Friday, August 28, 2015


Sermon Summary from Aug 23rd ), “Pastor Paul” (2 Timothy 4:6-8) 

A few years ago a daughter of the church decided with her fiancĂ© that she could not be married in her home church because the pastor was a women!  And I remember my Dad going back to his home church 35 years ago and disapproving of the woman pastor leading the service.

My Dad was born in 1915, he wasn’t ready for change.  (He did admit she did a pretty good job.)  But the other couple was born in the 80s (1980s).  He was from a fundamentalist denomination that wouldn’t even allow women to usher.  I would say they abused the Bible.  (They’re now divorced.  I think he abused her too.)

The passage in question (1 Ti 2:9-11 and one similar in 1 Cor), specify modes dress, ask for silence and prohibit teaching.  They are abused by taking them out of their cultural context.  (Do we demand inerrancy even out of context?)  In addition, we do not look at the entire Bible? In other places Paul says, “when woman speak; when women prophesy.”  We need to look deeper. 

Further women are prominent leaders throughout the Bible: Rebekah,  Deborah (a judge, leader of the whole nation), two women with books named for them, the prophetess Hulda whose proclamation change the course of Jewish history.  And then in the New Testament, the women who followed Jesus were disciples without name.  Lydia was the leader of the church in Philippi.  Pricilla was prominent in Corinth and Ephesus.  Jania was an Apostle!

Then the culture.  Ephesus and Corinth were cities in shadow of Temples of love goddesses: Aphrodite and Artemus.  The temples and their emissaries  (the temple girls) dominated the culture.  Do you suppose they wore braids and pearls?  Do you suppose they were dominating?  Do you suppose Paul’s instructions were that proper behavior was what they were not? 

The final thing is that our God needs to look like Jesus, and our church like Jesus’ church.  If it doesn’t we need to again look deeper.  Paul’s message was simple and clear: Preach Christ and him crucified; and don’t get tangled up in word’s and myths.   Let us keep and practice the faith as Paul calls us to do.  Amen.


Sermon Summary from Aug 16th ), “Joy” (Philippians 4:4-7) 

In the Spring of 1993, I arrived at the Sydney (Australia) airport at 6:00 am and my connecting flight to Canberra was not until 10:00.  I sat in the airport reading the entire letter to the Philippians and marveled.  It was wonderful.  I was reading it for the first time.  Philippians has become an important part of my faith journey, one of those books that has intersected over and over again with the mile markers of my faith.

To go back, in the Fall of 1985, Rosemary and I invited a pastor to our house.  That night she told me, “You need to take Sarah Smith’s course.” (Lay Speaking)  I did.  On the first morning, Sarah led a devotion using Phil 2:5-11 (Jesus emptying himself).  I was astounded.  I realized I’d never read Philippians before.  First, mile marker.

That had spurred my desire to know more of the Bible.  In 1992, I was part of a Disciple Bible Study.  Life happened in that group.  At one point, the woman next to me asked, “When are we going to study joy?”  I told her that was next.  That’s what found me in the airport in Sydney reading Paul’s Epistle of Joy, Philippians.

I could hear Paul talking to our group: “I pray that your love will keep growing more and more.” (1:9) And then Paul choosing to “stay on with you, to add to your progress and joy in the faith.”

Then Chapter 2:5-11 followed chapter 3 and some of the most soaring language in the bible: “I press on to toward the goal of the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (3:14) Then Paul assures us that our citizenship is in heaven from where Christ will return and transform us.  We will go to him, and we will become like him!  Sarah, I and a friend conducted a retreat in Hartford, CT and Sarah selected the verse (3:14) as our theme.

