WEEKLY MESSAGES


7/12/2020

 Sermon

As many of you know, gardening is a long-term commitment.  It is not as easy as just throwing some flowers in the ground and hoping all turns out alright. For the best results, a good gardener has to make a plan, putting the right plants in the right spots, taking into account the condition of the soil, the amount of sun/shade, and the accessibility to water.  Perennial shrubs and flowers are simply too costly to throw in the ground haphazardly.  

That is what makes the story that Jesus tells this week (Matthew 13:1-9) kind of strange.  Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who goes out to sow seed, taking no account of the kind of soil that the seed falls on.  Some seed fell on hard and packed soil, some fell among rocky soil, some fell in the midst of thorns, and some fell on good and fertile soil.  Surprise!  Only the seed that fell on good soil bore fruit.  Seems like the farmer should have known better than to waste 3/4's of the seed on 'unproductive' soil.  And yet, that is what the farmer does.  Maybe - just maybe - it isn't such a waste after all.  Maybe - just maybe - the seed has the ability to change the soil.  Hmmmm.......

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.com).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page.


7/05/2020

 Sermon

Feeling stressed lately?  No doubt we all have reason to worry and heavy burdens to carry, both now and throughout our lives.  In this week's Bible reading (Matthew 11:25-30), Jesus offers his yoke to share so that our load might be lightened.  And Jesus teaches us, saying "learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart" (Matthew 11:29), to respond gently to ourselves and to others, even in times of extreme stress.

The offering of his yoke is an invitation for each of us to turn towards Jesus and to lay our burdens at the feet of the cross, remembering always that Jesus shares our burdens, walking with us, holding out his hand to take ours and even carrying us in those times that we are unable to walk alone.

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.com).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page.


6/28/2020

 Sermon

Which is harder for you: to give hospitality or to receive hospitality? To be welcoming or to be welcomed?  I would guess that for many of us, it is more comfortable to give hospitality that to receive it. Why? In part it is a control thing. When we invite someone to our house, we meet in our space, eat our food, and we are the ones who guide the conversation.  When we accept someone else's hospitality, we meet in their kitchen, eat their food, and hear their stories.  

In this week's gospel reading (Matthew 10:40-42), Jesus is giving final instructions to his disciples as he sends them out to preach, teach, and heal.  He ends by saying, "Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me . . . whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of [you] in the name of the disciple . . . will [not] lose their reward."  Jesus is reminding them that they will be receiving hospitality and not giving it.  Like Jesus, the disciples will be sitting in someone else's kitchen, eating someone else's food, and hearing someone else's stories.  Why does this matter? 

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.com).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page.


6/21/2020

 Sermon

This week's Bible lesson (Matthew 10:24-39) is a continuation of last week's.  Jesus looks out upon a whole host of harassed and hurting people and, in His compassion, calls together His disciples (apprentices) and empowers them to preach, teach, heal, and cast out demons.  Then Jesus gives what has to be one of the worst pep talks ever.  Jesus tells them, "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues." (Matthew 10:16-17)  Then Jesus goes on to reassure them, "Do not be afraid."

What is it about this message of Jesus that would cause such anger that the 'every-day church folk' in the synagogues would attack the messengers?  I have a strong suspicion that Jesus' message has the tendency to raise the same sort of hackles even today.  

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.com).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page.


6/14/2020

 Sermon

Jesus is really, really busy in Chapters 8 and 9 of the Gospel of Matthew. Just in those two chapter alone we hear stories of eight healings, two exorcisms, one resurrection, and a calming of a storm. It is verse 36 of chapter 9 that tells us why: "When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless."  The word compassion literally means to 'suffer alongside of.'  When Jesus saw these men and women abused, hurting, and discarded, his gut hurt. What does Jesus do? He calls his apprentices (disciples) and empowers them to preach, teach, cure, and cast out demons (Matthew 9:35 - 10:14). 

We, too, are called to be apprentices of Jesus. We, too, are called to see how Jesus speaks, thinks, acts, and feels, and then set out to be like him.  After all, the goal of an apprentice is to be like the master. What does that mean for us in these gut-wrenching days?

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.com).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page.


6/07/2020

 Sermon

Each year, on the Sunday that follows Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate "Holy Trinity Sunday." I must admit that Holy Trinity Sunday is not one of my favorites. How can we explain this great mystery of the God-head: One in Three, Three in One - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? In the end, the meaning of the Trinity is that God's very substance is relationship. God never acts alone. But God's relationship is not just reserved for God; God's inner relationship spills out to include us - ALL OF US!  After all, we are baptized into the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. 

