Doing the Hard Work – a sermon on 2 Corinthians 2:1-10

2 Corinthians 2:1-10

Relationships are messy. Family relationships, friendships, relationships between governments and citizens, even relationships within the body of Christ, the church. Or maybe especially in the church.  Relationships are messy.  All sorts of different feelings 834686599_957b43e9bband emotions drive the way we behave in our relationships.  Love is certainly one of them.  But so are worry and fear and sadness.  Desire and joy and delight.  Companionship and concern and compassion.  Jealousy.  Oh, jealousy is a tough one.  Most of our relationships are held together by an intricate web of any number of feelings, and since feelings themselves can get quite messy, relationships are almost always the same. Continue reading

Strength in Numbers – a sermon on 2 Cor. 1:1-11

As a colleague of mine and I were writing commentary on this whole sermon series together, she pointed out, “Books of the Bible rarely get much attention, but things were different when Second Corinthians was quoted by Donald Trump, back in January 2016. It made the news because Trump mistakenly called it “Two Corinthians.” He used it in a 24596845540_0cdec67612speech at Liberty University, quoting verse 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (Rev. Lia Scholl at RevGalBlogPals) 

While there are a few very well-known passages within this letter (the treasure we hold in clay jars, if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed we have a house not made with hands, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation), as a whole it is not one with which many of us are familiar as a whole.  I had to do some research myself to get ready. Continue reading

The Faith in Fear – a sermon on Mark 16:1-8 for Easter

Mark 16:1-8

The way a story ends can make or break the impression we carry of it.  Think of some of the all-time great TV shows and how they ended.  Do you have any favorites?

M. A. S. H.? Cheers?3634467193_81e130807b

I very clearly remember the end of Family Ties as a good ending to one of my generation’s favorite childhood TV shows.

One of the things we tend to like about a good series finale is when it leaves us feeling like there aren’t too many loose ends.  There can be some wondering about what comes next, but all in all we like to know that even if our favorite characters don’t come out alright in the end, their lives and the story had a purpose.

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This is it – a Good Friday sermon from Mark 15:33-47

Mark 15:33-47

When I was at the grocery store earlier today I overheard one customer say to another, HappyGoodFriday“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

IMG_3930On 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

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