Sermons
Revelation 7:9-17 Passionate Worship April 21, 2013 Maple Grove UMC It’s been out on our sign that we’re doing a worship series on the book of Revelation.  One person said, "I saw out there that you’re preaching on Revelation."  I said, "Yeah, for three Sundays." "Well, it’s about time!" he replied.  Someone else said to me after church last Sunday, "So we’re going to read Revelation?" I said, "Yeah, for three Sundays." All she said was, "Why . . . ?" Many Christians are obsessed with the Book of Revelation.  Some want to read and talk about it all the time; they make predictions about when Jesus will beam them up and who will get left behind.  Other people are just as obsessed with avoiding all contact with Revelation, believing that such silliness is all there is to Revelation.  It’s not. Years ago one of my seminary professors wrote an…
Genesis 18:9-15 and 21:1-7 Sarah Laughed April 7, 2013 Maple Grove UMC Sarah laughed.  God and her husband are having a conversation, when God suddenly says, "Oh, by the way, Abraham, you and Sarah are going to have a baby before long."  Long before God had promised them a son, and through him a whole nation of descendants.  But now Abraham is 100 years old.  Sarah is 90 and in case it hadn’t occurred to you, Genesis tells us that her childbearing years have come and gone.  Yet here is God talking to Abraham, "So, you and Sarah—I see a baby in your future." Now Sarah has had her ear to the door of then tent, listening in.  And here’s what she did when God said that:  she laughed.  So God says to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh?"  Now Sarah’s a little afraid, so she says, "I didn’t laugh."  God…
Luke 24:1-12 Journey to Belief March 31, 2013 Easter Sunday Maple Grove UMC If you could go somewhere with Jesus, where would it be?  Fishing in the Sea of Galilee?  The manger in Bethlehem?  Or would you have him go with you to your home or place of need?  Maybe you’d have him take you to heaven itself?  Where would you go?  We have been ‘Journeying with Jesus’ at Maple Grove these past few weeks.  We went with Jesus to the wilderness of temptation and to the cross, we journeyed to the Upper Room for the Last Supper and on the road to Emmaus, we prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and entered Jerusalem with palm branches and shouts of joy. Today’s journey, though, is of a different sort.  All those other journeys were to actual places—places with metaphorical or spiritual significance to be sure, but still places you could…
Luke 19:28-40 Journey with Jesus—Joyful Entry into Jerusalem March 24, 2013 Maple Grove UMC Palm Sunday has a curious kind of joy.  In between the somber self-reflection of the first weeks of Lent, and the sadness and seriousness of Holy Week, comes this parade, this moment of joy as Jesus enters Jerusalem.  It’s a day of great contrast—this worship service began with palm branches and shouts of Hosanna, but even before we leave here today, we’ll start to prepare ourselves for Good Friday and the cross.  Yes, Palm Sunday has is a curious kind of joy.  But it’s a day of joy nevertheless.  In the Bible reading you can sense the joy of the day.  Jesus sets it all up so carefully, then rides along as people throw garments in his path.  So enthusiastic and worshipful!  What Luke calls "the whole multitude of the disciples" starts shouting out joyful praise…
Luke 22:39-46 Journey with Jesus—Gethsemane March 17, 2013 Maple Grove UMC We journey with Jesus today to the Mount of Olives, to Gethsemane, where Jesus took the disciples to pray before he suffered.  "Father," he prayed, "if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done."  Jesus may have prayed more than that, but in just that one sentence he prayed so profoundly, including two of the most important movements of prayer.  There are other movements of prayer—thanksgiving, confession, meditation—but these two are deep and vital. First Jesus tells God what he wants, expresses the longing of his heart: "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me."  The cup is the cup of suffering and death.  He did not want to suffer, he longed to live, and he told God so.  If there is any other way, Lord, make it happen.…
Luke 24:13-35 Journey with Jesus—The Emmaus Road March 10, 2013 This sermon is for people who sometimes wonder, "Is Jesus is really real?"  It’s for you if you’ve ever doubted that God was there.  I’m preaching to you today if your religion has ever let you down, if you’ve ever run out of hope.  Which means you don’t need this sermon if you are 100% sure of your faith all the time.  If you never have any doubts about God or Jesus, then God bless you, I’m not talking to you today.  Feel free to look at the bulletin.  Take out a pew Bible and read for a while.  Make a grocery list.  Because this sermon, and this Bible story, are for people who sometimes wonder where God is and if Jesus is real.  Tom Long has pointed out that for a lot of people, the Christian faith seems disconnected…