Chapter 4 tells us “Rejoice in the Lord always!” and “by prayer...let requests be known to God.”  And to “think noble thoughts and the God of peace will be with us.” And “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

When we got ready to leave Connecticut, we all had dinner together in New Haven to say good-bye.  Sarah remarked that when you are in your 50s, often saying good-bye is really that.  Eighteen months later, she was diagnosed with stage four cancer.  It hit me hard.  She had been a mentor whose path had intersected with mine for nearly 20 years.  She pressed on for the goal of the prize.  She could do all things through Christ, her Lord.  Sarah has now obtained the goal, the prize.  She was a beloved mentor who used Philippians as mile markers on my faith journey.  Amen.


Saturday, August 15, 2015


Sermon Summary from Aug 9th, “Aaron’s Apparel Shop” (Ephesians 6:12-18) 

We last left Paul in Corinth.  He had written his letter to the Romans and now headed north through Macedonia to collect offerings from his churches for the Mother Church in Jerusalem.  He then boarded a ship and arrived on the coast close to Ephesus where he had spent three years.  He asked the leaders to meet him on the beach to say good bye, both parties knowing they would not see one another again.  Paul’s friends warned him that if he went to Jerusalem he would be held and maybe even killed.  Paul received the same warning from friends in Caesarea, but Paul went on.  It was Paul’s nature to run toward danger.

Paul is captured, beaten (almost killed) in Jerusalem before the Roman guards rescued him and then confined him in Caesarea.  You can read Paul’s evangelism to his captures in Acts 22-26.  Paul appealed to Rome once again running toward danger knowing that if the Gospel could be told in Rome that it would go out to the ends of the world!  Paul arrives in Rome in about 60 ad following storm and shipwreck (See Acts 26-28).  From there Paul witnesses and writes letters to his churches including the “Queen of Letters” to the Ephesians.  Wonderful stuff.

At one point, Paul says, “be kind to one another.” (4:32)  But we miss the aural pun in English.  Kind in Greek is chres-stoi and Christ is Christos.  “Be chres-stoi to one another—be Christ to one another.”  CS Lewis tells us, “Putting on the Christ is not one of the many jobs a Christian has to do.  It is the whole of Christianity.”  That is the lesson.

How is it that we put on the Christ, put on his apparel, dress for danger?  Well, we visit Aaron’s Apparel Shop (6:12-18)  We need to remember our struggle is not just against enemies of flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of this present darkness.  We must put on the whole armor of God.  Aaron’s has what we need: The belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness; the shoes that make us proclaim the gospel of peace; the shield of faith (the evil one wants most of all to attack our faith); the helmet of salvation (it’s been paid for); and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.  It is a two edged sword that changes us and transforms all that it encounters.  Evil cannot stand against it.

Aaron can box the whole armor of God up for you, or you can wear it with you.  But you must wear it.  You have no choice.  Amen.




Sermon Summary from Aug 2d , “Writing the Romans” (Romans 5:1-10) 

The more time I spend with Paul, the more amazed I am.  By now he’s been journeying for 8 years and traveled 8000 miles.  But most importantly, all the while he has been faithful.  Today we find him near the end of his third missionary journey spending three months in Corinth.  There he crafts his letter to the Romans, the most expansive and complete explanation of his theology.   If, as we said on July 5th, Galatians was the Christian Declaration of Independence, then Romans is the Christian Constitution. 

After spending four chapters telling his readers that we are all, Jew and Gentile alike, alienated from God without Christ, in Chapter 5 he begins, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have access to this grace in which we stand.”  Justified.  The Greek verb is past tense.  It has been done for us.  DONE.  Then grace.  My image is of standing in a endless wheat field, this grace in which we stand.  Jesus, the gift of finest wheat.  Through the gift of Jesus we are justified by faith, the theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Paul continues, “and not only that, we boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope..”  Christian faith does not exempt suffering.  We know that.  If for no other reason the Christ on the cross.  But suffering produces a chain of events that result in hope.  (Character here is not the personality trait we normally think of by our incorporation into the framework of God’s ultimate plan.)

“and hope will never disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into us by the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  Again, the image of God’s continuous, unending love being poured into us.  If grace was the gift of finest wheat, then the pouring of God’s love is the gift of finest wine.