We have seen horrible images these past 10 days of George Floyd, a man whom God created and redeemed, robbed of God's very breath of life. We have seen anger and protest spill into the streets of our communities.  How do we respond as baptized children of God?   

Come and hear Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, as she shares God's prophetic word. Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.com).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page.


5/31/2020

 Sermon

When I think of the Holy Spirit, more often than not the image that comes to mind is a peaceful dove descending upon the head of Jesus at his baptism.  When I think 'Spirit-filled', I think peace, health, and wholeness.  As we celebrate Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit was given to the followers of Jesus (Acts 2:1-21), this coming of the Holy Spirit is anything but peaceful.  The sound of the coming of the Spirit came "like a rush of a violent wind. . . . Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them."  (Acts 2:2-3).  Sounds pretty chaotic to me, not too peaceful, not too 'Spirit-like'.  

Fire and wind have a destructive quality.  We spent January watching Australia burn.  We hide when the tornado sirens blare because tornadoes destroy.  But sometimes fire and wind are necessary to clear the way for something new to come.  They blow away (or burn away) the chaff so that the wheat can be enjoyed.  The fire and wind of the Holy Spirit did something extraordinary that day of Pentecost; they turned the world upside down.  How?

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.com).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page.


5/24/2020

 Sermon

The gospels tell us over and over again, especially during the most trying episodes of Jesus’ life and ministry, that Jesus would withdraw to a quiet place to pray.  Jesus, this sinless man who lived a perfect faith, still needed time with His heavenly parent to clear His head, to recharge His batteries, to discern the next move.  In nearly all of these prayers, we do not know the content of the prayer. We don’t get the chance to overhear the prayer.  

This week is different. Jesus has been meeting with His anxious disciples one last time. He has shown them what love looks like by washing their feet. He has left them with the commandment to love each other as He has loved them. He has reminded them that He will not leave them orphaned, but will send another Comforter - the Holy Spirit. As the meeting is ready to adjourn, Jesus ends in prayer (John 17:1-11) - and we get to hear it.  What is Jesus' prayer both for His disciples and for us?  

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.com).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page.


5/17/2020

 Sermon

Recently I was reading a story about the great blues musician Jimmy Reed.  The Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Grateful Dead, and Elvis Presley all credited Reed as a major influence of their music.  One of the numerous hits he had in the 1950’s was a song called, Shame, Shame, Shame.  There is a story around that if you listened very carefully to his original recording of Shame, Shame, Shame you could hear a woman’s voice faintly whispering in the background.  Supposedly Reed would become so absorbed in the bluesy beat and guitar riffs that he simply could not remember the words of his own songs.  To help with the lyrics, his wife would sit next to Jimmy and coach him through the recording session, whispering the upcoming stanzas into his ear as he sang.  

In this week's Bible story (John 14:15-21), Jesus is meeting with His disciples for one last time.  They are anxious.  They are scared.  They know that as soon as Jesus leaves that upper room, He will be arrested, put on trial, and crucified.  He will be leaving them and, for the moment, they cannot follow.  Then Jesus says this, “I will not leave you as orphans.  I will come to you.”  How?  He continues, "I will ask the Father and He will give you another advocate to help you." (John 14:16)  He will send the Holy Spirit.  In Greek, the word is paraclete.   The word 'paraclete' means someone who comes alongside of you to help you, to comfort you, to advocate for you; someone who comes alongside of you to whisper the words in your ear. 

Eight weeks is a long time to shelter in place.  Like the disciples, we feel like orphans.  But we are not alone.  Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit (the Paraclete), is by our side - comforting, empowering, advocating, loving. 

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.com).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page.


5/10/2020

 Sermon

The Bible text for this week has Jesus meeting with His disciples for the last time before the Crucifixion.  It is Thursday of Holy Week and He has met for one last meal, for one last teaching.  Those disciples were an anxious lot.  They had just been told not only that this was His last night – that crucifixion and death lay just outside the door - but that one among them would betray Him.  Another among them would deny Him.  They had just been told that He would soon leave them to a place where they could not follow.  This was an anxious bunch.  

