Sermons To Go

Sermons To Go

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…

Have You Heard?

Text    Isaiah 40:21-31 The first time that Sue and I travelled to Arizona, a chain reaction of delays, missed connections, and further delays led to an 11:30 PM arrival in Phoenix, instead of our original 2:00 in the afternoon ETA. From there it was another two hours of night-time driving up I-17 North to reach Sedona. Let me tell you, once outside the bright lights of Phoenix, there is no such thing as light pollution on I-17. The headlights of…

Mic Drop

Mark 1:21-28 The breaking news coming from the city of Capernaum was that the Jesus train was gathering steam and picking up passengers. In the short space of just the first half of the first chapter of his Gospel, Mark traces Jesus’ meteoric rise from obscurity to celebrity; bbeginning with a ringing endorsement at the Jordan River by his opening act, John the Baptist, to his gathering of followers from among the fisherfolk in Galilee. Even his fiercest critics —…

Schadenfreude

Jonah (selected verses) and Mark 1:14-20 Very few Christians would dispute Jesus’ reputation as a miracle worker; what with a resume of healing sick people, calming storms, and turning water into wine to his credit. I would argue though, that two of his most remarkable miracles are the ones he performed in this morning’s Gospel reading. You might scratch your head and wonder—what miracles? There’s nothing miraculous in this passage, you might say. No blind receiving their sight. No multiplication…

Come and See! Pass it on.

Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18 and John 1:43-51 One night I was passing through the living room while Sue was on the couch watching television. “Do you want to sit and watch this show with me?” she asked. “It’s really good.” I glanced at the TV screen. The period costumes and British accents told me right away that it was Downton Abbey she was watching. Which struck me as being about as interesting as a watching a documentary on collecting backscratchers.…

Oath of Office

Genesis 1:1-5 and Mark 1:4-11 Certain positions of public trust carry such solemn responsibility, coupled with such potential for the abuse of authority, that they may only be assumed after first taking of an oath of office. There is an oath of enlistment for members of the Armed Forces, an oath taken by Judges and police, a Hippocratic Oath for doctors, vows taken by ordained clergy, and an oath that comes with the office of President. Most of these oaths…

The Grace of God Appeared

Titus 2:11-14        In the timeless holiday classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas, there’s a scene where Charlie Brown, frustrated by all the commercialism of Christmas that all his friends, and even his dog Snoopy, seem to have embraced, throws up his hands and cries, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!” His pal, Linus answers Charlie Brown’s plea by reciting words from the Gospel of Luke. Words that we have heard, over and over until we know the…

Magnify the Lord

Luke 1:39-56 “My soul magnifies the Lord.” With those words Mary begins the wonderful song of faith and praise, that has come to be known as the Magnificat, which is the Latin word for magnify. My soul magnifies the Lord. What do you suppose it means though to magnify the Lord in your soul? One definition of magnify is to praise someone or declare the greatness of someone. So, to magnify the Lord with our soul means that we declare…

No Peace Without Peace Within

Luke 1:26-38 and Isaiah 40:1-11 An article in the NY Times caught my eye last week. It was titled: Pandemic-Proof Your Habits. The article was more psychological than spiritual in tone. But it had a lot to do with the topic of peace. The gist of the Times article was that human beings have a brain that is genetically wired to pursue that which gives us a sense of peace and security. We develop routines in life that make us…

A Justifiable Hope

Isaiah 64:1-9 and John 1:1-18 Newsflash. Sometimes, even the most church-goin’, Bible-knowin’, down-on-their-knees-prayin’ people lose patience with God. Take Isaiah, for example. Isaiah was a prophet of Israel during one of the darkest periods of that people’s history. Actually, the Book of Isaiah had at least two, and probably three different authors. One section of Isaiah was written to Jews who had been conquered and taken from their homes to live in exile in Babylon. Much of what is contained…

Giving Thanks in the Worst Year of the 21st Century

Psalm 100 and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Thanksgiving is the one time when families that never give a thought to saying grace at the table on the other 364 days of the year, will expect it to happen over this meal. They will insist on not carving the turkey or doling out the cranberry sauce, until someone has given thanks. One Thanksgiving a family was seated at their table, which was laden with turkey and all the fixings. Before digging in,…

The God We Think We Know

Matthew 25:14-30 The Parable of the Talents was never exactly one of my favorites. The way that my eyes glaze over at the sight of a spreadsheet reminds me that my management of the master’s portfolio might have been no better handled that of the unfortunate slave in this story. So, it follows that my fate would also have matched his. The parable tells the story of a master who entrusts three slaves with varying shares of his wealth, for…

Generation We

Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25 The story that the Bible tells often reads like a family tree of faith. Scattered throughout the Old Testament and the gospels are genealogies, like mile markers along a road. Those are the passages that never get read in worship, and the ones that we most likely skip over when we read the Bible ourselves. Why take the time to wade through lists of people who most have never heard of, with names that few can…

That You May Not Grieve as Others Do Who Have No Hope

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 The burial service had just ended, and after saying my goodbyes to the family of the deceased, I made my way through the gravestones to where my car was parked. Someone called out my name and I turned to see the daughter of the man who I had eulogized minutes before. “Pastor” she said, “have you got a minute?” She shared her concern that she would never see her father again. Not in the obvious way, of…

Law and Order and Love

Matthew 22:34-46 A man entered a store and walked up to the counter. The saleswoman who was behind the counter ignored him. The customer rang the bell on the counter to get her attention. The saleswoman said, “You got a number?” “I got a what?” asked the man. “You got a number?” the saleswoman repeated.  You gotta have a number.” The man glanced around the store, which was empty, and replied, “Lady, I’m the only customer in the store! Why…

Chasing Glory

Exodus 33:12-23 A young woman who was filling out a college entrance application came across a question which asked, “Are you a leader?” She hesitated, guessing that the response to the question that the admissions department was looking for was a “Yes.” Being an honest sort of person though, she marked the space for “No.” As in, “No,” she was not a leader. Several weeks later a letter of acceptance arrived that read, “Upon receiving 1340 applications from students to…

Sunday Best

Matthew 22:1-14      There’s a certain kind of dream that most people seem to have had at one time or another. It is a dream where you find yourself underdressed, or even undressed in a public place, or at a social event. Typically, in this dream, nobody else really seems to notice that you’re only wearing underwear or pajamas, or whatever you’re wearing, or not wearing as the case may be. But, you know how exposed you are; how inappropriately dressed…

First Comes Love

  Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-18 When a couple comes to me to be married part of the time we spend together involves me getting to know them and engaging in some pre-marital counseling to prepare them to enter the covenant of marriage well equipped for success. But a large part of the time is also dedicated to planning the wedding ceremony itself. I go over each part of the ceremony carefully with them so that they understand the meaning and…

The Obedient One

Matthew 21: 23-32        T. S. Eliot once wrote, Oh my soul, be prepared to meet Him who knows how to ask questions.” Let me tell you, Jesus knew how to ask questions. Almost every time someone asked Jesus a question, he replied with a question of his own. So it was, one day while Jesus was in Jerusalem, that the religious leaders came to Jesus with a question, as he was teaching in the Temple. “By what authority are you…

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…