Preached FCCW December 23, 2018 Advent 4C
Like many of you, lately I have been spending more time in shopping malls than I typically do other times of the year. Since everybody else seems to have been doing the same thing, I have also been spending more time waiting in check-out lines. I’m not complaining though, because it turns out to have been time well spent. It has in fact, made me pause and pay attention to some current events I might otherwise have missed.
Thanks to all the tabloids and entertainment magazines that line the shelves at every cashier’s counter, and all the extra time available for me to read them while waiting in long lines, I can say with confidence that I am now up to date on all the latest celebrities and otherwise important people who are expecting babies. Practically every magazine cover I saw featured expectant A-List mothers, from Amy Schumer to Meghan Markle.
Preached FCCW. December 9, 2018
Improbable pregnancies are a recurring theme in the Bible. None more so than the one we celebrate every 25th of December. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was found to be with child even though she was a virgin. What has come to be known as “The Immaculate Conception.”
While the Immaculate Conception is the one and only perfect 10 on the scale of miraculous births, highly unlikely pregnancies can be found scattered throughout the pages of Scripture. This field of runners-ups to Mary’s story share a few common denominators. Beginning with the fact that those women were all barren; which as the label implies, means that they were about as fertile as the Sinai desert.
Preached FCCW, December 2, 2018 (Advent 1C)
Jesus once told a parable about signs.
He said. “Look at a fig tree. As soon as it sprouts leaves you know it is a sign that a change of seasons is just around the corner.”
With the season of Advent, comes the many signs that Christmas is coming soon. There are signs in homes and public places, in the form of Christmas trees and bright lights. Even Black Friday doorbusters and Cyber Monday sales are signs of the season in their own way.
Many courts of law, in various different nations throughout the Western world share a common feature.
That common feature would be a certain statue. A statue of a woman named “Lady Justice.”
Lady Justice may not look exactly the same in every courthouse where you find her.
Some details of her appearance differ according to the differences in how the sculptors who created her, envisioned her in their minds.
But you know it’s her because she almost always carries a sword in one hand, a set of scales in the other, and a blindfold over her eyes.
The sword she wields represents the power of justice to punish wrongdoers.
The scales stand for the weighing of evidence as the means of arriving at a just verdict.
The blindfold over her eyes is a reminder that justice is blind;
judging not according to the status, race or influence of the accused but solely on the truth.
“Lady Justice” represents the noblest vision of how justice should be dispensed.
But it does not always accurately depict the reality of how it is dispensed.
Preached FCCW November 18, 2018
Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25
When you open up the Bible, what do you expect to find?
Stories that teach us about what God is like?
Moral lessons to guide us?
Personal comfort for difficult times?
All of that is there in the Bible.
But, when you open your Bible to the passage we just read from the Epistle to the Hebrews, what you read there is something you might not expect to find.
Preached FCCW, November 11, 2018
(Veterans Day Sunday)
This morning we will mark Veterans Day by joining with houses of worship in many other communities by our participation in the Bells for Peace event.
Bells for Peace is a commemoration of the armistice that was signed 100 years ago this day, to bring the First World War to its conclusion.
World War I was billed as the War to End All Wars.
As we all know, all too well, it wasn’t.
FCCW 11-4-2018 All Saints Day
- S. Eliot’s poem “East Coker” begins with the verse, “In my beginning is my end.”
And, it concludes with the words, “In my end is my beginning.”
Eliot seems to be pointing us towards an understanding of the ways our origins and our destiny shape the people we are in the in-between times of our lives.
The Bible also has a lot to say about beginnings and endings, and their roles in making us the people we are becoming, day by day .
The very first words of the Bible describe our beginning. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Preached FCCW, October 28, 2018
Job 42:1-6, 10-17 and Hebrews 7:23-28
A new bride was preparing a ham dinner for her parents and in-laws, when her husband noticed that his wife cut off two apparently good ends of the ham before it went into the oven. When he asked her why she did that, she thought about it for a moment, and then said, “That’s the way my mother always fixed a ham.”
After dinner he asked his wife’s mother why she cut the ends off a ham before cooking it. She answered, “I don’t know why I do it. I guess it’s because that’s the way my mother always cooked a ham.”