After seven weeks of 'sheltering-in-place', I think that most of us have at least an inkling of the anxiety the disciples were feeling that night.  For the good of our neighbors, we, too, have been told that there are places we cannot follow.  We have parents, siblings, and friends who have spent long stretches of time in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities and we cannot follow.  We itch to be able to gather in churches and ballparks and graduation ceremonies and mom or grandma's house and we cannot follow.  Yeah, after seven weeks of this we know a little about anxiety and fear.  It is in the context of anxiety and fear that Jesus tells us, "Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You believe in God.  Believe also in me."  (John 14:1)  We need these words as much as Jesus' disciples needed them.  

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.com).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page.


5/03/2020

 Sermon

In the days of Jesus, a sheepfold was a protective pen in which the shepherd could keep his sheep safe.  These flocks of sheep could travel for miles in search of good pasture land and it was not always possible to return home every evening.  Over the years the local shepherds would construct sheepfolds in different strategic locations.  As evening would descend, the shepherds of the area would drive their sheep into these walled-in enclosures and they would take turns guarding their enclosed sheep. 

By morning, the sheep from the various flocks would mingle, leaving a mishmash of sheep from different shepherds.  How could they ever sort out the mess?  Each shepherd had a particular way to call his sheep – a click, a hiss, a Yoo Hoo that his sheep knew and the rest didn’t.  The shepherd had been with his sheep since the day they had been born.  It was his voice that day after day, week after week, month after month they had heard and their obedience brought the reward of grass and water and rest and protection.  Those sheep knew their “Yoo Hoo.”

In the mishmash of voices that we hear screaming at us every single day - how can we identify the voice of the Good Shepherd? 

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.com).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page.


4/26/2020

 Sermon

Luke 24:13-35 is a powerful story.  On the afternoon of the Resurrection of Jesus, two of Jesus' followers are walking back to their home in the small town of Emmaus. They are depressed, disillusioned, and downcast.  Their hope died on that cross with Jesus.  They had hoped that He was it - that He was the Messiah they had been waiting for and now He lies in a tomb - SO THEY THOUGHT.

Yeah, they had heard rumors of an empty tomb.  Some of their cohort had even gone to investigate and all they found were grave clothes.  But that just made them more confused.  As they walked towards home, talking and discussing, they were joined in the road by the very same resurrected Jesus.  Yet they didn't recognize Him.  

How often in our lives do we not recognize Jesus in our midst, especially when we walk depressed, disillusioned, and hopeless (kind of like now)?  How were the eyes of those followers opened to whom was walking with them?

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.come).  We will celebrate communion during the watch party at 10:30 Sunday.  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page.


4/19/2020

 Sermon

How many times have you heard the old adage “Seeing is believing?”  If I did not know better, I would think we are living the adage now.  It is mid-April and I am seeing snow covered trees out my windows.  Every day I look at the news, I see the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths increasing.  The Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016.  Seeing is believing yet sometimes we really can’t believe what we are seeing right before our eyes.

One thing we did not see, yet we believe today, is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The people who followed Jesus 2000 years ago could not believe what happened at that time, but as Jesus revealed himself to them after the resurrection, they began to understand.  Join us this week as we continue the journey of life and resurrection in the midst of a situation that frankly seems hard to fathom.

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.come).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website near the top of the home page


4/12/2020

 Easter Sermon

I'm getting tired of saying it and I'm sure you are getting tired of hearing it, but this is the strangest Lent and Easter season any of us have ever experienced.  In a 'normal' year, the church building would be abuzz right now.  If I were writing this last year at this time, we would have been in the middle of our Community Easter Celebration for Children.  There would have been more than 100 children doing crafts, taking their picture with the Easter bunny, and looking for Easter eggs.  As it is now, it is really, really, really quiet.  Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, we would have had the a sanctuary full of the sounds and smells of Easter - lilies, brass quartets, huge hymns, and the ever present greeting - "He is risen!  He is risen indeed!"  Instead we will be singing these hymns on our couches and greeting just the people sheltering in place next to us.  

Yet, the irony is that what we are going through right now is much, much closer to what the disciples were experiencing on that first Easter morning.  They, too, were sheltering in place for fear of what was waiting for them outside.  Instead of COVID-19, they were afraid of Roman soldiers.  It was in the midst of sheltering in place that the disciples first heard the good news of Easter when Mary Magdalene, breathless from running from Jesus' empty tomb, shouted, "I have seen the Lord!"  

What does the empty tomb mean for us, now? What does Jesus' resurrection hold for our lives nearly 2000 years later during our 21st Century version of sheltering in place? 

