Sermons
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 Bridges of Reconciliation (Part 1) May 6, 2018         Maple Grove UMC   To build bridges of healing, compassion, and justice through our relationships with God, self, and others.                That is Maple Grove’s new Vision Statement. It’s visionary language because it invites us to see the world a new way—to see all our ministries, everything we do, as bridges to God, and bridges to lonely, hurting people. These words invite us to look for what we need in order to draw closer to God and one another. They inspire us to see our own lives as bridges to reach others with healing, compassion and justice.           We begin this worship series on Building Bridges with 2 Corinthians 5 and the bridge of reconciliation. Be reconciled to God, Paul writes, and be ambassadors of reconciliation to others. Surely in these angry, divisive and polarized times, what the world needs…
Confirmation Sunday April 29, 2018 Maple Grove UMC   8:30             At second service, I’ll share three things I wish I’d learned in Confirmation forty years ago—maybe you want to come back.  Here at first service, when we’ll present each youth a Wesley Study Bible, I want to share a one-minute message on each of the twelve scriptures the youth shared today—okay, maybe two minutes on each.            We used a new Confirmation curriculum this time called “Confirm Not Conform.”  The emphasis is not on the pastors telling youth what they’re supposed to believe, but on youth discerning what they do believe.  So we did not just assign each of them a scripture.  Each youth worked with their Confirmation mentor to select their own scripture, and they told you why they chose that scripture.  I’m going to pick each youth’s scripture out of a hat and share a few…
Luke 5:29-32 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner April 22, 2018             The film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was released in 1967. It was Spencer Tracy’s last role. Katherine Hepburn won an Oscar for it. Sydney Poitier, on the other hand, wasn’t even nominated—I wonder why not? It’s the story of a black man and a white woman who fall in love and decide to get married. Both sets of parents strongly oppose the relation-ship (both fathers at any rate). But love is love, right? And—spoiler alert, here--love prevails in the end. But just to put this in context, in 1967 so-called “interracial marriage” was still illegal in 17 states. Who should marry whom, even who should come to dinner with whom, was a big deal in 1967. And in various ways, it still is in 2018. Guess who’s coming to dinner?             Who’s at the table was…
John 21:1-14 Come to the Table April 8, 2018        Maple Grove UMC             What a wonderful story. Of all the resurrection appearance stories in the Bible, this one is my favorite. There are just so many things we could go into. For example, when Peter says, “I’m going fishing,” he doesn’t mean what most of us might mean by that. For Peter, fishing isn’t a pleasant diversion, not a time to get away and clear his head, not a way to bond with his dad or son. When Peter says, “I’m going fishing,” he means that after the death of Jesus, he’s going back to his old life, the only job he knows. It means he’s giving up on following Jesus as a way of life. But Jesus doesn’t let him give up for long. . .             There are so many things in the story we could…
Ephesians 2:1-10 Saved By Grace, Raised With Christ April 1, 2018        Maple Grove UMC             Certain believers like to start conversations this way: Are you saved? they ask earnestly. Are you saved? they want to know. And I know what they mean. They mean have I had an emotional conversion experience, asked Jesus into my heart and prayed the Sinner’s Prayer. And they want a one-word answer: Yes. Yes, I am saved. That’s what they want to hear. And the fact is, I could give them that answer—all of that is true for me. But that feels like such a partial, inadequate answer. There is so much more to being saved than that. I want to give them two additional, longer answers--a Lenten answer (a good answer) and an Easter answer (a great answer).             Are you saved? My answer from the season of Lent, from the scriptures…
Luke 23:32-43 What Jesus Means By ‘Saved’ March 25, 2018             You drive along the interstate and see it on billboards: JESUS SAVES. Sometimes the sign will have the name of a church or organization, but often just those two words: JESUS SAVES. Pastor and author Frederick Buechner has written that those signs are a little embarrassing to him.1 Embarrassing, he says, because they remind him of old-time religion--pulpit-pounding, hyper-emotional, fundamentalist religion. Or perhaps they’re embarrassing, he confesses, because they remind him that he needs to be saved. Proud, self-sufficient, respectable as we are, there comes a time when all we can do is cry out, “Lord, save me!” We don’t like to be reminded of that.           JESUS SAVES, the billboards say. Personally, I’m not embarrassed by those signs—more uneasy, I’d say. Yes, Jesus saves—but what does that mean? There’s more to ‘Jesus saves’ than can fit on…
