Friday, December 13, 2019


Sermon Summary (11/24//19) “Christ the King” (John 12:9-19;
Lk 23:33-43)

Christ the King Sunday.  What does it look like for us to make Christ King?  A life striving to be filled with the love of God and neighbor, obeying Jesus, and walking as he walked.  When we do that, we are submitting to his authority, making him first in our lives. 

Why are we so reluctant to do that?  Primarily, we have other things we want to put first: Ourselves, those we love, as teenagers, those to whom we are attracted.  (Adam Hamilton admitted one Sunday that as a teenager, there were things he placed first and it had to do with marriage, a reason he got married at 18.)  It is easy to place God behind spouse, family, life, and if we are really honest with ourselves, even materialism, but especially self.  We are surrounded by idols, or what we make as idols.

Christ the King Sunday is a reminder of how we are to “Order our loves.”  In Jesus’ day, kings were big deals.  If they said “come,” you came; if they said “go,” you went; they literally held life in their hands.  Caesar was king of kings, literally known as “king of kings and lord of lords.”  When Christians game Jesus that tile, “King of kings and Lord of Lords,” making Christ King, they were placing their very lives in jeopardy.  Yet that is what they did.  Every day was Christ the King day.  Every day, they ordered their loves to make Christ first.

We have been looking at unique passages from Luke.  Today we also look at Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday where he is declared king.  We also see a relationship between his entrance and the last of John’s signs, the raising of Lazarus.  The Pharisees saw the people’s declaration of Jesus as King directly related to his “sign” of raising Lazarus.  They said, “You see, you can do nothing.  Look the world has gone after him.” (John 12:19) 

John wrote his book using “signs” so that we may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ and so believing, have life in his name.” (John 20:31)  These signs were performed 2000 years ago and the people took them to heart (moved their intellectual understanding to a believe in the heart that changed their behavior).  That’s our task today, to read, reflect, ponder, meditate on the stories of Jesus that we move our intellectual understanding through intense mental activity that affects the heart.  That’s what John means by “believe.”  “That you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, and in so believing have life in his name.”  More than an intellectual understanding, but behavior changing heart.

We have choices to make.  Our reading from Luke is the story of the two thieves, one of whom mocked Jesus, the other who said, “Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.”  Jesus replies to him, and to us who so order our loves, “today you shall be with me in paradise.” 

So may we make Christ the King of our lives.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


Sermon Summary (11/17/19) “Shrewd” (Lk 16:1-9)

A dozen years ago, I met a young pastor, Mike Rayson, and we connected on many levels.  When we met, he was in the midst of grieving the loss of his son, Sam, in a horse accident.  Next, he was an Aussie, Australian, an ordained pastor in the Uniting Church that I often attended on my many trips.  Years later, Rosemary and I attended a worship service planned and led by Mike, the most wonderful and  meaningful worship service we ever attended.  I then found that Mike had been appointed to a Methodist Church in Granite City, IL.  If Rosemary was still with me, we would travel the three hours just to attend.

Then in March, I found that Mike had been relieved of his credentials by his bishop.  What if you were a pastor one day and did not have a church the next?  Mike started a church, and within two months it was every bit the church that he was forced from.  How?  I would suggest, shrewdly, using all the wiles of the world around him.

What if you arrived and the church was locked, or maybe just a green space?  What would you do?  Knock on doors, yes, but use all the technology available to create a worshiping community.  Shrewdly, with all the wiles of the world around us.

Today, we are looking at a parable unique to Luke, “The Dishonest Manager,” maybe the most difficult of Jesus’ teachings.  We need to be careful to not treat it as an allegory, attributing roles, eg. God, us, others to the all the characters with multiple teaching points.  The Prodigal Son is an allegory.  The Dishonest Manager is a parable with a single teaching point.  If we treat it as an allegory, we will be confused.  And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” (Luke 16:8)  That’s the heart of it.  I’ll leave the reading of the rest to you.  We are to be shrewd in our ministry and our evangelism, using the wiles of the culture around us.  Here’s another passage that may convince you: “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Mt 10:16)

What should we be doing to bring others to Christ?  There are churches that don’t yet allow instruments to accompany them because Paul’s church in Philippi didn’t have one.  What about us?  How do we use the culture around us to draw the community to Christ?

On November 3rd. 17.000 people gathered for worship at the Forum in Los Angeles.  Who was the leader?  Would you be shocked to learn it was Kanye West?  One 17 year old, interviewed following the service, said, “I’ve never been in church before in my life.  I’ve just never considered it.  I guess I’ll have to be open to God now.” 

