Sermon: All the Small Things

We might be called at times to do difficult things, like those who took part in the civil rights marches in the 1960s, all the while facing angry mobs of people. But most of the time, it involves doing a small thing. This is why Jesus talked about how great an act was of giving someone a cup of water. Continue reading Sermon: All the Small Things

Sermon: Let Jesus Be Jesus

Matthew 16:13-20
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 24, 2014
First Christian Church
Mahtomedi, MN

 

youngjusticeI’ve always had an interest in superheroes.  Which is kind of odd, because I tend not to buy comic books or as they are now called, graphic novels.  I know friends that have boxes of comics from years past, but that’s not me.  No, the way that I found out about superheroes was through TV, specifically, the SuperFriends- a light-hearted take on the Justice League which ran on ABC at various times in the 1970s starting in 1973.  Then it was watching the live-action series “Wonder Woman” and the “Incredible Hulk.”

 

In the years following college, I would catch an animated version of the X-Men and during the seminary I was loved watching Batman Beyond,  a futuristic take on on the Dark Knight.  And yes, I still watch superheroes in the movies and on television.  I watch shows like “Arrow” which is a take on the comic book hero, the Green Arrow; Young Justice which focuses on the sidekicks of famous heroes, and well, there are more, but I think that’s enough for you all to know for now.

 

I think that I am fascinated by superheroes because the stories can sometimes take on things that are taking place in the wider culture.  I like the X-Men because the story makes these superheroes are not treated like superheroes by the wider culture.  In fact, they are seen as threats hence why they are referred to as mutants.  Since I was coming out during that time period, I could see X-men as an allegory to how LGBT persons are accepted in society- or not. Comics can also allude to the changing demographics of a society.  Earlier this month, Marvel Comics announced that the next Captain America was going to be African American.  The character is currently one of the current Captain America’s superhero associates, Falcon. Falcon was considered one of Marvel’s first black heroes when he was introduced in the late 1960s and assume the identity of superhero that embodies the American ideal represents the changes take place in the United States.

 

Superheroes tend to have aliases.  Sometimes they want to keep their other identity a secret. Batman was actually billionaire Bruce Wayne. When Superman wasn’t saving the world, he was Clark Kent, a journalist.  Very few people around them actually know of their secret identities.  I think comic books and television use a ton of suspended disbelief in thinking that a mask around people eyes will prevent them from knowing who they are, but for some reason people buy it.

 

Because these heroes didn’t tell people who they were, people became curious.  Who are these people?  Is it someone they know?  What was it that people said after meeting the Lone Ranger: who was that masked man? Regular folk just want to meet their hero and find out about them.  There are some that see them as a threat to society and they want to expose them before they cause more trouble.

 

Superheroes can remind people of how we relate to God: a mysterious powerful creature that seems to want the best for us.  Some just want to meet God and learn more about God, while others see God as a threat to their way of living. Continue reading “Sermon: Let Jesus Be Jesus”

Sermon: Things Fall Apart

Genesis 45:1-15 and Matthew 15:10-28
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 17, 2014
First Christian Church
Mahtomedi, MN

 

thingsfallapartrootsHow is your heart today?

 

You could answer that in two ways.  The first way is probably literal.  How are you doing healthwise?  Are you eating right?  Are you getting enough sleep?

 

As a society, we are obsessed with health, even when we don’t act like we care.  We are told we are to heavy need to go to the gym.  We are told we eat poorly and try the latest fad to get to health.  We’ve quit smoking.  We are doing everything we can to keep our hearts healthy. I try to go to the gym twice a week, and try to walk as much as a I can daily.  I’ve also gained all the weight I lost a year ago, but I still do what I can to keep my heart healthy.

 

But heart can also talk about our whole being, not just the muscle in the center of our chest.  And looking at the news from the past week, humanity’s heart is not doing so well.  Events like the shooting of Michael Brown, an African American man from Ferguson, a Saint Louis suburb by the local police have shocked us.  Islamic extremist have taken one of the world’s great faiths and turned into a murderous ideology that kills anyone from a different faith or who don’t follow Islam in the same way they do.  And then there was the tragic death of actor Robin Williams.  A funny man that we learned took his own life after battling depression for years.

