Archive for the ‘Sermons’ Category

Speaking Wonder

Bishop Willimon shared this ordination sermon on his blog.  It’s an excellent read.  Seriously, go read it right now.  Then you can come back and read my thoughts.

Have you read it?  Willimon focuses on the “sent” aspect of the story, which makes perfect sense for an ordination service.  I thought I would share another insight into the story that I appreciated.

Willimon was given a message to deliver to a classmate that no one liked.  He could have delivered the straight to the point message from the principal.  But for whatever reason, he says something different.  “We’d all like Jimmy to come to school today.”  That message transforms Jimmy’s life.  This is a moment of profound wonder.

Willimon changes the narrative.  It’s not one of condemnation, but one of acceptance.  It is a profound moment of grace.  And that is what the Christian life is, at its best.  First, hearing that new message from God as one of grace, even when we expect condemnation.  Having our life transformed by the powerful message of acceptance and desire for relationship.

And then we are to share that message with the world.  To share the grace and love we have received.  To accept others where they are as God accepts them and show them new life in a community.  To flip the script on condemnation and offer something new, something better.

It’s not easy being sent into dark or dangerous places with that message of hope.  But the wonder that we can see when we arrive.  That makes it all worth it.


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Doubting Thomas Sermon

My most recent sermon from class on John 20:19-31.  I’ll put some other stuff about the passage up soon but I wanted to go ahead and post the sermon.

This passage appears in the lectionary for the Sunday after Easter so that’s when I envisioned it.

I would love to find a way to post audio or video of this one because the assignment was to preach it with notes, rather than a full manuscript.  A very interesting experience which I’ll talk about in the future.  It’ll be interesting to compare what I actually said because I know it wasn’t word for word what I wrote.

I never really found a title I loved.  I also considered “The Power of Presence” but I think that would actually be a slightly different sermon.  I’m definitely open to suggestions for this one.

An Offering for Faith

Have you ever woken up one morning and realized that your life would never be the same? I imagine that was I’ll call a “first” day. Think back with me over those days in your life. Your first day at a new school, perhaps high school or college. First day after your wedding. First day after the birth of a child. Unfortunately these memories are not always around happy occasions. Perhaps you thought of the first day after the death of a loved one. Regardless of which memory you picked, I imagine you can remember every detail from that morning.

What about those days when your life was forever changed but you had no idea when you woke up? Try rewinding some of those special moments. The day you got your acceptance letter in the mail. The day of the proposal. The day the pregnancy test was positive. I’m sure you remember exactly where you were when you got the news. But what about that morning? Do you remember anything about that morning? Probably not.

The disciples in the gospel reading had one of those mornings. Their lives would be forever different after this day. But when they woke up on this morning they had no idea.
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Here is my sermon for class.  A couple things to note.

This passage appeared in the Common Lectionary on World Communion Sunday, so I prepared it with a view towards preaching it on that Sunday.

This sermon was written for Reconciliation United Methodist Church, my local church here in Durham, NC.  I didn’t preach it there but prepared it for that community.  The church strives to promote racial reconciliation in Durham and has embraced different styles of worship in order to foster that vision.

Writing a Better Story

I recently read a book by Donald Miller titled A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In it he describes the process for turning one of his books into a movie. Along the way, Miller learns the aspects to crafting a good story and discovers, to his dismay, that he is living a boring story. The rest of the book tracks the decisions the screenwriters make with the movie alongside the decisions Miller makes with his life so that he can live a better story. Which made me wonder: what if communities also have stories? What is the story of this community? How do we make it a stronger story?

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Have you ever stopped and considered the number of television shows that are about our legal system?  We have Law and Order with its spin-offs.  Other police dramas like Southland, Dark Blue, Cold Case, and Miami Vice.  Then the shows about lawyers: Boston Legal, The Practice, Perry Mason, and Matlock.  The FBI gets Numbers, Criminal Minds and Without a Trace.  The military has NCIS and JAG.  And of course, who can forget all the forensics shows?  CSI with its two spin-offs and Bones.  That’s 19 shows and I’m just getting started.  Furthermore, these are just the ones following the good guys.  We haven’t even touched the shows about criminals.  Quite simply, we’re a culture obsessed with the legal system.

Have you noticed what’s missing from my list?  In all of these shows, judges are an after-thought if they show up at all.  Where are the shows about judges?  I can only think of two that featured a judge as a main character: Judging Amy and a short-lived drama on the Supreme Court.  Of course, we have all the sensationalized day-time TV judges: Judy, Joe Brown, Mathis, and others.  Hardly indicative of the average judge, case, or courtroom these shows reduce our legal system to sound bytes and witty quips.

So why no interest in judges?  Are we scared of them, imagining an imposing figure in black robes sitting behind a high bench banging a gavel?  Or do we just consider their stories less exciting, missing the adventure of cops and lawyers?

I wonder.  Is this how we view what the Bible says about judgment?  God as an imposing figure ready to sentence the unrepentant sinner?  Do we hurry past these passages in search of happier topics?  Or is it no longer a concern after what Christ did for us on the cross?
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Like the Acts 16 Sermon, this one also opened with a clip.  This time from Band of Brothers.  Click here for the clip.  The sermon is titled “Second Family.”

            Last week Larry talked about becoming a part of God’s family.  This week we’re looking at those people in our lives who are like family, maybe even closer than family, who we’re not related to.  The clip we saw is from the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers.  It has quickly become one of my favorite shows.  Not only does it portray the amazing heroism of the men of Easy Company, but it also shows an unvarnished picture of World War II.  The highs and lows, the victories and tragedies.  Perhaps most importantly, it shows the incredible bonds the men of the unit have with one another.

            There’s something about being in combat that binds people together in ways that few can understand.  Trusting another person with your life and knowing that he or she trusts you with theirs.  The shared experience of being faced with one’s own mortality.  And, in truth, while I hear their descriptions, I can’t fully comprehend that bond having never been in that situation.

            But I have my own experience with the idea of a second family.  In high school I found a second mother, Mrs. Cook.  Her two sons, James and David, were with me in Boy Scouts.  I became son #3, eventually of 5.  I’d be at their house some days after school or on weekends.  The three of us, along with Mr. Cook, were virtually inseparable on outings.  In short, I was family.
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Here’s the sermon I preached last night at the contemporary service. We kicked off the new series “All in the Family,” exploring what the Bible has to say about families. This was my first time preaching for the contemporary service. Honestly, it felt a lot like the 8:30 Sunday service to me. I preached using a music stand in front of the chancel rather than from the pulpit and the crowd was not nearly as big as at the 11:00 service.

The sermon opened with the trailer from National Lampoon’s Vacation. Here’s a link for those of you who’d like to see it: http://tinyurl.com/9kt4qo

The sermon is titled “Stepping Out.”

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Father Almighty Sermon

This sermon was the second in a series on the Apostle’s Creed at Cashiers United Methodist Church.  It was on the first section of the Apostle’s Creed, “Father Almight, maker of Heaven and earth.”  Joining a sermon series was an interesting experience, as was preaching the same sermon twice in one morning.  I hope to reflect on those experiences soon.

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