Practice Resurrection

Practice Resurrection

Sermon on Mark 16:1-8 for April 1, 2018, Easter B

Mark 16:1-8

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

My parents moved out of their home awhile back, into a retirement community.  That meant downsizing, which included packing things in boxes to be dealt with later.  So, it fell to my brother, the only sibling still living in the area, to take the boxes to his place.  He has been going through them, as time allows, and figuring out what to do with everything. 

This week I received, an envelope he sent with things from those boxes.  They were pictures of me.  There were baby pictures, pictures of me in high school, doing gymnastics, pictures of me with my son who is getting married this month, from when he was a toddler.  Opening that envelope was like opening a door of memories.   I was not expecting them.  The emotions I felt surprised me. 

Highbar

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God Save Us

God Save Us

Sermon on Mark 11:1-11, for Palm Sunday B, March 25, 2018

Mark 11:1-11

When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.'” They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it; and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting,

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Palm Sunday is the perfect time to talk about what it means for us to call ourselves Christians, or Followers of Jesus. 

By the way, there are a growing number of people who are uncomfortable with the word “Christian” to describe us, but more comfortable with the term “followers of Jesus.  The reason they give is that “Christian” carries a lot of baggage that they do not want to be associated with. 

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A Covenant, Written on our Hearts

A Covenant, Written on our Hearts

Sermon on Jeremiah 31:31-34 and John 12:20-33 for March 18, 2018, Lent 5B

Jeremiah 31:31-34

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt — a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

John 12:20-33

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say — ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

I have been reading the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari.  He explains that there are two theories about how our species, Homo Sapiens became preeminent, over Neanderthals (and other species). 

One theory is that Homo Sapiens, being better tool-makers and hunters, out-competed the Neanderthals for resources, so that the Neanderthal populations gradually dwindled into extinction. 

The other theory is that Neanderthals were eliminated violently in, what today we would call, a campaign of ethnic cleansing. 

I would much rather believe the first explanation than the second; I want to be able to tell a story of having descended from peace-loving ancestors who were smart, but gentle.  But I know enough about what it means today to be Homo Sapiens that the story of brutal violence cannot be eliminated.  We will let the scholars sort out the answer as to which theory is correct.

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Getting Saved

Getting Saved

Sermon on John 3:14-21 for March 11, 2018, Lent +4 B

John 3:14-21

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

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I have two sons who are millennials.  One of the new terms their generational cohort popularized is the word “meme”.  A meme is an idea, or a phrase, that spreads from person to person in a culture. Like genes are replicated in living organisms, memes spread on social media of all kinds until they are nearly universally recognized. 

Anyway, the phrase “in my opinion” became a meme at the congregation I served in Gulf Shores.  We had several forums in which we wanted to have open discussions, including diverse viewpoints.  We wanted people to feel free to share their thoughts without fear of judgment, so we asked people to begin their comments with the preamble, “In my opinion.”  We even suggested that if a person forgot to say “in my opinion” that the rest of the group had permission to hear whatever they said as, “In your opinion.”  So, “In my opinion” became a meme, almost an inside joke. 

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The Kind of People We Are (Aspirationally)

The Kind of People We Are (Aspirationally)

Sermon on Psalm 19 and John 2:13-16 for March 4, 2018, Lent 3B

Psalm 19

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims  God’s handiwork.

Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;

yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens God has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a beloved from a wedding canopy,
and like a strong athlete runs its course with joy.

Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hid from its heat.

The law of God is perfect, reviving the soul;
the decrees of God are sure, making wise the simple;

the precepts of God are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of God is clear, enlightening the eyes;

the fear of God is pure, enduring forever;
the ordinances of God are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.

Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
do not let them have dominion over me.

Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O God, my rock and my redeemer.

John 2:13-16

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 

I want to confess something – a bad characteristic of mine that I seem, at the moment, powerless to overcome.  I buy more books than I read.  I do a good bit of reading, but not nearly as much as I want to.  So if I have unread books, why do I buy more? 

Here is another confession – because I hear an author being interviewed or I read something that refers to another book, and I often find myself thinking, “O my gosh!  I don’t know much at all about that.  I have to read that!  I’m ignorant in that area.”  I often feel inadequately informed. 

But that problem is backed into the cake of what I do: I am a pastor.  I have to stand up here every week and say something about God, and life, and how the two intersect.  But God is unfathomable, and life is mysterious, so when do you ever know enough to say something? 

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