Living together in Community; Matthew 5:38-48; Delivered February 19, 2017

About five years ago, I was at my bank branch, at the teller window, depositing some checks.  On this particular visit, the nice teller asked me if I was in the market for a credit card. The bank was offering a new one.  The points I would earn on this credit card would go toward paying down my mortgage.  “What a deal,” I thought to myself.   

That’s how I came to be sitting across a desk from another employee at that bank branch.  He looked to be in his mid-to-late 20’s, nicely groomed and wearing the requisite banker’s suit and tie.  I told him I was in the market for that particular credit card. Now, in a normal banker/customer exchange you get a few minutes of friendly banter, right? about the weather maybe, or traffic. “Boy, what a back-up this morning!”  In fact, though, as soon as we introduced ourselves, his name was Zach, his eyes became fixed on his computer screen.  Our conversation went something like this:   Zach said: Full name.  I gave him that;  Address: I gave him that, too:  Phone number:  and so on and so forth.  As I gave him the information, he in-putted it on his computer.

Read More

Being Spiritual; Matthew 5:1-11: Delivered January 29, 2017

At Scottsville’s Chamber of Commerce dinner this week, whether by design or by luck, I sat next to Bruce Lugn, pastor at the Methodist Church.  I say by design, because it very well could be that it was the consensus among those already at their tables:  “Let’s let those boring clergy types sit together!”  But I say luck because it could just be that I came late and Bruce’s wife Alessandra was home sick with a cold—so there we go. At any rate, I sat next to Bruce Lugn, and we had a great time talking religion.    

In fact, Bruce and I always have a lot to talk about.  We attended the same seminary, so we enjoyed some of the same classes, the same professors.  I guess you could say that we speak the same Christian lingo.  

Bruce has finished his Masters in Divinity, of course.  He did that a few years ago—he’s a midlife-pastor. He has the education “bug,” now, though, so he’s still in school.  This year he’s taking a course in spiritual formation.  I did that, too, actually, many moons ago as part of my doctoral program.   And so spiritual formation was the primary thread of our conversation the other evening. Riveting.  Don’t you regret, now, that you weren’t at our table?  That conversation brought back memories and I thought I would share some of those with you today.  

Read More

Jesus and Martin Luther King, Jr; Matt. 4: 18-22; :Delivered on January 22, 2017

just say that Martin Luther King, Jr, was not Jesus. We know that.  Most of the time, anyway, we know that, right?  I will say though that MLK is really high on my list of people I admire. Maybe yours, too. ON MY list, at the very top, is Jesus, and I’m not just saying that because I am a pastor and I have to say that.  He really IS at the very top.  After Jesus, in no particular order, there’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Paul Farmer, who is still alive and is a doctor whose mission it is to end cholera and other epidemics in poor countries, including Haiti. Mohammed Yunis, who came up with the idea and now offers micro loans to poor people (mainly in India) so they can work their way out of poverty; and Mother Theresa, maybe.  I say maybe in regard to Mother Theresa because I really don’t know that much about her, although I am pretty certain she had her priorities right; and for certain my own works of compassion pale in comparison to hers.   It’s just that I have never read an entire book about her, like I have about the other five (five, that’s including Jesus).   She is a woman, though, and I think it is good for my list to have some diversity.  So there you go. Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Paul Farmer, Mohammed Yunis, and maybe, probably, Mother Theresa.       

Read More

Church Leadership; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Delivered January 15, 2017

You, Larry and Duane, have already been ordained, as you know but maybe some of the rest of us don’t!   Today, you will be taking up the ordination mantle-- again.  You will be moving from inactive elder, or the way some people refer to it--unruly elder, to ruling elder status. You will once again become a leader in this wonderful church.  You ready to clean up your act?   

You are following in a long line of church leaders.  According to scripture, the first church leaders to be ordained were in the church in Jerusalem.  We get the why and how in Acts 6.  The Apostles who were leaders in the Jerusalem church, Peter, James and the rest, were spending their time reading and writing, praying and thinking great thoughts. All to say that the church in Jerusalem, was going to heck.  There was no one doing the administration end of things-- required to keep the church running;  Most distressing of all, the poor and the widows were being neglected. 


