Sermon: Finding the Holy Cross

If you weren’t here last Wednesday, you missed the warning, but last week I had just come back from my trip to Washington D.C. and so I told them that it was likely to pop up in a few more sermons. Guess what? Yeah…

As I travelled through the various monuments, I always wanted to find something to remember the place by, a souvenir of sorts, but as it turns out, most of them were a bit kitschy or too expensive for what they were. When I visited Arlington National Cemetery, I was determined to find something, but even there, it was less than desirable. However, my friend knew my search and so, when we got back home, she handed me this bag. It is labeled “Grass froIMG_0977m Arlington National Cemetery, April 2017”. You may find this exceptionally strange, but I will never throw this away. It is a part, although small, of something very significant. Continue reading “Sermon: Finding the Holy Cross”

Sermon: Wednesday in Holy Week

https://500px.com/photo/174948193/silhouette-by-jan-bambach

Image: https://500px.com/photo/174948193/silhouette-by-jan-bambach

As a kid growing up I was a Boy Scout. I don’t think I ever progressed much further than Second Class, but I really wasn’t in it to progress through the ranks. I was in for getting to do all the fun stuff: camping, canoeing down the rivers, jamborees, etc.

I recall one time we went somewhere – I think it was in Arkansas – where we had the opportunity to go on a guided spelunking trek through one of the caves. The guide was very much a comedian and clearly enjoyed his job. At one point he told us as we entered one of the larger caverns, not much bigger than this room, that if you placed your ear to the rock and listened closely you would hear music. Of course we all got quiet, placed our ears to the rock, and listened intently. After a minute with none of us hearing anything, he said, “Really? It’s called ‘hard rock’”. About half way through it came time to turn off all the lights so that we could experience absolute darkness. The darkness was perfect. Continue reading “Sermon: Wednesday in Holy Week”

Sermon: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

John the Baptist does not mince words. Unlike the Apostle Paul, who can sometimes be more than a bit confusing, John says it plain: You brood of vipers. Bear fruit worthy of repentance or burn in the unquenchable fire. We need the Apostle Paul and those like him. We need them to assist us in developing our understanding of God, but we also need those like John who are not afraid to come along and simply smack us on the back of the head when we need it.

We’ve studied the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer several times and I think we have all discovered that he is more of a Paul than a John the Baptist, but there is most certainly a bit of John within him, and it is perhaps nowhere more evident than when he writes of “cheap grace.” This concept of cheap grace is perhaps also one of the topics he is most known for. Continue reading “Sermon: Dietrich Bonhoeffer”

Sermon: John Keble

The Church is like a family and we all have a sense how things operate and our rolls. When something outside of the church family enters in or if something within the church family changes and introduces discord, then like our families at home, the church will work to restore balance and a sense of harmony. Over time, if that balance is not restored, if those negative catalyst continue to impact the church, then you will see a falling apart, because at that stage, the disquiet at church is also affecting person’s personal life; and so, in order to restore the balance in their own life, they will cut out the area causing the disquiet. However, the disquiet is not always bad, because it can bring needed change. And, as I’m certain you are aware, this swing in the balance of the church has occurred almost continuously since its beginning. During the 17th century, within the Church of England, we saw a rather dramatic swing take place with the rise of a more radical protestantism and latitudinarianism. Continue reading “Sermon: John Keble”

Sermon: Joseph

In our study of the Gospels there are always certain characters, outside of Jesus, that grab our attention. There is of course Jesus’ mother, Mary, the disciples, John the Baptist, and even some of the antagonist – Pilate, Herod, the religious leaders. But is seems to me there is always one that fades into the background – Joseph, Jesus’ earthly “step-father.” Perhaps that is where he prefers to be, in the background, but as the head of the Holy Family, he should be looked to as one of the primary figures in the life of our Savior.

What do we know about him?  He was a carpenter, which was honest work and a good trade. He was older than Mary and likely very respected in the community. I don’t think he was wealthy, but given his work he was likely comfortable. It would seem that his life was probably rather uncomplicated, right up until the time that he discovers Mary is pregnant. Because they were not yet married, everyone – including Joseph – assumed that Mary had committed adultery; therefore, Joseph could have accused her and she would have been stoned to death, but instead he decides he will quietly walk away. Yet, the angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” So instead of walking away, Joseph did as the angel had instructed him. Continue reading “Sermon: Joseph”

Sermon: Gregory of Nyssa

Once the Devil was walking along with one of his cohorts. They saw a man ahead of them pick up something shiny. “What did he find?” asked the cohort. “A piece of the truth,” the Devil replied. “Doesn’t it bother you that he found a piece of the truth?” asked the cohort. “No,” said the Devil, “I will see to it that he makes an idol out of it.”

You have heard of the Council of Nicea. It took place in the year 325. It was there that the Nicene Creed was established. To us today, the discussion may sound a bit tedious, but in them, the participants were in fact looking for the truth. Continue reading “Sermon: Gregory of Nyssa”

Sermon: RCL A – Ash Wednesday

George Sweeting, former President of Moody Bible Institute and author tells the following story: “Several years ago our family visited Niagara Falls. It was spring, and ice was rushing down the river. As I viewed the large blocks of ice flowing toward the falls, I could see that there were carcasses of dead fish embedded in the ice. Gulls by the score were riding down the river feeding on the fish. As they came to the brink of the falls, their wings would go out, and they would escape from the falls. “I watched one gull which seemed to delay and wondered when it would leave. It was engrossed in the carcass of a fish, and when it finally came to the brink of the falls, out went its powerful wings. The bird flapped and flapped and even lifted the ice out of the water, and I thought it would escape. But it had delayed too long so that its claws had frozen into the ice. The weight of the ice was too great, and the gull plunged into the abyss.” Continue reading “Sermon: RCL A – Ash Wednesday”

Sermon: Polycarp

Polycarp was a second generation Christian and believed to have been a disciple of the Apostle John, and to have been appointed Bishop of Smyrna by a group of the original Apostles.

In reading about his life, there is often surprise that he lived so long, 86, because so many other Christians were being put to death by the Romans. The question comes up, why did they let him live? To this we can only answer, God had his purposes. It definitely appears to be a case of the upper story versus the lower story that we hear about on Sunday mornings.

In his work as a Bishop he served as an opponent of the heretic Marcion, who rejected the God of the Old Testament as an evil god. Polycarp did not mince words with him when he referred to Marcion as “the first born of Satan.” However, perhaps his greatest lesson that we have comes to us from his martyrdom. It is a lesson of endurance. Continue reading “Sermon: Polycarp”

Sermon: Thomas Bray

Two Irishmen are sitting in a pub having beer and watching the brothel across the street. They saw a Baptist minister walk into the brothel, and one of them says, “Aye, ’tis a shame to see a man of the cloth goin’ bad.”

Then they see a rabbi enter the brothel, and the other Irishman says, “Aye, ’tis a  shame to see that the Jews are fallin’ victim to temptation.”

Then they see a catholic priest enter the brothel, and one of the Irishmen says, “What a terrible pity … one of the girls must be quite ill.” Continue reading “Sermon: Thomas Bray”