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Showing posts from September, 2009

Sermon for Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, "Be Healed"

Sermon 9/27/09, James 5:13-20, Mark 9:38-50 Be Healed Today’s gospel lesson of those times when I feel like the author had a few scenes of Jesus’ teaching that he didn’t know where to put, and just sort of jumbled them together in one scene. We have several snippets in today’s text, words from Jesus, that at first don’t seem to go together. Follow me through the text. First, we have the disciple John coming to Jesus apparently upset because someone else was casting out demons in Jesus’ name, someone who was *not* one of the twelve. Apparently, this bothered John and the others – they tried to stop the man because he wasn’t one of the inner circle. But Jesus tells them “whoever is not against us is for us,” and he tells them to let the man continue in his work. Then, Jesus says, “For truly I tell you,” implying that what he says next will be a conclusion to what he has said so far. “Whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose t

Sermon for Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, "Be Last"

Sermon 9/20/09, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9:30-37 Be Last I have to confess to you – it may not seem like it to you at first – but I’m actually a very competitive person. I like to win, and not so much even just to win , but to be the best . Now, I don’t mean that I will get upset and be a bad sport if I lose a game of Scrabble against you. But you might catch a glimpse of what I mean as we approach the CROP Walk next month – I will really want us to raise more money than any other church. Yes, because it will help hungry people, of course. But also, because I want us to be in first place! Throughout school Todd, my youngest brother, and I would always compete over grades and other academic achievements – Todd had a higher rank in high school than I did, but I had the higher SAT score, and we still argue about which is more important, even though now we are both well out of any situations where it matters! So I have a competitive spirit. Most of the time, I can use this for t

Sermon for Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, "Be Followers"

Sermon 9/13/09, James 3:1-12, Mark 8:27-38 Be Followers This week, at the eighth anniversary of September 11 th , 2001, like many people, I thought about where I was and what I was doing when I first heard word of what was unfolding in New York City , Pennsylvania , and Washington , DC . I was in my second year of seminary at the time, in Madison , NJ , and I had just started my internship at the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, the ecumenical and interfaith agency of the United Methodist Church , which is located in Manhattan . I had worked just two days so far, and was feeling pretty brave for commuting into the city, making my way on the subway, and getting to the busy location of my workplace. Now, September 11 th was not one of the days that I was in the city – but going back to my job afterwards – there was such a climate of fear and anxiety, I can’t even explain to you. Every time a subway car stopped on the tracks between st

"Whoever wants to be frist must be last of all and servant of all."

From the lectionary this week: "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." Mark 9:35b I've posted this quote before, but in light of this week's scripture text, I've had it on my mind, without being able to really work it in to my sermon: From Kent Carlson's Soul Journey: "I am convinced that personal ambition, and a pastoral ethic centered around productivity and success is brutal to our souls and destructive to the souls of the people we lead. I believe there is a better way. But it requires us to walk right into the messiness of our own ambitious hearts, ready to die to those ambitions. We must become skilled at detecting the odor of personal ambition, then flee from it as if the church's future depends on it. For I believe it does."

Sermon for Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Sermon 9/6/09, James 2:1-17, Mark 7:24-37 Be Opened This week, we’re starting a new focus in worship, centered on asking ourselves the question: Who and what is God calling us to be ? Who are we meant to be, each one of us? Who are we meant to be as a congregation? Each week, through October, we’ll look at a different aspect of what God seeks for us to be, and think about how we can live out God’s hopes for us. This week, we start with a challenging beginning. No matter how many times I read this gospel lesson from Mark, I can’t quite come to terms with it. I’ve read commentaries and articles and scoured sources for inspiration. Nothing satisfies me. I want a clear explanation of the passage. Tell me why Jesus says what he says to this woman, please . I even find myself going back and forth in my own understanding and interpretation of the passage. This text appears in more than one gospel, and so it shows up in the preaching cycle every year. I’ve preached a few times on this p

Sermon for Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, "Inside Out"

Sermon 8/23/09, James 1:17-27, Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 Inside Out Are you all familiar with the story and music from Fiddler on the Roof? When I was in high school, I was in a community theatre production of Fiddler , and have most of the lyrics and choreography permanently imprinted in my mind. In the opening scene, Tevye, the lead character, a poor milk man, asks the question and gives the answer that frames the whole story: “How do we retain this fragile balance in life?” He can tell you in just one word: Tradition! Throughout the musical, Tevye’s three daughters marry in turn, but each match poses a challenge to Tevye’s sense of tradition and how things are meant to be done. His oldest daughter, Tzeitel, asks her father to be let out of the arranged match for her, so that she can marry the man she truly loves, Motel, the tailor. Tevye groans and complains, but finally agrees that they can marry for love. Then his second daughter, Hodel, wants to marry revolutio