Luke 23:32-43 What Jesus Means By ‘Saved’ March 25, 2018             You drive along the interstate and see it on billboards: JESUS SAVES. Sometimes the sign will have the name of a church or organization, but often just those two words: JESUS SAVES. Pastor and author Frederick Buechner has written that those signs are a little embarrassing to him.1 Embarrassing, he says, because they remind him of old-time religion--pulpit-pounding, hyper-emotional, fundamentalist religion. Or perhaps they’re embarrassing, he confesses, because they remind him that he needs to be saved. Proud, self-sufficient, respectable as we are, there comes a time when all we can do is cry out, “Lord, save me!” We don’t like to be reminded of that.           JESUS SAVES, the billboards say. Personally, I’m not embarrassed by those signs—more uneasy, I’d say. Yes, Jesus saves—but what does that mean? There’s more to ‘Jesus saves’ than can fit on…
Matthew 8:23-27 & 14:22-33 “Lord, Save Us!” March 18, 2018             The disciples are out in a boat. A terrible windstorm comes up and they’re afraid—they’re bailing to beat the band, flailing around and wishing they’d said goodbye to their families. Meantime Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat. Finally they think to wake him up, crying out, “Lord, save us!” Good call--Jesus saves! A few chapters later, it happens again: boat, storm, fear, flailing around--until Jesus comes to them walking on the waves. Peter wants to try that too, and he does for a moment. Until he notices the wind and the waves, panics and starts to sink. So he cries out, “Lord, save me!” Good call again—Jesus saves!             I told a story on Ash Wednesday as the season of Lent began. I want to return to it now, as we near the end…
Luke 17:11-19 Ten Are Healed, One Is Saved March 4, 2018             Jesus saves. All this season of Lent we’re looking at what that means in the stories of Jesus. For the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years, ‘Jesus saves’ means not only that her hemorrhage stops, but that she is restored to family and community, made welcome in the place of worship, she is un-ostracized. Jesus saves. For the woman others called a sinner, ‘Jesus saves’ means being accepted, loved, respected for who she is and who by the grace of God she may become. Jesus saves.           Today’s gospel story draws a distinction between being ‘healed’ on the one hand and being ‘saved’ on the other. All ten lepers, it says, are healed—“made clean,” Luke calls it. Iaomai, is the Greek word—it’s a medical term; we might best call it ‘cured.’ Ten lepers are cured,…
Luke 7:36-50 Saved = Forgiven and Unashamed February 25, 2018             Our worship theme this Lent is “Jesus Saves.” And last week we learned that the Greek word for ‘saved’ is sōzō, but sōzō gets translated different ways depending on context: ‘saved,’ yes, but also ‘healed,’ and sometimes ‘made well.’ For the woman with the flow of blood in last week’s gospel reading, ‘saved’ meant physical healing, but it was healing and then some—it was being restored to community, being welcomed in the place of worship, being made somebody instead of nobody. Jesus saves. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus says to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” And this time saved means forgiven. And forgiveness is a great big deal—don’t get me wrong. But even so, saved is forgiveness . . . and then some. Let me tell you what I mean.             Simon…
Matthew 9:18-26 Saved = Made Well and Then Some February 18, 2018   Jesus saves: you read it on billboards and church signs and even bathroom walls. Jesus saves: you hear it from TV preachers and gospel songs. But what does it mean—Jesus saves? Is it limited to old-time, evangelical religion, or can 'Jesus saves' come alive in the gospel stories? Can 'Jesus saves' change our hearts and make us new this Lent? The idea for this Lenten series comes from a sermon delivered years ago by my teacher, Fred Craddock. Dr. Craddock was widely considered one of the best preachers in America. To me, no one could touch him. I want you to experience him yourselves, a bit from the beginning of his sermon called "Jesus saves." It's helpful to know that Dr. Craddock was a minister in the Disciples of Christ, so when he refers to 'Disciples,' he…
Mark 1:21-39 (Not) Just the Way Things Are February 4, 2018             Jesus cast out demons.  Did you know that?  What are we to make of these demons, or unclean spirits, that Jesus cast out?  People suppose the gospel writers talked about “demons” because they didn’t know much science or medicine.  For example, from the description of his symptoms, people assume the boy in today’s reading may have had epilepsy, but that people in those days didn’t know about epilepsy, so they blamed it on demons.  But the truth is, the Greek language of New Testament times had a perfectly good medical term for epilepsy.  It was . . . epilepsy.1         The Bible doesn't refer to an unclean spirit here because it doesn't know any better; it refers to an unclean spirit because there’s more going on than seizures.  There’s the way this poor boy was treated because…