Preached FCCW October 21, 2018
In the gospel message I just read, we find Jesus and his disciples thinking and speaking in cross purposes, so that Jesus has to clarify some of the language they are using to get them all on the same page. He redefines for them words like greatness and glory, service and sacrifice. And the meaning of Baptism.
One of the first things they teach you in seminary is that, when it comes to understanding what the Bible has to say, do not assume that every written word you read means what you think that it does. The Bible’s original language, after all, is not English. It has been translated from Hebrew and Greek. Not all words translate from one language to another very precisely.
My in-laws speak Creole, and occasionally they will have trouble explaining to me exactly what a Creole word or phrase means in English. There just aren’t perfect equivalents and something gets lost in translation.
Preached FCCW October 14, 2018
In 2003, Aron Lee Ralston became famous for surviving an ordeal that can best be described as most people’s worst nightmare. While hiking by himself in southeastern Utah, Ralston literally became caught between a rock and a hard place when a dislodged boulder pinned his hand against the wall of a narrow canyon. Isolated and alone for six days, faced with the certainty of his own dying there, he realized that his only hope of freeing himself — and living — was to amputate his own right forearm with the dull pocketknife he carried.
After surviving his ordeal, Ralston landed appearances on Ellen, Leno and Letterman. He was interviewed by a number of network news reporters. And his story became the subject of a Hollywood movie titled “127 Hours.” In other words, Ralston’s claim to fame came by his literally giving his right arm to go on living.
Preached FCCW 10-7-2018
World Communion Sunday
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2: 5-12
Today is World Communion Sunday; an ecumenical celebration of the Lord’s Supper that began in the Presbyterian church in 1936. Since then it has come to be observed in many other denominations, including the UCC.
On World Communion Sunday Christians pay special attention to the celebration of Holy Communion as a way to mark our global oneness in Christ. And yet, the reality is that the Church is much more fragmented than it is unified.
After all, each Christian denomination started out with it’s own conviction that the Church up to that point in time hadn’t quite gotten things right and that they had a better idea for following Jesus that they wanted to put into practice.
Preached FCCW, September 30, 2018
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard my wife Sue, instruct her yoga classes to find the “steady edge of their stretch,” when getting into a yoga pose. But, I do know that the “edge” she wants us to find, is the threshold of sensation each person encounters as we stretch the muscles, tendons and joints of our bodies to the edge of what they’ve been accustomed to. You might say that the steady edge is the moment of truth when your body tells you what is, and is not possible for it to accomplish.
Preached FCCW, September 23, 2018
Mark 9:30-37 and James
Many people have been recognized by the world for their greatness.
Occasionally, someone comes along and claims to be The Greatest at whatever it is that they do.
Muhammad Ali proclaimed himself to be The Greatest boxer.
Kanye West declared himself to be the Greatest rockstar on the planet.
John Lennon once commented that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus.
Ironically, one person who never self-proclaimed himself to be The Greatest was the one person who actually qualified for the title.
Preached FCCW, September 16, 2018
Does anyone watch the game show, “Family Feud”? If you do, then you know that the questions put to the contestants are first asked of a studio audience. The object of the game is to try and guess what the audience responses were. Success in the game depends not on original thinking, but in thinking like the crowd.
After the contestants give their answers, Steve Harvey turns to the board and with a wave of his arm calls out, “SURVEY SAYS!” and the results of the audience poll are revealed, determining the success or failure of the contestant’s answer.
The gospel lesson for today reminds me of that game show.
Preached FCCW, September 9, 2018
James 2:1-10, 14-17
It’s not every day that you walk away from a stand-up comedy show with an epiphany about religion and morality.
But, it can happen.
It happened to me, when a nationally known comedian shared with his audience his personal take on the relationship between his moral beliefs and his behavior.
He said: “I have a lot of beliefs.… And I live by none of them. I just like believing them—I like that part. They make me feel good about who I am. But if they get in the way of a thing I want, I just do what I want to do.”
James, who was not a stand-up comic, but who was the brother of Jesus and a pretty big deal in the early days of the Church, didn’t find anything funny about this kind of disjointed spirituality.