Sermon April 5 2020

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Matthew 21:4-11

Now this happened to fulfill what the prophet said, Say to Daughter Zion, “Look, your king is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey, and on a colt the donkey’s offspring. The disciples went and did just as Jesus had ordered them. They brought the donkey and the colt and laid their clothes on them. Then he sat on them.

Now a large crowd spread their clothes on the road. Others cut palm branches off the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds in front of him and behind him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!Hosanna in the highest!” And when Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. “Who is this?” they asked. The crowds answered, “It’s the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Matthew 26:20-30

That evening he took his place at the table with the twelve disciples. As they were eating he said, “I assure you that one of you will betray me.”

Deeply saddened, each one said to him, “I’m not the one, am I, Lord?”

He replied, “The one who will betray me is the one who dips his hand with me into this bowl. The Human One goes to his death just as it is written about him. But how terrible it is for that person who betrays the Human One! It would have been better for him if he had never been born.”

Now Judas, who would betray him, replied, “It’s not me, is it, Rabbi?”Jesus answered, “You said it.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take and eat. This is my body.” He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from this, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many so that their sins may be forgiven. I tell you, I won’t drink wine again until that day when I drink it in a new way with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Then, after singing songs of praise, they went to the Mount of Olives.

Matthew 26:47-50

While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came. With him was a large crowd carrying swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. His betrayer had given them a sign: “Arrest the man I kiss.” Just then he came to Jesus and said, “Hello, Rabbi.” Then he kissed him.

But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came and grabbed Jesus and arrested him.

Sermon March 29, 2020

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Psalm 130

A pilgrimage song.

I cry out to you from the depths, Lord
my Lord, listen to my voice!
    Let your ears pay close attention to my request for mercy!
If you kept track of sins, Lord
    my Lord, who would stand a chance?
But forgiveness is with you—
    that’s why you are honored.

I hope, Lord.
My whole being hopes,
    and I wait for God’s promise.
My whole being waits for my Lord—
    more than the night watch waits for morning;
    yes, more than the night watch waits for morning!

Israel, wait for the Lord!
    Because faithful love is with the Lord;
    because great redemption is with our God!
He is the one who will redeem Israel
    from all its sin.

John 11:1-45

Lazarus is ill

A certain man, Lazarus, was ill. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This was the Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped his feet with her hair. Her brother Lazarus was ill.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, saying, “Lord, the one whom you love is ill.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This illness isn’t fatal. It’s for the glory of God so that God’s Son can be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. When he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was. After two days, he said to his disciples, “Let’s return to Judea again.”

The disciples replied, “Rabbi, the Jewish opposition wants to stone you, but you want to go back?”

Jesus answered, “Aren’t there twelve hours in the day? Whoever walks in the day doesn’t stumble because they see the light of the world. But whoever walks in the night does stumble because the light isn’t in them.”

He continued, “Our friend Lazarus is sleeping, but I am going in order to wake him up.”

The disciples said, “Lord, if he’s sleeping, he will get well.” They thought Jesus meant that Lazarus was in a deep sleep, but Jesus had spoken about Lazarus’ death.

Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died. For your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there so that you can believe. Let’s go to him.”

Then Thomas (the one called Didymus) said to the other disciples, “Let us go too so that we may die with Jesus.”

Jesus with Martha and Mary

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was a little less than two miles from Jerusalem. Many Jews had come to comfort Martha and Mary after their brother’s death. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary remained in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you.”

Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

She replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, the one who is coming into the world.”

After she said this, she went and spoke privately to her sister Mary, “The teacher is here and he’s calling for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to Jesus. He hadn’t entered the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were comforting Mary in the house saw her get up quickly and leave, they followed her. They assumed she was going to mourn at the tomb.

When Mary arrived where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

When Jesus saw her crying and the Jews who had come with her crying also, he was deeply disturbed and troubled. He asked, “Where have you laid him?”

They replied, “Lord, come and see.”

Jesus began to cry. The Jews said, “See how much he loved him!” But some of them said, “He healed the eyes of the man born blind. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb

Jesus was deeply disturbed again when he came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone covered the entrance. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.”