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Sunday April 12, at 10:30 a.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account or via our website (shepherdofthehill.come).  Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website under the button "Resources for Digital Worship."  


4/05/2020

 Sermon

As a pastor, I have always had an ambivalent relationship with Palm Sunday. On the one hand, after 34 days of Lent (especially this Lent), I'm ready for some celebration. I'm ready to wave palms and shout out 'Hosanna!' I'm itching to get to spring and Easter and the empty tomb (let alone a movie and baseball game). 

On the other hand, Palm Sunday is deceiving. It is like fool's gold. It looks like it should be the end of the journey but it is not. As Jesus enters the gates of the city, He knows the truth of what will happen in the coming days. The crowds holler, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9) It sounds so triumphant and joyous. But it also sounds hollow and empty. In just a few days, the same people who hollered “Hosanna!” will scream, “Crucify Him!” Jesus has prepared us for this. He has told us again and again that there will be no glory for Him without the pain. There will be no resurrection with out the cross, no Easter without Good Friday.

If you think about it, it sounds familiar to the news we keep hearing.  We want good news.  We want this whole pandemic to be over.  We want to be told that we can go back to our regular lives.  But we know that there is more in front of us.  What can we learn as we enter into this Holy Week?  

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, April 4, at 5:00 p.m. via the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account. Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website under the button "Resources for Digital Worship."  


3/29/2020

 Sermon

In the year 587 B.C., the armies of the Babylonia Empire broke through the walls of Jerusalem and destroyed what was the center of Jewish culture and religious practice, Solomon’s Temple.  As Jerusalem fell, approximately 1/3 of its residents were killed.  Another 1/3 escaped out the back door and settled in such faraway places like Alexandria, Egypt and Carthage, Tunisia. The final 1/3 were marched more than 500 miles to become slaves in Babylon.  The people of God, the Jews, came within an eyelash of extinction.

In these most dramatic of times, God sent a prophet named Ezekiel to comfort and challenge God's people.  God gave Ezekiel a series of really, really weird visions which Ezekiel used to bring hope to the hopeless.  One of those visions was the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14).  What does a valley filled with dry bones have to do with giving hope to a traumatized people like the Jewish exiles in Babylon?  What does a valley filled with dry bones have to do with a traumatized people like the residents of a country ordered to 'shelter in place' for the foreseeable future?  

Come and see.  Come and worship, digitally, beginning Saturday, March 28, 5:00 p.m. via a watch party on the Shepherd of the Hill Facebook account. Worship resources (bulletin, Yellow Pages, instructions) are available on our website under the button "Resources for Digital Worship."  


3/21/2020

 Sermon

3/15/2020

 Sermon


As Jesus is walking through the heat of the mid-day sun, He comes upon a well and decides to catch His breath. Just as Jesus is sitting down, a Samaritan woman comes to draw water from the well.  When Jesus asks her for a drink, He and the Samaritan woman enter into a conversation that will change not only the life of the woman, but her whole village as well.  (John 4:4-42) In less than an hour, this unnamed woman with a very tragic past comes to see this Jesus as the long awaited source of living water and she becomes the first evangelist in all of Samaria.

What happened in that conversation?    
 
Come and see. Come and worship.
Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.


3/08/2020

 Sermon

One evening, as darkness closes in, Jesus hears a knock on the door.  A man named Nicodemus is at the door.  What makes this a really interesting story (John 3:1-17) is what we know about Nicodemus: he is a pharisee; he is part of the temple leadership.  By the time Nicodemus appears in the story, the world is already splitting into pro-Jesus and anti-Jesus camps and the camp from which Nicodemus comes is beginning to line up with the anti-Jesus crowd.  And yet, here comes Nicodemus – at night – not in attack mode, but genuinely curious.  Something just doesn’t quite compute.  Something about Jesus doesn’t fit the traditional molds.  

I must confess that for much of my life, I hadn’t had a very high opinion of Nicodemus.  Come on, Nick, stop skulking around at night.  But, my opinions of Nicodemus have changed.  In a world that all to easily divides itself into pro and anti camps, there is much to learn from this curious Nicodemus and much more to learn about this Jesus who receives him.
 
Come and see. Come and worship.
Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.


