Sunday, January 31, 2016

No Hometown Hero -- Sermon for Epiphany 4C

Luke 4:21-30 

Don’t you love cliff hangers? If you’re old enough, you might remember that for an entire summer the nation’s attention was arrested by the question of “Who shot J.R.?” The lectionary left us in a somewhat similar position last week. When last we gathered, Jesus was making a few comments about the reading from Isaiah 61, which spoke of the Year of Jubilee. When he sat down, he told the congregation: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” That’s where we pick up the story this morning. Jesus is telling the people that he is the fulfillment of Isaiah 61. He is the one anointed with the Spirit who will institute the Year of Jubilee, and with it freedom from poverty, imprisonment, and captivity. 

The people are still amazed at his words, after all this is Joseph’s son. We know this man. We watched him grow up. So how did he become such a great preacher? Well that’s as good as it gets, because Jesus quickly moves from hometown hero to persona non grata! 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Anointed Mission -- Sermon for Epiphany 4C

Luke 4:14-21

Monday was Martin Luther King Day, and I attended the Troy community celebration of Dr. King’s life. Our speaker reminded us that Dr. King’s message was quite revolutionary. Not only did he want to end segregation, he wanted to tackle two other related issues of his day: poverty and militarism. He recognized that poverty and militarism were related and that they disproportionately affected people of color. In taking up these causes he made enemies. At the time of his assassination he was trying to create a coalition of poor people whom he was going to lead in a March on Washington to make sure that Washington understood the plight of the nation’s poor and marginalized. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Party Time - Sermon for Epiphany 2C

John 2:1-11

Everybody loves a wedding!  Well, almost everybody! Weddings are usually joyous occasions. Not only do
two people get joined together, but so do two families and all that goes with that. 

I’m not an expert on weddings, but I do have a bit of experience with them. First of all, I should mention my own wedding to Cheryl. It’s been awhile, but I do remember it. I’ve also been in a few weddings as a groomsman or an usher. I’ve also been a guest at weddings. Then, there are the weddings at which I’ve officiated, and I could tell a few stories about these weddings. 

I often tell a story at rehearsals about the bride who almost went up in flames. It was my third wedding, so I was still getting my bearings as an officiant. We had this free standing candelabra that we used for the unity candle. After the couple lit the candle, which was off to my right, they returned to the center of the chancel. The only problem was that the bride’s train got caught on the base of the candelabra. As she moved toward the center, the candelabra began to tip over, with all three candles ablaze. Fortunately the maid of honor and I both saw what was happening and we reached out and caught the flaming candelabra before it could light up the lace-covered-dress.  That would have been quite the disaster, but it has become for me an interesting wedding story.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

When Jesus Was Baptized -- Sermon for Epiphany 1C

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

In the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, three convicts break free from the chain gang and head off on a journey to the home of the threesome’s leader. Everett, Pete, and Delmar have many interesting encounters and adventures along the way, just like Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey. In one of these encounters, they come upon a group lining up to be baptized in the river. This gathering multitude sings  Down to the River to Pray as they make their way toward the river and the preacher. 

Delmar seems to hear a  call to go down to the river to be immersed. He doesn’t go to the end of the line. No, he runs right up to the front and immediately gets baptized.  When he comes up out of the water, he claims to be a changed man. 
Well that's it boys, I been redeemed! The preacher warshed away all my sins and transgressions. It's the straight-and-narrow from here on out and heaven everlasting's my reward!
Not only that but the preacher told him all his sins were washed away, even the Piggly Wiggly he’d robbed. And when Everett pointed out that he had denied robbing the Piggly Wiggly, Delmar told him that the preacher told him that God forgave that sin as well. Living this new redeemed life wasn’t going to be easy, and Delmar fell short of his promise, but he tried the best he could to live as one of the saints of God.