Sermons
Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 Pray BIG Prayers:  Help! June 15, 2014 Maple Grove UMC When we pray, it’s easy to just kind of dabble with prayer.  And since many of us pray little enough anyway, it’s a shame to waste prayer that way.  So this worship series is called "Pray BIG Prayers," and it highlights the Psalms, the Bible’s prayer book.  The psalms are rich and deep.  They include pain and joy and everything in between.  In other words, they’re BIG prayers.  Next week we will pray Psalm 13, which shakes a fist at God and demands, "Just how long are you going to let things go on this way, Lord?"  That is a BIG prayer because it’s nervy, it dares to take a demanding stance with God.  The following Sunday we’ll pray Psalm 8 which begins, "O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"  It’s…
Acts 2:1-21 Pentecost: Healing Divisions, Moving Forward June 8, 2014  Pentecost Sunday Maple Grove UMC Recently I read an article about Pentecost by a Lutheran pastor from Minnesota.1  Already in the first paragraph I was nodding vigorously and thinking, "Wow, I wish I’d said that."  Halfway through the article I’d nodded so much my neck was starting to hurt--more stuff I wish I’d said.  He wrapped up with a rousing conclusion and I thought, "Man, I wish I’d said all of that!" So here’s what I’m going to do:  I am going to say it, pretty much straight out of his article.  I gladly give Pastor Bradley Schmeling credit for every helpful insight, and every part that lulls you to sleep is probably something I’ve added.  I just hope you’ll nod your heads too. Schmeling starts off telling how he went to the Minnesota statehouse to hear the debate about…
Acts 2:1-21 Pentecost: Healing Divisions, Moving Forward June 8, 2014  Pentecost Sunday Maple Grove UMC Recently I read an article about Pentecost by a Lutheran pastor from Minnesota.1  Already in the first paragraph I was nodding vigorously and thinking, "Wow, I wish I’d said that."  Halfway through the article I’d nodded so much my neck was starting to hurt--more stuff I wish I’d said.  He wrapped up with a rousing conclusion and I thought, "Man, I wish I’d said all of that!" So here’s what I’m going to do:  I am going to say it, pretty much straight out of his article.  I gladly give Pastor Bradley Schmeling credit for every helpful insight, and every part that lulls you to sleep is probably something I’ve added.  I just hope you’ll nod your heads too. Schmeling starts off telling how he went to the Minnesota statehouse to hear the debate about…
Psalm 139 God Is Here, There, Everywhere June 1, 2014 Maple Grove UMC If you’re looking for God, where would you look?  Some people look for God in a new church or a new preacher—fair enough.  Some people look for God in a whole new religion or in no religion at all, while others seek God in nature.  But the truth is, according to Psalm 139, anywhere you look, you can find God, because wherever you go, God is already there.  Actually Psalm 139 is not so much about trying to find God as it is about trying to get away from God:  "Where can I go from your spirit?" it asks, "or where can I flee from you presence?"  If I go up to heaven, he says, Lord, you’re there.  If I lie down in hell, you’re there too.  I could fly to the ends of the earth, but…
Acts 17:22-34 To an Unknown God May 25, 2014 Maple Grove UMC Walter Wangerin tells how when he was a little boy he had a spiritual crisis.  He wanted to see Jesus.  Everyone else in his church, it seemed, had seen God there.  They sang without distress, prayed with confidence, and nodded knowingly during sermons.  He wanted what they seemed to have—he wanted to see God, to catch a glimpse of Jesus. So during worship one morning he slipped from the pew to the floor and peeked among the ankle-bones and pants-cuffs.  Was Jesus down there?  That’s when his mother yanked him up, one-handed, and clapped him to her side with an iron grip.  But that didn’t end his yearning for God. Another time he decided Jesus must be inside the altar up at the front of the church.  Where else would he be?  So when his mother’s hands were…
Psalm 95:1-7 Praise May 18, 2014 Maple Grove UMC It turns out three of today’s four anthems are based on Psalms, all of them psalms of praise.  I want to share with you, very briefly, two things about praise. First, we praise God not because we are worthy but because God is worthy.  On Wednesday I went to Clergy Session with my friends and colleagues, the pastors of West Ohio Conference.  It’s not often we get together, and it can be such wonderful fellowship.  But that particular day, it didn’t feel like a blessing.  Everyone there seemed to have such great and upbeat ministry reports to give, and my own story felt poor by comparison.  I just didn’t feel worthy that day.  But then the bishop began to preach, and then the musicians sang a lovely song, and then they offered Holy Communion, the very body and blood of Jesus…