Mark 1:16-20 ‘All In’ for Jesus January 28, 2018          Maple Grove UMC             If a traveling rabbi/teacher came up to you while you were at work and said, “Follow me” . . . would you?   The answer, probably, is “It depends.”  It depends on just how compelling this teacher is. It depends on what else is going on in your life.  Perhaps above all, it depends on how much you want a fresh start.            “Follow me,” Jesus said.  And they just up and followed.  Commen-taries will explain how unusual this scene would have sounded to folks in Mark’s time, and in turn that may explain why these men would have dropped everything to follow a rabbi they’d never met. In those days, rabbis simply didn’t go around calling disciples; disciples came to them and applied, people begged to follow them.  Being invited to follow a rabbi was the…
Mark 1:14-15 Believe in the Good News January 21, 2018          Maple Grove UMC             This worship series is called “Do You Need a Fresh Start?”  Do you need a way to start over, a new or renewed relationship with God?  We started with baptism.  When you face temptation or depression or troubles, remind yourself:  Baptizatus sum.  I am baptized.  Come what may, I am beloved and pleasing to God.  Last Sunday it was about the life-changing excitement of meeting Jesus, getting in touch—or back in touch--with the passion and excitement of knowing and being known by Jesus Christ.           Do you need a fresh start?  Today we turn to the start of Jesus’ ministry, what Mark reports as his very first sermon.  And here it is: “The time is fulfilled,” Jesus said, “and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  That’s it. …
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…
Mark 14:3-9 For the Love of Jesus October 15, 2017             I asked you last Sunday, “What is the greatest gift you’ve ever given . . . or received?” I’ll share just a few now and you can read many more on the bulletin board down the art hallway. --Not surprisingly, the greatest number of responses were about family.  Some were about family in general: 1. My family—I am blessed. 2. Inclusion in my husband’s family & Inclusion in the Maple Grove family of God --Many were about children: 3. My kids! Heart. Smiley face! 4. Micah, Suzy, Jaden (I know whose kids those are, Kris & Aaron Shear!) --And quite a few were about partners and spouses: 5. Greatest gift received? My wife who made all my happiness possible 6. My husband. God put him in my life and I give God thanks every day for this gift.…
Mark 9:14-29 Only Through Prayer October 1, 2017            Maple Grove UMC             Last Sunday I asked, If you could pray only one prayer, what would it be?  Most of your responses fell into a few categories: (Not Surprisingly) World Peace B. Here was another trend:           5. The Lord’s Prayer           6. The Lord’s Prayer.  You get the idea. C. There were several about the recent natural disasters:           7. I pray for God to be with the people of Puerto Rico. D. Many were prayers for self and family:           8. Please, God, keep my daughters safe and healthy.  (Oh wait, that’s my card!)           9. I would pray that Jesus be more in my marriage.           10. For my mom to get a job.           11. For the Lord to repair the relationship between my father and brother.  E. And then there was a card that had…
Matthew 20:1-16 God’s Big Love / Even Our Virtues Burned Away September 24, 2017     Maple Grove UMC             The Parable of the Landowner is . . . upsetting.  It’s unfair and unrealistic, and no way to run a business.  Fortunately, it wasn’t intended as payroll advice.  The story is intended to tell us about the kingdom of heaven--that is, to tell us about God and about our life together with God.            Let me share with you three things this parable suggests to me about the God Jesus wants us to know: God is more concerned with grace and love than with work and worth.  I know, we’ve heard that before, right?  We’re saved by grace through faith, not by works lest anyone should boast.  We say we believe that, and probably we do.  But when Jesus puts it in the form of this story, it catches our attention,…
Matthew 18:21-35 Forgiveness for the Sake of All September 17, 2017     Maple Grove UMC             One time an extended family member struck my mother in the face—hard enough to knock her down, make her bleed, and give her a black eye.  This was a dear family member, who loved my parents deeply but also had a violent temper.  He was immediately remorseful; nothing like that ever happened again.  But there were serious consequences—he was not allowed  in my parents’ home for a long time.  Eventually they worked things out and forged a new relationship.           Years later, though, I was talking about that family member with my parents.  I said some uncharitable things about him.  My mother stopped the conversation, looked intently at me, and said, “Glenn, you’ve got to forgive him.”           I said, “I have.”           “No,” she said, “you haven’t.”           I thought about that and…
