Sermons

Text: Luke 19:28-48

Speaker: Joel Miller

This is how it works: When the ruler or conquering general comes to town you run out to meet him.  City leaders and citizenry surround the procession.  There are songs and loud acclamations.  You reach the entrance of the city and the pageantry continues through the streets.  You hail the general’s greatness.  You welcome him as god’s own, sent to you.

This is how it worked in the ancient world.

The Greek biographer Plutarch writes this about the entrance of Mark Antony into Ephesus:

When Antony made his entrance into Ephesus, women arrayed like Baccanals (Bacchus the god of wine and revelry), and men and boys like satyrs and Pans (part goat part man), led the way before him, and the city was full of ivy and (decorative wands) and harps and pipes and flutes, the people hailing him as Dionysius Giver of Joy and Beneficent.  For he was such undoubtedly, to some.  Plutarch, Antonius, 24.3-4

Another flourish was for the visiting ruler to enter the local temple and make a sacrifice, claiming his god-ordained authority in that space.

The first century Jewish historian Josephus writes this about Alexander the Great’s entrance into Jerusalem:...

Texts: John 12:1-8; Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126

Speaker: Mark Rupp

“Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old.”

It is a strange command from a prophet who only moments before had wasted so much breath and spilled so much ink to remind the people about those former things, to recall their story of God liberating them from slavery and bringing them through the sea.  This Exodus story looms large within the identity of the Israelite people.  It is, in many ways, their founding story; it defines who they are.  They remember, and re-remember, and consider, and reconsider this story through rituals and worship, not unlike we do in this space with our founding story of Christ. 

The prophet invokes the story of the Exodus, claiming to speak for the God who brought the people through the sea and extinguished their enemies like a wick, so when he suddenly makes a u-turn and tells the people not to remember these former things, it would have come as a surprise.  Rather than a denial of the importance of remembering, however, I see this line as a rhetorical device meant to get people’s attention, to make readers perk up...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/20190331sermon.mp3

Text: Luke 15:1-2; 11-32

Speaker: Joel Miller

This is a parable about a prodigal son.  This son requests an early inheritance, goes away and spends it, all of it.  He returns home in desperation.

This is a parable about his older brother who stayed home to run the family business.  Uncelebrated.   And he is unwilling to celebrate the return of his desperate, disgraced brother.

This is a parable about a father.  It’s about a father, and his two sons.

This is a parable about a mother and her two very different children.  How in the world did these children come from the same mother?  So small and precious and then, well, they grow up, don’t they?

This is a parable composed of different generations.

It’s a parable about what we inherit – and not just the property, but the love, the unspoken expectations, the patterns, the scars, that get handed down through the generations.  It’s about how we receive all those things.  And whether there will be anything of value that passes through us to the next generation.

In this parable, the very different brothers may or may not find a way to live together in peace.  The...

Texts: Isaiah 55:1-9; Luke 13:1-9

Speaker: Rachael Miller

“Scripture says: Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.”
Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
This line from the musical Hamilton comes from Micah, chapter 4. It’s the bit that follows the familiar verse:

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not rise up against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

It is an image of peace, prosperity, and safety. The fig is a ready image and a frequent metaphor for the people of ancient Israel. It is used to signify both times of prosperity (as when the tree is full of fruit), and times of unrighteousness and divine judgement (as when the tree has no fruit).

In the parable Robin just read, the fig tree is barren. I haven’t heard many sermons on this passage in my life. What I have heard, and as I’ve read this on my own, the thrust of the parable is this: all sinners are alike and deserve death, and...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/20190317sermon.mp3

Texts: Genesis 15:1-6, 12-16; Luke 13:31-35

One of the comic strips that has rotated on and off my office bulletin board is from Opus.  For the uninitiated, Opus is a large-beaked penguin in a world of humans, plus Bill the Cat.   This particular strip is set outside in a grassy meadow.  Opus and his young friends Oliver, Michael and Milo are sitting under a night sky.  Opus begins by looking at the reader and saying: “I love these summer evening reality checks from Oliver.”  Oliver, the intellectual of the bunch, takes it from there.  Sitting by his telescope, Oliver says to the others: “Hold out a speck of sand at arm’s length…”  The picture moves in tighter on the grain of sand he is holding up.  Then we can see through it, revealing the piece of outer space that lies on the other side.  Oliver says, “That’s the portion of the night sky at which they pointed the Hubble telescope for a week.  It was there – deep within the dot of dark nothingness ten billion light years distant – that they found the unexpected:  Galaxies!  Thousands!  Thousands!  …with billions of stars…and trillions of new worlds.  And beyond...

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