Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sermon, "Planting Seeds: The Parable of the Sower," Matthew 13:1-9

Sermon 4/19/20

Matthew 13:1-9


Planting Seeds: The Sower


As is the case with many things, these days, preaching on Planting Seeds wasn’t my first plan for our post-Easter Sunday sermon series. In fact, I think it’s the third or fourth sermon series I had scheduled for this time slot, before feeling like I’d found the right fit for the right season. We celebrated Easter Sunday last week, but it’s still Easter. The season of Easter lasts for 50 days, representing the time between Jesus’ resurrection and between when we celebrate Pentecost, a day when the disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit and were empowered for ministry by it. For 50 days, we celebrate Easter. In fact, as I’ve mentioned before, all Sundays are considered mini-Easters. We’re always people who live in the joy and knowledge that life can’t conquer death, and that new life is ours for the receiving. But in this season of Easter, resurrection and new life are our main focus. And I think that’s good news, that we get to experience both the abruptness that new life can mean sometimes - Jesus was dead and now he’s alive - and the slow way new life can sometimes work its way into our hearts. Sometimes bringing forth life takes time, doesn’t it? Reviving something from the brink of death isn’t always an instantaneous prospect. Resurrection sometimes takes time, and so this Easter season, we’re taking our time with resurrection. 

We’re focusing on planting seeds. There’s a lot of people trying out gardening right now - planting seedlings, looking to produce vegetables or herbs or flowers at home. Some of us have the time, now, that we don’t normally have. And I think many of us are drawn to the way planting seeds is an act of hope. Planting seeds means even when things are difficult now, even when we see people in pain, suffering, even when we are struggling, we believe there’s a future in which the seeds we plant will grow and produce and be ready for harvest. Planting seeds is a hopeful act, an act of resurrection and new life. I think it makes us feel like our time right now is not just useless. It’s not just a pause. This time is valuable. These days count, they matter. And maybe we’ll come out at the other side with an abundant harvest instead of overwhelmed by loss. 

And so, in this season of Easter, we’re looking at passages of scripture that talk about seeds and planting and new life. Today, we start with the parable of the sower. Whenever we read the parables of Jesus, it helps us understand them if we remember that they’re meant to tell us something about what the kingdom of God is like, about what God’s reign is like. One of the things Jesus tried to communicate repeatedly in his teaching was that the kingdom of God was at hand - God’s reign was here, on earth already, just as it was also eternal. When we live into the values and characteristics of God’s ways right here and right now on earth, we’re experiencing God’s kingdom, God’s reign already, as well as preparing our hearts and souls and minds for life everlasting with God. So, whenever we read a parable of Jesus, we can ask ourselves, “What does this tell us about what the kingdom of God is like, here on earth and in eternity?” 

There are actually two sections to this parable, the parable of the sower: the one where Jesus tells it to the gathered crowd, and then a bit later where Jesus gives an explanation just to the disciples. In the explanation, Jesus says that the seed is the word of God, and the various kinds of ground on which the seed falls are those who hear the word of God. But sometimes when we go straight to the “explanation” of this parable, we forget how flexible parables are. We forget to envision ourselves in many roles in the story. We forget how imaginative and playful parables are. So today, we’re focusing on the first part of the text. Jesus tells us that a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path where birds gobbled them up. And others fell on rocky ground, and without soil depth, they started to grow but never really got rooted, and they were scorched in the sun. And other seeds fell among the thorns, and were choked by the weeds. But some, some seeds fell on good soil, and brought forth grain, and they yielded 30, 60, 100 fold. Jesus concludes, “Let anyone with ear listen!” What do we hear? 

I want us to think first about the sower. What do we think about the sower’s actions? I’ve gardened off and on over the years, but my earliest gardening experiences were under the direction of my grandpa, who had a real gift for it. Grandpa always gave me a little corner of his huge garden to plant my own things. Now, I was the kid whose bean in a Dixie cup in school never grew – the one kid with the dud seed that left the teacher trying to come up with something nice to say about how I could share in caring for someone else's plant or something. But somehow, under my grandfather's care, my garden always bloomed. He taught me tricks of the trade – how to hang empty pie tins up to scare away birds, how to plant corn: "One for the blackbird, one for the crow, one for the soil and one to grow," as the rhyme goes. How to space my seeds and pull weeds, and use chicken wire fences for tendrils of pea plants to curl around. I can tell you what my grandfather never did: He never just threw seeds here there and everywhere and hoped for the best. He didn’t throw seeds on rocky soil, or among thorns, or in the middle of a path. That would have been wasteful and foolish. Sure, maybe a stray seed or two goes where you don’t want it, but nearly all of the seed goes carefully into good soil which you’ve taken time to prepare.