Martha, the sister of the dead man, said, “Lord, the smell will be awful! He’s been dead four days.”

Jesus replied, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you will see God’s glory?” So they removed the stone. Jesus looked up and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. I know you always hear me. I say this for the benefit of the crowd standing here so that they will believe that you sent me.” Having said this, Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his feet bound and his hands tied, and his face covered with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

Therefore, many of the Jews who came with Mary and saw what Jesus did believed in him.

Sermon March 22 2020

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Jesus heals a blind man John 9:1-41

As Jesus walked along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. Jesus’ disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned so that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”

Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents. This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him. While it’s daytime, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After he said this, he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and smeared the mud on the man’s eyes. Jesus said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means sent). So the man went away and washed. When he returned, he could see.

The man’s neighbors and those who used to see him when he was a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”

Some said, “It is,” and others said, “No, it’s someone who looks like him.”

But the man said, “Yes, it’s me!”

So they asked him, “How are you now able to see?”

He answered, “The man they call Jesus made mud, smeared it on my eyes, and said, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

They asked, “Where is this man?”

He replied, “I don’t know.”

Then they led the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus made the mud and smeared it on the man’s eyes on a Sabbath day. So Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see.

The man told them, “He put mud on my eyes, I washed, and now I see.”

Some Pharisees said, “This man isn’t from God, because he breaks the Sabbath law.” Others said, “How can a sinner do miraculous signs like these?” So they were divided. Some of the Pharisees questioned the man who had been born blind again: “What do you have to say about him, since he healed your eyes?”

He replied, “He’s a prophet.”

The Jewish leaders didn’t believe the man had been blind and received his sight until they called for his parents. The Jewish leaders asked them, “Is this your son? Are you saying he was born blind? How can he now see?”

His parents answered, “We know he is our son. We know he was born blind. But we don’t know how he now sees, and we don’t know who healed his eyes. Ask him. He’s old enough to speak for himself.” His parents said this because they feared the Jewish authorities. This is because the Jewish authorities had already decided that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be expelled from the synagogue. That’s why his parents said, “He’s old enough. Ask him.”

Therefore, they called a second time for the man who had been born blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know this man is a sinner.”

The man answered, “I don’t know whether he’s a sinner. Here’s what I do know: I was blind and now I see.”

They questioned him: “What did he do to you? How did he heal your eyes?”

He replied, “I already told you, and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

They insulted him: “You are his disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses, but we don’t know where this man is from.”

The man answered, “This is incredible! You don’t know where he is from, yet he healed my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners. God listens to anyone who is devout and does God’s will. No one has ever heard of a healing of the eyes of someone born blind. If this man wasn’t from God, he couldn’t do this.”

They responded, “You were born completely in sin! How is it that you dare to teach us?” Then they expelled him.

Jesus heard they had expelled the man born blind. Finding him, Jesus said, “Do you believe in the Human One?”

He answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”

Jesus said, “You have seen him. In fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

The man said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped Jesus.

Jesus said, “I have come into the world to exercise judgment so that those who don’t see can see and those who see will become blind.”

Some Pharisees who were with him heard what he said and asked, “Surely we aren’t blind, are we?”

Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you wouldn’t have any sin, but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

Sermon Feb 24 2019

I’ve had an affinity for walking sticks for as long as I can remember. I am pretty sure it has something to do with glimpsing some portrayal of Moses and his “magical” walking staff sometime before I can consciously remember. Older now, I believe all walking staffs and canes have a bit of the holy in them. In one church I served we did a VBS that included a walking stick for everyone; one member had a basswood walking stick carved for me. Another woman gave me her late husband’s homemade cane along with the backstory of where to find and harvest diamond willow. Both pieces of wood whisper holiness every time I look at them. There’s something about walking sticks and canes that speaks of what it is to journey through life. I’ve even known people who’ve named their canes. Any of you known people to name their canes?

