Sermons

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/20170319sermon.mp3

Text: John 4:1-30; 39-42

This is a story about a conversation.  It’s heavy on dialogue, short on action.

There’s really not much happening here until the very end.  Jesus and a Samaritan woman meet each other at a well, start talking, and keep talking.  It’s a long conversation – the longest Jesus has with an individual in all the gospels.  It opens with Jesus asking her for a drink of water, but we’re never even told if he ever got it.  The conversation takes over, and turns into something much more than giving and receiving a drink of water from a well.

What makes the conversation remarkable, aside from its length, is that it even happened in the first place.  Neither Jesus nor the Samaritan woman had much business being at that well at that time.

Jesus had been in the Judean countryside, the area around the holy city of Jerusalem.  He’s on his way back to Galilee, his home region.  Up north.  John says, “Jesus left Judea and started back to Galilee.  But he had to go through Samaria.”

If you look on a map, it’s true that as you head north out of Judea, you’ll soon...

(No recording of this sermon is available.)

Texts: Genesis 12:1-4; John 3:1-12 (see also John 7:45-52; 19:38-42)

Over this past week, I have become absolutely enthralled by Nicodemus.  Who was this pious old man who shows up in the middle of the night?  What brought him out through those moonlit streets to Jesus’ door?  The Pharisees are so often portrayed as the villains in John’s gospel, so what was it about Jesus that had so captured Nicodemus’ attention that he was willing to cross those enemy lines?

What were the questions that were guiding his inward journey, causing his feet to stumble through dark pathways, perhaps risking everything he had built his life around?

And maybe more importantly, what ever happens to Nicodemus in the end?  Does he get it?  Does he find what he is looking for?  Does his inward journey ever connect with his outward journey?  Does he ever experience the new birth Jesus tells him about?

Maybe the question I should be asking is, “Why am I so enthralled by Nicodemus?” 

Nicodemus is a character that shows up only in John’s gospel, but he shows up three separate times, in this passage toward the beginning, another near...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/20170305sermon.mp3

Texts: Genesis 2:8-9; 15-17;   Matthew 4:1-11

 

If you’ve read the Lent devotionals, looked at the bulletin cover, or found the pattern in the hanging dots behind me, you’ve likely noticed a visual theme.  We’re using the labyrinth throughout Lent as a symbol of the Inward / Outward journey.

It’s an ancient design.  Not necessarily this particular one, but the labyrinth.  One site in northern India has a labyrinth pattern estimated to be 4500 years old.  A cluster of islands in northwest Russia have over 30 stone labyrinths that may be as old as 3000 years.

Greek mythology includes the story the part human/ part beast minotaur who wreaks havoc on the population until the great architect Daedalus designs and builds a labyrinth whose sole purpose is to contain the minotaur at its center.  The hero Theseus eventually enters the winding labyrinth and slays the minotaur.  Some labyrinths still portray a minotaur at the center.

In later medieval times stone labyrinths show up in regions like Scandinavia, frequently around the coast.  Fishing communities likely built these with the superstitious hopes of trapping harsh winds and trolls that may endanger a successful fishing outing.

Around the same time, the...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/20170226sermon.mp3

Text: Matthew 6:24-34

Within the final 10 verses of Matthew chapter six, Jesus mentions “worry” 6 times.  Worry, Anxiety, take your pick translation wise.  Worry, as in “Do not worry.”  Anxious, as in don’t be.

In itself, telling someone not to be anxious can be predictably counterproductive.  Like we know we’re not supposed to be anxious.  We don’t want to be anxious.  When we feel anxious we get anxious about that.  We worry that we’re worrying too much.   So it goes in the land of mental loops.

In Jesus’ teaching, he highlights food and clothing as primary sources of worry.  These are basic human needs that far too few, past and present have had enough of.  And, when we do have plenty of both, we manage to find other causes for anxiety.

Jesus points away from the world of humans.  He points to the birds.  “Consider the birds of the air,” Jesus says, “they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns.”

Consider the birds.

Consider that humans have not always been sowing and reaping and gathering into barns.  As best scholars can tell, agriculture is a relatively recent experiment.  For the vast majority of our existence our...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/20170219sermon.mp3

Text: Matthew 5:38-48

If and when word gets out that you’re a pacifist, or that you’re committed to nonviolence , you will no doubt, at some point, encounter questions like these:  What would you do if someone broke into your home and attacked a family member?  If we have another 9/11 should we all just turn the other cheek?  And what about Hitler?  If we were all pacifists, Hitler would have won and Nazism would have taken over the world.  Sound familiar?

These questions carry certain assumptions about what it means to live nonviolently.  They may be asked out of genuine curiosity – like, really, how would it work?  I’m interested.  Or they may be intended to make peaceableness appear weak, ineffective, intellectually ridiculous, and just downright impossible, even immoral.  After all, what kind of person would just stand by and do nothing while someone they loved was being harmed?  Perhaps you’ve been asked questions like these in conversations where you’ve “come out” as being against violence.  Perhaps you’ve asked questions like these to yourself, wondering if nonviolence is a path you are able to take with integrity.

It would be hard to overemphasize how key to this...

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