The End is Near – a sermon on Mark 13:1-8, 24-37

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 3288589043_8d2bf6a99aseen 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

Now What? – a sermon for the second Sunday of Easter on Matthew 28:16-20

As worship began at First Presbyterian Church of Hudson, WI two ruling elders who serve on the session, Sheldon and Attie Kay, reported to the congregation a decision that had been made a special meeting of the session the previous morning, April 11, 2015.  The action taken at that meeting approved the following statement.3160120344_6037d571c0

“Marriage is a gift God has given to all humankind for the well-being of the entire human family.  Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives[1]. At First Presbyterian Church of Hudson, WI requests for Session consideration of marriage will not be denied based upon sexual orientation.

[1] Language from PC(USA) General Assembly Amendment 14-F (approved by a majority of PC(USA) presbyteries for inclusion in the Book of Order as of March 17, 2015)

Matthew 28:16-20

I want to begin this morning by thanking Sheldon and Attie Kay for their careful sharing of the news that came out of the special session meeting yesterday. I imagine that decision, whether it is one you personally celebrate or question or maybe even mourn, has not moved far from the front of your mind as we have worshiped together this morning.  It hasn’t moved from mine nor, I imagine, the minds of the session members here this morning even though we have been sitting with the decision almost twenty-four hours longer than the rest of the congregation.

And I don’t think it necessarily should because it is a decision that carries great weight for many in our church and community.  It is a decision that came after months of intense session discussion and really two years of congregational study in a variety of different formats and venues.  It has been an emotional discussion for many, and yesterday it was an emotional decision, in some way or another, for every person
sitting around that meeting table.

As the meeting drew to a close, following almost three hours of discussion and prayer, sharing and wondering aloud, discernment, but very little, in fact absolutely none of what I would categorize as antagonistic debate, I knew my original thoughts on Jesus’ Great Commission would have to be set aside.  I knew what the Spirit was calling me to talk about instead was the decision we had just made.  The question that remained, however, was “*What* was the Spirit calling me to say?”  I guess in that sense the sermon title I had picked for entirely different reasons five or six days ago still fit.  Now what? Continue reading

Speaking of Turmoil – a sermon on Matthew 21:1-17

4702067918_33f067ebe1_bMathew 21:1-17

His reputation certainly preceded him.  Adoring crowds accompanied Jesus and gathered ahead of him, while the anxious city awaited his arrival.  His supporters had been building around him for some time.  His ministry started of more like a small group than a megachurch, but after the word started to spread about the healings he provided, the miracles he performed, the blessings he procured, he wasn’t traveling alone much anymore. Coming down from the mountain of the transfiguration, a crowd was waiting for Jesus, out of which he cured a boy with demon.  Traveling to Judea beyond the Jordan where he was tested by the Pharisees on the intricacies of religious law, crowds gathered to hear and see Jesus, even to be healed by him.  Leaving Jericho and turning toward Jerusalem, having just predicted his punishment, death, and rising to new life, a crowd is determined to follow Jesus, even into the unknown.

It’s no wonder the city was stirred up in turmoil when this crowd of Jesus’ supporters was heading straight for Jerusalem.  They came marching toward the gates, waving branches, offering even the cloaks off their backs to honor this him, talked of prophecies being fulfilled and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”  The city was expecting devout pilgrims for the Passover observance.  But now they had either a parade or a protest.  It may have been hard to tell the difference. The teachings of this Jesus were not the normal teachings. He di something with them.  He didn’t counter them, but someone reapplied them.  He took the law of Moses, kept the core, and expanded on it for a new day.  It was challenging to some, to say the least.

Continue reading

Ready or Not – a sermon on Matthew 25:1-13

Matthew 25:1-13

Hide and Seek was a favorite pastime in the neighborhood growing up.  When we first moved to Shore View Circle in Indialantic, Florida there were easily ten children between the ages of about seven and twelve in small cluster of homes whose side and back yards all met up together forming the greatest field of play in existence.  Large shrubs, a few fat squatty palms, tool sheds, some fenced yards, and back patios all provided stellar hiding spots.  In fact, sometimes the problem wasn’t finding a place to hide, but simply choosing which spot would be the right one this time.

3662330204_54e1404d62_qAt the start of each round we would gather pretty much at the center, the spot where the corners of three or four properties all met.  The counter would start counting – 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… – and the hiders would start hiding.  There was always a mad dash for some of the favorite spots and no end to strategizing.  Did you want a great spot far away from base or something that might be a little more exposed, but with a shorter run?  If you were indecisive, as I was, you might still be looking when the counter announced, “48… 49… 50!  Ready or not, here I come!”

“Ready or not!”  Those are the words that could strike terror in the hearts of the unprepared, those with no place to hide, no cover chosenfor this round of the game.  Continue reading