Read More

Luke 1:32-56; The Perfect Mother; Delivered December 18, 2016

Where would you go to find this perfect mother?  Would you go to an abbey, if in fact abbeys still exist, and I guess they do—looking for that special someone who has dedicated her life to God and is living as a virgin?  Or, would you go to a rally, say, for women’s rights, to find a strong woman who speaks and acts her mind?  Would you go to a local high school, to find a naive, meek kind of girl—a wallflower? or would you check out Harvard and Yale, hoping to find an attractive, popular young woman who exudes smarts.  Would you go to a nursing home say, to find a young, gentle soul, who never finished high school, and is spending her days caring for sick, elderly people?  Or, would you roam hospital corridors looking for that special someone who has had the grit to make it through med school and is now dedicating her life to saving lives?  Would you choose a poor Mexicana, who is in this country illegally, or, would you choose the female attorney who is representing her in court, and whose passion it is to defend the poor and the outcast?  Be honest.  

Read More

Isaiah 35:1-10; Standing Rock; Delivered December 11, 2016

Last Saturday night--That’s when I got a phone call from my eldest daughter. She is married and lives in Nashville.  She told me that her husband Adam was on his way to North Dakota—to be part of the protest at Standing Rock.  I have got to tell you I was not happy.  I tried my best to practice good pastoral care, though.  Out of my mouth came, “Well gee, Emily, I will certainly pray for him, and we will pray for him at church, too.” You will recall, if you were here last week, we did that.  Good to my word. 

That’s what I SAID, but I was thinking, “Emily, Adam is pushing forty for heaven’s sake, and he is going to North Dakota to live in a teepee?  Don’t you think it’s time for him to become a responsible adult?”  

In Adam’s defense, I should say that he is an idealist. And that is both a virtue and a vice.  A blessing and a burden.   I have just recently learned that social activists fall into three categories:  radicals, realists and idealists:  Radicals see inherent structural problems that need remedying if a particular change is to occur—so really they want everything to change.  They can be a little out there, if you know what I mean; realists on the other hand, are seeking reform but they don’t want to upset the status quo.  That’s most people, probably.  And idealists?  These concerned and sympathetic people are often more motivated by the heart than by the head; as I suppose Adam is. That is why he spent a small fortune buying warm winter gear, a plane ticket and renting a car, to travel to what amounts to a barren wasteland, to again, live in a teepee.   

Isaiah 35:1-10

The church I served in Northern Virginia, had a large staff.  So we had a staff meeting every Wednesday afternoon to try to beat back the confusion that was normative!  At one meeting, one of us, a Parish Associate, was due to preach that coming Sunday.  Wednesday is late in my book to be in the beginning stages of writing a sermon, but that’s where he was in his sermon writing process, poor soul!  With his head in his hands, he moaned, “What do I preach on? What would YOU want to hear about?“ I was just getting my feet wet in ministry myself, so I took to heart our head pastor’s response.  He said, “Well, I wouldn’t ask US. What do we know?   I would just preach what’s on your heart and what you hear God telling you to preach on.” 

And that is why today I am going to preach about Standing Rock, which, I realize, you might not have been following; and which I wasn’t either, really, until Saturday night.

Saturday night--That’s when I got a phone call from my eldest daughter. She is married and lives in Nashville.  She told me that her husband Adam was on his way to North Dakota—to be part of the protest at Standing Rock.  I have got to tell you I was not happy.  I tried my best to practice good pastoral care, though.  Out of my mouth came, “Well gee, Emily, I will certainly pray for him, and we will pray for him at church, too.” You will recall, if you were here last week, we did that.  Good to my word. 

That’s what I SAID, but I was thinking, “Emily, Adam is pushing forty for heaven’s sake, and he is going to North Dakota to live in a teepee?  Don’t you think it’s time for him to become a responsible adult?”  

