:29-31

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  And even the hairs of your head are all counted.  So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Screen Shot 2017-06-24 at 12.15.28 PM

When I was overseas they asked me to teach some courses in English as a Second Language.  I got a book, and learned some things about English I never knew before.  For example, I learned that we treat countable nouns differently from uncountable nouns. 

Countable nouns are objects big enough or few enough to be able to count, like sheep or shepherds.   

Continue reading “The Counter of of Uncountable Nouns”

Jesus’ Father(s)

Jesus’ Father(s)

Sermon on Genesis 3:1-14 and Matthew 1:1-7; 18-25 for Father’s Day (Pentecost +2), June 18, 2017

Genesis 3:1-14, click here

Matthew 1:1-7; 18-25

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,  and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram,  and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon,  and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse,  and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.  But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.”  When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 7.27.55 PM

Jesus’ Father(s)

I am one of the blessed ones.  Father’s Day is a happy day for me.  I have a wonderful father who raised us well, and I am blessed to be a father of two of the best boys in the world – now men.  But I know it is not like that for everyone.

Continue reading “Jesus’ Father(s)”

Mystery and Meaning

Mystery and Meaning

Sermon on Genesis 1  for June 11, 2017, Trinity Sunday, A

from Genesis 1 

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

So God created humankind in his image
  in the image of God he created them;
   male and female he created them.

I was just at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting where I was asked to give the invocation.  The speaker was Quint Studer.  Quint is the co-owner of the minor league baseball team the Pensacola Blue Wahoos as well as a businessman and philanthropist. 

He told a lot of stories about people, including himself, who had invested their profits back into their local communities for the sake of the common good, and how it had benefited them.  He said that business which were generous towards their local communities, according to research, were more profitable than those that were not.  He gave many examples of how good it is for a business to invest in training for their employees because it ends up being the best way to make the business flourish. 

Continue reading “Mystery and Meaning”

The Spirit’s Language(s)

The Spirit’s Language(s)

Sermon on Acts 2:1-21 for June 4, 2017, Pentecost A

The entire text is here: Acts 2:1-21

An Excerpt:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Screen Shot 2017-06-02 at 4.49.25 PM

There is a strange verse in the New Testament about the Spirit.  In 1John 4:1 it says:  

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

It is strange for several reasons.  First, you would think that if the Spirit is at work, communicating something, it would be so clear, so self-evidently from the Spirit that there could be no mistaking it.  But apparently that is not the case. 

Second, this verse is strange because it gives the power to the Christian community to somehow “test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”  That means the community already has a sense of the kinds of things that are from God and which are not, and will be able to discern which is which. 

You would think that such discernment comes from the Spirit, but in this case the discernment comes to tell you if the Spirit is reliably from God.  It is completely assumed that the Christian community has spiritual instincts that help it know the difference between things that are of God and things that are not. 

Where did we get these instincts?   Well the answer is pretty clear: the Spirit has been following a distinctive trajectory from the beginning.  You can see the direction of movement.  So, any word or teaching claiming to be “of God” that is going in another direction is automatically suspect. 

Continue reading “The Spirit’s Language(s)”

Our Values

Our Values

Sermon on Philippians 4:8-9 for May 28, 2017, Memorial Day Weekend, Easter 7A

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

The text from Philippians tells us to think about things that are: 

“true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent praiseworthy”

Screen Shot 2017-05-26 at 8.19.21 PMSo, on this Memorial Day weekend here in the USA, I want to do just that: think about those kinds of things.  I was speaking with one of our member this past week, and together we were reflecting about her recently departed husband and their mutual passion for our veterans.  In their home are numerous tokens of appreciation from the Veteran’s Home for their work. 

That conversation and this weekend got me thinking about the values that are stated and lived-out, in practice, in the military.  They are honorable and commendable, excellent and worthy of praise, as Philippians say, so they are well worth thinking about.  In fact they are helpful to consider by us, as a church.   

Continue reading “Our Values”