Sunday, October 23, 2016

Dinner Invitation - A Communion Sermon

Revelation 19:6-10

Photo by Crystal Balogh

If you got invited to a big wedding banquet, would you get all excited? Would you see it as an opportunity to get all dressed up? Or would you wait to see if a better invitation came your way? I’ve been to a few wedding banquets in my time. Some were large and some small. Some were fancy and others were informal. Weddings are special events, and depending on your relationship with the couple, they might be can’t miss events.  

A few weeks back we heard Jesus tell a parable about a big banquet, which could have been a wedding banquet. In that story all the invited guests discovered that they had something better to do than attend the banquet (Luke 14:15-24). Our reading from Revelation 19 offers us another dinner invitation. This invitation is to the “marriage supper of the Lamb,” which takes place in the heavenly realm. The angel or messenger of God has declared that “blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”  Yes, simply to be invited to this marriage supper is a blessing!

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Dining in God's Presence -- Sermon for Pentecost 21C

Exodus 24:9-11

Eating and drinking is a rather mundane activity. Most of us eat at least a couple of meals each day. We might even have a few snacks in between. In many ways eating and drinking are simply habits. We get up, have some breakfast, and maybe a cup of coffee.  Then sometime around noon, we probably eat another meal. Finally, sometime in the late afternoon or early evening, we have another meal. These meals can be elaborate or they can be simple. Eating alone is different than eating with others. So, do you ever think about how God might be present in such a normal activity as eating and drinking? 

Disciples gather at the Table at least weekly. At least in theory we believe that the Table stands at the center of our worship and our spiritual life. It’s from this Table that our mission in the world extends. The worship grant we received from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship is focused on helping us better understand the relationship between the Table and our missional calling. In a few weeks time Ruth Duck will be here to help us further unpack this connection.  

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Eating Bread in God's Realm - Sermon for World Communion Sunday

Luke 14:15-24

Today is World Communion Sunday. It was established years ago as a reminder that God’s Table is a Table of unity, even though God’s church is fragmented. All across the globe Christians are gathering to share the Supper that Jesus established so that we might remember him and in doing so share his love with the world. Though this observance has Presbyterian origins, it began to spread across the globe after the Federal Council of Churches adopted it in the late 1930s. The person who made this happen was Jesse Bader, a Disciple mission leader and ecumenist. I found a quote from Jesse Bader that helps introduce what we’re doing today.

Worldwide Communion Sunday begins on the other side of the International Date Line, so that the observance starts first on Sunday morning in the churches of the Tonga Islands, Fiji Islands, New Zealand, Australia, and so on towards the West during the twenty-four hours of the day. This significant observance around the world on the first Sunday of each October has become a day of united witnessing . . .  In a time when there is so much disunity, here is an opportunity to witness in a broken world to an unbroken Christian fellowship. [quoted in Preaching God’s Transforming JusticeC, p. 417].

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Go and Do the Same: Feed the Hungry -- Sermon for Pentecost 19C

Luke 16:19-31

There are two parables in Luke 16, and in both of them Jesus speaks to the proper valuing of money and material resources. He puts things into proper perspective, and that makes them good texts for stewardship sermons. Stewardship is about more than paying bills. Stewardship is a reflection of our covenant relationship with God and with one another. The picture painted in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man is a bit clearer than the parable of the dishonest steward, but together they remind us about what it means to be a faithful disciple and about our responsibilities to each other.  

There are several verses separating the two parables that the creators of the lectionary chose to omit. That is probably because passages like this can lead to anti-Jewish ideas. In this case Jesus chastises the Pharisees for being lovers of money. If we can steer clear of caricaturing the Pharisees as self-righteous money grubbers, perhaps we can hear in the omitted verses a reminder that the love of money can corrupt us and keep us from loving one another. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Go and Do the Same: Choose Wisely -- A Stewardship Sermon

Luke 16:1-13

What do you think about the manager’s behavior in this parable we just heard? Do you think the manager would be a good model for Christian behavior? It is true that the Prodigal Son was forgiven for squandering his father’s estate, but what about this squanderer? Do you think he deserves forgiveness?  

This is a most unusual parable, which most scholars can’t seem to crack. Every time you read it, you’re left wondering why Jesus told a story like this! But Luke seemed to think that it merited inclusion in his Gospel. So, it must have something to say to us. But, is it the right passage to be used in a stewardship sermon? The answer to that is simple – the people at the Center for Faith and Giving, including Ron Allen, thought it would be a perfect stewardship text.