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Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, "Bearing Hard Words," Mark 6:14-29, Amos 7:7-15

  Sermon 7/11/21 Mark 6:14-29, Amos 7:7-15 Bearing Hard Words What first comes to mind when you hear the word “prophecy”? Often, people think immediately of predicting the future, a kind of fortune-telling. We seem to have a fascination with anything that suggests we could accurately predict the future. And what’s the appeal of trying to predict the future? Why are we fascinated by anything that appears to be a prediction of future events? I can only imagine that it is our general anxiety over things unknown, and our general dislike of things that we can’t control that makes us want to believe that something, someone, somewhere can predict the future with accuracy. Otherwise, we have to live with the unsettling reality that things outside of our control, like disaster and illness, can just come on by and bring upheaval to our lives with there being nothing we can do to stop it. The idea of predicting the future, I think, is about control and security.  That’s not, however, what the p
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Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, "Shake It Off," Mark 6:1-13

Sermon 7/4/21 Mark 6:1-13 Shake It Off My brother Todd is a theatre professor, and these days, he’s more likely to be directing a show and teaching young actors than performing in the shows himself, but he spent a lot of years as a professional actor before falling in love with teaching. The theatre life meant many short gigs for him, where he would go do a show for six weeks, and then have three or four weeks in between before his next job started. When I was serving at a church in New Jersey, about 45 minutes from New York City, it was really convenient for him to live with me - where he could audition and get to rehearsals, and have a free place to live while he was between jobs. For my part, I liked to put Todd to work at my church. Over the years, on most Christmas Eves and Easter Sundays, I would get Todd to perform dramatic monologues as Joseph or the Innkeeper or a Wiseman or Herod in the story of Jesus’s birth, as Peter after his denial, or after the resurrection. My congreg

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, "Good Intentions," 2 Corinthians 8:7-15

  Sermon 6/27/21 2 Corinthians 8:7-15 Good Intentions My older brother is a great writer. He’s six years older than me, and when we were growing up, I always wanted to do everything he did. He was always entering the annual writing contest put on by the teacher’s association, and he won three out of the four years he entered. I loved his stories, and so naturally, I wanted to write stories too. So I worked really hard on my submission for the teacher’s association contest. I still remember my story. But I had a bad habit when it came to creative writing. I would have a good plan for my story - I knew the characters’ names and what I wanted to see happen, the plot. And I would have a great beginning, if I do say so myself - I set the premise up clearly, used a lot of details, and created the world for my characters. But then, I got kind of in a hurry. I didn’t give enough attention to the middle of the story, where all the hard work of plot development should be, and I wanted to rus

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, "Open Wide Your Hearts," 2 Corinthians 6:1-13

  Sermon 6/20/21 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 Open Wide Your Hearts Our scripture focus for today has long seemed to me like it was meant for United Methodist Churches in the midst of pastoral transition. Paul was one the first itinerant pastors of the church, serving in different faith communities for periods of time and then moving on to establish new ministries elsewhere. He spent just about a year and a half in Corinth helping to build the congregation, and teaching people about being disciples of Jesus. Paul does visit Corinth again, while he’s serving in Ephesus, but his initial 18 months with the Corinthians is the time he builds his primary relationship with them. But of course, he continues to hold them in his heart, and continues to seek out the best for them as a growing community of faith. 2 Corinthians has somewhat confusing origins, as scholars debate whether it is one letter or multiple letters Paul wrote to the community that have been put together over time. But what is clea

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B, "We Honor the Gifts," 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

  Sermon 6/13/21 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 We Honor the Gifts For the past year, I’ve been using a devotional book called Renew My Heart: Daily Wisdom from the Writings of John Wesley . I consider myself a bit of a John Wesley nerd, but I’m learning a lot about the nuances of Wesley’s prolific writing. I’m currently in a section that is reading through his sermon called “The More Excellent Way,” which I’m mostly finding challenging and inspiring. But I got frustrated with one particular section, because Wesley describes those who fail to embrace the “more excellent way” of discipleship as a “lower order of Christians.” And while he says that they are not “in the high road to hell” for failing to consistently choose the more excellent way, he does say that they will “not have so high a place in heaven” and they will have “fewer stars in their crown of glory” than if they’d chosen better. (1) Apparently, in Wesley’s mind, there will still be a hierarchy in heaven. That sounds kind of terrib