Matthew 18:15-20 Reconciliation 101 September 10, 2017     Maple Grove UMC             Loving and hopeful as he was, Jesus was not naïve about the church.  Or if he was, he took off his rose-colored glasses before sharing today’s gospel reading.  “When another member of the church sins against you,” he says, here’s what you should do.  And if they keep on sinning against you, here’s what else to do. . .”  Even before there was such a thing as “the church,” Jesus was already giving a process for resolving conflicts in the church.  In fact, this is the one and only time Jesus himself ever uses the word “church”—when he’s teaching how to resolve conflicts in the church.1  Blest Be the Tie That Binds we’ll sing today.  And those ties are indeed blest, but they are blest because they are not automatic, because they cannot be taken for granted.  The…
Matthew 16:21-28 Life Is For Others September 3, 2017           Today’s reading is a watershed passage in Matthew.  Up to this point Jesus has called his disciples; he has taught and healed.  But in chapter 16 he gets down to brass tacks.  He asks the disciples if they know who he is.  And Peter gets it right:  You’re the Messiah, the Son of God.  But Peter didn’t get right what it means that Jesus is the Messiah.  When Jesus starts talking about suffering and death, Peter says, “No way, Jesus.  Not you!”  So from this point on, Jesus prepares the disciples for exactly that--his suffering and death.  Oh . . . and that to be his followers means denying themselves and taking up their own crosses.  This is a watershed moment in the gospel; no passage in Matthew is more important than this one.1           This passage has many things…
Isaiah 58:1-7 A Spirituality of Sharing August 27, 2017   Feed the World Sunday             On this Feed the World Sunday, the sermon is called “A Spirituality of Sharing.”  It comes from the prophet Isaiah.  His people were complaining that the old ways weren’t working any more.  Isaiah’s people went to the Temple.  They held their sacred fasts.  Eating nothing for days on end, they called upon the Lord.  And nothing happened.  It didn’t work.  And so in verse 3 they cry out to God, “Why do we fast, but you don’t see?  Why do we humble ourselves, but you don’t notice?”  They tried ever harder to get noticed by God—bowing their heads to the ground, wearing the roughness of sackcloth, lying in ashes.  These were religious practices that went back to the Babylonian exile, when in terror and anguish they sought to appease an angry God.  But now in…
Matthew 19:13-15 Let Them Come August 20, 2017     Maple Grove UMC             Why, do you suppose, were people bringing little children to Jesus?  Well, Matthew doesn’t tell us why, but we can figure it out.  Surely it was because they could tell how much Jesus loved their children--that he loved them with a special love, an unconditional love, a life-changing and soul-healing kind of love.  They knew they wanted their little ones to be blessed by this man, by Jesus.           It’s not so different today.  You brought your children here today to be blessed in the name of this man, Jesus.  You brought your grandchildren, for all I know you brought other people’s children to be with Jesus.  Today, and at least once in a while, you abandon the soccer fields, you give up sleeping in, you call off dance lessons, you kiss your one day off…
“Coming In to go Out” What are you doing at Church?  Even better, why are you here? Tom Raines (President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources) conducted a Twitter poll of church leaders and church goers from around the country asking them to share some of the reasons people give for not going to church.  Some were ones that you’d might expect: “The church is full of judgmental hypocrites,” “they don’t sing the music I like,”  or “the church is not relevant to my life or the world today.”  But others were perhaps more interesting: -        We were out of peanut butter. -        My wife cooked bacon for breakfast and the entire family smelled like it. -        We got burned out on church so we’ve been taking a break for the last seven years. -        Both my girlfriends attend that church. -        I couldn’t get the lid off the peanut…
Matthew 14:13-21 Bread to Share August 6, 2017             Jesus sees things a different way from the rest of us.  After we heard his Parable of the Sower, someone told me, “No decent farmer is going to just keep throwing seed out there in places where it probably won’t grow.”  That’s true; but Jesus doesn’t see it that way.  After the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, someone said, “Yeah, but if you leave the weeds alone, pretty soon they’ll take over.”  I know that’s true and you know that’s true, but not Jesus.  He sees things a different way from the rest of us.  Jesus thought a yoke could be light—you saw how heavy that yoke was we had in here; he thought a cup of cold water was enough to make a real difference in the world, when we all know it’s not.  Jesus saw things…
