Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Sermon 02-20-2022: “How to Love Like Jesus”

February 24, 2022

Scripture: Luke 6:27-38

So Lisa and I were having an argument a while back—it wasn’t an important argument, and I was at fault. But we were having this argument, and—friends, let me tell you—my perfect, 52-year-long streak of never winning an argument remains unbroken. Why do I keep trying? It’s worse than Charlie Brown’s stubborn hope that this time Lucy is going to let him actually kick the football. “This time I’m going to win an argument!” But I never do. But during the argument, I promise that these words came out of my mouth: “Yes, sure… what I did was wrong, but I guarantee you that 99.9 percent of other husbands would have done—or failed to do—the exact same thing in this situation.” 

But do you see what I was doing? It’s as if I were saying, “Honey, your standards for my behavior are way too high! You expect way too much from me! You see, it is not in my nature to behave differently from the way I behavedthis is just the kind of person I am… I can’t change!” 

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Sermon 02-13-2022: “Jesus and the Pursuit of Happiness”

February 24, 2022

Scripture: Luke 6:17-26

By now, many of you have heard about and are playing the online game Wordle. The game has exploded in popularity. All five members of my family play it every day… and we eagerly post our results in the family group chat. 

In a nutshell, you have six chances to guess a five-letter word that has been randomly selected by the Wordle app. With each guess, the game gives you feedback about which letters, if any, are in the in the word… and which letters aren’t. As one article on the Wordle phenomenon puts it, if you solve it, it makes you feel clever, but not too clever. And it doesn’t take much time. There’s only one Wordle a day, so it’s impossible to go down a Wordle rabbit hole.

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Sermon 02-06-2022: “When We’re in the Middle of a Miracle”

February 14, 2022

Scripture: Luke 5:1-11

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time a dear brother in Christ named Trace Embry. Some of you know Trace. He created and runs a wilderness therapy school for troubled teenagers called Shepherd’s Hill Academy. It’s off Highway 17 in Martin. Young people from around the world get placed in this program. Among other things, these kids get a first-rate education… but they receive that education without having access to any “screens,” or smartphones, or devices of any kind. No social media. They are segregated by gender. They live in cabins in the woods, with no electricity, no indoor plumbing—and only a wood stove to keep them warm… And by the way, they have to chop, split, and dry their own firewood themselves. Counselors, of course, live with them and work alongside them the whole time. On the weekend, these students are responsible for cooking their own meals over an open fire. 

And many of them receive the gospel of Jesus Christ while they’re at it.

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Sermon 01-30-2022: “Read the Sign”

February 4, 2022

Scripture: John 2:1-11

Recently, my family and I were watching an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond—the greatest show ever about marriage. And in this episode, Robert, Ray’s older brother, will soon be getting married to Amy. Robert, like a good fiancé, is trying to help Amy with the wedding plans—and Robert has been assigned the task of picking out the wedding invitations. So he asks his brother Ray and his father for advice on styles and colors of invitations—again, he’s just trying to be a good fiancé. At least until Ray convinces him that Amy doesn’t really want Robert’s help… Yes, she says she wants Robert’s help, but not really! Ray tells her that Amy’s been planning the perfect wedding since she was twelve years old—“And trust me,” Ray says. “She really wants to take care of these plans herself.” 

“Here’s what you’ve got to do,” Ray says. “Do a really bad job designing the wedding invitations. And once you show her a draft copy of it, and Amy sees how incompetent you are, she’ll take over and do it herself… which, again, she really wants to do anyway.”

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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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