 

In Matthew’s gospel we see Jesus first talking the crowd.  He calls out the Pharisees for their concern of rules like ritual handwashing, but very little concern about what really defiles a person.  There was no concern for the inner life of a person. Continue reading “Sermon: Things Fall Apart”

Sermon: Swimming in the Deep End

I Kings 19:1-18 and Matthew 14:22-33
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 10, 2014
First Christian Church
Mahtomedi, MN

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YMCA
A postcard of the YMCA in Flint, MI. I took swimming lessons here in the 1970s.

I’ve shared some stories in the past of my taking swimming lessons when I was growing up.  I would take lessons sometimes at the local YMCA and at the YWCA which was just down the street.  Most of the time we took lessons, we practiced in the shallow end.  Being seven or eight meant that the shallow end was already a challenge.  But at least I could touch the bottom of the pool.

What scared me was trying to swim in the deep end.  I can remember treading water out towards the middle of the pool feeling the pool’s floor slipping away from me.  At some point, I couldn’t touch anything other than the water that was surrounding me.  It felt like I was like an acrobat; working without a net.

Then there would come that day when we would work at the deep end, learning how to dive into a pool.  I would make my dive, scared that I wouldn’t be able to get to poolside fast.

But I was able to do my dives on the deep end. Albeit with me probably bawling up a storm.

As much as I hated swimming in the deep end, I had to learn this skill.  I had to learn this because the reality is that we will spend a good majority of our time in waters that can be very deep.  We have to stop clinging to the pool floor and step out in faith.  You have to believe that the skills you have learned will keep you afloat will be enough. Continue reading “Sermon: Swimming in the Deep End”

Sermon: “Better Living Through Grace”

Another sermon for this coming Sunday preached in 2005. Matthew 13:1-9,18-23, Romans 8:1-11, Isaiah 55:1-5,10-13 July 10, 2005 Community of Grace Christian Church St. Paul, MN     When I was growing up in Michigan, I would always see these commercials on TV that made no sense to me. As most of you know, my hometown in Flint, Michigan, a small city known for its many auto plants. Flint is smack dab in the middle of two important parts of the state. To our south is the Detroit Metro Area, and we get a lot of the Detroit stations as … Continue reading Sermon: “Better Living Through Grace”

Sermon: “To Be Continued…”

A Year A Palm Sunday sermon from 2011. “To Be Continued…” Philippians 2:5-11 and Matthew 27:11-54 April 17, 2011 (Palm Sunday) First Christian Church Minneapolis, MN About a 10 years ago, I was driving down I-35W from Edina to Minneapolis. All of the sudden, the traffic just stopped. Now usually if there is a traffic jam, the traffic slows down, but it rarely just stops. I looked at the other lane and it was devoid of any traffic…at all. It was a little odd to see a freeway not have any cars on it at all, especially at the middle … Continue reading Sermon: “To Be Continued…”

Sermon: “Leave Your Light On for Me”

“Leave Your Light On For Me” Matthew 5:13-20 Fifth Sunday of Epiphany February 9, 2014 First Christian Church Mahtomedi, MN This past December, a party was thrown in my honor. A few weeks earlier, I left my job as Communications Specialist for the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area. My job had been eliminated due to budget cuts. It was hard to leave that job, but at least I knew there was another job waiting for me at a big Methodist church down the street. About a few weeks before I left, I got an email from a retired Presbyterian … Continue reading Sermon: “Leave Your Light On for Me”

Rerun Sermon: “Three Beeps Means ‘I Love You'”

For those who look at my blog to get ideas for preaching (all two of you), I have a link to a sermon I preached for the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany in 2005.  It even sounds timely because it focuses on same sex marriage. Click on the link below to learn more. Sermon: “Three Beeps Means I Love You”. Continue reading Rerun Sermon: “Three Beeps Means ‘I Love You’”

Sermon: “The Gospel of Bilbo Baggins”

“The Gospel of Bilbo Baggins” Matthew 4:12-23 Third Sunday of Epiphany First Christian Church Mahtomedi, MN They didn’t turn out the way that I wanted. I’ve said that in one form or another over the years when it comes to baking. Now, I love baking breads or cakes or cookies, and most of the time things turn out fine. But every so often I end up with some kind of baked goods that are terrible. A few weeks ago, I decided to make some chocolate chip cookies. I followed the instructions as usual, but with a few changes. One change … Continue reading Sermon: “The Gospel of Bilbo Baggins”