Sermon 01-09-22: “You Are Precious in My Eyes”

January 13, 2022

Scripture: Isaiah 43:1-7

When I was a kid in the ’70s and early ’80s, the television airwaves were filled with commercials and commercial jingles encouraging us to enlist in the armed services: Remember? “Be all that you can be…” Or [sing] “We don’t ask for experience, we give it/ You don’t read it in a book, you live it.” “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.” Anyway, in one of these commercials, an army recruit is singing about basic training, and he says, “Muscles are a-hurtin’/ That I never knew I had.” But that was good that his muscles were hurting, because the idea was, “No pain, no gain.”

I share this with you because, let me tell you, “muscles are a-hurtin’ that I never knew I had.” Why? Because I did the most cliché thing in the world during the first week of January: I made a New Year’s Resolution to get in better shape and lose some weight. Because I stepped on the scale on January 1, and I did not like the number that came up. In spite of my strong suspicions that the scale must be malfunctioning, the truth is I want to change…

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Sermon 01-02-2022: “Pressing on Toward the Goal”

January 6, 2022

Scripture: Philippians 3:1-14

The seasons of Advent and Christmas are a difficult time for us pastors… Not because we’re busier than usual, although we are… but because it seems like every time we turn around some beloved parishioner is shoving casseroles, and cookies, and cakes in front of us… and bringing homemade candy and pastries by the office or parsonage—not that I’m complaining! 

Of course this doesn’t bother someone young like Josh Villars, who has the metabolism of a hyperactive squirrel, but suffice it to say, I no longer have that kind of metabolism! 

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Sermon 12-24-2021: “Peace Among Those with Whom God Is Pleased”

January 6, 2022

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20

As the title of tonight’s sermon indicates, it’s about peace… the peace that the angel describes in verse 14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom [God] is pleased!” This sermon is about three ways in which we can experience peace at Christmastime.

And I want to begin by talking about one of my favorite movies from when I was a kid: Back to the Future. For some reason I was feeling nostalgic last week. I saw that Back to the Future was available on one of our streaming services. So I decided to watch it for the first time in 20 years or so. And my boys also wandered in and watched it with me. I’m happy to report that they liked it about as much as I did when I was their age.

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Sermon 12-19-2021: “For He Who Is Mighty Has Done Great Things for Me”

December 22, 2021

Scripture: Luke 1:35-56

Many years ago, I was talking to a woman who had been visiting the church I pastored at the time. She really, really liked our church, and wanted to join it… Except…

As a lifelong Roman Catholic, she asked, “Why don’t y’all love Mary more?”

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Sermon 12-12-2021: “Your Prayer Has Been Heard”

December 16, 2021

Scripture: Luke 1: 5-25

I’m always intrigued by the way angels are depicted in Hollywood. Think, for example, of Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life. Think of Michael Landon in Highway to Heaven. Think of Roma Downey and Della Reese from Touched by an Angel. All these depictions of angels have one thing in common: the angels are completely nice, friendly… non-threatening. They would never do anything for which they would need to say, “Fear not”—because no one who encountered them would ever be afraid of them!

Needless to say, Gabriel, the angel who shows up to talk to Zechariah in the sanctuary of the Temple—he’s not a Michael Landon/Roma Downey kind of angel. He’s a “fear not” kind of angel! 

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Sermon 12-05-2021: “The Gospel According to John the Baptist”

December 15, 2021

Scripture: Luke 3:1-18

Be honest: As you look forward to celebrating Christmas in a few weeks with family or extended family or friends, is there anyone that you really don’t want to see… or someone that you’re not looking forward to seeing… or someone that you’re dreading spending time with or having to make small talk with? You know… like the cousin whose table manners are only slightly more polite than Ralphie’s little brother in the movie A Christmas Story… like that uncle who insists on volunteering his opinion about your favorite politician at the dinner table… like the in-law who passive-aggressively criticizes your cooking, or child-rearing, or homemaking skills…?

But you know what I mean… right? There’s often someone that we wish would just stay away from our Christmas celebration!

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Sermon 11-28-2021: “Your Redemption is Drawing Near”

December 15, 2021

Scripture: Luke 21:25-36

Welcome to the first Sunday of Advent. The ancient church decreed at the Council of Nicaea in the year 325 that the first Sunday of Advent would always be the Sunday following Black Friday… Just kidding. But this Sunday does follow Black Friday, of course… So I have an unenviable task in front of me: While the rest of our culture rushes headlong into the monthlong Christmas shopping season, people like me are supposed to say, “Hold on! Not so fast! It’s not Christmas yet! It’s Advent… it’s a season of preparation for celebrating the coming of God’s Son into the world at Christmas… But we’re not there yet!” 

To make my task even more challenging, traditionally, on this First Sunday of Advent, we don’t even get to look at Elizabeth and Zechariah, much less Mary and Joseph, or the Wise Men, or King Herod, or the shepherds abiding in the field, or Simeon and Anna—those people are coming, of course. But on this first Sunday of Advent, preachers like me prepare you for celebrating the first coming of Christ by focusing on the Second Coming.

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Sermon 11-21-21: “Your Faith Has Made You Well”

December 2, 2021

Scripture: Mark 10:46-52

Like some of you, I’m a longtime fan of actor and comedian Bill Murray. I was a young child when he was on Saturday Night Live back in the ’70s. And Saturday Night Live, of course,was way too grown-up for me at the time—plus my bedtime was long before the show started. But that did not stop me from trying to watch it whenever I could—I would sometimes sneak out of my bedroom and tiptoe down the hall, and secretly watch it from the hallway, if my older sister or babysitter was watching it in the den when my parents were out. So I have fond memories of Bill Murray from way back then.

But I’ve actually grown to love him more in recent years—now that he’s older, funnier, and more… eccentric?

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Sermon 11-14-21: “Whoever Would Be Great Among You”

November 22, 2021

Scripture: Mark 10:32-45

I’ve been to Israel on two “Holy Land” tours over the years. One item on the itinerary each time, which isn’t, strictly speaking, related to the Bible, was a tour of the ruins of Masada. Masada was a mountain fortress on the southern coast of the Dead Sea, which Herod the Great built about 30 years before Jesus was born. After Rome invaded Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple in the year 70, Jewish rebels fled to Masada… where they fought the Romans off—bravely, valiantly—from atop that mountain perch, for many months. 

But they couldn’t hold them off forever. And the Romans slowly but surely advanced up the mountain. Until literally, the night before the Romans reached them, nearly all one-thousand men, women, children committed suicide… Almost like Jonestown, if you remember that from the ’70s!

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Sermon 10-31-2021: “That the Son May Be Glorified”

November 17, 2021

Scripture: John 11:1-6, 17-44

Today’s scripture includes the shortest verse in all of the Bible. Verse 35: “Jesus wept.” I first learned that this was the shortest verse many years ago, when I was eleven or twelve. I learned this because my friends down the street, Wes and Tim Drake, invited me to attend their church’s Vacation Bible School. I did not know Jesus as my Savior and Lord at the time, and as I now see, inviting me to their VBS was their well-intentioned effort to get me saved! So they really wanted me to go to VBS. And they were describing how much fun I would have… how much I would like it… if only I would go.

It was going to be fun, but they did warn me that there was just a tiny bit of Bible stuff… just a short Bible story, it won’t take long… And then they also warned me that their church makes kids memorize a Bible verse every day, but even that isn’t so bad. Tim said, “You can just memorize John 11:35, ‘Jesus wept.’ Just two words. And they’ll give you credit. That’s nothing!”

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