We aren’t going to gather tens of thousands, but we can be children of the light even while using the wiles of the children of the age to bring the message of hope and eternal life to a people who desperately need Jesus.  So may it be with us.  Amen.

Saturday, November 23, 2019


Sermon Summary (11/10/19) “All In” (Lk 14:25-33)

Rosemary and I used to drive by an unfinished house everytime we went back home.  Mark, the son of a high school classmate, never finished the house.   He never understood either the cost of finishing the house or the price of life. 

My primary source for this sermon is The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without Christ, living and incarnate.” I would like to say that I’m a student of the book but it is too challenging for me.  Maybe the classic line from the book is “When Christ calls a person, he bids him come and die.” 

Bonhoeffer entered adulthood with the rise of Hitler. In 1930, he spent a year at Union Seminary in NYC.  A fellow negro student introduced him to Harlem, Abyssinian Baptist Church, the Rev. Clayton Powell, and the plight of black people.  In Harlem, he learned of oppression from the bottom.  He returned to the land of Beethoven and Bach with records of Negro spirituals, I’m sure something never before heard there.

When Hitler consolidated power in 1934, he instituted fraudulent elections in the church placing supporters throughout the state church.  Bonhoeffer became part of the “Confessing Church,” a resistance movement to reclaim the theology of the church.  Even as a pacifist, he became part of the conspiracy to remove Hitler saying, “When seeing a madman starting to drive a car into a crowd, one does not wait for it to be over to then minister to the dead in dying, one tried to wrest the steering wheel from the hands of the madman.”  He was imprisoned in 1943, then alleged to be part of the July 20, 1944, attempt on Hitler’s life, and was hung on April 9, 1945, two weeks before his prison was liberated. 

Bonhoeffer walked the walk.  We can’t all be martyrs; we can’t all go to the cross; we can’t all die.  But we can all be “All in.”  For Bonhoeffer, grace which God offers through the cross was infinitely costly and should not be accepted cheaply.  Cheap grace was first and foremost grace without discipleship. 

Our Scripture passage ends with “So therefore, none of you can be my disciples if you do not give up all your possessions.”  This had nothing to do with possessions, it is about ordering our loves:  Jesus first, then family, then life itself.  We need to be “all in.” 

Recall Jesus’ parables and the treasure found in the field, and the pearl of great worth where in their joy the finders sold all their had and bought the whole field bought the pearl. 

When Jesus says we must hate father and mother, and even life itself, he is using Mid-eastern hyperbole, extreme exaggeration to make a point.  But what he does mean is that we have to choose, we have to order our loves, there is no other way but to go “all in.”

We start or restart from where we are.  We choose to be disciples and we immerse ourselves in grace that will lead us to where God wants us to be.  So may it be with all of us.


Sermon Summary (11/3/19) “Lord, Teach Me to Pray” (Lk 11:1-8)

Did I tell you about my granddaughter?  After living with her wedding sermon for three weeks, I couldn’t get it out of my head to get going this week.  On Wednesday I finally decided the direction I was going, but found a book on Prayer and spent all day Wed and Thu reading it.  I didn’t get to my sermon until Fri, the slides Sat, the bulletin Sat morning.  Even while walking the dog, I had the wedding sermon in mind.

It did include a passage about prayer.  “Prayer includes God in you lives.”  It is a means of grace by which God changes us.  It is a means by which God nurtures a relationship with us, affects our hearts, leads from where we are to where God is leading us to be.  A bishop asked a ministry candidate, “Are you going on to Christian Perfection?”  He said, “No.”  The bishop quickly replied, “Then where are you going?”  Good question.  If we are followers of Jesus Christ, what is our destination?  Prayer is one of those tools God uses to lead us there.

Jesus said, “When you pray, say ‘Father..’” With this first word, Jesus had already turned the disciples world upside down.  From an Old Testament God that was feared, “Moses, you go up on the mountain.  We are in fear of meeting God face to face.”  Jesus gave us a personal God, one who was Abba, Daddy, Poppa, a God with whom we can have a personal relationship.  Picture your prayers that way.

Father, hallowed be thy name.’  Jesus is calling with this first phrase to Order our Loves.  We do that with Praise and Adoration.  We begin our worship, both corporate and private with words of adoration, a Call to Worship or a Psalm in private, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, I will tell of his wonderful deeds.  I will be glad and exult in him.  I will sing praises to his name O most High.’” (Ps 9:1-2)  Adoration and Praise encourages us to make God first in our lives.  Order our loves.  If God is not first in our lives, he cannot change us.