In Adam’s defense, I should say that he is an idealist. And that is both a virtue and a vice.  A blessing and a burden.   I have just recently learned that social activists fall into three categories:  radicals, realists and idealists:  Radicals see inherent structural problems that need remedying if a particular change is to occur—so really they want everything to change.  They can be a little out there, if you know what I mean; realists on the other hand, are seeking reform but they don’t want to upset the status quo.  That’s most people, probably.  And idealists?  These concerned and sympathetic people are often more motivated by the heart than by the head; as I suppose Adam is. That is why he spent a small fortune buying warm winter gear, a plane ticket and renting a car, to travel to what amounts to a barren wasteland, to again, live in a teepee.   

You know the movie, Bruce Almighty—Bruce is played by Jim Carrey.  He is driving along in is car, complaining out loud to God about his miserable life and asking for a signal.  He passes under a flashing sign that reads, “Caution Ahead.”  Then Bruce says to God, “Just give me a sign,” and Bruce comes this close to crashing into a truck filled with what?   Road Signs!

This week, I feel like anyway, I have been on the receiving end of God’s signals and signs—either that, or the universe has conspired to change my attitude, and opinions about—well, about Adam, the plight of the Native Americans and a lot else.  So just to give you a brief rundown of the first part of my week:

I had been invited to speak at a meeting of the Charlottesville Peace and Justice Center last Sunday afternoon.  That’s what I did after worship here.  During the meeting, the president of the Center, announced his plans to go to Standing Rock. I filed that away in my brain. Hum.    

Then, Sunday evening, as I often do, I read through the lectionary passages for today, hoping to get a start on my sermon.  I was struck by what I read in Isaiah.   It has everything to do with the current situation in North Dakota, or so it seemed to me—I mean really.  Just change out desert for prairie.  The colorful, blossoming landscape—for the colorful clothes of the Native American Indians—and the blossoming tents that now dot the landscape. In scripture, we read about a highway. There is indeed a highway at Standing Rock, one lone highway blockaded by protestors, who call themselves water protectors.  I had seen that in a newspaper picture of the standoff at Standing Rock.  Scripture says, “Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees,.” Those Native Americans probably have felt perpetually weak and feeble politically, but all of a sudden they have experienced strength; power—due to lots of press, the social media, and the surge of people who have traveled to Standing Rock to protest with them.

Finally, as I had already read and also in keeping with scripture, the protestors have made their will known non-violently—that is--no lion or ravenous beast at Standing Rock.  The 2200 or so veterans who joined the cause have vowed not to use weapons, either. I had read that in the paper, too. So for me anyway, obvious parallels—Isaiah and the issue at hand. 

Monday morning, a friend mentioned to me that the Associate Pastor at Westminster Presbyterian, Tracy Wisperley, had gone to join the protest. Monday afternoon my Christian Century magazine arrived.  On page 13?  An article on Standing Rock.

Tuesday, I sat down at my computer to start writing a first draft of this sermon, which I had decided would have to be about the protest in North Dakota.   I was just getting started when I received an e-mail from the Presbyterian Church USA, announcing its support for the American Indians at….Standing Rock!


God STILL wasn’t finished though. Tuesday afternoon, I officiated at a wedding.   Small crowd—just the bride and groom and their respective parents.  The groom’s parents, as you might expect, were from North Dakota!  In college, the groom’s mother minored in Native American history, AND she and her husband, good Christians, do occasional mission work at a nearby North Dakota reservation!  Of course, they were following the Standing Rock protest closely and hoping the dispute would be resolved in Standing Rock’s favor.

So the rest of this week, I did my due diligence.  This is what I now knowA petroleum pipeline was originally slated to be laid near Bismarck, North Dakota.   The company laying the pipe is Energy Transport.  Because Bismarck is a highly populated area, though, plans for the pipeline were moved to land just outside the Sioux reservation.  To be fair to Energy Transport, the land they had intended to lay pipe on is not part of the reservation—it is all privately owned and the company has permission to dig there.   Plans called for the pipeline to go under the Missouri River, though—which, the Native American Sioux tribe feared, might eventually become tainted with petroleum.  The Sioux and others in the area, some 17 million people total, depend on the Missouri River for their water needs.  The Sioux rightly noted that there has been a dramatic surge in pipe-line leaks in recent years.