But, this sower is extravagant with the seed. Reckless. Do they even have a plan? I think we can interpret the sower as being either extravagant and wasteful, or extravagant and generous. Is the sower foolish? Or just reveling in the abundance of seed, ready to risk it, spread the seed far and wide, and see what happens? The text doesn’t tell us who the sower is, even in the explanation of the parable that comes later. So let’s try a couple of options. Perhaps God is the sower. If God is the sower, our experience of God lends us to understand the actions of the sower differently. If God is the sower, I’m more inclined to see God’s extravagance as generous than foolish, aren’t you? If the parable is telling us something about the nature of God, we see a sower who seems to have plenty of seed, and a sower who sows seed everywhere. God has an abundance to give - love that doesn’t run out, grace with unlimited supply, forgiveness to spare, good news that’s without end, an offer of salvation, wholeness that’s for everyone, that can reach into every nook and cranny of the earth. Of course if God is the sower, God doesn’t need to worry about where the seed falls - our God of abundance never runs out of God’s gifts, and they never cost God too much to share with us. God is reckless with generosity.

So what if we put ourselves in the place of the sower? If it is you and me who are spreading the seed, God’s word, the good news of Jesus' grace and love, the good news that God’s reign is right now, here on earth - what kind of sowers are we? Are we reckless and foolish? Are we extravagant risk-takers? Can we even get our heads around sowing in this way, or do we insist on counting out each seed and carefully placing it in the soil we already know is good? Truly, these are hard questions in these days when it is so easy to feel driven by scarcity instead of plenty. In days when suddenly you might find certain shelves empty in a grocery store that was once overflowing with options, when people are buying up anything and everything that someone mentions that might help us get through these challenging days, it’s maybe even harder than usual to imagine ourselves being so reckless with resources. It might be hard to imagine virtually throwing away seed by taking so little care for where it lands. 

And yet, just when we could be letting ourselves be ruled by fear, I am finding so many examples of people sowing seeds of hope in the same way God does - secure in the knowledge that that supply is limitless. I was talking this week with someone who has been working really hard to practice generosity in this season and to encourage generosity in others. And as she’s been trying to practice and encourage generosity, she’s been met with some resistance. Folks have suggested that perhaps some are taking advantage of the generosity. People might be getting help who don’t really need it. People are getting away with getting stuff they don’t really deserve. Sometimes I struggle with that too. I want to make sure people who need it most are getting what I have to share. I feel like that’s responsible stewardship of resources, some of which I have only in limited quantities. But I believe that God’s hope and aim for us is a life of generosity where we trust that we have enough to share. And if there are some resources we have in limited supply, there are others we have that are limitless. How extravagant are you with your love? How freely do you sow forgiveness? How much mercy can you give? How many times are you willing to share God’s love and the good news that Jesus brings? How many places will you share? With whom will you share? The kingdom of heaven, the reign of God is like a place where a sower sows knowing nothing ever runs out. If we want to see God’s reign embodied on earth, we sow like that, knowing there is enough of God and from God to share with everyone, everywhere. 

Once we have a picture of the character of the sower in mind, I find I can think about the seed and the soil with the same generous mindset. Jesus says that the seed is God’s word, God’s message to us, and the various places the seed lands are ways that we can receive God’s message. Obviously, we want to be good soil. There, God’s word, God’s message to us can take root, and grow, and be well-nourished, and produce magnificent results in our lives. But oh, sometimes my soul seems like a barren path, and sin gets in the way of responding to God as I’m called to. God’s message gets gobbled up by the other things I’ve given room in my heart, by the things I’ve let come first instead of God. Sometimes our souls are rocky ground, and when we’re facing struggles and challenges, when we’re in pain or suffering, we find it hard to hold on to God’s word, hard to trust, hard to hope, and our little bit of faith fades away. Even the Twelve disciples experienced that, falling away when Jesus was tried and crucified. Sometimes my soul is a thorny place, and tending to the “cares of the world” outweighs the attention I give to the ways of God, and so when I look for harvest, I find nothing. But when the soil of my soul is good - God can do amazing things in my life, in my heart, in the world when we receive God’s message and let it take root in our hearts.   