Isaiah 46:3-4, 49:14-15, 66:1-13; Matthew 23:37 God Our Mother May 11, 2014 Maple Grove UMC How do you call on God?  When you pray or cry out to God, how do you refer to God?  "Dear God?"  Heavenly Father?  What word or name do you use to call on God?  Turn to a neighbor and talk about that question for a moment. And here’s a second question.  How do you image or envision God?  When you imagine God, what’s in the picture?  A guy with a long beard on a big throne?  Jesus on the cross?  What image do you most often have of God?  Turn to your neighbor and share that. If we could all share with each other our names and images for God, just imagine how many there would be.  When I was in junior high—let’s say the mid-70s--I had a poster with dozens of names for…
Mark 1:16-20 "Following Jesus" May 4, 2014 Maple Grove UMC When Jesus called his disciples, he said, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."  That’s it—just "Follow me."  You might have expected him to say more than that—"Believe in me," or "Profess your faith in me," or "Acknowledge that I am the Son of God."  All that would come later, but when he first calls his disciples, all he says is, "Follow me."  Which implies an adventure, don’t you think?  A way of life, a big decision.  It means going with Jesus even though they don’t know the details, or even really where you’re going.  Most of us like to know what we’re getting ourselves into, what the costs and benefits will be, just how far we’re being asked to go.  But Jesus doesn’t give any of that information.  All he says is, "Follow me."  When you…
Ezekiel 37:1-14 "Our God Can Raise the Dead!" April 20, 2014 Maple Grove UMC Back in February 78 year-old Walter Williams died in Lexington, Mississippi and was taken to the morgue.  "He was lifeless," said Dexter Howard, the coroner.  "There was no pulse."  Howard completed the paperwork, put Williams in a body bag and transported him to a funeral home.  Then something strange happened: The body bag moved.  "I was in shock," the coroner told reporters.  "We got him into the embalming room, and we noticed his legs beginning to move, like kicking.  He also began to do a little breathing."  An ambulance was called. Paramedics hooked Williams up to monitors. Sure enough, he had a heartbeat, so they transported him to the Holmes County Hospital, and he was released a few days later.  When asked what the Williams case taught him, the coroner replied: "That miracles can happen."1 You…
In 1936 a new pastor came to Maple Grove.  Rev. Kilmer asked the church to do a door-to-door canvas of all of Clintonville.  I can only expect there was some resistance to this idea.  But they did it and reached 49 new members in just the first year.  As Isaiah put it, the former things had come to pass, and new things had been declared—reaching out to reach neighbors with the gospel. In the 1950s Maple Grove had a member who loved music and youth.  So Harold Dawson offered square dances and sock hops for youth in fellowship hall.  I expect there was some resistance to having dances at church.  But they did it and kids spilled out onto the lawn.  The former things had come to pass and new things had been declared—a reaching out to youth in a way that mattered to them. Ten years ago a busload…
My Journey With Prayer            Good Morning----“Body Of Christ” I noticed that in I Corinthians 12:27-31, Paul believed that the Church was the body of Christ and that God thru the Holy Spirit chose different ones to have different functions. This morning my function is a teacher. I usually teach by asking open ended questions to get others to share their impressions of what has been assigned for the lesson, so this time of sharing my journey with prayer is different. Support of others has brought me to this point; my husband, Kirk, of 47 years, present at the8:30amservice, my daughter, Michelle LaRowe and friends of forty years, Ann and Nicki, and all of you here at Maple Grove, who I have known for six years. In this time of teaching, I want to point you to God, who accepts you and me as we are, and wants to have…
Mark 9:2-8 / Ephesians 1:17-19 Prayer as Listening and Watching March 23, 2014 Maple Grove UMC Paul writes:  "I pray that . . . with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know the hope to which God has called you." One of the purposes of prayer is to open the eyes of our hearts, so that we can see the Lord at work the world and in our lives. And when Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain and became dazzling white before them, Peter just had to say something, even though, Mark tells us, "he didn’t know what to say."  But talking wasn’t what God was looking for.  Here is what God wanted:  "This is my Son, the Beloved;" came God’s voice:  "Listen to him!"  One of the purposes of prayer is to listen.. Back in January I asked you to guide this worship series…
