Sunday, December 10, 2017

Divine Patience - Sermon for Advent 2B


2 Peter 3:8-15

If you’ve been out Christmas shopping, you may have found yourself standing in long lines. The same might be true at the Post Office. When it comes to calling customer service or tech support, time may slow down to a crawl. The occasional reminder that a representative will answer as soon as possible doesn’t make the wait any easier. So, what should you do while you wait? How do you keep yourself occupied, when half an hour seems like a day? Having a smart phone may prove helpful, at least while waiting in a line at the store or the post office. At least I can check Facebook and Twitter, and if the line is too long, I can open a book on my Kindle app.  But, what if you’re waiting for God to act?  

This season of Advent is by definition a season of waiting. We pray “O come, o come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.” Each year we sing these words of expectation, while waiting for Emmanuel to be fully revealed to us, not as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, but as the returning king. We sing: “Desire of nations bind all peoples in one heart and mind” and “bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease.” Today, on Peace Sunday, we offer this prayer, longing for the time when the world will be filled with “heaven’s peace.”

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Judgment Day, - Sermon for Christ the King Sunday (Year A)


Matthew 25:31-46

We’ve  all faced a judgment day or two. It might be a call to the principal’s office or maybe the boss’ office. Whomever it was who called you in, you knew that it wouldn’t be good news. The day I got called into the President’s office at the college where I was teaching, I knew something was wrong. After all it was June, and school was out for the summer! 
  
Here in Matthew 25 we encounter an apocalyptic vision of humanity’s judgment day. The Son of Man comes in glory and gathers the nations, separating the sheep from the goats. This scene has its roots in the visions of Daniel and Ezekiel. Jesus picks up on these visions to point us toward the day of judgment, when the reign of Christ will be fully established, and things will be set right.  

Today is the last day of a church year that began with the promise of Advent and continued on through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, and then into the days of Pentecost. This last, lengthy season ends by looking forward to the day on which Jesus will finally reign in glory. In this reading from the Gospel of Matthew, that event is marked by a day of judgment. I realize that the Christmas shopping season has already begun, but as a church we need to first finish the race, before we start the next cycle.  

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.