Jesus frequently repeats either verbatim or in essence the words with which he closes the telling of this parable: 30, 60, 100 fold results. His numbers sound extreme and grandiose. But they’re meant to. The kingdom of God, God’s reign on earth? What happens when we let God’s ways be our ways on earth? The results are more astonishing than we can possibly imagine. We get so much bang for our buck. The results are exponential. The return on investment is such that no savvy person should pass by the opportunity. In modern-day terms, the kingdom of God works like a meme you post on facebook that goes viral, shared over and over and over, reaching well-beyond your circle of friends. This is what God can do when we receive all that God offers to us and let it take root.   

We can help this happen by tending our soil as best we can. What are the practices you can keep that help create a spiritual soil that is ready for what God is planting? I encourage you to spend some time this week answering that question. Journal about it. Pray about it. If you’re watching live, you could post your ideas right now. What are the practices you can keep that help create a spiritual soil that is ready for what God is planting? But we can also help each other tend the soil. If God is the sower, then maybe we can be God’s helpers, helping to tend the garden. And maybe sometimes I can’t remove the rocks from my own life, because it seems to hopeless. But you could remove a rock for me. Maybe sometimes you can’t seem to pull out the weeds that are taking over your life, but I can help you. Together, we can care for God’s garden. 

A sower went out to sow, and the seed - it went everywhere. And the garden grew, and grew, and grew. Amen. 




Sunday, April 12, 2020

Sermon for Easter Sunday, "I Have Seen the Lord," John 20:1-29

Sermon 4/12/20

John 20:1-29


I Have Seen the Lord


This year we’re reading the resurrection story from the gospel of John. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all write about the resurrection in their own ways, but John’s gospel might be the one with which you’re most familiar. John’s gospel zooms in on Mary Magdalene. Although much has been written about Mary Magdalene, we really know very little about her, other than that Jesus healed her from what the Bible describes as possession by demons, and that Mary has been a follower of Jesus since then, providing, along with some other women, material support for Jesus and the other disciples. While other gospels have Mary as one of many women visiting the tomb of Jesus early on the first day of the week, the others aren’t mentioned by John. And although Peter and the beloved disciple make an appearance at the empty tomb after being summoned by Mary, who is distressed and confused when she first sees the stone rolled away from Jesus’ grave, the two men don’t stick around for long before returning to the locked up house where the disciples have been hiding out in fear after Jesus’ crucifixion. So by the time we encounter the risen Christ in John’s account, even the angels Mary sees inside the tomb seem to fade away once she sees Jesus. After a brief exchange with the angels, who Mary doesn’t seem to identify in her grief, she turns away from the empty tomb and comes face to face with Jesus. Her grief is such that she doesn’t even recognize him. How could she, since he was supposed to be dead? Jesus asks her the same questions the angels asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary thinks Jesus is the gardener, something I imagine she laughed about later. But now, she’s utterly devastated, pleading: “Sir, if you’ve carried him away, tell me, and I will go get him and care for his body.” And then Jesus simply says to her, “Mary.” He calls her by name, as God promises to do with us. And as soon as she is called by name by Jesus, someone who has always seen her, she recognizes him. “Rabbouni!” she exclaims. “Teacher!” Her exchange with Jesus is brief but powerful. He tells her “Don’t hold on to me. But go, and tell the others.” And Mary does just that: She announces the good news. She’s the first messenger of the resurrection. She says, “I have seen the Lord.” 

Normally, that’s where we’d end our story on Easter Sunday, and we’d read the second part of our text next week. But it’s still Easter day as we continue on in John, and I think we might relate to what we find. On that same day, in the evening, all the disciples are together, in a house locked up tight because they’re afraid of the religious leaders who had just succeeded in putting Jesus to death. By now, they’ve heard Mary’s announcement: “I have seen the Lord!” But of course Peter and the other disciple were at the grave and they didn’t see anything. Can they believe Mary? Even if they believe her, it hasn’t yet made them unafraid. But Jesus is suddenly among them. No locked doors can keep him out. And he’s speaking words of peace to them, and breathing on them, and telling them that God will send them out just as God sent him out, and giving them the Holy Spirit, and giving them authority. Thomas, for some reason, isn’t with them, and so eventually Jesus appears to them again when Thomas is present too, even letting a skeptical Thomas confirm that it is really Jesus by touching the wounds Jesus has in his hands and side from the crucifixion. Finally, Thomas believes too. Jesus doesn’t chide, but simply says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 