3/01/2020

 Sermon

At the baptism of Jesus, we hear a voice of God proclaiming Jesus' deepest identity, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."  (Matthew 3:17)  As soon as these words are spoken, the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to test that newly proclaimed identity.  As Jesus completes a 40-day fast, Satan appears with a series of tests.  In a thinly disguised taunt, Satan says, "You are hungry, Jesus. Who will provide for you?"  "If you are the Son of God, command the stones to become bread." (Matthew 4:3) "If you are the Son of God, jump off the pinnacle of the temple; God's angels will catch you." (Matt. 4:5) "If you but bow to me, all the nations will be yours." (Matt. 4:9)  In what do you trust, Jesus? 

In our baptisms, we were given our deepest identities.  We were named beloved children of God.  As our deepest identities are tested, in whom do we trust?  

Come and see. Come and worship.
Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.


2/26/2020

 Sermon

In the Church’s first centuries, baptisms were done only once a year. The day chosen for baptisms was the Easter Vigil, the worship service between Good Friday and Easter morning. If you think about it, that makes sense. In our baptisms, our old selves die with Jesus (Good Friday) so that our new selves can be raised with Jesus (Easter morning). In order to prepare for their entrance into God’s family, there was a 40-day period of preparation before the baptism, what would later be known as Lent. If you count 40 days beginning with Ash Wednesday, not including Sundays, the 40th day will land on Holy Saturday, the day of the Easter Vigil.

 

Lent is more than just a time of penitence; it is a time of preparation. It is a time to prepare our hearts so that we are able to grasp the life-changing beauty, majesty, and wonder of the Resurrection of Jesus. Grasping something implies that we first must open our hands, hearts, eyes, ears, and lives. This year, the theme for our midweek Lenten services will be: Open Our Lives, Lord. As we prepare for the celebration of the Resurrection, join us as we seek to allow God to open our lives.


2/23/2020

 Sermon

The Bible story for this weekend is from Matthew 17:1-9; it is a story called the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Jesus takes three of his disciples up on a mountain and there Jesus is transfigured in front of them. For a few brief moments, His face shines like the sun and His clothes become dazzling white.  Those three disciples are given a glimpse of Jesus' true glory.  While transfigured, Moses and Elijah join Jesus and a voice from God declares, "This is my Son, the beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" 
The disciples do what we would probably do; they are overcome by awe and fear and hit the ground.  But Jesus comes up to them and touches their shoulders and says, "Get up and do not be afraid."   

This week the members of our delegation to Nicaragua are going to share about their impressions of their eight days in Central America.  What sights, sounds, and experiences brought them awe?  In what ways do they feel that Jesus is touching them on the shoulder and telling them to 'Get up and not be afraid'? 

Come and see. Come and worship.
Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.


2/16/2020

 Sermon

In this week’s Bible story (Matthew 5:21-37), there is a sense of authority and urgency in the message Jesus delivers to the crowds.  Jesus gives a series of lessons about anger, adultery, divorce and oaths; shining an intense light on our human-ness and revealing a new standard for our hearts.  Jesus tells the crowd to reconcile with their brother or sister before going to the altar; and to push away lustful thoughts . . . or they will be cast into the fires of hell.  Jesus says some pretty radical, uncomfortable things.  Jesus challenges hearts and minds, giving a new template for living in reconciliation with one another; with a heart and eye turned towards God and away from things that draw us to sin. 

God created people to be in relationship with God and with one another.  It is good to be reminded of this and to take some time to examine our own hearts and minds for the things that may be holding us back from living in the freedom and joy found in Jesus Christ. 


Come and see. Come and worship.
Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.


2/9/2020

 Sermon

The Bible reading for this weekend, Matthew 5:13-20, is a continuation of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus tells the crowds that are surrounding him, "You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world."  We all know what light does.  Light pokes a hole in the darkness of our lives.  But what about salt?  What does salt do?  Salt seasons; it makes our food taste better.  Salt gives life.  Scientists say that without salt, we couldn’t survive.  Salt preserves food.  In the days before electricity, meat was packed in salt to keep from rotting.  And, of course, as we look out onto our streets and parking lots, salt keeps us from slipping and falling.  

How are we, as disciples of Jesus, salt?  How do we make life taste better for those around us?  How do we keep life fresh in the society around us?  This weekend, we will hear two testimonies from our own congregation of how we can be salt and light in our families, congregations, and communities.

Come and see. Come and worship.
Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.


2/2/2020

 Sermon

Take a moment and think about the ways that you have heard the word ‘blessed.’ When my mother held my children as babies, she would whisper in their ear, “Oh, bless your little heart.”  I know a number of people who answer the question, “How are you?” with the phrase, “I am blessed." Sometimes we use the word 'blessed' to indicate giftedness or talent as in, "She is blessed with a beautiful singing voice."  At the very least, most of us use the word 'blessed' to suggest that God has somehow been favorable with us.

