Sunday, November 19, 2017

Wise Investments - Sermon for Pentecost 24A

Matthew 25:14-30

Since today is Thanksgiving Sunday, we gather to “raise a song of harvest home” for “all is safely gathered in.” Yes, “God our maker does provide for our wants to be supplied.” So we “come to God’s own temple,” to “raise the song of harvest home.” [Henry Alford, "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come," Chalice Hymnal, 718]

We will have a number of opportunities over the next few days to give thanks for God’s abundance. Last night several of us attended the Turkish American Society of Michigan’s Thanksgiving Dinner. We got to share in fellowship with our friends from Turkey, and help them celebrate the season. Tonight there is the annual Troy-area Interfaith Group Thanksgiving Service, and then on Tuesday evening there is the Troy Clergy Group service. Then on Thursday many will gather with family and friends to share in fellowship, offering thanks for God’s provisions. Let us, therefore, “make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.” Let us “serve the LORD with gladness”; and “come into God’s presence with singing.” Why? “For the LORD is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever, God’s faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 100:1-2, 5). 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Be Prepared - A Sermon for Pentecost 23A

Matthew 25:1-13

Most of us have been to a wedding, and many of us have been in a wedding.  I’ve been a groom, a groomsman, usher, and co-best man. I’ve also officiated at a few weddings. Like most pastors who have officiated at a weddings or two, I have stories to tell. Most of these weddings went well, though I did have a wedding where the bride almost went up in flames. There was the time when the wedding was delayed when the bridal party was an hour late because one of the brides maids got sick on the way to the church. I don’t have too many horror stories, but there are plenty of them out there. I can say this, however, I’ve never been to a wedding where a group of bridesmaids got locked out of the church. 

In our reading from the Gospel of Matthew this morning, we again find Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple. It’s still Monday of Holy Week, and he’s teaching the people about the coming kingdom of heaven. As Jesus often did, he told  short stories that raised as many questions as they answered. This parable focuses on ten bridesmaids who are waiting for the coming of a groom, who is delayed. The parable seems fairly straightforward, at least at first glance. But maybe it’s more complicated than it looks.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A New Commandment (Journey to Generosity) - A Sermon for Pentecost 21A

Matthew 22:34-46

In recent days political leaders from both major parties have spoken out against the coarseness of our political conversation. Something is afoot in the land, and it seems as if that would be a lack of generosity of spirit. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all contributed to this coarseness. Our Disciples mission statement speaks of being a movement of wholeness in a fragmented world. It does seem as if the brokenness and fragmentation of our world is now fully out in the open. If there is a lack of generosity of spirit in the land, how will we as followers of Jesus respond?

I raise this question on Commitment Sunday. This morning we bring to a close our annual stewardship emphasis, the “Journey to Generosity.” It’s time to turn in our commitment cards so that budgets can be made and plans made for the new year. We’ll have a party after church, with good food and good conversation. As we make these commitments, large and small, we begin imagining the congregation’s future. As we ponder these cards, deciding what to give or if we’ll give, we need to ask: Who are we as a people? How is our life together a reflection of God’s realm? Yes, these are the kinds of questions we need to ask as we continue along this journey to generosity. While the stewardship season nears its end, the journey to generosity will not end.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Matthew 21:33-46

Once again we find Jesus in the Temple. It’s Holy Week. Good Friday is on the horizon. We listen as Jesus continues to describe the realm of God through parables. Last Sunday we heard Jesus tell the parable of two brothers. One brother told his father he would go work in the vineyard, but never did. The other resisted, but finally went off to work. Which of the brothers did the will of the father, who asked them to tend the vineyard? Jesus then told another parable of the vineyard. In this parable, a landowner planted a vineyard and then rented it out, hoping to reap a profit from the renters’ produce. Unfortunately, when the time came to collect this produce, the renters violently resisted these efforts. Finally, in desperation, the landowners sent his son, hoping they would respect him. Instead of respecting the son, they decided to kill him and try to take his inheritance. How do you think the landowner will respond? Won’t the landowner respond in kind by punishing those who resisted? 

I expect that many of us struggle with the idea of divine judgment. It doesn’t fit our vision of a loving and merciful God. Yet, here we have a parable of divine judgment. God’s realm will be taken from the original renters and given to others who will produce good fruit for the realm. Those who reject the cornerstone of the realm of God, will be crushed on it. 

Sunday, October 01, 2017

By What Authority? A Sermon for Pentecost 17A

Matthew 21:23-32

Aimee Semple McPherson was a famous Pentecostal evangelist during the first half of the 20th century. I love talking about her because she was a pioneer in so many ways. I might not agree with her theology or her politics, but I have always admired her persistence in answering a call to ministry when very few women were given permission to preach. Not only did she preach, but she launched a radio station in the early days of radio, a denomination, and a college. When the religious authorities questioned her right to preach, and demanded she show them her “credentials,” she simply responded that God had called her, the Spirit had empowered her, and she had no choice but to preach. If the religious authorities had a problem with her call, then they should take up their concerns with God. 

After Jesus entered Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday to shouts of adoration from the crowd, he went to the Temple and began to teach and to heal. The religious leaders approached him and asked for his credentials to preach and teach. By what authority have you taken up residence in this holy Temple?