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Showing posts from March, 2010

Sermon for Palm/Passion Sunday, "Palms and Crosses"

Sermon 3/28/10, Luke 19:28-40, Luke 22:14-23:56
Palm/Passion Sunday Meditation
Today we celebrate Palm/Passion Sunday. Passion Sunday used to be celebrated as its own Sunday during the fifth week of Lent, before Palm Sunday. But when the common lectionary was developed, the common set of texts we use each week, Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday were joined together in one Sunday, for a few reasons. First, a practical reason: these days, less and less people celebrate the full Holy Week - people might attend on the Sundays: Palm Sunday, and then Easter. However, missing Holy Week - Maundy Thursday and Good Friday - means missing the middle and very important part of the story - the trial and crucifixion. How can you have Jesus' resurrection without his death? If you go straight from Palm Sunday to Easter, from triumph to triumph, you miss a lot of the reason for the celebration next Sunday. Celebrating Palm/Passion Sunday together means you get the whole story. But I think there's a …

Leadership Training with Gil Rendle

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a learning/training day with Gil Rendle, part of a training for leaders as United Methodists in most of New York State prepare to become one annual conference instead of four this July. I found Rendle's presentation to be very thought-provoking, churning thoughts not only on what we will do as a new annual conference, but what we do/can do in my local church.
Here are some notes and my comments mixed, hope you can decipher!:
Rendle notes that our UM membership has been declining for 40 years. We've been in the wilderness for 40 years, but in the wilderness, God can bring about change. We can manage incremental change - we can handle that because we can control it. But deep change - we can't control deep change, and deep change is what we need.
He talked about Friedman and family systems and the idea that "we've grossly overrated the power of information to change people with no motivation to change." That's pr…

Sermon for Fifth Sunday in Lent, "Extravagant Cost"

Sermon 3/21/10, John 12:1-8, Philippians 3:4b-14Extravagant Cost I can hardly believe it, but today is the last Sunday in Lent before Holy Week begins. Next week we celebrate Palm/Passion Sunday, and then spend the week remembering the events in Jesus’ life that led him from being celebrated and praised by the crowds to be being jeered as he suffered and died. And then, just two weeks from today, we celebrate Easter. How can we be here already? At least from my perspective, this journey of Lent has gone quickly. We’ve been talking about extravagance. The over-the-top abundance of God that we’re trying to make room for, by getting rid of some of the empty extravagances we’ve filled up on instead. We talked about God’s extravagant grace, as we heard Jesus speak of Jerusalem like a mother hen to her baby chicks. We talked about the Extravagant Feast, as we heard Isaiah’s call to feast on that which satisfies. We pondered God’s extravagant love and forgiveness, as we heard about the Prodi…

Sermon for Fourth Sunday in Lent, "Extravagant Love"

Sermon 3/14/10, Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32Extravagant LoveI told folks at our Ash Wednesday Service this year about the reason I chose “Extravagance” as our Lenten theme, and now I will share it with all of you: When I met with my clergy friends to some Lenten worship planning a few weeks ago, we were talking about today’s gospel lesson: the famous parable of the Prodigal Son. I dazzled my colleagues with my wisdom, sharing with them that though we usually think of “Prodigal” as meaning “lost,” it actually means “extravagant.” Over time we’ve come to think of it as meaning wandering and lost, because in the parable the prodigal son is the wayward younger child who squanders his fortune and has to come, begging for forgiveness, back home. But the word “prodigal” actually refers to his extravagant behavior – he burns through his money, he squanders his inheritance – he does nothing in moderation. And that behavior is prodigal behavior – extravagant behavior. After I dazzled them with my wisdom…

Sermon for Third Sunday in Lent, "Extravagant Feast"

Sermon 3/7/10, Isaiah 55:1-9, Luke 13:1-9
Extravagant FeastA couple of weeks ago I visited my friends in Annapolis, Maryland and had the opportunity to attend church with them and Bible Study with them. Their pastor focused on the gospel lesson from Luke that Rev. Underwood used with him sermon while I was away – the passage that records Jesus’ temptation and time in the wilderness. This pastor talked about the things that we do, the habits we form, the practices we get into that we use to cushion ourselves, protect ourselves, comfort us when we’re upset, or stressed, or angry – what are the things that we use as our coping mechanisms when life becomes in some way too difficult. He suggested that during Lent, when we talk about ‘giving things up,’ what we should be giving up are those things – those coping mechanisms that we use to get through when things are difficult. He serves as a part time pastor, and a full time counselor, focusing on those who are struggling with addictions. In …

Sermon for Second Sunday in Lent, "Extravagant Grace"

Sermon 2/28/10, Luke 13:31-35, Philippians 3:17-4:1Extravagant GraceI’ll start by admitting to you up front that I had a hard time writing my sermon this week. Originally, I’d been thinking that my friend Richard, who was scheduled to sing a concert here yesterday, would also be singing during worship, and we’d talked about just doing readings around his songs, on the theme of Extravagant Grace. We’ll talk more about that theme in a few minutes. But the important part is: originally I wasn’t going to preach a sermon today. So back last month when my colleagues and I were talking about the texts for Lent and how we would preach on them, I didn’t worry much about the strange gospel lesson for today. I knew I wouldn’t be preaching. But then, as I spoke more with Richard, we realized that he would probably only sing a few songs today – and so I started to make space for a short sermon – but I was still thinking of focusing primarily on his music as the message of the day. But finally, on …