Sermons To Go

Sermons To Go

When Kingdoms Collide

Matthew 20:1-16 and Philippians 1:20-30 Frederick Beuchner once defined a parable as “a small story with a large point.” He was speaking of a metaphorical point, of course. As in, a moral or spiritual lesson to be learned from the parable. But, many of Jesus’ parables also pack a literal point. Like the pointy end of a thumbtack left on the floor, which we accidentally step on in our bare feet in the middle of the night while making our…

Freedom Trail

Exodus 14:10-31 When I was a kid in school, I always looked forward to field trips. Partly because it felt like a day off from being in a classroom. But more than that, field trips made history come alive for me in ways that a textbook alone never could. Simply reading about the perilous voyage of the Mayflower, for instance, failed to impress on me the harsh realities of that journey. What did the trick was walking the dark, claustrophobic…
feet on ground

Holy Ground All Around

Exodus 3:1-15   Certain holidays that we celebrate are easily associated with matters of faith. Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving, to name a few.  Pretty much, Labor Day is not that kind of holiday.       Maybe it should be. One reason that it isn’t is that labor and commerce are considered to be secular matters. But it wasn’t always so. For centuries, what came to be known as the Protestant Work Ethic gave people a sense that what they did to make a…
Losers, Keepers Crosses

Losers, Keepers

Matthew 16:21 – 28 “Finders, keepers; losers, weepers.” We’ve all grown up with those words. Just an innocent little kid’s rhyme, right? Until you think about what those words actually mean, and what kind of lesson it teaches about how we treat each other. Finders, keepers; losers, weepers, boils down to something like this: You lose something of value (whether material or sentimental value) and that loss causes you grief. Losing it makes you a weeper. Then I have the…

Prevailing Against the Gates of Hades

Matthew 16:13-18 and Romans 12:1-8 The weather on this particular day of our Holy Land pilgrimage was uncharacteristically gloomy. Gray clouds hung ominously above us and the misty air dampened our enthusiasm for outdoor exploration. You couldn’t have asked for better weather for a visit to the Gates of Hell. In Old Testament times the place had been the site of a cult to the Canaanite fertility god, Ba’al. In a culture that depended on agriculture for its survival, fertility…

Like Oil and Water

Psalm 133 and Matthew  15:21-28 The 133rd Psalm is one of a group of Psalms in the Bible called Songs of Ascent. They are called Songs of Ascent because it is believed that these Psalms were sung by Israelite pilgrims traveling from their homes to worship in Solomon’s Temple; which meant literally ascending up to the city of Jerusalem where the Temple was located. The Ascent Psalms were mostly upbeat and hopeful in tone. They reverberated with praises to God,…

Out of the Boat

Matthew 14:13-22  In the Viet Nam war film “Apocalypse Now”, there is a scene when two crew members of an American gun boat have left the safety of the boat to scout some unfamiliar jungle along the riverbank. Suddenly, they are confronted—not by Viet Cong guerrillas—but by a man-eating tiger. They somehow manage to outrun the tiger back to the boat. As the boat speeds away from shore, one of the soldiers who just narrowly escaped keeps repeating breathlessly to…

Birthrights

Genesis 32:22-31   Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the Bible is nothing but dull stories about fuddy-duddies and do-gooders. Anyone who says that has obviously never actually read the Bible. And they have certainly never heard about Jacob. Jacob was as cunning and calculating of a con-man as you would find anywhere. A scoundrel who never let a moral principle or a twinge of conscience stand between him and anything he really wanted in life. And he was that…

Zero Degrees of Separation

Text Romans 8:26-39 It used to be that people lived by a belief that there was safety in numbers. From children who were taught to follow a ‘buddy system” for safety’s sake at places like beaches and pools; to adults who were advised not to walk alone in risky parts of town; close proximity to people we could trust was a reliable strategy for personal safety. Times have changed, thanks to the COVID pandemic. Nowadays, “misery loves company” might be…

Weeds Among Wheat

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 The first home Sue and I owned together was a townhouse in a condominium complex. Every Spring, professional landscapers hired by the condo association did an immaculate job of planting, pruning, mulching and weeding. After living there for ten years, we were pretty spoiled by the luxury of enjoying such well-manicured grounds without having to lift a finger to maintain them ourselves. In fact, the condo regulations forbade any exterior gardening by residents. I guess that they…

A Declaration of God-Dependence

Romans 7:15-25a We Americans pride ourselves on, and jealously guard, our independence. Yesterday we held our annual star-spangled celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Also, recently, some people chose to assert their independence in a less desirable manner by disregarding social distancing guidelines and wearing protective masks during the pandemic. Independence is a worthy this to celebrate. But independence can also create illusions of self-sufficiency. It can make us forget that there are some things that we…

Sowing God’s Word

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 Today is the first of three consecutive Sundays that focus on the parables of Jesus. So I guess a good place to start would be to say something about what a parable is and how they work. Parables were simple stories that Jesus told to teach people eternal truths. Taken at face value, parables were about ordinary activities like farming, or shepherding, or investing money. But beneath the surface of these stories about everyday life lay extraordinary…

New Normal

Matthew 10:24-39 In the state of Illinois, there is a town named Normal. Really. I’m not making this up. In downtown Normal, there is a sculpture. The sculpture is of a man and a woman gazing into each others eyes. On the woman’s lap is a little boy. Lying down, with her head resting on the woman’s leg, is a young girl. A plaque on the base of the sculpture displays its name. It says, “The Normal Family.” Again- not…

The Illogical Essence of Being

John 1:1-5, 10-14, 18 and Genesis 1:26-31 There are certain days on the Church calendar that present preachers with the daunting challenge of having something to say about a well known passage that the congregation has not already heard many times before. These are the days like Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. Then there are days like Trinity Sunday, where the challenge is not so much to say something fresh and new as it is to simply say anything relevant to…

Suppose the Grinch Stole Pentecost Instead (Pandemic Version)

Acts 2:1-21 and Numbers 11:24-30 Many notorious heists have captured the public’s imagination over the years. The Brinks Job, The Great Train Robbery, and The Gardner Museum Art Heist, to name a few. But none of these were as daring or as infamous as Dr. Seuss’ story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. As you might recall, the Grinch’s motive for stealing Christmas was not greed; and his objective was not to get rich. It was that his heart was…