Energy Transport states that lots of electrical lines and other pipelines lie under the Missouri River already, and no one complained when those were installed—at least not complained THIS loudly. So, why now?


I’m guessing, although feel free to give me your own thoughts on this, I’m guessing that this pipeline controversy was just the last straw—the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak—or in French, it’s la goutte qui fait déborder le vase  –the drop of water that made the vase overflow.  Native Americans have been pushed around, oppressed, taken advantage of, for centuries. Not this time.

 The other question I had this week is why, in particular, religious folk were getting involved? Was this merely a movement to support the oppressed?  Something that, you have to agree, Jesus calls us to do.  To get an answer to that, I called our Presbyterian Church, USA.  Presbyterian worker, Sara Lisherness is the director of Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries for our denomination. She was interviewed for the article I read in Christian Century.    

Sara said that she was one of some 500 Christian clergy who went to Standing Rock in early November, before it got so God-awful-cold (negative one degree Farenheit this morning, at Standing Rock, I checked).  They were there at the invitation of the Sioux. 

The Christian faith leaders expressed their remorse for the way religious folk have treated American Indians across the centuries.  While they were there, they officially disavowed the Doctrine of Discovery.  I had never heard of that, but it is a 15th century papal writing.  The Doctrine mandates Christian European countries to (quote) “Attack, enslave and kill the Indigenous Peoples they encounter and to acquire all of their assets.” The World Council of Churches officially rejected the document in 2012.  A long time in coming, I’d say.

Sara and those other 499 Christian religious leaders at the camp read the World Council of Church’s repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery during a religious service.  Then they ceremonially burned copies of it—but not in the sacred fire, a fire that burns continuously at the entrance to the camp—tribal leaders did not want to taint that blaze—they burned copies of the doctrine in a separate fire built just for that purpose. 

Two more things I wanted to know from Sara when I called this week.   What KIND OF folks were visitors at the camp?  Religious folk we know about, but who else?  For sure, she said there were people who had come, “just looking for a cause.” Think Radicals.  Others though, were from far away—like Bolivia.  Sara said, “Indigenous people from other countries identify with the Sioux’ cause—as do Palestinians—lots of Palestinians in the camp.” And there were people like Adam, there to act their conscience. 

She finished by saying, “Yes, there were young people in the camp, but actually lots of old people, too;” Don’t know what constitutes as “old,” but it’s a surprising comment nevertheless, when you consider the not-so-comfortable living arrangements:  biting weather, hard sleeping pallets.

So there you have it.  I’ve done what I believe God has called me to do.  Share this information with you.  I have also shared what has been heavy on my heart. 







Read More

Baptized by the Holy Spirit and Fire, Matthew 3:1-12, delivered December 4, 2016

The church I served in Northern Virginia was part of the upscale community, of McLean.   Lots of lawyers, and a host of government contractors and officials in that town, and in the church, likewise.  Can you imagine getting anything done at a church with that kind of membership?  The head pastor used to shake his head and complain on almost a daily basis, “All chiefs, no Indians.”  

            Several of our members, worked for the State Department.  They would be with us for a few years and then go off on assignment.  Often their spouses were from other countries. One State Department official, Larry, was married to a woman who was originally from Japan. She didn’t attend our church since she was a practicing Buddhist.

Read More

We Come to the Mountain; Isaiah 2:1-5; Delivered November 27th, 2016

I thought that today, we might talk about mountains, since a mountain, Mount Zion, is featured in our Old Testament text for today. 

Have you ever noticed just how often mountains are mentioned in the Old Testament? 

There is Mount Ararat: resting place of Noah’s ark;

Mount Carmel: scene of Elijah’s defeat of the prophets of Baal; 

Mount Ebal: site of Joshua’s altar to God

Mount Gerizim: site of blessing; and later claimed by the Samaritans as their holy mountain

Mount Gilboa place of Saul’s suicide; 

Mount Hor: place of Aaron’s death;

Mount Moriah: where Abraham took Isaac, to offer him as a sacrifice

Mount Sinai: where God gives Moses the law—

Mount Nebo: place of Moses’ death; 

Mount Zion, really a hill, but called a mountain—where the city of Jerusalem is located, and which is central to our reading today, and

Mount Rainer—Just making sure you are still awake  

These mountains, minus Mount Rainer are just a few among many mountains and high places mentioned in the Old Testament. 