Matthew 11:25-30, Psalm 42:1-2 "Prayer as Showing Up" March 16, 2014 Back in January I asked you to guide this worship series on Prayer by sharing your responses to a couple of questions: How would you most like to grow in your prayer life?      and What do you struggle with in prayer? There were many different kinds of responses—wanting to feel more comfortable praying with other people and how to deal with what seem like unanswered prayers.  There were a few responses about how to pray with children as a family, and quite a few about how to overcome distractions when you pray.  But here are the two things people wrote about prayer more than any others: 2. How to be still in prayer--not only to talk to God but to listen to God and just be with God.  I’ll share about that next Sunday in a messaged called "Prayer…
Romans 8:31-39 Love Won’t Let Go February 23, 2014 Maple Grove UMC The love you experience at Maple Grove is just the tip of the iceberg of God’s amazing love for you.  God is love, and you are defined not by what you do for a living or how good your grades are or what other people think about you; you are defined by the fact that God loves you--you are beloved.  And how much does God love us?  So much that he gave his only Son that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.  And Jesus gave us one new commandment.  It’s how people will know that we are his disciples—that we love one another.  Finally, today we conclude this series on "God’s Amazing Love" with this—love never lets go.  No matter what you do, no matter what happens to you, God’s love never…
John 13:1-14, 34-35 "Love Is All That Matters" February 16, 2014 Maple Grove UMC "Do you want to know what the main thing in the church is?" the speaker at a conference asked.  We all nodded—absolutely, we wanted to know that.  "The main thing," she said, "is to keep the main thing the main thing." Unfortunately, I can’t remember what she thought the main thing was, if she ever told us.  But the phrase has stuck with me:  the main thing in the church is to keep the main thing the main thing.  And apparently that’s harder than it might seem. There are, I suppose, several candidates for what the main thing in the church should be.  Some would say the main thing is what you believe—correct doctrine.  Others stress evangelism, and still others emphasize serving the poor.  Cleary the Bible is could be called the main thing in the…
John 3:16-17 Jesus Is Love February 9, 2014 Maple Grove UMC The love that you experience at Maple Grove is just the tip of the iceberg of God’s amazing love for you.  Last Sunday we explored in 1 John 4 that despite what you may have learned or believed, God is lov—we love because God first loved us, there is no fear in love, and faith is being grasped by the power of God’s love.  And what God’s love makes you is beloved—who you are at the core of your being is not determined by what you do for a living or how good your grades are or what people think of you, but by the fact that God loves you.  You are beloved. The love that you experience at Maple Grove is just the tip of the iceberg of God’s amazing love for you.  Which begs the question today: …
1 John 4:10-12, 16-21 God Is Love February 2, 2014 Maple Grove UMC "I don’t believe in God any more."  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that.  Once people find out I’m a minister, they feel compelled to tell me that.  Maybe they’re trying to shock me?  But let’s face it—not believing in God is hardly shocking these days.  Maybe they want me to change their mind?  I don’t know.  But over the years I’ve learned the best response to that statement.  I say, "Tell me about this God you don’t believe in."  And nine times out of ten, the God they describe is a God I don’t believe in either:  an old white guy with a beard sitting on a throne, judgmental, anti-intellectual, vindictive.  Well, sure enough, if that’s who God is, who wants to believe in God? But here’s the thing:  that’s not what God…
Matthew 4:12-22 Say "Yes" to Jesus All Over Again January 26, 2014 Maple Grove UMC Immediately.  Jesus found two brothers, Peter and Andrew, fishing.  He said, "Follow me," and immediately they left their nets and followed.  It worked so well the first time, Jesus tried it again.  He found two other brothers, James and John, and said, "Hey, follow me."  And immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed.  Immediately.  That’s impressive. But I suspect it’s not that whole story; in fact, I know it’s not the whole story.  Because the next day Peter and the others woke up, wherever they were, and they must have wondered, "Why did we do that?  What have we gotten ourselves into?"  In other words, they had to decide to follow Jesus all over again.  And when Jesus called Peter to step out of the boat and walk on top of the…
Isaiah 49:1-7 "Dealing with Discouragement" January 19, 2014 Maple Grove UMC Two weeks ago we looked at a new start with God as something for us, something God does because we need revival as individuals and as a church.  Last Sunday Isaiah led us to look at a new start with God as something for others; God gives us a new start to serve—to do justice, to love the unchurched.  Today Isaiah is about why we need a new start with God:  because as much as God loves us and as much as God gives us good work to do, sometimes we get discouraged.  The servant in Isaiah 49 says: I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity. Here’s how Eugene Peterson translates this same verse in The Message: I’ve worked for nothing. I’ve nothing to show for a life of hard work. That’s…