Luke 4:16-21 / Mark 11:25 Today! July 30, 2017             What is a service of healing prayer?  The first thing to do about a healing service is to manage expectations.  So, on the one hand, will we hoot and holler here today?  Well, I’m not going to; you can if it helps you, I guess.  Will we throw crutches around?  No.  Will we sell hankies blessed by the Prayer Team?  No.  This is not a show; it’s a service of worship in which we seek God’s blessing.           On the other hand, will we pray today for people to be healed in body, mind, spirit, finances, relationships, and any other way they are oppressed?  Absolutely!  Do we believe that prayer taps into a power beyond our understanding?  Yes!            In the Introduction to its healing services, The United Methodist Book of Worship says:  “Healing is not magic, but underlying…
Matthew 13:24-30 To Grow Together July 23, 2017       Maple Grove UMC             Last Sunday Jesus’ Parable of the Sower was meant to address questions like, If Jesus really is the Messiah, why doesn’t everyone believe in him? and Why don’t more people to come to church in his name? This week’s story, the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, addresses a related question: Why are some of the people who do come to church such, well, trouble-makers? Why are there weeds in our church’s wheat?           Jesus’ response to people rejecting him, small crowds in church and disappointing results was to say, You know, that’s just the way it is. You scatter the seeds out there and the birds eat some and some don’t grow very well and some get choked out by weeds.  And some of them grow, but not all of them, not all the time. …
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 Called to Keep Trying July 16, 2017       Maple Grove UMC             There are at least three ways of hearing this parable.  The interpretation that Matthew gives in chapter 13 invites you to ponder what kind of soil you are.  We could be like soil on a path where there’s just too much going on and kingdom messages get through. One prominent preacher complains that people don’t listen to what he says. Church announcements are published in the parish paper, he says, reprinted in the weekly bulletin, and repeated orally before worship. Then during the Benediction he prays: “Lord, please help the people to remember the fellowship supper on Wednesday at 6:30--that’s Wednesday at 6:30, Lord. And invariably at the door afterwards someone will ask, “Are we going to have the fellowship dinner?”1 People don’t listen! Don’t be like that path soil. We could be like shallow,…
Matthew 11:25-30 Easy Yokes, Light Burdens July 9, 2017         Maple Grove             Jesus said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  Come to me, you weary.  What makes people weary?  Weary is not the same as tired.  You’re tired when you mow the grass and weed the flowers and trim the bushes.  And when you’re done your bones ache, but you pour yourself an iced tea and sit on the porch and admire how everything looks.  That’s tired.  Weary is when you get half-way done and the mower quits and no amount of pulling will bring it back to life.  So you weed the garden. go inside to brag to your wife about all the weeds you’ve pulled, and she says, “I hope you didn’t pull up the new flowers that just came up.”  “New flowers?”  Then…
Matthew 10:40-42 The Calling Right in Front of You July 2, 2017             This worship series is about God-Centered Wellbeing and Calling—what your purpose in life is, what God is calling you to do and how God is calling you to live.  We began by hearing three Maple Grove members tell about their individual, or particular, calling of God:  to love without needing to judge, to be a church youth group leader, to reinvent oneself after a season of grief and loss.  Last Sunday we heard about a calling that belongs to all Christians—to share God’s love to others and invite them to church.            Different as they are, one thing those two callings have in common is they both some involve some planning, or at least a little reflection.  God’s purpose for your life may smack you upside the head, but more likely you’ll need to spend some…
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…
Leviticus 19:33-34 / Deuteronomy 10:17-19 Fear (and Love) of Strangers and Foreigners March 12, 2017             Fred Craddock told this story: He stopped off at the Winn Dixie to get some peanut butter.  He was in a hurry, and those stores are so huge.  So he saw a woman pushing a cart, and he thought, She’s comfortable here. I’ll ask her.  He said, “Um, lady, could you direct me to the peanut butter?”           She jerked around, stared at him, and said, “Are you trying to hit on me?”           He said, “No, ma’am. I’m looking for the peanut butter.”  As he backed away from there, he saw a store employee, so he said, “Where’s the peanut butter?”           “Aisle five, I think, way down on the left.”           He went there, and sure enough—big jars of peanut butter.  As he turned to leave, that woman was there and…
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