Now while we are still deep into Hebrew scripture, I want to teach you two Hebrew words that mean Mountain—one is Tur—This is just a ’guess but I am thinking that our word Tower comes from the Hebrew word Tur.  The other Hebrew word for Mountain is Har.  You know Armeggedon, something that some of us are fearful of, with this change in the political landscape?  Armeggeon, comes from the Hebrew.  Har (mount) -Megiddo. Mount Megiddo is a place North of Judah, where an important battle took place. Har Megiddo.  

Read More

Of Puritans, Pocahontas, and John Rolfe; Matthew 5:14-16; Delivered November 20, 2016

We who have grown up in Virginia know that our forbearers—that is, the settlers at Jamestown, actually celebrated the very first Thanksgiving—I learned that at least by 4th grade, maybe earlier.  I have no idea whether this is true or not, but to my child’s mind, Pocahontas was there, and so was her husband, John Rolfe.  John Rolfe, of course, was puffing on his pipe at that first feast, and that pipe was filled with John Rolfe tobacco, which has, I am, told, a special fruity aroma.   

 Back in the day, that is when I was in elementary school, there was a TV commercial advertising John Rolfe tobacco.  In the commercial a man wearing a contemporary suit, not Jamestown garb, simply walked across a stage, smoking his pipe.   I remember the commercial with great clarity because my school teacher’s husband was the man doing the walking and smoking.  My teacher was very proud of that fact.  Anyway, in the commercial, the voice over was that of a woman.  So as my teacher’s husband walked and puffed across stage, the woman’s voice- over cooed  “Ummmm, John Rolfe just walked by.”  

Read More

Surely it is God Who Saves Us; Isaiah 12:2-6; Delivered November 13, 2016

Several weeks ago I decided that there was no way I was watching and waiting for the election returns at home, alone, except for my dog.  I invited some neighbors over to watch and wait with me on Tuesday night.  Monday evening, the night before the election returns, I made lots of munchies—some mushroom/cream cheese pastry puff thingies and some dates wrapped in bacon. Better chewing on those than on finger nails, right? 

I invited eight people.  But numbers dwindled quickly.  One of my neighbors begged off —she had to have some tests run at the hospital early on Wednesday morning, so she needed to get to bed early.  A couple down the block never DID surface, or e-mail or call-in an excuse. Don’t know what was up with that.  The male half of the couple who lives next door ran over at about 9:30 in the evening Tuesday night.—that is, well after the analysis of returns was underway.  He said breathlessly, “Kelly can’t pull herself away from the TV.  So sorry.  Catch up later!  This is going to be close!”  Or something like that.  Then he leapt off my front porch, sprinted across my lawn, and just cleared my hedge as he made his way back to his own house. His name is Ralph.  Endearing soul. 

Read More

Reformation Sunday (a week late) Romans 3:19-31

Reformation Day was October 31st, but November 1st was All Saints Day.  Every year I have this dilemma.  Do we honor Martin Luther and remember the posting of his 95 theses or proposals for theological change?—which he did on the front door of All Saints Cathedral?—on All Saints Day--October 31st, 1517; an act that ultimately led to the Reformation of the church—and the beginning of Protestantism—(that’s actually one sentence can you believe it and there’s still no period!); OR do we remember and honor our loved ones who have passed on at an All Saints Day service?

Every year I selfishly opt for All Saints Day.  I do this even though I am a Protestant; I do this, even though All Saints Day is a holy day in the Roman Catholic Church and not so much in the Protestant church.   I say selfishly. That is because despite its Roman Catholic moorings, All Saints Day Services feed my soul—and I hope yours as well.  And, I have this firm conviction that we OUGHT to set aside one day at least, each year, to remember our deceased loved ones, and honor them together as a church family; and in a place we consider holy.   