Thy kingdom come.’ We are called to bring our will into alignment with God’s.  We do that when we read Scripture and come to know the life and teachings of Jesus.  But we are called as part of our devotional to meditate, to ponder passages that have leaped off the page at us during our reading,  Meditation is defined as “affecting the heart through intensive use of the mind.”  When verses touch us, God changes our minds, we take on the mind of Christ.  Our will comes into line with God’s.  They kingdom come.

Adoration and praise, scripture reading, meditation.  Give us this day, our daily bread.’  We are now ready to pray, to petition God for the needs of the world, the church, our own.   We are learning to pray.  It is a life long process.  He is teaching us.  As we are learning he tells us in the story to be persistent in prayer (really, to be shameless in our prayer!)  Talk to God, feel his will for our prayers, but be shameless in our requests.  Prayer is cooperating with grace, cooperating with the Holy Spirit, cooperating with God.  God has created a world in which prayer is a vital part of it.  Pray.

Saturday, November 2, 2019


Sermon Summary (10/20/19) “Moses: Remember, Pass It On”

Isaac Asimov (world renowned science-fiction writer) says that Deuteronomy may be the most important book not only in the Bible, but in the world!  Without it being found 30 years before the exile, the Jewish faith may have been lost and Western civilization completely reshaped.  The book is the final speeches of Moses, it is worth reading in a single sitting.

In Chapter 5, he retells the Ten Commandments and in Chapter 6 delivers the Shema “(Hear) O Israel the Lord your God is One, and you shall love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  The prayer that will be said twice a day by the Jewish people through the ages.  Remember who your God is.  Then he says to pass it on!

“These words that I command you this day shall be upon your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children.  You shall talk of them as you sit in your house and as you walk by the way, as you rise up and as you lie down.”

As importantly, we are to visualize the commands of God as we go through life: “You shall bind them as a sign upon your hands, put them as a frontlet between your eyes, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gate.”  With every act of your hands, everything you see with your eyes, as you go out into God’s world and return, remember!

The Israelites took this literally and made Tephellin, small boxes to place near their heats, bind to their hands, and place on their foreheads during prayer.  Again, a remembrance of God’s law; a demonstration to pass it on.

Moses was fearful that in times of prosperity, that the people of Israel would forget God.  In chapter 8 he says, “Take care lest you forget...and say in your heart “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.”  There are consequences to forgetting.  John Wesley, 3000 years later, was fearful that we would forget and become a church with the form of religion without the power.  As attendance at Christian churches in America diminishes year after year, we can see that happening.

We need to remember and pass it on!

On of my gurus, Dallas Willard, prayed the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm each day in he bed before rising.  Then by the time his feet hit the floor, God was a part of his day.  With morning and evening prayer and table grace three times a day, we are remembering that God is part of the little things in life. 

Rosemary’s favorite show was “Blue Bloods,” primarily because of the Sunday dinner scene each week where grace was said and problems of life discussed.  Her youngest niece and her husband ask their children each evening at the table their highs and lows of the day.  They celebrate the highs with gratitude and pray for the lows.  They are remembering that God is part of the little things in life and passing it on.  So may it be with us. 

Monday, October 21, 2019


Sermon Summary (10/13/19) “Moses: Ten Commandments: (Ex 20:1-17)

I’ve often wondered which of the commandments made sense to kids growing up.  Probably not, “not kill,” because we played cops and robbers all day Saturday, went to the cowboys and Indian’s shoot ‘em up movies on Saturday night before being told “Thou shall not kill” on Sunday morning.  I learned “Thou shall not cuss” from my mother washing my mouth out with soap at age five, and thou shall not do anything humiliating when I took some chestnuts from the girls across the street and Mom made me not only return them but apologize!

What makes the Ten Commandments special?  They are the foundation for Western Civilization.  God gave them to Moses and then to us 1200 years before Christ, 600 years before democracy in Greece.  They became the foundation for Judaism before every other major religion except maybe Hinduism. 

We need rules to live together, by which to base our culture.  We learn rules at an early age from Mom.  Maybe we begin with toilet training.  By age two, we need rules to limit our expansive egos.  The world does not belong to us.  By age five we are learning in kindergarten: “Share everything, play fair, don’t’ take things that aren’t yours, warm cookies and milk are good for you, when you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.” (Robert Fulghum) 

We need to teach our youngsters.  In fact, Moses (Deut 6:7) is emphatic about it, “Teach them diligently to your children.” 

