Sermons
John 1:35-51 Look!  It’s Jesus! January 14, 2018          Maple Grove UMC             Every time I hear that gospel reading, I think:  so many sermons, so little time.  For example, there’s a whole sermon in Jesus’ question: “What are you looking for?”  Two of John the Baptist’s disciples start following Jesus, and he asks them, “What are you looking for?”  I wonder how often we don’t find what we’re looking for, because we don’t know what we’re really looking for.  We buy cars and remodel our houses and go on trips.  Nothing wrong with any of those, but are they what really want?  Jesus’ first question in the gospel is, “What are you looking for?”  What a great sermon that could be, but it will have to wait for another day.            I’ve preached before on that wonderful phrase:  Come and see.  Those two who start to follow Jesus ask…
Mark 1:4-11 Begin as Beloved! January 7, 2018  Baptism of the Lord Sunday  Maple Grove UMC             Do you need a fresh start?  Benjamin did.  He went to his rabbi and said, "Rabbi, my life is in ruins. My wife left me and took all my money, so my business is in ruins and there’s no way I can pay off my debts. Help me!"  The rabbi replies, "Here’s what to do: open up your Bible, point to any page and do whatever it says."  Six months later, Benjamin visits again. "Rabbi," he says, "since I talked to you, I'm a new man. I've remarried, got rid of all my debts and become successful in a new business. Your advice changed my life. "So what did it say when you pointed to the Bible?" the rabbi asks. "Chapter 11!"           Do you need a fresh start?  I’ve got a…
Luke 2:1-7 Love. Born HERE. Christmas Eve 2017     Maple Grove UMC   "Love. Born Here."  That's been our theme this Advent and Christmas season.  We asked, “What is it that’s born at Christmas?”  Well, LOVE is born at Christmas: for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.  We pondered what it means that Love is BORN Here.  Jesus was BORN as one of us in Bethlehem.  And Jesus said to us, "You must be born again"--the Holy Spirit gives each person a new life, a life of love.  And now we come to the final thrust of this theme:  "Love. Born Where?  Love.  Born HERE." HERE (in our midst) and HERE (in our hearts).  But I suspect Mary had other thoughts that first Christmas Eve as she went into labor in a barn far from home:  Oh no, is love going to be born HERE?  And…
John 3:1-8, 16-21 Love. BORN Here. December 17, 2017             Our God comes up with some pretty extreme solutions.  When the world needed to be saved from sin and a lack of love, God did not just tell us that we are loved.  God did not just teach us about love.  God sent the Son to be BORN for us as love, taking on all our human frailty and suffering.  The desperation of the world’s need and the depth of God’s love demanded an extreme solution: Love.  BORN Here.           And when Nicodemus, or when any of us, needs to get right with God, to be able to live a life of faith and love, God doesn’t give us a self-help book.  God doesn’t just show us a path of spiritual growth.  Through Christ and the Holy Spirit, God makes it possible for us to be BORN anew, to…
John 3:1-8, 16-21 LOVE. Born Here. December 10, 2017             What was born at Christmas?  Well, Christ, of course—the Messiah, Immanuel, the Son of God.  But most simply, LOVE was born at Christmas.  And each Christmas we long again for LOVE to be born in our world and here in our church and here in our hearts.            Love was born at Christmas.  Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in John 3:16: “For God so loved that world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.”  The Son is the gift of the Father’s love.  Love is and love must be at the heart of the gospel and the heart of our lives.           This is true throughout the New Testament.  The great command-ment is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind,…
Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus Is Everyone November 26, 2017      Maple Grove UMC             In this parable, there is good news and bad news . . . or what may feel like bad news.  The good news is that Jesus is everywhere.  No matter where you go, Jesus is already there, Immanuel, God-with-us always and everywhere. Good news!  The bad news is that Jesus is also everyone.  He is present in every beggar, every prisoner, every stranger.  That's a lot to take in.  But as is often true of the Gospel, the bad news is the good news, if only we can learn to see it that way.             This Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is the culmination of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, what he's been leading up to for 25 chapters. Immediately after this begins his arrest and crucifixion, so this is it, his last chance to…
Matthew 25:14-30 Thanksgiving or Fear? November 19, 2017      Maple Grove UMC             This is Thanksgiving Sunday.  But the Parable of the Talents is just the assigned Gospel reading for the third Sunday of November.  It’s not a story about Thanksgiving. . .  Or is it?           It is a story about stewardship.  And a steward is a person appointed to take care of someone else’s property—a “manager,” is the word we’d use today.  All three of the slaves in Jesus’ story are stewards.  The master went on a journey and “entrusted his property to them.”            And isn’t gratitude all about acknowledging that everything is gift?  As the offering prayer says, “all that we are and all that we have is a trust from you, O God.”  Almost by definition, giving thanks recognizes that we haven’t made or deserved what we have.  If we had made or deserved it,…
Matthew 25:1-13 Something to Live For November 12, 2017             We’re getting close now to the end of Matthew’s gospel.  In chapter 25, Jesus tells three parables about the return of the Son of Man, the end of time.  And each holds a surprise. In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats we learn that when Christ comes in glory, he will sort us out not by what we've believed or how much faith we've had, but by whether or not we fed the hungry, visited folks in prison and welcomed strangers.  Hmm . . .  More on that in two weeks.  And in the Parable of the Talents, Jesus says that upon his return the master will want to know not what we’ve done to protect what he's given us, but how we’ve used and invested everything entrusted to us. More on that next Sunday.            And…
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 We Remember and Bear Witness  November 5, 2017Maple Grove UMC            In October we reviewed our United Methodist vows faithfully to participate in the ministries of the church by our prayers, presence, gifts, and service.  There’s one more:  we support the ministries of the church by our WITNESS.  That one is a little harder to wrap our minds around.  What do we mean by “witness?”  A lot of times it means what we at Maple Grove call invitation—inviting others to “come and see” this Jesus we know, inviting people to “come and see” what God is doing at Maple Grove.  But today I have a different take on witness.  To witness, literally, is to remember something and to tell about it.  If you’re put on the witness stand, that’s what you’re asked to do--to remember and tell. So let’s do that today. Remembering has always been part faith. …
Mark 9:33-37 Greatest of All Is Servant of All October 22, 2017             We pledge to support the ministries of the church by our service.  So last Sunday I asked you, “Why do you serve?”  Here are just a handful of your wonderful responses.  You can read more on the bulletin board down the art hallway.           --The greatest number of responses had to do with God telling us and calling us to serve: Jesus said God’s greatest commandment is to love one another.  Serving others is a demonstration of following this commandment. God called me.  I responded at age 9.  I’ve enjoyed serving.           --Another group of responses had to do with the satisfaction we get out of serving: Feels Good! Serving reduces my depression. Serving is my love language.  It gives me joy in my heart.           --Many cards echoed this theme: Because others have been there…
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