Read More

All Saints Day; Ephesians 1:8b-23; Delivered October 30, 2016

I don’t know why it is so, but ministers read poetry when they are sitting in the quiet of their study--and I am no different.  In fact, there ARE ministers out there, who will end practically every Sunday sermon with a good poem.  I don’t do that, not just because most times it’s hard to find a poem that fits, but also because it can become too predictable;  and then, too, frankly, too many poems, just aren’t that good—they can put you to sleep rather than wake you up and send you off with  good vibes to start your week. Today though, on this All Saints Sunday, I hope you will excuse me if I begin this sermon with a poem. 

I have been told, that poets write about two things, death and love.  Billy Collins, the poet whose poem I am about to read, is no different.  This Billy Collin poem is about death.  It is entitled, “The Dead.” 


Read More

Luke 18:9-14; Of Tax Collectors, Born Again Christians and Alcoholics; Delivered October 23rd, 2016

Last weekend, I listened to a radio game show--one among many radio shows I listened to on my car travels from wedding rehearsals and weddings to more wedding rehearsals and weddings across this great state of Virginia.  I spent nine hours in my car last weekend—nine hours!  Norman Lear was one of the radio game show’s contestants on the show I listened to.  We on this side of the sanctuary remember Norman Lear, right? He was an American television writer and producer for sitcoms in the 70’s--sitcoms like All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and One Day at a Time.  Maybe you on this side of the sanctuary have seen some of these shows in reruns? 

     Norman Lear is 93 years old now. That radio show affirmed for listeners that he is still funny and smart.  During the show, the game show host asked Norman Lear:

So do you have any tips for those of us who would like to arrive at 93 as spry and as successful and happy as you are?

Read More

Luke 18:1-8; Looking for Justice, Delivered October 17, 2016

I don’t know if my brain works differently than other peoples’ brains, but I suspect it might.  Do you often think in pictures?  Or is most of your thinking in words? You know, stream of consciousness. I often think in pictures or scenes.  It might have something to do with the fact that I am left-handed, but I’m just guessing.

Anyway, however my brain is:  normal or not-so-normal, or even abnormal, in the Apostles’ Creed, there is a line, “He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”  You know that line, right?  You memorized it in Jr. High, maybe.   I memorized it in confirmation classes when I was Junior High.  But I didn’t memorize it quite like it was written.


Read More

Community; Romans 12:1-8; Delivered October 9, 2016

A while back I had a conversation with an elderly gentleman.  He told me that when he was a young man, single, new to town, he decided to find himself a church.  One Sunday, he got up, dressed, had breakfast and hopped in his car.  He knew where he was headed.  He had read in the paper about a new church not too far from his house.  He would try that one. He drove to a very small building—a house, actually—but it had a church sign out front.  He pulled his car onto the front lawn that served as the church parking lot.  Only a few cars there.  So few cars, in fact, that he wondered whether he had read the service time wrong in the paper. The front door was open, though.  He was greeted by a man who handed him a bulletin and informed him that the service would begin soon.  As this visitor walked toward a line of chairs in the makeshift sanctuary, he heard the greeter say, “Can you usher?”  The young man turned around.  The greeter was looking at him.  The young man said, “Well, sorry, but this is my first Sunday!”  The greeter shot right back.  “Mine, too.  Here’s the offering plate.” 

Read More

Generosity: Luke 16:19-31; Delivered October 2, 2016

Homiletics is the the art of preaching and writing sermons.  Since I was on the pastor track in seminary, I was required to take two semesters worth of homiletics classes.  That first semester of classes was absolutely horrific.  You know speaking in public—and especially speaking before a homiletics professor who knew something of the art.  How horrific was it?  My hair used to be straight! 

One of our first exercises was to present a how-to before our fellow class members on something we were familiar with—five minutes—no notes.  My “how to” was “Sewing balloon drapes.”  It was gripping, A friend of mine gave detailed instructions to the class on How to Stuff a Turkey. 

Read More

The Prodigal Sun; Luke 15:11-32; Delivered September 25, 2016

 The parable I just read, of the prodigal son, is one in a series of parables in chapter 15 about how God cares for his human creatures—us. The first parable in the chapter is about how a shepherd, aka God, leaves 99 sheep in search for one lost sheep;  and the second parable a woman, also aka God, searches high and low for one lost coin.  Like the stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin, so too, this third parable, in which the father is aka God.

