Sermons
Matthew 10:24-33 Do Not Be Afraid . . . Again June 25, 2017           We did a whole sermon series back in Lent—March and April—called Overcoming Fear with Faith.  We heard Jesus say, “Don’t worry about what you’re going to eat or drink. God knows you need those things. But seek first God and God’s kingdom and everything else will take care of itself. We may fear foreigners and strangers, but the Bible is clear we must welcome and care for them. When Peter tries to walk on the water, he grows fearful of the wind and waves, but when he falls, what happens? Jesus scoops him up and sets him back in the boat. There is no fear in love, 1 John says, but perfect love casts out fear. On Good Friday Jesus prayed his way through fear in Gethsemane. Even on Easter, the message comes two times:…
Acts 2:1-21 Made to Live with Authority June 4, 2017            Maple Grove UMC               The leader of Maple Grove’s “Invitation Team” is Don Ackerman.  He’s a husband and father of two young sons, he’s a seminary student up at Methesco, and he teaches military science at Capital University.  He’s in Kentucky for several weeks this summer training 600 cadets, but before he left he gave me some marching orders about the scriptures for today and next Sunday.  Acts 2 reports that on the day of Pentecost, 3000 welcomed the message about Jesus and were baptized.  A church Invitation Team has a natural interest in a story like that!             On Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell upon Peter and the other disciples.  Note that the Spirit didn’t cause them to know Jesus—they already knew Jesus.  Neither did the Holy Spirit cause them to love Jesus—they already loved Jesus.  But even…
John 17:1-11, 20-23 And Jesus, Still Up There Praying May 28, 2017     Maple Grove UMC   A friend told me this story. In the church where he grew up a retired pastor, Rev. Johnson, from time to time would be called upon to deliver the pastoral prayer.  He'd always been known for his, uh, stamina when praying.  But the older Rev. Johnson got, the longer he prayed, until one time, he just didn't stop.  He prayed so long that people opened their eyes and checked their watches.  Those with lunch plans started to file out.  Everyone else looked at the pastor, wondering what to do.  Finally, the pastor motioned for everyone to move downstairs for coffee time, signaling them to be quiet so as not to disturb Rev. Johnson’s marathon praying.  As fellowship time was wrapping up, someone asked, "Hey, where's Rev. Johnson?"  Someone ran upstairs and reported, "He's still…
THE SPIRITUALITY OF A YOUNG MOTHER BETH DONAHEY When Pastor Glenn asked me to to speak today on the spirituality of being a mother, I was reminded of God’s timely sense of humor. That particular Friday was the end of a particularly rough week of parenting, with most days resulting in both my 2 year old son and I on the floor crying. Spiritual was the last word I would have used to describe motherhood.   When I was younger, I thought that motherhood was something that just came naturally - when a woman became a mom, she would gain these insights and instincts, knowing exactly what to do and when to do it. My own mother’s actions didn’t support my theory, however, and I grew up determined to prove to myself I was not like her. I would be a better mom than she was. I don’t recommend this…
Luke 24:13-35 Into My Heart April 30, 2017               Maple Grove UMC   Into my heart, into my heart, Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today, come in to stay. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.             Today's gospel reading is about a journey. It’s presented as a journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  But hard as they’ve tried, scholars have never identified a place called ‘Emmaus.’  Which means, I think, that Luke is not reporting a literal journey, but a spiritual journey.  The journey to Emmaus is a journey from the head to the heart.                   There’s a difference between hearing about the resurrection and experiencing it, a great difference between knowing about the resurrection and being changed by it. Before Jesus came and walked with them, the two disciples had already heard all about the resurrection.  The women had told them about angels who said Jesus was…
Matthew 28:1-10 Fear Not! April 16, 2017     Easter Sunday     Maple Grove UMC             Here are some words from today’s Gospel reading that you might not expect to be part of the Easter story:  Don’t be afraid.  I mean, if ever there was a time when you shouldn’t have to tell people not to be afraid, you’d think Easter morning would be that time.  But here’s the angel telling them, “Don’t be afraid.”  And five verses later, the risen Jesus himself appears to them, and he has to say it again: “Don’t be afraid.”            What does it mean that even an angel of good news, that even the risen Christ himself, have to tell people not to be afraid? Surely it says something about the depth, the persistence of fear in our lives.  Over the past several weeks at Maple Grove, we’ve been studying and pondering how to overcome…
Matthew 26:36-46 Praying Through Fear April 14, 2017      Good Friday         Maple Grove UMC             I grew up in a church where the big stained glass window was ofure of Jesus praying in Gethsemane.  His body was gray, his face had an anguished expression, and to my child’s eyes it always appeared that a sharp rock was poking him in the side as he prayed.  You’d think I’d have grown accustomed to this Bible story.  But I have not.  It’s a shock every time I hear about Jesus in Gethsemane—about Jesus throwing himself on the ground, about him repeatedly pleading with God to avoid the cup of death, about his friends not being able to stay awake with him even one hour, how Matthew says that Jesus was grieved, even unto death.  It’s still a shock to me.  It’s kind of like seeing your parents being afraid for the first…
John 12:12-15 / Psalm 46 / Psalm 27 When Afraid, Hold on to God April 9, 2017     Maple Grove UMC   Here's what that first Palm Sunday was: a crowd of people, banding together to prepare for the week to come.  They didn't know it yet, but Jesus would soon be arrested and put on trial and hung on a cross to die.  They themselves would soon desert and deny him.  And the scripture John shares for Palm Sunday is this, from Zechariah:  Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; See, your king is coming.   Actually, the "do not be afraid" part is not in Zechariah, at least not the version we have today. Perhaps John added that, knowing it's what the disciples needed to hear, given all they were about to go through. And here's what Palm Sunday is today: a crowd of people, banded together to…
1 John 4:16b-21 Love Casts Out Fear April 2, 2017             Maple Grove UMC   Here's how the great preacher William Sloan Coffin put it: "I am sure the Bible is right: the opposite of love,” he said, is not hate but fear."1 And here's how 1 John puts it: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."  I believe that with all my heart.  That said, I want to acknowledge that there is a relationship between fear and love.  Scott Bader-Saye points out that there is a sense in which love is actually born of fear.  We love something and therefore fear losing it.  And the more we love, the more we have to lose, and therefore the more we are subject to fear.  But this does not mean that fear is love.  Rather, Bader-Saye concludes, "fear is the shadow side of love."2   Fear is…
Matthew 14:22-33 Take Heart March 26, 2017   Maple Grove UMC             This Lenten worship series is called “Fear Not: Overcoming Fear with Faith.” We started with Jesus saying, “Therefore, do not worry about what you’re going to eat or drink or wear . . .” I heard one person summarize that message as “Take deep breaths and don’t watch the news.” That’s a great start to overcoming fear! The next Sunday was about balancing our natural fear of strangers and foreigners with the Bible’s insistence on hospitality and justice. Still to come in this series: 1 John says that perfect love casts out fear. Oh, to love like that! The psalms teach that the opposite of fear is not fearlessness but trust. On Good Friday we’ll watch in Gethsemane as Jesus prays himself through fear. Even the Easter story has the phrase Do not be afraid not once but…
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