Sermons

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/20171210sermon.mp3

Texts: Isaiah 40:1-6; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 1:46-55

Reading: Isaiah 40:1-4

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.  3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.”  

Reflection:

Wilderness, desert, valley, mountain, uneven ground, a plain.  These are the features that inhabit the words of Isaiah to the Jewish exiles in Babylon.  And running through it all, a road, a highway straight and level.

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

For this way to become a way, valleys needed to be lifted up, mountains and hills brought low.  Obstacles would be removed, uneven spots leveled out.

The last time I was on a road in the wilderness was two weeks ago, although it was more...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/20171203sermon-1.mp3

It’s impossible to know with certainty why the birth of Jesus came to be linked to the date we now celebrate it, December 25.  Early Christians didn’t find it particularly important to celebrate at all.  They focused instead on Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  The Gospels link those to the Jewish festival of Passover, in the spring.  By the year 200, various writings suggested the date of Jesus’ birth to be January 2, March 25, April 18 or 19, May 20, November 17 or 20.  (Elesha Coffman, “Why December 25?”. Christianitytoday.com. August 8, 2008).

Add in December and you’ve got half the months of the year.

The date of December 25 became more solid in the West in the fourth century, as the church increasingly took on the role of being the glue that held together the Roman world.  December 25 had been the Roman date for the winter solstice, the longest night, shortest day, of the year, when the dwindling sunlight began to reclaim hours of the day.

In the fourth century the North African bishop Augustine said this in his Christmas sermon: “Hence it is that He was born on the day which is the shortest in...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/20171126sermon.mp3

Text: Matthew 25:31-46

 This is the last Sunday of the lectionary cycle, meaning we’re at the end of the church calendar.  Next week is Advent 1, the beginning of the new church year.

This is called “Christ the King Sunday,”or “Reign of Christ Sunday.” In closing out the year, the lectionary goes all in with it really being the end.  It gives us a judgment scene, the story that Jesus tells in Matthew 25, commonly known as the sheep and the goats.  Or, commonly known for the phrase “the least of these,” which becomes the surprise criteria by which people are judged.  “Whatever you’ve done to the least of these, you’ve done to me,” says the king/judge/son of man/human one/Jesus.

It’s an important line for social justice minded Christians who believe faith has to do with how we live in this world, especially toward vulnerable people.  Yet the scene of a gentle and sacrificial savior turned eternal judge also has its own problems.  They are problems that the story itself begins to raise, as the sheep and the goats both talk back to the king, questioning why such an arrangement has been made.

I invite you to listen...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/20171112sermon.mp3

Texts: Proverbs 9:1-6; Matthew 11:28-30

There is a house with a table, set for company.  On this table is a feast: Wine and bread and meat.  Everything that makes for a good meal.

The doors of this house open wide, always unlocked, ready to receive whoever walks in.

It’s not a secret.  It’s not a hidden place, tucked in some out-of-the way grove.  There are no fences or gates, no passcodes.

The owner of this house is Wisdom.  She built it.  She set up the posts, leveled the beams, designed the way this room flows into that one.

Wisdom has built her house and gives an open invitation.  She walks through the city, calling out.  She cruises the countryside, searching for takers.  She opens her contacts and selects “Send All.”  Wisdom has issued an invitation:  Come to me, feast, rest, learn.

Even better, the house that Wisdom built will come to you.  Look for it, and there it is.  Occasionally it shows up when we’re not even looking.

A few weeks back I had one of those all too rare moments where I may have briefly stepped inside this house and glanced around.

Back in the spring when...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/20171105sermon.mp3

Text: Genesis 21:8-21, Revelation 3:7-13    

 

The Hebrew Scriptures trace the story of the people of Israel from their beginnings, into and out of slavery in Egypt, into and out of their desert wanderings, into and out of nationhood and kingship, into and out of exile, and the diaspora that follows.  This is the story of peoplehood into which Jesus and his early followers were born.  It’s the one that non-Jews like us get adopted into.  The story begins with a couple, Abram and Sarai, who miraculously have a son in their old age.  The lineage of the people of Israel is traced through that son, Isaac, the child of promise.

But one of the endearing and enduring features Scripture is that it also includes stories that don’t fit so well into that main narrative.  Some of them are even shameful, or at least embarrassing to tell. The story in Genesis 21 about Hagar and Ishmael is one of those.

Ishmael was the oldest son of Abraham, born through his slave woman Hagar.  It was Sara’s idea to give Hagar to Abraham.  Sara was unable to have children, and so a child through Hagar would serve as...

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