I know for many of us, when we first realized we wouldn’t be able to gather together physically for worship this year for Holy Week, for Palm Sunday, for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and especially, especially for Easter morning, it was disappointing to say the least. Heartbreaking. I so love our Easter practices that embody the joy of the resurrection of Jesus. When you find out that death has no power over life, when you find out that Jesus is alive always, when you find out that new life is possible, when you find out that God makes you new, resurrects your life too, you want to celebrate! I love gathering on the hill at Wally Hurlbut’s for our sunrise service, around the fire, sharing communion. I love the huge breakfast we share in in the basement at North Gouverneur, with more food than we could possibly eat. I love the bright colors of children dressed up for worship in the sanctuary here, and the beautiful Easter flowers given by the congregation for loved ones - the smell of Easter. I love the full sanctuary, the power of our voices joined together in “Christ the Lord has risen today!” I love unburying the Allleluias, and singing them with gusto. All of those traditions - they embody the joy we feel at hearing, remembering the good news: “I have seen the Lord!” The grave is empty. Death can’t hold back the work of God. Christ is risen, and we rise with him - Alleluia!  

I’m missing those traditions this morning. But John’s gospel reminds me that what we’re not missing is Easter. Easter isn’t canceled. Instead, perhaps, we’re channeling that first Easter more than ever. Our hearts are broken. Our world is full of fear and anxiety right now. We’re wrestling with isolation, locked behind doors, wondering what comes next. And friends, Easter comes for us today just as surely as it did for Mary and the disciples on that first Easter morning. Trusting that death can’t stop the power of life, of love, of hope, of joy - it’s hard to believe sometimes in dark days. Sometimes we’re like Peter and the other disciple, seeing and trying to believe but not quite understanding. We’re like Thomas, needing extra doses of confirmation before we can rejoice in the truth. We’re like Mary, so mired in grief we don’t see what’s right before us. But Jesus seeks out all of these followers, and gives them what they need to experience the truth of resurrection and life. And Jesus seeks out us too, and gives us what we need.  

Like for many of you, I have all sorts of rhythms and routines that have been shaken up in these days of pandemic, and none more so than my typical Sunday morning. Normally, I lead worship at North Gouverneur at 9:30, and then hustle over to First UMC to practice with the choir briefly before worship starts here at 11am. But since we’re doing just one livestream, of course, suddenly, I have a whole morning before worship begins. Even the preparation I do for worship has shortened, because without powerpoints for liturgy and announcements to prepare, I have even fewer tasks to complete before worship. And so I’ve found myself, the last few weeks, listening to worship at my Uncle Bill’s Church in Baldwinsville, NY. It’s a blessing I cherish, even as a long for the return of my Sunday routine. A couple weeks ago, Uncle Bill was preaching on Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. And he shared a quote from a Christian writer and speaker Ravi Zacharias: “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, He came to make dead people alive.” Those words really caught my attention. “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, He came to make dead people alive.” Sometimes we water down what Jesus was about until we picture him as just a disciplinarian, here to make sure we follow all the commandments, that we’re nice and well-behaved, and that we’re good enough to be worthy of God’s love. But Jesus wouldn’t even let people call him good when they tried. What Jesus does say is that he came to bring us life, abundant life in fact. Mary Magdalene and Peter and the beloved disciple and Thomas and all the others who experienced the resurrected Christ on that first Easter - Jesus gave them new life. Oh, they still suffered pain and hardship. And they certainly weren’t perfect, always choosing what was right. But they were those who had been made alive in Christ - truly living in this life, and truly living in life eternal. And that’s what Jesus wants for us, offers to us, even when it seems like death and sorrow is all around. Jesus is alive, and wants us to truly live too. 

