Sermons To Go

Sermons To Go

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wisdom

Wisdom Cries

Proverbs 1:20-33 and Mark 8: 27-38   Today is one of the rare Sundays that the Lectionary offers a passage from the Book of Proverbs as one of the readings. If you look up the word “Proverb” in a dictionary, what you will find is some variation of this definition: “A proverb is an easily memorized nugget of wisdom.” And that is exactly what you can expect to find when you open the Biblical Book of Proverbs. Page upon page of…

Faith That Works

James 2: 1-10, 14-17 and Psalm 146                       In the church where Sue and I were married, if you lifted up the pew cushions you would find antique brass plates affixed to the wooden seats below. Each of these brass plates was engraved with a name and a number. The name identified the person for whom that seat was reserved. The number indicated how much that person had pledged to the church. The higher the pledge, the closer to the pulpit…

Nourished by the Bread of Life: A Whole New You

John 6:56-69 This morning we come to the conclusion of this sermon series on being Nourished by the Bread of Life. Together, we have journeyed through the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel, and been fed with Jesus’ unfolding teaching on the Bread that comes down from Heaven. We’ve witnessed Jesus feeding over 5000 people with just three loaves of barley bread; and sailed with the crowds who followed him across the Sea of Galilee the next day, hoping for another…

You Are What You Eat

John 6:51-58 and Ephesians 5:15-20 It’s kind of funny how certain random childhood memories can be recalled in distinct detail many decades later, when some days I’m lucky if I remember what I had for breakfast. Like a memory I still have of a conversation with my Portuguese Vavo (grandmother). I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old. Yet I remember her words as clearly as if they were spoken to me this morning. I can’t say…

The Bread That the Lord Has Given You to Eat

John 6:24-35 As far as most material things in life go, you get what you pay for. What seems like a great bargain at Dollar General, sooner or later has its flaws exposed during the wear and tear of everyday usage. Then there are purchases which, while initially expensive, in the long run prove to be a better investment because of their durability. You pay more, to get more quality and use out of them. L.L. Bean is a company…

Enough Is Enough

John 6:1-21 Enough is enough. Those three simple words can mean something completely different depending on the punctuation mark that follows them or the tone of voice with which they are expressed. An exclamation point at the end of that sentence, or a frustrated tone of voice in the speaking of the words, can signal that one has reached the limits of one’s tolerance for an ongoing, unwelcome circumstance, and an urgent demand for redress. If the exclamation point is…

The Foundation and the Cornerstone

2 Samuel 7:1-14a and Ephesians 2:11-22 King David wanted to build a house for God. Which, as good ideas go, seemed to be a no-brainer. Even to Nathan the Prophet, whose job description included pointing out to the king when something was NOT such a great idea in God’s eyes. It seemed a shame to David that he himself lived in a stately cedar mansion, while the Ark of the Covenant—the holy artifact which symbolized God’s presence—continued to be housed…

Too Far, Too Fast

1 Kings 19:1-15 Once there was a group of tourists on a safari in Africa. They had hired several locals as porters to carry their gear as they traveled. Three days into what was fast-paced excursion, the porters informed the tourists, that they would have to stop and rest for a day. It was not that they were physically tired. They explained that they had walked too far, too fast; so that they needed to pause and wait for their…

The Wounds That Make Us Open to Grace

Mark 5:21-43 Last Sunday, our journey through the Gospel of Mark gave us a lesson about believing in God’s grace when we feel powerless over some chaotic circumstance in life. Mark delivered that message through the story of Jesus calming a sudden storm that threatened to sink the boat that he and the disciples were using to cross the Sea of Galilee. Even though the details of that perilous journey were graphically presented in the story, most of never have—and…

SOS

2 Corinthians 6:1-13 and Mark 4:35-41 When I was young—about third grade, or so—my father often worked multiple jobs and irregular hours. It seemed to me that he was always either away at work or getting some much-needed sleep before heading out to another job. Looking back, it was totally logical that the household rule was never to wake him up when he was sleeping. But, to an eight-year-old who had recently received his first ever fishing pole for a…

Like Watching Grass Grow

Mark 4:26-34 and 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17 Today is Children’s Sunday, which is typically a day for celebrating the young people of the congregation and the church’s ministry of planting the seeds of Christian discipleship in their young hearts and minds. Of course, there was nothing typical about this past year. The pandemic erased any chance for holding Church School classes or group activities. Appropriate to how the year unfolded, the theme for the Church School year was “We Walk…

Call Me Crazy

Mark 3:20-27, 31-35 In the factory where I once worked, someone had a sign over their workspace that said, “You don’t have to be crazy to work here… but it helps.” Sometimes, I think we should hang a sign like that over the entrance to the church. Or… print it on our worship bulletins. You don’t have to be crazy to fit in here…but it helps. After all, Jesus himself was labeled crazy. In the story I just read, Jesus…