 

I’ve seen my Mom and Dad both go through times of needing to use a cane. I’ve seen both my children each have a time in their life when they needed to use a cane. My wife has a pink cane, purchased in Ohio that she needed to use for a month or so after a side-effect from a medication. I’ve needed to use a cane recovering from a back injury. We’ve never named any of them, though. Recently, I began to wonder what I would name this walking stick I have today. After years I’ve finally found a “new shoe” for its foot—and can use it for hiking again. I think I’ve come up with a name for it.

 

My Mom, after her hip surgeries, had kind of a love/hate relationship with her cane. Most of you know the relationship. She’d use her cane for a while. Then, she’d get up and walk across the room without it, while it rested on her chair. The beautiful thing about the cane was it was never offended. It always waited for her right where she left it. It never judged her or scolded her. If her cane had been a person: I think it would have been called forgiving, faithful or patient.

 

Earlier today we heard Jesus’ words. “Treat people the way you wish to be treated.” Be forgiving and faithful because we know how much we appreciate people who are patiently at their best when we are at our worst.

 

“No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.” One of the privileges I usually have when I officiate at a funeral is to hear people tell the stories of when their loved one was good to them—or helpful in some way to others. People beam with pride when they tell of Dad blowing out the neighbor’s driveway for free or Mom being the neighborhood Mom for all the kids. People heal faster when they have such stories to tell about loved ones. Kindness is a wonderful legacy to leave behind. Jesus says, “If you do good to those who do good to you, or lend expecting repayment, why should you be commended. “Instead, love your enemies. Do good expecting nothing in return.” “Act like this and you will be acting like God acts—generously.”

 

Our sight is limited. God can always see the entire picture. But, we cannot. There is way too much in this world we don’t know. So, err on the side of kindness. Jesus says, “Be compassionate just as my Father in heaven is compassionate.” Or, in the words of this slide, “You never know what someone is going through. Be kind. Always.”

 

A cane never asks, “How did you get broken?” A cane never shouts, “What were you thinking?” Or, “What did you learn?” It’s simply there when you reach for it. It’s there to steady your step, help you stand a bit taller, help you rebuild your life. A cane is there to support you when you need it most. Are these the exact things we are called to do as the church?

 

Jesus is reminding us that even though we come here to learn how to live a right and good life, we are here to work on our own lives, not to learn how to judge others. As Rich Walters says to all Christians, “You better start worrying about your own sins. God isn’t going to ask you about mine.” Or, in Jesus’ own words. “Don’t judge and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn and you won’t be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” I don’t know about you, but I need that reminder every day. Ruminating on another’s flaws is time poorly spent in Jesus’ worldview.

 

While the world wastes time chasing bunnies down the rabbit holes of judgement, Jesus is inviting us to transform the world. Jesus is inviting us—to let God transform our own lives. “Give and it will be given to you,” Jesus says. “Or, as the slide says, “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected.” Give our best to another person and that person just may appreciate it. That person may grow into more of a blessing in our lives than we ever imagined. Give our best to someone, and even if they don’t do their best in return, we’re better for having given our best. We are more whole if we give generously to others. Jesus says, “The portion you give will be the portion you receive.”

“Love your enemies; Do good; Bless; Pray for those who aren’t good to you; Offer your coat and your shirt. Give freely. Be compassionate. Don’t Judge; Forgive; Give a good portion.” These are all the things Jesus tells us will fill our own lives to overflowing.

 

Last week I shared the definition of Grace as a verb. What does it mean to Grace someone? To grace another is to honor, dignify and bless that person.
I think Jesus is telling us the most inviting thing we can do as Christians is to Grow in Grace. The more gracious we become the more people will notice the good, the light and the kindness. Others will draw near. Grace is – shining so others can see (Jesus) though you.

 


Let others know they can count on you. Let others know you’ll be there when they reach out. Lend support when needed without judgment. Make it clear to someone you see in church, that if they ever need anything, you’re available for them outside of church. Let anyone outside of church know you’re there for them—no judgment, just grace. We may find, in time, that person will want to be with us in church.

 

Grace another’s life. And remember God’s promise. The gracious portion you give will be what you receive and more, packed down, firmly shaken and overflowing.

 

So, I believe I have a name for this hiking staff—ready to join me for a walk with its new shoe. What better name than for a strong, non-judgmental, steady support than…”Grace.”