Isaiah 42:1-9 Now What Do I Get to Do, God? January 12, 2014          A new start with God.  Last week we looked at a new start with God as something for us, something God does because we need it as individuals and as a church.  We need renewal and revival, we need to come more alive in God.  Today Isaiah leads us to look at a new start with God as something for others, something God does in us because other people need it.  And the truth is, this kind of new start with God might not always be something you want or look forward to, because just when you think you’ve done all you can for people, God gives you something new to do.  Just when you think it’s okay to coast for a while, God says, “Okay, it’s time for another new start.”  Really?  Do I have…
Isaiah 60:1-6 “Arise and Shine” January 5, 2012                  Maple Grove UMC          Isaiah’s words—Arise, shine; for your light has come!—bright as they are, conjure up some bad memories for me.  One year at church camp, all the other cabins had to get out of bed at 7:00 am, but our counselor thought the spiritual thing to do was to turn his boom box on as loud as it would go at 6:00 am and play, “Rise and shine and give God the glory!”  He made sure each one of us boys got up so we could sing and do devotions before breakfast.  Well, I rose, but I didn’t shine.           I’m just not a morning person.  I used to play racketball with a friend.  We’d start at 5:30 in the morning so we could get home in time to get our kids off to school.  He said he finally…
Isaiah 63:7-9 “No Messenger or Angel” December 29, 2013         Maple Grove UMC          I’ve got two short sermons for you this morning from Isaiah 63.  Two sermons, yes, but I do mean short.  Don’t get a cough drop or check your text messages, or you’ll miss one.          These three verses from Isaiah are a hymn of praise, remembering God’s mercy and faithfulness to Israel.  The most striking part  is this line:  It was no messenger or angel   But his presence that saved them. When I was in elementary school—back in the days before cell phones and apparently we didn’t even have an intercom system—when there was a message for a student, the principal would send someone from the office to the classroom.  Sometimes he sent the secretary, but usually he just sent the first student he happened to see.  So some student would knock on the classroom door…
Luke 2:8-14 And the Angels Sang Peace Christmas Eve 2013                  Maple Grove UMC          Here is how the story goes:  the Savior was born in the unlikeliest of ways.  His parents were away from home.  The emperor had called a census--who knows why.  So when the time came for his mother, Mary, to give birth, they were in a barn, and his first bed was an animal feeder.  Not how we might expect the Son of God to enter the world.          But if Jesus’ birth was rather low-key, the first response to that birth was not.  At first there was just one angel, telling the shepherds how and where to find this child.  But the next thing we know, the whole sky is filled with angels, and they’re praising God and singing to beat the band.  And here is what the angels sang:  Glory to God and peace…
Isaiah 7:10-16 “Every Child Is a Sign” December 22, 2013         Maple Grove UMC          Have you ever needed a sign from God?  Trina Williams has been a member here for a year, and about the time her family started attending Maple Grove, she was looking for a sign that would make life better.  She was at that time the main provider for her and Jarrod’s family, but for three years she’d been stuck in a job that made her intensely unhappy.  She felt stuck.  “God, where can I turn?  Please help me.” she prayed.  The sermon series here at the time was about faith and hope, but how do you have faith and hope when everything’s falling apart?  “I need a sign, Lord” she prayed.  One day, already at the end of her rope, she got a call at home to return to work.  On the way there, she stopped…
Isaiah 35:1-10 "A Song of Peace Stuck in Your Head" December 15, 2013 Maple Grove UMC Have you ever had the experience of getting a song stuck in your head?  You hear it on the radio, or maybe it just pops into your head, and for the rest of the day you catch yourself humming it or whistling it or just replaying it in your mind.  Getting a song stuck in your head is okay if it’s a good song, an appropriate song.  It’s not so good if it’s Jingle Bells in August, or if it’s the Barney song and you’re in a business meeting.  What Isaiah is trying to do in chapter 35 is get a song—an idea, an attitude, a faith in God—stuck in his people’s heads.  It’s a song of joy, a song of home, it’s a song of peace:  Then the eyes of the blind shall…