So, the Prodigal Son.  As a way into this story, I want to share with you some things I learned from a book that I read some time ago..  The book by is by Kenneth Bailey Dr, Bailey is not only an author, but a lecturer in Middle Eastern New Testament studies. He was formerly the chairman of the Biblical Department at the Near Eastern School of Theology in Beirut.  That’s information that should raise eyebrows. Having lived and studied for so many years in the Middle East, he has been able to bring new information to the interpretation of the story of the prodigal son.  Unlike other theologians, Dr. Bailey uses the supersensitive lens of a Middle Eastern cultural historian. 

Read More

Philippians 2:1-11; Selfishly Ambitious?

I can’t stay up past 11 p .m. so I never watch the late show with Stephen Colbert.  I do, though, sometimes catch Stephen Colbert on You Tube.  The other night on You Tube, I watched Stephen Colbert interview Tim Kaine, who as you can’t help knowing, particularly if you live in Virginia, is running for Vice President.  As part of the interview, Tim Kaine shared that he is a Christian and that in his younger years he was a missionary in Honduras.  Stephen Colbert, who is also a Christian, asked Tim Kaine if he had a favorite Bible passage from the New Testament.  Tim Kaine, asked for clarification, “The New Testament?”  Which is maybe what I would have asked, too.  I mean, I have memorized some of the Psalms, a line or two from the prophets, “Let Justice Roll Down like Water” comes to mind, but Stephen Colbert clarified for Mr. Kaine, “Yes, the New Testament—you know, the one with Jesus in it?” 

After a chuckle, Tim Kaine reeled off, the passage from Philippians, which is part of our reading for today, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, regard others as better than yourselves, and let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others.”  

Read More

Philemon 1-21; Proof Texting; Delivered September 4, 2016

Philemon is actually part of today’s lectionary.  I have never preached on it before, and I’m thinking that maybe you have never heard it preached ON before.   Which is sad, actually.  It is rich in contextual information about the first century, rich in specifics about it’s author, Paul, and I hope by the end of this sermon you will agree with me, that it is also rich in details about what makes Christianity a faith tradition to be cherished, preserved and lived out by those of us who call ourselves Christians. 

Now, maybe, when you scanned the bulletin this morning, you noticed the citation for the book we would be discussing, again, Philemon, and you thought either Tom or I had made a type-o—because the scripture reading cited, Philemon 1-21, doesn’t show a chapter—you know chapter 2 (colon) and then 1 hyphen, 21, or whatever.  There is no chapter citation, because Philemon doesn’t have any—chapters that is.  It is THAT short.  Less than one page in your pew Bibles.  It is, in fact one of the shortest books in the Bible (only 2nd and 3rd John are shorter) and it is the shortest of Paul’s letters to have been preserved in scripture.

Read More

Blessing; Luke 14:1; 7-14; Delivered on August 28, 2016

I have talked some about this before, but back in 2004, I led a group of nine youth and three chaperones on a trip to the US/Mexico border—specifically to Nogales, Mexico.  The trip was planned and executed by an organization called Borderlinks, which according to Borderlinks’ website is a “non-profit educational organization based in Tucson, Arizona (pause) that connects people to the realities at the US-Mexico Borderlands.” Again,  “it connects people to the realities of the US/Mexico borderlands.”  There is a lot of talk always in this country about the border, and even more so today, with the campaigns in full swing.  But probably most people don’t know much about the border’s “realities.” So I hope the narration I am about to share with you is relevant, and if I do my job right, I will be able to tie it in with our scripture reading from Luke.   

When we arrived by airplane and then by van, to Nogales, Mexico, it had just rained—not a gentle rain, but a downpour.  Right away we learned how we sooo take streets for granted in the US--, just simple pavement, curbs and sidewalks.   Our driver, a young woman who worked for Borderlinks, drove us through gullies and ravines, across rivulets, and over hill and dale at breakneck speed.  We bounced. We swayed this way, that way. 


Read More