Sermons

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/20131222sermon.mp3

Texts: Isaiah 7:10-16, Matthew 1:18-25

 

1. Mystery

This Advent we have been guided by the theme of Mystery.  One of the mysteries I’ve enjoyed is seeing what the musicians have prepared each week and what new thing is going to be happening visually up front from week to week.  We approach our worship this in the same spirit as the Franciscan Richard Rohr, who speaks of mystery not as that which is unknowable, but that which is endlessly knowable.  Mystery, Divine Mystery, is that which is endlessly knowable.  You can’t get to the bottom of it.  The church dedicates more than a month each year to the drama of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, and, however familiar we are with the story, we intuitively know that we have only scratched the surface of what this means for us and for the world.  Ponder again Mary bearing the Christ child into the world.  There’s always more to see.

This time around Advent has also happened to coincide with the death of a remarkable human being, Nelson Mandela.  As we have been pondering mystery, and with hopeful expectation of Christ’s presence among us, we have shared in the public remembrance...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/20131208sermon.mp3

Texts: Isaiah 11:1-10, Matthew 3:1-12

 The psychologist Carl Jung once said: “When religion stops talking about animals it will be all downhill.”  I wonder how we’re doing with that – if the nonhuman creaturely world has a strong enough presence in our psyche, our souls, or if we have been headed downhill for decades, or centuries.

If we are in danger of losing touch with animal nature, today it’s Isaiah to the rescue.  Although you wonder if Isaiah could benefit from learning a little more himself about how the natural world really works.  He presents a picture, populated with all sorts of animals that no one in their right mind would put in the same room together, or the same pasture.

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.  The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”

From where I stand, literally, right here, I have noticed that this congregation has one major banner in the sanctuary.  And that this banner...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/20131201sermon.mp3

Texts: Isaiah 2:1-5, Matthew 24:36-44

In some ways Advent is one of the least surprising and mysterious seasons there could be.  Because we’ve been here before.  We’ve gone through it many times.  We know the words, the songs, the stories.  We know exactly what’s going to happen, how this is all going to unfold.  Jesus is going to be born to Mary and Joseph in the most humble of settings, will be heralded by angels, visited by shepherds and stargazers from the East, and honored as the savior of his people.

You know this story, and there’s a great comfort in knowing it, and hearing it again.

Advent means “coming,” and this is a time when we look again for the coming of Christ.

What always strikes me about the first Sunday of Advent, is that the texts each year seem intent on unsettling us from what we think we know is supposed to happen.  Instead of preparing us for the coming of a gentle birth – a memory of something long ago, something from out of the past – we are confronted with words from the adult Jesus, spoken in future tense, declared in his final days,...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/20131124sermon.mp3

Text: Psalm 46

It’s hard to be still.

If you make the space, the time, the effort, to still your body and to simply be, without distractions,  chances are one of two things will happen.  One possibility is that you’ll fall asleep, which is a pretty good indicator that you’re not getting enough of that.  The other possibility is that even though you have stilled your body you will quickly discover that it’s even harder to still your mind.  Thoughts, images, anxieties, old conversations, plans for next week, what you wish you would have said on the phone call, the cleverly crafted phrasing of your next Facebook status update, what you’re having for supper, what you wish you were having for supper – the mind is not easily stilled.  Our feet may be resting in one place, but the squirrel in our head keep bouncing around, these thoughts keep clamoring through our brains as if they run the place.

It’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we have a Bountiful Table spread before us, and the lectionary Psalm, Psalm 46, contains this phrase that feels like something of a prelude for entering into a spirit of gratitude.  “Be still and...

https://joelssermons.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/20131110sermon.mp3

Text: Luke 20:27-40

There’s a piece of legislation in the book of Deuteronomy called the law of levirate marriage.  In a patriarchal society in which children were seen not only as a sign of blessing and prosperity, but also as a way for a man to ensure the survival of his own name, his family line, levirate marriage was a way of seeing that there would be a son to continue that name even if a married man died before having children.  According to the law, it was the duty of the dead man’s brother to marry the childless widow, and the firstborn son that they produce together  would not be his, but would be the legal offspring of the deceased brother.  And by doing this the surviving brother would redeem his dead brother’s lineage, and keep his name alive in Israel.  That was the point of the law.

The sermon title, “All of them are alive,” is taken from the final phrase that Jesus says in a conversation he has with the Sadducees in which they reference this law.  This is the only time in Luke’s gospel when the Sadducees have an exchange with Jesus.  Just this...

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