Isaiah 11:1-9 Envision Peace December 8, 2013 Maple Grove UMC The theologian Joseph Sittler told of teaching a theology class that included students who were not believers.  He was lecturing about the amazing relationship between Jesus the Son and God the Father and how wonderful it must be.  When Prof. Sittler concluded, one student raised his hand. Sittler said, "Okay, what is it?" The student said, ""You know, if that were true, it would do."  The student was saying to himself, "You know, that’s a big enough truth it would hold my life together."  And suddenly it hit Sittler.  That’s what sermons are for:  to hang the holy possible in front of the  . . . listeners and lead them to that wonderful moment when they say, ‘If that were true, it would do.’"1 Not just sermons but prophecy too.  What Isaiah does in chapter 11 is hang the holy…
Isaiah 2:1-5 "Turn Swords into Plowshares" December 1, 2013 All of us long for peace.  Yes, we all want peace, but here’s the problem:  we long for peace but we prepare for war.  Ultimately, of course, peace is a gift of God.  Yet Isaiah expects us to prepare for this gift.  Beat your swords, he says, into plowshares, your spears into pruning hooks.  This language of swords and plowshare, of spears and pruning hooks is old-fashioned farming language.  The image is of taking a sword—something made for killing--and having the blacksmith heat it  and beat it until it’s a plow—made for growing food to feed our children.  Or you take a spear—intended to hurt people—and bend it into a tool for making plants grow better.  It would be like taking a bomber made for war and turning it into a missionary plane to deliver food and medicine.  Or as I’ve…
John 6:25-35 Thanksgiving Glasses November 24, 2013 Here’s the message today:  It’s all in how you look at things.  Take a look at the picture on the cover of your bulletin: How many of you when you look at this picture see a beautiful young lady?  How many see an old lady with a big nose and protruding chin?  How many of you can see both the young lady and the old lady?  The old lady is looking towards us and to the left; the young lady is looking away from us to the left.  The young woman’s ear is the old lady’s eye, and vice versa.  And the old lady’s mouth is the young lady’s necklace, and vice versa.  So what’s this a picture of—a crusty old lady or a beautiful young woman?  Well, it just depends on how you look at it.  In the gospel of John today,…
Acts 2:42-47 TOGETHER We Celebrate! October 27, 2014 Why do we celebrate?  Why is celebration a part of the stewardship campaign at all, let alone the culmination of it?  Well, we celebrate because God has been so good to us, because in Christ forgiveness and mercy have been showered upon us.  We celebrate because our children are here to learn about prayer and because our ‘tweens group has grown from three or four to a dozen or more.  We celebrate over $6000 raised for the ALS Foundation by Bill’s Backers, the debut this morning of a lovely anthem in memory of a loved one, and City Barbecue staying warm downstairs!  We have so many reasons to celebrate.  Turn to a neighbor right now and share with them one reason you have to celebrate today. But what about when it’s hard to find reasons to celebrate?  That’s what the Grinch wondered. …
Acts 3:1-10 / 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 TOGETHER We Serve October 20, 2013 Maple Grove UMC Two Sundays ago we read how when the early Christians were threatened or in trouble, what they did was pray together.  They asked God to do amazing things and prayed for boldness to tell people about Jesus. But praying wasn’t all they did.  Last Sunday we read how those same Christians shared with each other so generously that every need of every member was met every time.  They gave money together. But giving wasn’t all they did either.  They also reached out in service to the people around them.  In Acts 3 we read about two of the apostles, Peter and John, going to the temple one afternoon to pray.  They met a man who’d never been able to walk, and in the Jewish custom of the time he was asking for handouts outside the…
Acts 4:32-37 TOGETHER We Give October 13, 2013 Maple Grove UMC Last week we read from Acts 4 that when those early Christians were threatened or in trouble of any kind, they didn’t give up or step back.  They got together and they prayed.  They prayed for God to keep on doing amazing things, and they asked for boldness to tell others what God can do.  There is great power in praying together. Now here’s what happens next in Acts 4:  The leaders keep telling the people about the resurrection of Jesus, and a great grace settles upon all of them.  And they start to share with each other.  And not just a meal here or a few dollars there.  They sell property, they liquidate stocks, they raid their jewelry boxes—they give not just out of their income, but out of their assets.  They bring everything they can and set…