If you’re a regular at church here or in North Gouverneur, you might recognize the name Rev. Thom Shuman. He writes beautiful liturgies for worship, and I often use his calls to worship and prayers in our bulletins. He wrote a beautiful reflection for Easter that I want to share with you. He says, “I imagine a lot of clergy, isolating at home, pacing back and forth ... wondering how in the world they might come up with the most important Easter sermon they have ever given in their lives, especially since it will all be online, no one with them, no one in front of them, no one to look at to see how they are doing. The pressure is on!! It will continue to mount . . . what shall we do? How about this? The camera opens on the pastor, simply sitting in a chair, in a pew, on the steps, on the floor. Nearby, is a pile of folded clothes. As the camera pans in, the pastor looks up from the book they are reading, stares directly into the camera, and he says, "oh, it's you." Then, pointing to the clothes, she says, "sorry, Jesus is not here; just like he told you." Then looking directly into the camera, they say, “He's out there: with you, your family, your neighbors; he's out there: in the midst of this pandemic, in the middle of all the fears; he's out there: home-schooling kids, caring for folks in retirement communities and the vulnerable in residential settings; he's out there: making masks and ventilators, building field hospitals, working on a vaccine; he's out there: stocking the grocery stores, delivering packages, listening to folks on the hotlines; he is not here. he's out there, just like he told you; why are you looking for him here, and not out there with him?" And then they turn back to their books as the camera pulls back from them, and pans to a shot of the doors leading into the world.” (1) Friends, Christ is alive, and thankfully, he’s not contained in this or any building. He’s in the world, beckoning us to join him, asking us to tell what we’ve seen, what we’ve experienced, and how Jesus has brought us to life too. Have you seen the Lord? Tell it! Share it! Live it! 

As I was thinking about Easter in the midst of pandemic, I couldn’t help but think about the story from Dr. Suess, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and about how Christmas came, to the surprise of the Grinch, even without decoration and presents under the tree. He couldn’t stop it. And sure enough, a few days later, I saw that someone had reworked Suess’s words for these days. Here’s just a part of “How the Virus Stole Easter,” by Kristi Bothur, about Easter morning when the world suspected Easter couldn’t come at all. 

“... And [the world] did hear a sound coming through all the skies.

It started down low, then it started to rise...

Every saint in every nation, the tall and the small,

Was celebrating Jesus in spite of it all! ...


“It came without bonnets, it came without bunnies,

It came without egg hunts, cantatas, or money.”

Then the world thought of something it hadn’t before.

“Maybe Easter,” it thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Easter, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ...


The churches are empty - but so is the tomb,

And Jesus is victor over death, doom, and gloom.

So this year at Easter, let this be our prayer,

As the virus still rages all around, everywhere.


May the world see hope when it looks at God’s people.

May the world see the church is not a building or steeple.

[May the world find Joy in a time of dejection.

May the world find Faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.]” (2) 


Christ is alive. He lives to make us alive too. I think we’ve seen him, seen God at work in countless ways. Let’s tell what we’ve seen. Let’s share the good news. Let’s remember that Jesus doesn’t live in this building, as much as he is treasured and celebrated and worshiped here. Easter has come, and will come, day after day. Have you seen the Lord? Tell it! Share it! Live it! Amen. 

 



  1. Shuman, Thom M., https://www.facebook.com/thom.shuman/posts/10163173267100262

  2. Bothur, Kristi, “How the Virus Stole Easter,” This Side of Heaven, https://www.thissideofheavenblog.com/blog/how-the-virus-stole-easter

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Sermon for Palm/Passion Sunday, "The Stones Cry Out," Luke 19:29-40

Sermon 4/5/20

Luke 19:29-40


The Stones Cry Out


I don’t usually give a message on Palm/Passion Sunday. My preaching professor in seminary, the late Dr. Charles Rice, always said that the combined events of celebrating the Triumphant Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with palms and Hosannas and of remembering the Passion of Jesus Christ by concluding with the telling of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion was enough. The text preaches itself, he said. We don’t need to add more words.

Over the years, I’ve found his words to ring true, and because of the vividness of the readings, and the juxtaposition of the crowds yelling, “Hosanna, God save us!” at the start of the worship service and then yelling, “Crucify, Crucify him!” by the end, I’ve found Palm/Passion Sunday to be one of the most meaningful worship services of the year. And so I’m not really giving a sermon today either, I promise! But these days are unique, and call for just a little contextualizing, I think. The events of Palm Sunday and of the Passion of Jesus are as compelling as ever - they still stand on their own. But I want to help focus our attention. 

In the lectionary calendar, the three-year schedule of scripture readings for the church, this year would have us focusing on Matthew’s account of what we call the Triumphant Entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. All the gospel of accounts of this event are similar, but unique. Donna Peck pointed out at our online BIble Study, for example, that Luke’s account never uses the word “Hosanna,” which is certainly something we associate with Palm Sunday. “Hosanna” means “God, save us!” and we could certainly resonate with such a plea today. In fact, Luke doesn’t even mention people waving or laying down branches. Instead, he talks about folks spreading cloaks on the road. But I chose for us to read Luke’s account particularly because of the conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees at the end of the text. 

