Sermons

Matthew 27:45-53; 27:55-61; 28:1-10

If death were a dance, what would it look like?

When death dances with you, what will it feel like?  What does it feel like?

When Joseph of Arimathea danced with death it looked like… a meeting with Pilate – a rare conference with the political authority who held in his hand the power of life and death.  Who had withdrawn his power to protect life, and handed yet another subject over to a tortured death.  Who had been swayed by the fickle crowd.  Whose soldiers had done their job, carried out their duty, ensuring the security of the state.

When Joseph of Arimathea danced with death it looked like asking for a body, a dead body, from the one with power to grant or withhold that body.  With the wave of his hand, Pilate granted Joseph his request.

When Joseph of Arimathea danced with death it felt like new linen cloth, clean and slightly course, wrapped tight around the body.  It smelled like myrrh and aloes.  It felt like stone, cold and hard.  A new tomb, hewn in the rock.  He laid the body in the rock tomb.  “Then,” Matthew writes, “he rolled a great...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/20170409sermon.mp3

Texts:: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Matthew 26:14-25

If you were to randomly walk into our house anytime in the last four or five months, odds are pretty good you’d hear a certain Broadway musical playing at high volume.  A little before Christmas, Hamilton took our household by storm.  It’s still a favorite, although not quite as intense now as it was for a while.  It’s been such a constant at our house it’s nearly miraculous this is the first time it’s come up in a sermon.

For the uninitiated, Hamilton is the true story of Alexander Hamilton, an orphan who became a Revolutionary War leader and the first US Treasury Secretary ; George Washington’s right hand man.  And it’s all set to hip hop.  As the opening number says, he was

“The ten dollar founding father without a father

got a lot farther

by working a lot harder

by being a lot smarter

by being a self starter.”

Alexander Hamilton was an immigrant to New York from the Caribbean and is played by the musical’s writer, Lin Manuel Miranda, himself the son of a Puerto Rican immigrant to New York.  In the original cast, George Washington is black, and...

Text: John 11:1-45 (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

(The sermon began with an abridged dramatic retelling of the short story, "The Fix," by Percival Everett.  Listen to the audio above or read the full text at the link HERE.)

~~~~~

This is how Percival Everett’s short story titled “The Fix” ends, with a literal cliffhanger.  It is a story I first heard over 5 years ago, but it is one that has always stuck with me because, as any good short story does, it raises provocative questions without giving easy answers. 

And I couldn’t help but come back to it this last week as I studied the scripture passage from the lectionary for today.  Mary and Martha are hardly an angry mob with torches and pitchforks, but their incessant pleading with Jesus and their slightly passive aggressive insistence that he could have done something couldn’t help but make me think of this story.  It’s dangerous to try to start drawing too many direct parallels between the two stories, but as I reflect on both of them, I wonder if we don’t start to miss something if we think that Jesus just came to be our fix-it man. 

Fixing things is complicated business. 

But...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/20170326sermon.mp3

Text: John 9:1-41

Every morning I have a familiar routine.  One of the very first things I do after getting out of bed is walk to the countertop in the bathroom.  I find this case, unscrew the lids, and put a round piece of plastic in each eye.  Before I do this, the world is really blurry.  I am badly nearsighted.  I started wearing glasses in the 3rd grade and went to contacts sometime in middle school.  If the numbers mean anything to you, my contact lens prescription is in the -7’s.  This amounts to me being significantly handicapped when I don’t have my contacts in.  I trip over stuff on the floor.  I wouldn’t even think of driving.

If I didn’t have my contacts in right now, this would be a very different experience, mostly for me, but also for you.  I’d have to hold my notes close to my face to read them…or get better at memorizing sermons.  Looking across the congregation would be more for effect than actually seeing anyone.  You all would be fuzzy blobs.  I would be able to guess that Al and Kathy Bauman would be sitting right about there, and Julie...

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...

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