Acts 4:23-31 TOGETHER We Pray October 6, 2013 Maple Grove UMC I have experienced the power of praying together.  After months of not being able to see out of my left eye, I sat in a chair in the chapel.  Jan Williamson wrapped this prayer shawl around my shoulders and a group of Maple Grove members gathered around and prayed for me.  Intellectually I knew before then that people were praying for me.  But in that moment of praying together, I felt it.  I was not alone in my ordeal.  Soon after I had surgery, now a new lens, and I’m seeing better than I have in ages.  It’s the power of praying together. One year at Christ Church our goal was to reach new people for Christ.  But most members didn’t feel equipped to reach out and invite people.  So we said, "We’ll do some training on that later,…
Luke 16:19-31 Not Too Late to Share September 29, 2013 Maple Grove UMC There’s just something about a story.  Kids don’t run up at bedtime and say, "Grandma, tell me some important moral principles!"  No, it’s always, "Tell me a story!"  And adults aren’t so different.  A few people—a very few people—read philosophy or ethics, but millions of people read stories—history, biography, novels.  There’s just something about a story.  Jesus did give moral principles, and they’re true and deep.  But it’s the stories we remember.  For example, instead of telling today’s story about the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus could have saved a little time and said, "Okay, everybody, listen up.  I’ve got something to tell you:  Sharing is important.  Got it?"  It just doesn’t have the same punch, does it?        Stories make you wonder about things and decide for yourself what’s right and what’s wrong.  Stories make you…
Luke 15:1-7 A Heart for the Lost September 22, 2013 Maple Grove UMC Twenty years ago 18 month-old Jessica McClure fell down a well near her home in Texas.  CNN and the 24-hour news channels were still new then and the whole country watched as rescuers worked around the clock for 58 hours to free her.  They had to dig and drill and bring in special equipment.  They did whatever it took to get her out.  And when Baby Jessica was free at last, the whole country rejoiced.  Seeking the lost and rejoicing over the found became for a short time a national obsession. Fred Craddock tells about living in Oklahoma and the radio announced that a tornado was coming.  They went out in the front yard and, sure enough, they could see it coming, straight towards their house!  They didn’t have a basement or storm shelter, so they got…
Linda Frank Nudged From the Nest Psalm 84 September 15, 2013 Maple Grove UMC It is so good to be here. I treasure so many memories of times in this sanctuary and with so many of you, my Maple Grove family. Maple Grove has been my church home for 22 years.  22 years. That by itself is saying a lot! As young adults with small children my husband Doug and I were unaffiliated Christians. We were raised in Christian homes. We were raised in the church. And as an adult I did want to have a faith family, but I was not confident I would ever find a congregation where I would ‘fit in’. We visited Maple Grove on an Easter Sunday morning, and we came back. In no time at all, my children were involved in children’s activities and I began attending Sunday School. We had indeed found a…
Psalm 103 Bless the Lord September 1, 2013 Maple Grove UMC I happened to hear the same words twice recently, so they stuck with me.  I watched an ESPN report about some NFL players visiting kids in a homeless shelter.  They interviewed one boy, about nine or ten years old, and asked what it meant to him.  He said, "I got to throw passes to a pro quarterback!  How cool is that!" Then I was waiting to visit someone in a nursing home and a nurse was getting a man ready to go home after doing physical therapy.  The man’s granddaughter was there and the nurse turned to the little girl and said, "Your grandpa is doing a lot better, but he’s still going to need you to take care of him when he gets home.  Okay?" "Really?" the girl asked, her eyes growing big.  "Grandpa always takes care of…
Matthew 5:1-12 / Genesis 1:26-31 Original Blessing August 25, 2013 Maple Grove UMC Blessing, I believe, is deeper than any human accomplishment and deeper than all sin; blessing is deep as creation and old as the world itself.  Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s leading physicists who has lived with a form of ALS for nearly fifty years, began his book, A Brief History of Time, with this story: A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy.  He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy.  At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said, "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the…
Mark 10:13-16 "And Blessed Them" August 18, 2013 Maple Grove UMC If I said, "Bless you," what would you think?  You’d probably look around to see who sneezed, right?  That’s about the only time we say, "Bless you" any more.  Oh, some people still say what they call "the blessing" at meal time.  A few couples still seek their parents’ "blessing" when they get married.  Some people use the phrase, "count your blessings."  But for the most part, we don’t give and receive blessings any more. Which is too bad because our book, the Bible, is a book of blessing.  Jesus’ first big sermon, what we call the Beatitudes, was a list of blessings—he blessed the poor in spirit and those who mourn, he blessed peacemakers and the persecuted.1  The very last thing Jesus did before he ascended into heaven was to take his disciples apart, lift up his hand…
