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.
Preached FCCW, August 19, 2018
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:
Preached FCCW, August 12, 2018
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.
Preached FCCW, July 29, 2018
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.
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.
Preached FCCW July 8, 2018
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.
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.
Preached FCCW, June 3, 2018
2 Corinthians 4:5-12 and Mark 2:23-3:6
Whenever we gather at the table of Communion, as we do this morning, we pause to be reminded of a few things. You could say that this is when we “set the table” for the meal we are about to share together.
We begin with an acknowledgement of whose table it is. It is not ours. It is the table of our Lord. Next, we are reminded of why we are invited to this table. Not because we are fulfilled, but because we are empty and in need of being refilled with God’s grace. Thirdly, we hear again how we are to approach this meal. That this is not an occasion for expressing our opinions, but a time to seek God’s Presence and to pray that we might come away from this table with a renewed spirit of service to others in Christ’s name.
Preached FCCW May20, 2018
There is a lot to like about the month of May.
The weather usually begins to take a decisive turn to the warmer.
The leaves start popping out on what had been bare tree branches and colorful flowers grace the eye with their beauty.
That is, unless you are prone to allergies.
In that case, May might grace the eyes with itching and watering, instead.
Preached FCCW May 13, 2018 (Mothers’ Day)
A young woman – who had just graduated from college – was going on her first interview to try and launch her new career, when her mother called her to wish her success on her interview. Before she hung up she asked her to be sure to stop over on her way home.
The interview went well and the young woman got the job. She went right from the interview to her mother’s home calling her on the way to tell her the good news. When she got there she saw that the table was set with the best china, and her mother had prepared her favorite meal. Next to her plate she found a note. It read: “Congratulations! I knew you’d get the job! I prepared this dinner to show just how proud I am of your accomplishments!”
Preached FCCW May 6, 2018
Your worship bulletin will tell you that the passage I just read comes from the Book of Acts. But if you had your Bible open you may have noticed that Acts is shorthand for the full title of the book, which is “The Acts of the Apostles.” This is not a book about random acts. It is about the very specific acts of a unique group of people; Jesus’ apostles. An apostle is someone who knows a truth and whose role it is to witness that truth to others.
In the last earthly conversation that his closest followers would have with him, they asked him if, now that he had been resurrected the time had come when he would restore the kingdom of Israel to its former glory. As he almost always did, Jesus gives them a sideways answer to their question. He refuses to offer them a “when” with regards to the fulfilment of God’s plans. But he does give them a “what” and a “how” to their question.
Preached FCCW on April 29, 2018 (Confirmation Sunday)
Have you ever noticed that whenever you are about to part company with someone you really care about, and it’s going to be a long while before you see them again, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to say everything you want to tell them? It must have been like that for Jesus and his disciples on the night before he was crucified.
In John’s gospel Jesus has a real long and deep conversation with his disciples that night. In the course of that conversation, Jesus uses one word over and over. That word is “abide.” He said to them, “Abide in me as I abide in you.”
What does that mean?
1 John 3:16-24 and John 1-:11-18
Preached FCCW April 22, 2018
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, London was a royal mess. Many buildings had been reduced to little more than piles of rubble. But the worst damage was not to structures but to families. Many children had become orphans, some of them starving in the streets.
Early one cold, foggy morning, an American soldier was returning to his barracks in London. As he rounded a corner in his jeep, he saw a little boy standing in front of a pastry store window. His nose was pressed against the glass as he watched the baker kneading the dough for a fresh batch of donuts. The soldier pulled the jeep over to the curb, got out and walked quietly over to the little boy and stood behind him. They both watched as the baker pulled out a fresh batch of donuts from the oven and meticulously placed the piping hot pastries onto the glass-enclosed counter. The boy was literally drooling. An unconscious groan escaped from deep within him.
Preached April 15, 2018
Acts 3:12-19 and 1 John 3:1-7
A woman was driving toward home in Northern Arizona when she saw a Navajo woman hitchhiking. Because the trip had been long and monotonous, she stops the car and the Navajo woman climbs in. In the course of their small talk, the Navajo woman glances surreptitiously at a brown bag on the front seat between them. “If you’re wondering what’s in the bag,” says the woman, “it’s a bottle of wine. I got it for my husband.” “The Navajo woman is silent for a while, nods several times and says, “Good trade.”
There are good trades and there are bad trades and then there are notoriously bad trades that never get lived down. Like trading Manhattan Island for a bushel of trinkets. Or trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees. But, hands down THE worst trade off EVER was when a crowd demanded that the life of Jesus be exchanged for the life of a murderer named Barabbas.