Sermon for April 22, 2018
It can be easy to fool ourselves into thinking that, in order to really see one another, interact with others on a genuine, non superficial level, it would take too much effort. Add in the sense of fear and risk involved in possibly being the only one stepping from behind their persona and we can become comfortable in being a total fabrication for much of our lives. We think this persona we have developed over the years protects us- it doesn’t.
In reality, the effort lies in keeping people at arm’s length. Effort is expended in building a wall between yourself and others, in maintaining the persona, the mask, we present to the world. The true risk is not in the supposed vulnerability of being “real” but in the potential to totally forget who you really are, while losing the ability to see others also.
Sermon for April 15, 2018
You don’t have to live long to find yourself needing to learn to forgive. If you watch small children, you can get an idea of the process that goes on when one is hurt and tries to find forgiveness. One child does something, intentionally or not, which hurts another. Where there was once connection, a harmony and selfless play, there is now a divide. The hurt child is now left feeling isolated within his own identity, confused, cut off, alone.
Defenses now up, without some type of insight or guidance, the hurt child will begin to isolate himself, believing this will protect him from being hurt again. He might do this through a type of revenge, or simply cutting himself off emotionally, and even physically, from the offender(mommy, I want to go home!). In the short term, this initial reaction might work- but it won’t last.
Sermon for April 8, 2018
This is a particularly special sermon, both as a cornerstone of understanding the saving Grace of Christ and, for me, on a personal level. I don’t want to ‘rank’ sermons, but I do consider this one a “must read”. The issues and questions here are not only important in the context of the way to God, but also for your counsel to others as they seek God. The ideas discussed go much deeper than it might first appear and I encourage you to take some time to read, and re-read, and not be afraid to delve into some hard questions that might arise. As you work your way through, I want you to come back to one thing, often, as you read-
Matthew 22:37-40 New International Version (NIV)
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
If you find yourself lost in some part of the sermon, becoming frustrated or judgemental, whatever the barrier might be, come back to this verse and read it again. Center yourself here, and then continue when you’re ready again. Remember that this is a sermon, not an essay or intellectual pursuit, and it is important that you take time to center yourself in the Spirit of God as you explore these truths.
I went through something, on the night before Easter day, and into Easter day itself, that I was compelled to share. At first, it didn’t even occur to me that sharing this private pain would be of interest, or help, to anyone else. It wasn’t really a decision to keep it private, but more a subconscious assumption that I would just bear my cross silently. Why would anyone want to hear about my issues? I was brought up to have a ‘stiff upper lip’ and forge on. Two things changed my mind and made me see that sharing my own private moments of helplessness and pain are absolutely necessary.
Sermon For Easter Sunday April 1st 2018
We all have our own prophecy of liberation, through Christ. In our celebration of Christ rising from death, to eternal, perfect life, we see that the Spirit transcends what, we often fear, may be the only reality we can know. Thank God for giving us his Son to show us our fears are not the truth! Yet, statements like ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust’, when taken out of context, can be a stark reminder of this fear that life and death are our only fates. Haven’t we all stopped and wondered, in a moment of stillness, if this, our mundane life, is just “it’? Those moments when we get a glimpse, through the veil of our busy realities, of what Jesus came to show us, are our connections to the resurrection.
Christ knows that his example, the Spirit working in the world, can be a hard thing for us to understand- because he experienced all the human frailty of this existence himself. It can be a hard thing to have faith in the resurrection when what we often see seems to contradict the possibility of such a glorious experience. Why is it that many people have a MORE difficult time, more challenges to their faith, during holidays and celebrations than during everyday life? Shouldn’t you be more faithful, more ‘in the spirit’, during a celebration like today? Could it be because the contrast to the everyday perception of a mundane world, through something like the resurrection, is so much stronger in these moments?
Sermon For Sunday March 25th 2018
Waiting. Waiting for God to answer, waiting for a resolution, waiting for something you want- waiting is hard. It can be lonely, and empty, to keep being patient yet still always wondering when an answer is coming. Waiting doesn’t feed you the way work, and activity in the world, does- it’s like running up the stairs rather than waiting for the elevator even if you know the stairs will take forever.
But there is a secret in waiting. There is a way out of those feelings that can make waiting so difficult. The catch is, the way out isn’t in what you’re waiting for. The value in waiting isn’t in the answer you think you’re looking for, or the thing you’re praying for. Waiting, stillness, acknowledgement, the present moment- it is within these things where God is trying to communicate with you.
Sermon for March 18, 2018
***This is an edited repost of a sermon I wrote some time ago. I pray someone finds it helpful***
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
God's promises are many. These promises aren't hidden in any secret place, meant only for the holy and blameless. They require no esoteric interpretation of scripture and so they cut right to the heart of the reader. "Come to me" God says and you will have "rest for your souls". Ok, sign me up! It's a direct promise from God and we trust God, right? Go to him and you will have rest. Simple.
I love to fool myself. I’d like to think I’m too wise for that, but the fact is, I have to constantly check myself, and reconnect with God, to find the true path. Even with all I’ve been blessed to experience, I’m always catching myself trying to play the game that keeps my ego safe, and God just at arm’s length.
Sometimes, on an extremely subtle level, I’m trying to protect my own illusion of control, my wants and needs. I serve God, but still catch myself maintaining my own insecurities. I say I want to give up those insecurities, but I secretly hold them close to me as a kind of defense mechanism. It’s not something I consciously intend, to hold onto insecurities that ultimately keep me further from God, and it doesn’t mean my efforts aren’t sincere. St. Paul famously proclaimed his “frustration” with his seeming lack of power to ultimately control his intentions and actions(the issue goes far deeper than that but for brevity, I will characterize it this way). Once you see the game, however, it is a great teacher that lurks within each of us.
Sermon for March 11, 2018
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
A close friend was helping me through a trial several years ago. He and I had been through many trials, the worst of which I am absolutely sure was divinely orchestrated. Our fates were tied together, for a time, and God intended a great work, through a very great pain. It would be easy to look back and romanticize the experience, glorifying myself as important and wise since I was part of God's work. That would not only be a lie, but it would defile God's true purpose which, in fact, is totally beyond my ultimate understanding- except for what He gives me. In truth, I was angry, afraid, defensive, blinded, just to name a few things, while going through that trial with my friend. I had no great revelation, or peace, to guide me through my experience and I wouldn't have claimed God was at work, or even present, at all, at that time. I felt alone, and even betrayed, by a God I wasn't even convinced cared. Life felt cold and unfair.
Sermon for March 4, 2018
The Sermon on the Mount can make your head spin and your heart sing. It can give you the chills, feeling as though you are truly seen like never before. On another day, it might make your heart sink, your mind alert, and primed to investigate. It may feel like you don’t even know the person who got those chills. Have you ever felt like the sermon was acting as a mirror to whatever your current situation is? What do you do with a scripture that can exist on so many levels? I say, let it speak!
One of the great beauties of the scripture God gave us is that it is a living Truth. It resists being tied down and defined. While this might be difficult for us in times when we want to be fed meaning, without searching, it also means that the scripture is alive for you as you change. It can speak to you as you, and your struggles, change.
When Jesus tells us not to worry, he’s holding up a reflection of our worrying tendency, describing our true nature as being free of worry, and calling us to his Grace, all at once. He’s saying, ‘I see you’re worry, but that’s not really you- I’m here’. There is no need to choose a proper interpretation and try to stick with it. Jesus sees you- all of you.