Luke 12:32-40 "Have Your Lamp Lit" August 11, 2013 Maple Grove UMC The gospel reading today is a couple of parables, oddly enough, about the absence of Jesus.  Keep your lamps lit; he tells them.  Be like people waiting for the master to get back from the wedding banquet, so they can open the door for him as soon as he knocks."  Again, changing the image Jesus says, "If the owner of the house had known when the thief was coming, he wouldn’t have let his house get broken into.  So be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."  These are parables about the absence of Jesus. It hadn’t been easy, but the disciples were finally learning how to deal with the presence of Jesus—that always holy, frequently demanding, always loving, often challenging presence of Jesus.  They were just getting used to having Jesus around,…
"NEIGHBORS ARE FORGIVING" "FORGIVENESS FROM THE BACKSIDE" LUKE 19:1-10 MAPLE GROVE UMC – JULY 28, 2013 REV. MICHELLE K. BAKER   Several months ago Pastor Glenn emailed me when we were planning summer worship.  He planned to preach on the themes from this years vacation bible school on Neighbors.  He asked me to pick from last week’s theme that Dawn Nauman challenged us about neighbors being BOLD or this weeks on FORGIVENESS.  I thought about it and figured out that I needed to learn more about forgiveness so I chose this week.  About a month ago I looked to see what the scripture was and it was the scripture on Zacchaeus.  Seriously, he let the 5 foot nothing person preach on the short guy.  And so continues the comedy of my life. I used to love to watch the show Candid Camera.  One episode showed an actor walking down a…
Acts 10:23b-43 Neighbors Are Welcoming August 4, 2013 Maple Grove UMC It’s a story about conversion.  First Cornelius, a Roman military officer and therefore a Gentile or non-Jew, yet a good religious man, has a vision.  A voice tells him he’s found favor with God and to send some men to Joppa to find a certain Simon called Peter. At the same time, the apostle Peter has a vision of his own.  He’s hungry and falls into a trance.  He looks up and sees a sheet coming down from heaven containing all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds.  A voice says to him, "Get up, Peter; kill and eat"— but all of them were unkosher, animals Jews were forbidden to eat.  Peter said, "No, Lord, I’ve never eaten anything wrong."  But the voice comes three times: "What God has made clean you must not call profane."  . Before Peter…
1 Kings 17:7-16 Neighbors Are Giving July 14, 2013 My parents were born in the 1920s--children of the Great Depression.  And they both grew up in Kansas, which means they grew up in the Dust Bowl.  Grasshoppers descended like biblical plagues and ate whole fields of crops in a day.  Huge clouds of dust would blow in and it would be like night in the middle of the afternoon.  Jobs were almost non-existent.  Families lacked money even for necessities, let alone for anything like a luxury.  A few people went mad.  Some gave up and moved away.  But most people made it through.  And they made it by sharing.  I’ve told you how my granddad lost his job and there he was with a wife and child and no money.  He looked everywhere for a job, but there was nothing.  Finally a guy named Jim said he’d hire him for…
Genesis 18:1-8 Neighbors Are Friendly . . . and Then Some July 7, 2013 Vacation Bible School starts this evening and the theme is ‘Being a Neighbor.’  The kids will learn and experience how to be good neighbors.  Neighbors are Giving and neighbors are Bold, neighbors are Forgiving and Welcoming, and it starts tonight with ‘Neighbors Are Friendly.’  And here on Sunday mornings we’ll be using those same themes in worship, today and for the next four Sundays.  One Sunday the kids will come back and sing a song.  One day there will be a video of kids serving at CRC.  One Sunday Dawn Nauman will preach and another Rev. Michelle Baker will give the message.  We’re pulling out all the stops about being a neighbor.  And it’s Christmas in July on top of that!  What a great summer! So we start today with "Neighbors are Friendly."  Practicing hospitality is…
Luke 6:27-38 Mercy June 30, 2013 Maple Grove UMC In a few minutes you’ll hear Mary Gauthier’s haunting country song, "Mercy Now."  Here’s how it ends: We all could use a little mercy nowI know we don't deserve itBut we need it anyhowWe hang in the balanceDangle 'tween hell and hallowed groundEvery single one of us could use some mercy now.  In Luke 6 Jesus tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us.  He insists that we bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us.  Don’t judge others, he says.  And he sums it up this way:  "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."  I agree with that teaching; I’m all in favor of being merciful .  But here’s what I believe:  I believe that in order truly to be merciful, you have to experience mercy yourself, that it’s…
