Sermons To Go

Between Alpha and Omega

FCCW 11-4-2018         All Saints Day

Revelation 21:1-6a        

 

  1. 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.”

First Hand Faith

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.”

Matrix

Preached FCCW October 21, 2018

Mark 10:35-45

 

https://www.maxpixel.net/Earth-Global-Matrix-International-Silhouette-Space-2502954
Earth Global Matrix International Silhouette Space

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.

Stumbling Blocks and Millstones

Preached FCCW October 14, 2018

Mark 9:38-50

 

 

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.

The Imprint of God

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.

Beyond the Steady Edge of Your Life

Preached FCCW, September 30, 2018

Mark 10:17-31

 

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.

The Greatest

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.

Jesus.

Who Do You Say He Is?

Preached FCCW, September 16, 2018

Mark 8:27-38

 

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.

The Resounding Volume of Actions

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.

Redeeming Time

Preached FCCW, August 19, 2018

Ephesians 5:15-20

 

This morning on GMA there was a segment on how parents can make the transition of back to school a little smoother by being better structured about school morning routines.

Like organizing our schedules is that easy, right?

I came across some figures recently which estimate that in a lifetime the average North American will spend:

How to Identify an Imitation

Preached FCCW, August 12, 2018

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

 

Charles Caleb Colton famously expressed the opinion that, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

“Imitation” however, can be synonymous with unflattering words, like phony, fake, or counterfeit.

Years ago, I was depositing some cash, including some $100 bills into a bank account, when the teller informed me that one of the $100 bills was counterfeit.

The teller knew how to identify imitation money. I did not.

Which left me out a hundred bucks.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Preached FCCW, July 29, 2018

Ephesians 3:14-21

 

There are times when the Bible sounds like an episode of This Old House or The New Yankee Workshop. At least three major construction projects are described in the Old Testament, with painstaking detail.

In the Book of Genesis, you find God’s instructions to Noah for the building of the Ark. Blueprints for Solomon’s Temple are in 1 Kings. And it takes a full 13 chapters of the Book of Exodus to lay out cubit by cubit plans for constructing the Tabernacle.

If they made an Audible version of those Biblical texts it would definitely be Bob Vila or Norm Abram doing the narration.

And, whether you were Noah putting together a boat to survive a global flood or if you were Solomon or Moses building a structure for God to call home, the do-it-yourselfers’ mantra of “measure twice, cut once” must have played continuously in the back of your mind.

Best Laid Plans

Preached FCCW July 22, 2018

2 Samuel 7:1-14

 

The poet Robert Burns once wrote these words, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Which is another way of saying that no matter how good an idea may seem to be, there is no guarantee that it will be a success.

Does anyone remember New Coke?

In 1985 Coca Cola introduced a new formula for their iconic soft drink.

Someone must have thought this was a good idea.

Kryptonite

Preached FCCW July 8, 2018

Mark 6:1-13

 

Jesus came to his hometown of Nazareth.

And he could do no deed of power there, except he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.

 

Let that statement sink in for a moment.

 

Curing even a few sick people by laying hands on them would rate as pretty impressive for most people.

But Jesus wasn’t most people.

 

Up to this point in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus had already been building a resumé of miracles that included subduing a raging storm at sea,

healing sick people, paralytics and lepers,

casting out demons, and even raising the dead back to life.

The Long Shot

Preached FCCW June 17, 2018

1 Samuel 17: 32-47

 

At the 1913 Kentucky Derby, the smart money rested on one of three horses. Their names were Yankee Notions, Ten Point, and Foundation.  True to the odds-makers predictions, those three swapped the lead back and forth between them as they rounded the track at Churchill Downs.  As the horses churned into the stretch, Ten Point was leading. Then something happened that almost nobody saw coming: a 91-1 long shot named Donerail drove from the rear of the field and captured the lead. When he crossed the finish line, he was half a body length ahead of Ten Point. To this day, Donerail’s incredible upset stands as the highest paying, long shot victory in Kentucky Derby history.