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Showing posts from February, 2018

Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent, "Hagar in the Wilderness," Genesis 16:1-15

Sermon 2/23/18 Genesis 16:1-15 Hagar in the Wilderness             Today, as we journey through the wilderness in this season of Lent, we’re taking a look at the story of Hagar in the book of Genesis. It’s really important to me to include women’s voices from the Bible when I’m preaching or teaching. There are so many fewer stories of women, even names of women included in the Bible, and I want to make sure we know these stories, and know that women are created in God’s image too, and that women are called by God, used as God’s messengers too. So I wanted to make sure to include the story of a woman in our wilderness series this Lent. But the choices are fairly limited, and Hagar’s wilderness experience is the only real stand-alone kind of narrative of a woman that we have in the Bible. I’ll be honest: I feel like we just talked about Hagar. We looked at Hagar’s story this past summer, during our Women in the Bible series. We heard about Hagar and Sarah, and how God was a

Sermon for First Sunday in Lent, Year B, "Jesus in the Wilderness," Mark 1:1-4, 9-15

Sermon 2/18/18 Mark 1:1-4, 9-15 Jesus in the Wilderness             You’ve heard me say before that the gospel of Mark is my favorite gospel. Part of the reason I love it is because of Mark’s brevity. I don’t love that he’s short on details, exactly. I love that he seems practically breathless in getting the good news of Jesus to us, and that he seems to believe that the news is so good it isn’t even going to take very many words to convince you of his message! His frantic style strikes me as showing both how important and how convincing he believes Jesus’s message to be.             But, then we arrive at a Sunday like today, and I find myself a little frustrated perhaps, or at least a little challenged by Mark. In the lectionary, the series of the first Sunday in the season of Lent always focuses on the temptation of Jesus – his time in the wilderness, where he confronts Satan, and commits to God’s path rather than the flashy alternative Satan presents. This is the fo

Sermon for Ash Wednesday, "In the Wilderness," Psalm 63:1-4, Isaiah 35

Sermon 2/14/18 Psalm 63:1-4, Isaiah 35 In the Wilderness             In Jewish and Christian tradition, ashes as a symbol convey two primary meanings. First, they are a sign of repentance. When people realized that they had been turning away from God’s path, that they had been disobeying God, and wanted to recommit to God’s way, God’s path, and ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness, sackcloth – a rough fabric – and ashes were worn as signs of that repentance – turning away from sin and toward God. They’re signs of humility, reminders that God is God and we are not God.             Second, ashes are a sign of our mortality. Although we claim the gift of eternal life with God, in this life, in this world, we live and we die. We are finite. We are not invincible. God creates us from the dust of the earth, and to dust these bodies one day return. This is a message we need to confront regularly. Sometimes we fail to treat our lives as the sacred but finite gifts that they are.

Sermon, "Why: Is Jesus the Only Way?" John 14:1-14

Sermon 2/11/18 John 14:1-14 Why: Is Jesus the Only Way?             Today we’re coming to the end of our series on Why: Asking Tough Questions of Faith. We wrap up with a question that isn’t really a “why” question, but it is one that I’ve heard often enough in ministry that I thought it deserved a place in our series nonetheless. Maybe you’ve heard it too. “Is Jesus the Only Way?” The fuller version of this question, including the unexpressed parts of it is something more like, “Is believing in Jesus the only way to get into heaven? Is being a Christian the only way to be right with God?” And related to it are the questions that naturally follow: “What about people who are part of other religious traditions? Are they ok? Can they get to heaven? Are they just wrong ? Are there consequences for choosing a path other than believing in Jesus and being part of the church?”             For contemporary Christians, this question – is Jesus the Only Way – has only become more

Sermon, "Why: Why Did Jesus Have to Die?" Romans 3:19-21, Romans 6:1-11

Sermon 2/4/18 Romans 3:19-21, 6:1-11 Why: Why Did Jesus Have to Die? Presbyterian pastor and professor of theology Cynthia Rigby wrote that she started asking the question, “Why did Jesus have to die?” when she was just a child. She writes, “The idea that the Son had to die so the Father would be able to forgive us has never made much sense to me. If God loves us no matter what, why can’t God just go ahead and forgive us? “I remember asking this question even as a child, pointing out to my parents that they seemed to forgive my brother and me for things all the time, and rarely felt the need to punish [us]. If they did give us some kind of penalty, it was not because they needed it in order to be able to forgive us. It was so we would learn, better, how properly to behave. So why couldn’t God just forgive [us], if my parents could? How could Jesus’ dying really help anything, anyway? And how could something as terrible as the cross be something God wanted or needed? “M