Luke 8:2-39 / Eric Smoot / June 23, 2013 / Maple Grove UMC For the past 2 Sundays we’ve been hearing about the healing stream we’ve had illustrated here in the sanctuary. First we were prayed over so that we might be relieved of our burdens both physical and emotional. Then we were forgiven that we might be healed of the burden of our sins as well. Now I’d like to focus on a different aspect of healing and what is expected of us whether we are the ones healed, the ones in a position to do the healing, or just those around when others are suffering. The demonic possession from today’s reading is challenging subject for someone who doesn’t consider demons to be real in a literal sense. I tend to look at the story in a more metaphorical way, involving Jesus purifying a man and his surroundings of…
Luke 7:11-17 I Say to You, Rise! June 9, 2013 Maple Grove UMC There is a stream, bright as crystal, which is the river of the water of life.  On either side of this stream is the tree of life, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. This stream flows from our altar and pools in this very place.  In fact, by the grace of God we are that healing stream; the church is a healing community.  Our healing ministry has many aspects—blood pressures and blood drives, grief support, exercise and nutrition groups, meditation/yoga/stress management classes.  Now today and for the next two Sundays we focus on the healing ministry of prayer. Healing is always at the heart of the church, for the gospel is a healing story and the ministry of Jesus was a healing ministry.  In today’s gospel reading, Jesus restores a…
Luke 6:27-38 Mercy June 30, 2013 Maple Grove UMC In a few minutes you’ll hear Mary Gauthier’s haunting country song, "Mercy Now."  Here’s how it ends: We all could use a little mercy nowI know we don't deserve itBut we need it anyhowWe hang in the balanceDangle 'tween hell and hallowed groundEvery single one of us could use some mercy now.  In Luke 6 Jesus tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us.  He insists that we bless those who curse us and pray for those who mistreat us.  Don’t judge others, he says.  And he sums it up this way:  "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."  I agree with that teaching; I’m all in favor of being merciful .  But here’s what I believe:  I believe that in order truly to be merciful, you have to experience mercy yourself, that it’s…
Luke 7:36-50 Forgiveness Is Healing Too June 16, 2013 Maple Grove UMC Last Sunday a healing stream flowed through this place, and flowed . . . and flowed.  That healing stream flows throughout Luke’s gospel--wherever Jesus goes, healing comes along.  Jesus caused the lame to walk and he made lepers clean.  He cast out unclean spirits and to whatever was dead in people’s lives he said, "Rise!  It doesn’t have to be this way!"  He gathered the weary and made a place for the lonely.  The healing stream flows from the throne of God, through Jesus Christ, and into our lives, wherever we are aching, broken, divided. And in today’s gospel reading we see that along with these other forms of healing, forgiveness is healing too.  A woman comes to Jesus.  We don’t know her name; we don’t know how she got there.  All we’re told is that she’s a…
Luke 7:36-50 Forgiveness Is Healing Too June 16, 2013 Maple Grove UMC Last Sunday a healing stream flowed through this place, and flowed . . . and flowed.  That healing stream flows throughout Luke’s gospel--wherever Jesus goes, healing comes along.  Jesus caused the lame to walk and he made lepers clean.  He cast out unclean spirits and to whatever was dead in people’s lives he said, "Rise!  It doesn’t have to be this way!"  He gathered the weary and made a place for the lonely.  The healing stream flows from the throne of God, through Jesus Christ, and into our lives, wherever we are aching, broken, divided. And in today’s gospel reading we see that along with these other forms of healing, forgiveness is healing too.  A woman comes to Jesus.  We don’t know her name; we don’t know how she got there.  All we’re told is that she’s a…
Psalm 150 and Mark 12:28-30 Pull Out All the Stops June 2, 2013 Maple Grove UMC A while back someone excitedly pulled me aside after worship and asked, "Are we really having the Scioto Valley Brass here?"  I said, "Yep." "And the percussion too?" "Far as I know." "Wow," she went on, "we’re really pulling out all the stops, aren’t we?" "Yes," I said, "we are!" That got me thinking about that phrase, pulling out all the stops.  It is, of course, a musical metaphor, though not from brass or percussion, but from the organ.  --Greg demonstrates organ stops here— Pulling out all the stops is what the Bible would have us do in our worship and in our love of God.  Psalm 150 says to praise God with trumpet sound (that is, with brass instruments) and with lute and harp (that is, stringed instruments).  It says to praise God…
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