Outside the Box Experiences

John 3:1-17 and Romans 8:12-17 In the early 1960’s, an academically unremarkable Yale student, with the unexceptional name of Fred Smith, submitted a term paper for his Economics class. The paper outlined his idea for a company that would guarantee overnight delivery of time-sensitive goods. The professor was not impressed. He gave Smith a grade of “C” for his work, with the comment that the idea was not feasible in the real world. Fred Smith pursued his idea nonetheless, and…

No Vacancy That God Can’t Fill

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 One of the ways that I fulfill my ordination vows in the setting of the wider Church outside of our Westminster congregation, is by serving on the Central Mass. Association, Committee on Authorized Ministry. Also known as CoAM. The main function of any CoAM of any Association in the United Church of Christ, is to provide support and accountability to women and men who feel they are called to Ordained ministry. And to ultimately discern whether they…

Platinum Grade

John 15:9-17 Today, in case you needed to be reminded, is Mother’s Day. And if you did need reminding…you’d better act quickly because the clock is ticking; and the florists and card shops inventories are going fast. Did you know that Mother’s Day runs neck and neck with Valentine’s Day as the biggest generators of sales for flowers and greeting cards? Which shouldn’t be too surprising. Not everyone has a sweetheart, but everyone has a mother. And, in virtually all…

Fruit of the Vine

Fruit of the Vine John 15:1-8 and 1 John 4:7-21 Years ago, Sue and I spent a week in Napa Valley, California, along with another couple. One day we all visited a winery, even though only the husbands had any interest in wine. Because, who goes to Napa Valley and doesn’t experience at least one winery, right? On the last night that Jesus would have to spend with his disciples before his arrest and execution Jesus made use of winemaking…

No ‘Other”

Psalm 23 and John 10:11-18 Few images have captured the religious imagination of both Jews and Christians in their conception of God, as that of a shepherd. Exhibit A in supporting that claim would be Psalm 23—the Shepherd Psalm—which opens with the claim that “The Lord is my shepherd” and goes on to name the attributes associated with shepherding as a way of praising the provision and protection discovered by those who entrust themselves to God’s care. Rulers and religious…

The Greatest Miracle Never Seen

John 20:1-18 Order of Worship For a story that we think we know so well, there is a lot we don’t know about Easter. What we believe about the resurrection of our Lord ultimately comes down to a matter of faith. There is no dossier of facts that would stand up to scientific scrutiny or legal standards of evidentiary procedure. Easter is literally, the “Greatest Miracle Never Seen.” After all, there was not a single eyewitness to the blessed event…

If Stones Could Shout

If Stones Could Shout Luke 19:28-40 Palm Sunday is one of those Holy Days where worship tends to find its most memorable expression not so much in the liturgy of the day, but in the optimistic atmosphere of the moment. In other years than this, it meant children, herded by their church school leaders, streaming along the sanctuary aisles, clutching armfuls of palm fronds to share with the congregation. It is the Church’s version of a Super Bowl victory parade…

Before And After

Before and After Ephesians 2:1-10 Few things manage to pull off being brutally honest and powerfully motivational at the same time, the way before and after pictures can. Which is something the advertising industry has recognized for a long time. Nothing sells gym memberships faster than pictures of love handles spilling over the waistband of a bikini, split screened to a shot of the same person with tight abs and slender hips frolicking on a beach before an audience of…

Double Negative

    Hebrews 13: 1-3, 5-8, 15-16           Every week, a printed manuscript of the sermon I preached on Sunday, gets emailed to the forty or so people on our Sermons to Go email list. A copy is also printed on our church website, where perhaps more people read them. I wonder how many of those readers wonder if I flunked English in school? When I write a sermon my go-to mode of expression is not precise grammatical correctness so much as…

Fool’s Gold

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 Christians who believe in and try to live by the gospel are considered by many people to be gullible or naive. Like kids who never outgrew their belief in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I remember the day when I told my former employer that I would be leaving my job to finish my seminary education on a full-time schedule and then pursue a call to ministry. “You’ll never make any money doing that”, he told…

Promises, Promises

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16   In one of their songs, the rock band U2 describes someone who is unreliable as being like “a promise in the year of election.” There are promises, and there are promises. Election year promises tend to not be the kind you put much stock in. Our faith is built upon promises. Not the kind that are made and then not kept, but the kind that stand the test of time. Abraham stands as one of the great…

Anatomy of a Temptation

Mark 1:9-15 In the Netflix series “Lucifer” the Devil takes a vacation form his job of overseeing Hell to assume human form and have some fun on earth as a glitzy playboy. In the opening scene of the pilot episode, Lucifer is breezing around the brightly lit streets of LA in a flashy sports car–until he is pulled over for speeding by a Highway Patrol Officer. As the officer approaches the car, Lucifer pulls out a wad of cash and…

Group Portraits

Mark 9:2-10 and 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 Precisely one year ago to this day, just shy of a couple of dozen Holy Land pilgrims from this church and a couple of Connecticut congregations, were setting foot on American soil again. Nearly every one of us carried the same souvenir carefully packed away in our luggage. It was a group picture of us all taken in the city of Jerusalem. The panoramic view of Jerusalem in the background lent an unmistakable context…