Leaving the theme, justification by faith, Paul most often ends his letters with practical rules for Christian living.  In Romans, those begin in Chapter 12 which I leave as an exercise, but “be transformed by the renewing of your mind….”  Amen.




Sermon Summary from July 25th ), “A Young Church Learns” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24) 

On Paul’s Second Missionary Journey, Paul spent 18 month in Corinth, founding and nurturing a young church in the midst of a city that was a by-word. If debauchery and drunkenous were your way, you were “Corinthianized.”  Corinth sat at an isthmus that controlled north-south traffic on the Achean Peninsula (Greece).  In addition, the isthmus was narrow enough that boats could transverse the land avoid a 200 mile treacherous sea journey around the southern cape.  And what is it that sailors can do with a day or two of shore leave while their ships are being moved?  In addition, Corinth was the home of the Temple to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, whose temple prostitutes plied their trade each evening.  It was into this setting that Paul brought his ministry of 18 months.

On Paul’s third missionary journey, Paul established himself at Ephesus and corresponded with his young church.  In his absence, “false prophets” has misled his young congregation and turned them against Paul.  He wrote at least four letters and made a “painful” visit followed by a severe letter (2 Cor 10-13) in order to reconcile them.  Not waiting for a reply, he sent Titus visit and report their response.  So anxious for the answer, Paul made an overland trip from Ephesus to intercept Titus.  When he found that all was well and that the congregation had repented of their distrust of Paul, Paul sat down, probably in Philippi, and wrote a beautiful letter of reconciliation that we know a 2 Corinthians 1-9.

Part of the problem was the make up of the young congregation from observant Jews to libertarians from the street who could be appropriately described as those reveling in their freedom saying, “let us sin all the more so that grace may abound.”  One thing they did say was “Food was made for the stomach, and the stomach for food,” and they applied it to all appetites.

The central theme of Paul’s instruction was “’All things are lawful,’ but not all things are beneficial.  ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.  Do not seek your own advantage, but that of others.” (1 Cor 10:23-24)  Not only that, Paul would tell us that we are “Ambassadors of Christ” (2 Cor 5:20).  So may it be with all. 




Sermon Summary from (July 19th), “The Hope” (Acts 16 to 18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) 

We’re in the midst of a series, “Paul: His Journeys and His Letters.”  Today we center our message on “Hope.”  One of the churches Paul founded lacked hope.  They lacked hope in the second coming of Jesus Christ.  Paul wrote to them not once, but twice.

Paul had concluded his first journey and launched the second with a new partner, Silas, returning to strengthen the churches.  He later finds a young Timothy and Luke who join them.  Led by the Spirit, he was prohibited from preaching in western Asia Minor and instead, had a vision calling him to Macedonia.  Paul’s ministry was entering Europe, and our world would never be the same!

In Philippi, Paul and his fellow travelers go down the River and find a woman, Lydia, a seller of purple goods (expensive cloth) who who listens, is converted, is baptized, and who invited Paul and his companions to stay in her house.  There the first house church in Europe established by Paul is founded. You can find the stories of Philippi in Acts 16. From Philippi we get a powerful image of baptism.

Paul next moves to the regional capital, the ancient city of Thessanolica founded in 600 bc,  and starts a church there.  He forms a strong familial bond with the church and later is concerned when he receives reports. One person is concerned that a loved one has died.  What hope have the dead Christ returns?  Another believes we have missed the Second Coming of Christ altogether.  Paul responds with soaring language: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess 4:16-17 NKJV)  Thus from Paul and the church at Thessalonica we receive a powerful vision of hope.

We are baptized people of hope, called to remember our baptism: “As I dip in the water, I remember my baptism.  Wash me with your grace.  Fill me with your Spirit.  Renew my soul with hope.  I pray that I might live as your child today, and honor you with all that I do.”  May faith, hope and love abide in your always.  Amen.