Luke 23:26-27 Journey with Jesus—To the Cross February 24, 2013 Maple Grove UMC It’s just a tiny part of Jesus’ journey to the cross, so small you might almost miss it:  apparently Jesus wasn’t physically able to carry the cross by himself.  So they pulled a man out of the crowd, just a guy coming in from the country, Simon of Cyrene, and they made him carry it the rest of the way.  It’s just one detail in the journey to the cross, yet it makes this a story about bearing burdens and sharing burdens.  And how much of life is about bearing burdens and sharing them. Here’s one thing about the story of Simon of Cyrene:  even Jesus needed help carrying his cross.  And if Jesus Christ needed help carrying his cross, what makes any of us think we can carry our burdens alone?  Maybe you’re not this way,…
Luke 4:1-13  February 17, 2013    Our theme for Lent is “Journey with Jesus.” Each week we’ll go with Jesus to some significant place—into the wilderness and to the cross, to the upper room and on the Emmaus road, the somber path to Gethsemane and the joyful entry into Jerusalem, all culminating in the difficult but blessed journey to belief on Easter. Along the way we’ll sing our traveling song—“Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” And as we journey we’ll bring shoes, both new and gently used, that others might journey too.    We’re calling it “Journey with Jesus,” but in some ways, a better word might be pilgrimage. The word “journey” implies that you’ll wind up some place else, and that’s what we mean, exactly. As one writer puts it, on a pilgrimage you go to holy places and then come back home. “We end where we begin,” he…
 Luke 9:28-36  February 20, 2013    A few days before the Transfiguration, Jesus was telling the disciples what it would mean for him to be the Messiah: “The Son of Man,” he said, “must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Wow—that was hard to hear. Then he went on to tell them what it would mean for them to be his disciples: “If any want to become my followers,” he said, “let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for may sake will save it.” (Luke 9:18-27) That’s even harder to hear.    That’s a tough road for the disciples. Daunting, exhausting, not at all what they expected when they started…
 Luke 4:21-28  February 3, 2013    Here’s the question a little girl asked me in Sunday school one time: If Jesus was so good and perfect, why did people hate him and even kill him? Good question. We often think about “gentle Jesus meek and mild,” which makes it hard to imagine how anyone could dislike the guy. Well, Jesus was good all right, maybe even perfect—but he certainly wasn’t meek, he wasn’t mild, and he wasn’t always gentle.    Jesus healed on the Sabbath, repeatedly, even after he knew it outraged the religious leaders. I mean, there were six other days to heal on, right? The Sabbath was at the heart of their faith, mandated by God in scripture. And here Jesus disrespected it. Sure he was doing good on the Sabbath. But there are rules. There are proper times and places for things. And they wanted to get…
 Luke 4:14-21  January 27, 2013    It was Jesus’ first chance to preach in his old home church, or in his case, synagogue—a big deal in any preacher’s life. He’d been all around Galilee teaching and healing, and had developed quite a reputation. And now he’d come back to Nazareth, where he grew up, and they asked him to say a few words. First he read the scripture, from Isaiah:    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he read,  because he has anointed me  to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives  and recovery of sight to the blind,  to let the oppressed go free,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.    He closed the Bible, said a prayer, cleared his throat and started preaching. And here’s what he said. I’ll repeat the whole sermon to you.…
John 12:1-11    January 20, 2013    A woman was going through customs returning to the US from a trip to Scotland. When the customs officials asked her to open a particularly heavy bag she was carrying, she did so very reluctantly, revealing several large bottles. “What’s in the bottles, ma’am?” they asked. “Well, it’s, uhhh, water,” she said uncomfortably. Opening one of the bottles and sniffing it, the official’s eyes lit up. “Ma’am this isn’t water. It’s Scottish whiskey.” Recovering herself, the woman fell to her knees and exclaimed, “It’s a miracle!”    Though funny, this joke points to one of the problems with the story of the wedding at Cana: that Jesus provides an enormous amount of alcohol for a party that sounds like it’s had plenty already. It’s a tough story for old-fashioned, tea-totaling Methodists. The Methodist movement has a long history of working against alcohol abuse.…
 Luke 3:21-22    January 13, 2013    One of my favorite preachers is Barbara Brown Taylor and some of what I’m going to say today is borrowed from her—probably all the best parts. In one of her sermons, she tells about the novel Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett. It’s the story of Rose Clinton and her daughter Cecelia, who live at Saint Elizabeth’s Home for Unwed Mothers. Rose is the cook so Cecelia grew up spending her days there and being the darling of the place, petted and mothered by all the young women who will give up their own babies for adoption. One day when she is fifteen years old, Cecelia meets one of the new girls, Lorraine, who has come to Saint Elizabeth’s. Lorraine is having a hard time adjusting and Cecelia decides to help by giving her some advice.    “The guy who got you…
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