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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.   

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A Beautiful Faith

Sermon on Isaiah 66:12-13; John 14:1-14 for Easter 5 A, Mothers Day, May 14, 2017

Isaiah 66:12-13

For thus says the Lord:
I will extend prosperity to her like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream;
and you shall nurse and be carried on her arm,
and dandled on her knees.
As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you;
you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

John 14:1-14

[Jesus said:] “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”

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The Sunday of Mother’s Day in America is always complicated. Many of us came from stable families in which our mothers raised us with love and care. Others did not have that experience. Some women here are mothers, and others are not, for a variety of reasons, some quite painful. Some of us have lost our mothers recently. Some mothers have lost children, which makes this day complicated.

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Following the Shepherd Out

Following the Shepherd Out

Sermon on John 10:1-10 and Acts 2:42-47 for Easter 4A, May 7, 2017

Acts 2:42-47

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

John 10:1-10

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 1.41.47 PMIn Greek mythology, the God Hermes, son of Zeus, is considered the god of transitions and boundaries. He moves between the worlds of the gods and mortals as a messenger. Sometimes he is depicted with winged sandals or a winged cap. You may have seen him in the FTD florists icon.

Hermes is also shown carrying a ram draped around his shoulders, in preparation for sacrifice. Early Christians took that image and with a few changes, made it into the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, carrying a sheep. Continue reading “Following the Shepherd Out”

Eyes Broken Open

Eyes Broken Open

Sermon on Luke 24:13-35 for Easter 3A, April 30, 2017

Luke 24:13-35

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Eyes Broken Open

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 11.42.19 AMIn one of Irish theologian Peter Rollin’s talks he tells the story of the man who came to the pastor’s house one evening with a  big concern.  He said there was a family that was going to be evicted from their apartment.  They had always been faithful to pay their rent, but this month they were late.  They were only a day late, but the landlord’s rules were strict, and they were going to be evicted.  The family included children, and an elderly parent, and being winter, he said, it was urgent that the church help them.  The pastor said she would find some money in the church’s funds to stop this cruel eviction from happening.  Then she asked, “By they way, how do you know this family?”  The man said, “I’m the landlord.” Continue reading “Eyes Broken Open”