In Luke’s account, as Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt, a young donkey, a crowd starts to gather. Jesus knows he’s heading toward his painful death on a cross, but the people don’t know that, and at this point, the crowds are excited to see him. It turns into an impromptu parade of sorts. They throw down their cloaks for him to ride over, treating Jesus as they’d treat royalty. And they start to praise God. Luke tells us they say, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Again, the first part of their chant is something meant for a king, words from the Psalms meant for a festival day. The crowds are greeting Jesus like a king, but Jesus arrives on a donkey, not a war horse. (1) The second part of their greeting to Jesus echoes the words from Luke’s gospel that the angels sing when Jesus is born: “Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” Luke reminded us when Jesus was born that Jesus is no earthly king, born in a palace surrounded by luxury. Jesus’ authority, his reign, is one of true peace. 

The Pharisees are upset by this demonstration. They say to Jesus, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” We don’t know exactly why they want to settle the crowds. We suspect they’re jealous of Jesus’ popularity, threatened by his clear authority that seems to overlook their wisdom and leadership. But I think they’re also afraid: Jesus being greeted as he enters Jerusalem like some sort of king, even if Jesus wasn’t asking to be so treated - well, that would draw a lot of unwanted attention on the people - both from the Jewish King Herod, seen as a puppet of Rome, and from the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. Jerusalem was occupied by the Roman Empire, and such an event like this was dangerous. No one wanted the Roman authorities to get more involved in the lives of the Jewish people than they already were. 

But Jesus responds to Pharisees, “I tell you, if these people were silent, the stones would shout out!” Those words are words found in the writing of the prophet Habakkuk. Habakkuk was writing during a time of great distress in Israel’s history. The Assyrians were destroying city after city, and the people lived in fear. Habakkuk cries out to God, “How long? How long will we cry for help, God, and you won’t listen?” Habakkuk waits for God’s answer. 

God does answer, and God makes it clear that every injustice the people have suffered at the hands of enemies - God has seen. God promises that their deliverance is coming. They have to wait, but deliverance is coming, and God sees all that is happening. It is God who says to Habakkuk, “The very stones will cry out from the wall, and the plaster will respond from the woodwork.” God says that even these inanimate objects are crying out at the injustice and pain and hardship that has been visited on God’s people. And God hears, and responds. (2) 

So when Jesus uses these words from Habakkuk, he’s telling the Pharisees that in the face of injustice and oppression, like the Jews of Jesus days were experiencing from the Roman Empire, nothing can stop people from crying out from deliverance. And if the people’s voices were somehow stopped, then even the rocks would take up the cry instead. And when the people cry out, when the rocks cry out for deliverance, for help, when they’re crying out, “God save us!” whether it is with Hosannas and palm branches or with cloaks laid on the ground and stones crying out instead of human voices, God hears. God listens. And God promises deliverance will come. 

Friends, in these days when we can’t gather together for worship like we so long to do, we feel deep sadness that we’re not together, waving our palm branches. I miss the children parading in the sanctuary. I miss hearing your voices singing with ours. I miss you. But in these days when we cry out, “How long, O Lord?” know that God hears. God listens. Nothing will stop God’s work of deliverance, of justice, of peace from unfolding. Nothing stops our cries from ringing in God’s ears. Even when our voices weary, the stones will cry out. And even if the church building is empty, God’s heart is full of God’s people. And Jesus, and his reign of true peace, will not be thwarted. Nothing can get in the way of God’s saving, life-changing, world-changing love. 

In just a little bit, we’ll hear again the Passion story. We’ll hear of Jesus’ arrest, and trial, and crucifixion. And for a moment, it will seem like death has won. Like good loses in the end. Like Jesus has been silenced. But we know that’s not the end of the story. I tell you, even the stones are shouting out. And God is listening. Amen.  

  1. Haslam, Chris, “Comments,” Revised Common Lectionary Commentary, http://montreal.anglican.org/comments/archive/cpalmm.shtml

  2. Claassens, Juliana, “Commentary on Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:2-4; 3:17-19,” The Working Preacher, https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2238

Sermon, "In Denial," Mark 8:31-37

Sermon 2/20/24 Mark 8:31-37 In Denial My sermon title is both a reflection of our gospel text for today, and a reflection of how I felt abou...