Sermons

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/201412072sermon.mp3

Texts: Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-11  

One of the things I like to notice when I read a book is the opening lines.  I’m interested in how writers choose to introduce what they have to say.  How does it set up the rest of the story?  How does it draw us in as a reader and make us a part of what follows?  What clues does it give about what we’re about to read?

One of the books that will forever be on my ‘pick up anytime and be delighted’ list is Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  It’s one of the few books I’ve handled so much that the cover has torn off.   It’s best read in small portions and digested over long periods of time.  It starts this way:  “I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest.  I’d half awaken.  He’d stick his skull under my nose and purr, stinking of urine and blood.  Some nights he kneaded my bare chest with his front paws, powerfully, arching his back, as if sharpening his...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/20141130sermon.mp3

Texts: Isaiah 64:1-9; Mark 13:24-37

How do you feel about disruptions?  You’re settled in for the evening, reading a book on the couch, and there’s a knock at the door.  Your day is going pretty well until you get a phone call that a family member has just been hospitalized.  Or maybe you are that family member hospitalized.  You’re driving along with a friend having a great conversation and you come to the top of an exit ramp where you are confronted with the person with the sign that says some version of: “Hungry and jobless.  Anything helps.”  Disruptions.

Or: Another kind of disruption, which happened to me a little while ago at home: the girls were playing and laughing and having a good time together and I turned up the volume on NPR to better hear the news.  Then I realized I was most likely committing some kind of grievous sin by drowning out the laughter of children to listen to the sorrows of the world.  I turned the radio off.  It was a welcome disruption, all things considered…

When the Advent planning group got together and pondered the scriptures for this season, the theme that emerged...

Text: Matthew 25:14-30

After a long time away, we’re back to the lectionary this week – although this passage might as well have shown up in October in the Difficult Passages series.  The Parable of the Talents is one of the more familiar parables of Jesus and is an important one for us First World Christians to ponder.  Although we now use the word talent to refer to one’s aptitude, ability, and natural gifts, the term originally referred to a unit of money.  A very large unit of money.  One talent was worth 15 years wages, so in this parable even the person who was given one talent was given a massive sum.  If a decent wage in our time is $40,000 a year, that makes one talent worth well over a half million dollars.   The person with five talents was basically given a lifetime supply of wages all at once.  But all three of the servants won the lottery that day.

In the parable those who use their talents to make more talents are richly rewarded and the message seems pretty clear: Those who have been given much, those with privilege, those with money or skills or resources of...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/20141109sermon.mp3

Texts: John 1:35-39; 1:43-46; 4:27-30; 11:32-36

Come and see.

About ten years ago I was able to attend a gathering in Barcelona, Spain called Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.  As far as I could tell, all the major and minor religions of the world were well represented and the week was filled with seminars, panel discussions, and cultural activities.  For someone just beginning seminary studies, it was both exhilarating and overwhelming.  One of my dearest memories from that week is the lunch times.  A contingent from the Sikh religion had set up a large tent a short walk from the main buildings and every day prepared, served, and cleaned up a simple but abundant meal that was open for everyone, and free.  I went every day.  For the Sikhs it was a practice of what they call Langar, a sacred meal, meant to inspire humility in the Sikhs who serve, and those receiving, as we were asked to sit in rows on the ground together, and hold out our bowls when we wanted more.  They were always quickly filled.  Some of my best conversations during the week happened with whoever I ended up eating next...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/110214sermon.mp3

Text: Matthew 5:13-20

Today, November 2, is All Souls Day.  Yesterday was All Saints Day, the day before that was Halloween, and the day before that was trick or treating in the city of Columbus.  My relationship with this cluster of days has undergone significant shifts over the years.

During my growing up years, our family didn’t celebrate Halloween – meaning we didn’t dress up or go trick or treating, and we were taken out of school early on the day of the Halloween costume parade.  My parents weren’t comfortable with the way Halloween seemed to glorify death and fear.  I don’t remember feeling left out or upset that we didn’t get to do what everyone else was doing.  This was probably aided by the fact that we lived a few miles out of town so didn’t have to peer longingly out the window at all the action we were missing.  We just skipped it, not a big deal.

When Abbie and I had Eve and Lily and lived in a neighborhood in Cincinnati with lots of foot traffic, including for trick or treating, we joined the festivities.  Along with the fun they had, and our enjoyment of...

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