In this week's Bible story (Matthew 4:23 - 5:12), Jesus uses the word 'blessed' in a way that confuses us.  "Blessed are the poor in spirit", "Blessed are those who mourn", "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice." For most of us, the poor in spirit, the mourning, and those who hungry for justice are far from blessed. Yet Jesus makes this work in the way that only Jesus can.  How?  

Come and see. Come and worship and you will be blessed.
Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.


1/26/2020

 Sermon

If I were to ask you what the fundamental essence of Jesus' preaching was, how would you answer?  Love?  Forgiveness?  Salvation?  While Jesus does mention all of these things in His preaching, the topic that is mentioned more than any other is the Kingdom of God.  This week's Bible lesson contains the outline of Jesus' first message to the world: "Repent (change your thinking, wrap your mind around this new thing), for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."  (Matthew 4:17)  Over and over again, Jesus invites His listeners to consider that God's kingdom is not light years away in heaven but here in our midst.  

What difference does it make in your life when you know that you are not alone?  What difference does it make in your life when you know that someone has your back?  What does life look like when we cooperate with God's creative presence in our midst?  

Come and see. Come and worship.
Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.


1/19/2020

 Sermon

In this week's Bible reading (John 1:29-42), John the Baptizer is standing with two of his followers when Jesus walks by. "Look," John says, "here is the Lamb of God." That was enough to pique the interest of the two men. Peeling off of John, they begin to follow Jesus. When Jesus turns and sees them following, He asks a surprising, yet, logical question, "What are you looking for?" 

The followers answer the question with a question, "Rabbi, where are you staying? [Let us see where you hang out.]" Jesus responds, "Come and see." There is a lot that can be told when you see where people hang out. Our homes give clues as to what is important in our lives. It may be as simple as what pictures are hanging on the refrigerator or what CD's we have next to our stereo. Our homes help tell the story of our lives.

Whatever Jesus showed them, they must have been satisfied; for these two men became disciples of Jesus Christ. How can we see where Jesus hangs out? How do we see the pictures hanging on Jesus' refrigerator?  
 
Come and worship. Come and worship.
Saturday at 5:00. Sunday at 9:00 and 10:35.


1/12/2020

 Sermon

In order to save Martin Luther's life from those who wanted him dead, Prince Frederick of Saxony "kidnapped" Luther and hid him away in Wartburg Castle for more than a year. During Luther's absence from the front line of the Reformation fight, Andreas Karlstad, a fellow faculty member of the U. of Wittenberg, took the Reformation in a radically extremist direction. In Luther’s absence, Karlstad encouraged a full out peasant rebellion against their aristocratic overlords. The ensuing wars saw as many as 100,000 deaths, mostly from the ranks of the poorest of poor.  
 
A story is told that Luther could see from the castle window the smoke and dust caused by the battles on the horizon. That sight brought him to deep despair and, at a weak moment, Satan appeared to him. “Look what you have done. It is your work that has caused this death and destruction. You and your reformation are wrong and you will be damned for it.”  As the story goes, Luther grabs the bottle of ink that he is using and throws it at Satan and screams out, “Leave me, Satan! You cannot touch me for I am baptized.” For Luther, baptism wasn't just an act in his past, but an identity in the present.
 
This weekend we read the story of Jesus' baptism by John in the Jordan River. This text reminds us that baptism means more than just the forgiveness of sins; in baptism our identity as God's children is announced and celebrated. Baptism is not just a "churchy" event in our past; baptism is our present condition before God. Rather than saying, "I was baptized," it is better to say, "I am baptized."  
 
Come and worship. Come and worship. Worship Christ the ne


1/5/2020

 Sermon

At the beginning of nearly every musical there is an introductory instrumental piece called the overture.  The overture serves an important purpose: the overture gives a preview of the songs that we will hear in the musical that is coming.  The Bible reading for this weekend, John 1:1-18, is a type of overture for the Gospel of John.  In it, we get a glimpse of themes that will come up over and over again in the next 20 chapters; themes like Jesus as life, Jesus as light, Jesus as new birth, and Jesus as God's presence in our midst.

What does it mean that God's Son became life, light, and flesh and 'pitched His tent' in the midst of our messy lives?  Come and see. Come and worship.

Saturday at 5:00pm. Sunday at 9:00am and 10:35am.