The rich man in Jesus’s story is in quite a predicament, isn’t he? Things are not going as he expected them to at all. Having arrived in Hades, not so much the heaven and hell of traditional Western Christianity, but a general place of all the dead, he is not getting the treatment he expected. Understanding riches to be a sign of God’s favor he seems surprised to be tormented by flames while Lazarus, the man who was clearly cursed with poverty and illness, is being comforted in the bosom of Abraham. The rich man doesn’t miss a beat, though. He knows just want to do. He will order someone to fix his agony for him.Continue reading
God in a pandemic – A sermon for Good Friday 2020
There’s a picture circulating around social media. Whether it’s a real picture of a church sign by the roadside or one that’s been edited, I don’t know, but it sure reads true. It says, “This is the lentiest Lent that ever lented.” Continue reading
This is it – a Good Friday sermon from Mark 15:33-47
When I was at the grocery store earlier today I overheard one customer say to another, “Have a happy Good Friday,” and it, well, brought about mixed emotions in me, to say the least. On the one hand, in a time when our culture is growing more and more secular I wanted to jump up and down excitedly and shout, “Yes! It is Good Friday! Someone knows it!” On the other hand – – happy Good Friday? Really? I’m not so sure that’s the exact emotion we’re going for here. But I think I’ll stick with my first impulse – – gratitude for the recognition that this isn’t just another day, that something happened, something important and horrific and life-changing, earth shaking, and kingdom altering even. Something happened on that Friday in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, and it wasn’t good, and it most certainly wasn’t happy, but it was something that changed the world forever, changed the world for the better. Continue reading
The Passion in Story, Symbol, and Song – worship on Palm and Passion Sunday
On Sunday the proclamation of the word took place through the words of Scripture themselves. It’s not often that many of us hear this whole story – – from the anointing of Jesus through the last supper with his disciples to his death and burial. It’s not often that we hear how the crowds shouted “Hosanna!” on Sunday, wondered what’s coming next on Thursday, and then denied Jesus and scattered in the days that followed. It’s not often that we hear the fear of Jesus’ enemies turn into anger and, ultimately, violence.
And so as the words of Scripture proclaim the love of God in the suffering of Jesus, as the story is opened for us in word and symbol and song – – May we listen for our place in it. May we find ourselves in the passionate anointer, the nervous disciples, the tragic deserter, the mocking soldier, or the compassionate provider of the tomb. May we find ourselves and use these first witnesses to guide our devotion and reflection not just this morning, but this whole week, and even next Sunday when we hear the good news of the resurrection, good news for all people. Continue reading
The End is Near – a sermon on Mark 13:1-8, 24-37
The end is near! I imagine most of us, either in person or on TV or in the print media, have seen someone like the person who probably drives this van. He or she is usually around at events or occasions that draw a big crowd. They don’t even have to be religious events, although I’ve seen people like this warning us “apostate” Presbyterians at our General Assemblies in the past. But I’ve also seen and imagine you have, too, these poster waving, self-identified prophets declaring “The end is near!” at football games and festivals. It may even be just what they call “Tuesday” in popular tourist spots like Times Square or the Washington DC Mall of monuments in the busy summer season. These prophets (I use the term loosely, very loosely) may turn up anywhere there are a lot of people around because they are trying to announce what they think is a very urgent message – “The end is near!!!” Judgement is coming! You better get your stuff in order, because this is your last chance. Continue reading
A Different Campaign – A sermon on Mark 11:1-11
Yep. I did just read the story of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Nope. I didn’t mix up the calendar. Yes I did just read the story about Palm Sunday. No, next week is not Easter.
Bear with me here for a little.
In our worship for a few years we have followed the Narrative Lectionary, a schedule of readings that brings us through the Bible chronologically even if that doesn’t always line up with the traditional celebrations of the church year. Continue reading
Giving Up Greatness – an Ash Wednesday sermon on Mark 9:30-37
It’s time for a little bit of pastor confession. Will you hear it for me? Here it goes – I go back and forth on this whole idea of “giving something up for Lent.” I wasn’t raised with it in my family or early church up-bringing. Many of us Presbyterians are pretty new to the whole idea. I learned about it in college, mostly from my Catholic friends who, from the outside, seemed to be going on some kind of holy diet — no chocolate, no potato chips, no pepperoni on the Friday night pizza.