Jesus came along and said (paraphrasing), “you know all those laws, if you have them on your heart, you only need two: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and your strength,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Then he said, “on these two hang all the law and the prophets., the big Ten and the other 603.”

“With all your heart.”  When Jesus went up on the mountain (to be the new law giver as he gave us the Sermon on the Mount), he told us it was not just “do not kill,” it was a matter of the heart, “whoever is angry with his brother or sister.”  And it was not just “do not commit adultery,” it was a matter of the heart, “whoever lusts after another.” 

The scribes and Pharisees were the ultimate rule keepers, but Jesus told them they needed to have a changed heart: 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.  (Mt 23:25)

If we are going to live together, we need to change our hearts, “our hearts need to be full of the love of God and one another, having the mind of Christ and walking as he walked.”  (John Wesley)  Amen.

Saturday, October 19, 2019


Sermon Summary (10/5/19) “Moses: The Exodus: (Ex 5 thru 12 selected)

The Exodus is the defining story of the children of Israel.  For them it means salvation, freedom, emancipation.  It means the leadership of Moses and the Providence of God.  Nothing in the story happens without God.  Not the plagues, not the Passover, not their passage through the Red Sea.  Nothing happens without God.  It is their story of grace.

As Christians, our salvation comes through grace, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And nothing in that story happens without the Providence of God.  Grace, God’s involvement in human affairs through the power of the Holy Spirit even though it is unmerited and undeserved.

The Exodus: God implies through the story that he is going to build up his signs and wonders before Pharaoh so that Pharaoh not only lets the children of Israel go, he essentially throws them out of Egypt!

So here are the plagues: The river turned to blood; frogs everywhere; gnats; flies; death of livestock, boils; hail and fire; grasshoppers; darkness; and death of the first born.

They can be thought of in three ways or maybe a combination, all the Providence of God.  First, the Sunday School stories; God acted.  A second way of looking at them is that God directed natural causes such as red algae to turn the water red, killing the fish and driving out the frogs, etc.  A third way, also biblical is that the plagues were a battle between the Egyptian pantheon of gods and YHWH.  Hapi was the god of the nile.  Heket was depicted as a frog.  Hathor often depicted by a cow.  And maybe the plague of darkness the most telling of all.  Ra was the sun god, Rameses II the divine son of Ra.  Defeated by YHWH.

That brings us to Passover.  This story affects my sense of God.  How could he be responsible for the deaths of all the first born?  A different time, facing the most powerful man in the world.  Maybe it was the only way to get his attention.  But even today, the descendants of the Jews believe that God wept at his action.  Part of the Passover meal is a saltwater dip recognizing God’s tears.  In Dreamworks’ “Prince of Egypt,” they are unable to show a crying God, but Moses is depicted sobbing and going to his knees in heartache at the tragedy.

For Christians, we remember the Passover as the night Jesus gathered his disciples and transformed the meal into the institution of the Last Supper.  “Eat this bread, drink this wine in remembrance of me.”  In the meal, we meet Jesus and remember all he has done for us and the promises he has given us. 

Let us also create family traditions around Christmas, Good Friday and Easter, in which we can tell the stories, teaching them to our families, and remembering.  Amen.

Friday, October 11, 2019


Sermon Summary (9/29/19) “Moses: The Great I AM and the Reluctant Leader: (Ex 3 and 4 selected)

I can’t say I’ve had a Burning Bush experience, but I have had a turn in the road.  We had invited a pastor to our house in the evening to talk to us about church membership.  On the way home from work, I felt this incredible peace come over me.  I can tell you when it happened.  I can tell you the turn in the road.  I was placing myself in God’s hands.  I was going to do whatever he told me to do.  That night the pastor talked to me about Lay Speaking Ministries.  What if I had missed it?  What if I had missed the turn in the road?  What would Rosemary and I have missed?

Like Moses, I had been in the wilderness.  And like Moses, I had learned a whole new set of skills that would be important for me when I responded to the call.  At the right time God called me back.  If Moses had ignored the burning bush, God might had had to wait hundreds of years to bring his children out of slavery.  What might have I missed?

Moses said, “If they ask, who can I say has sent me?”  God said, “Tell them that I AM has sent you.  That is my name for all generations.”  I AM.  God’s name is a verb, the verb “to be.”  I” am , I always was, I always will be.”  “I am the essence of life itself.  “I am the essence of your life.”  As Jesus said, “Because I life, you shall live also.”  We have life, because of him.  We will have life because of him.

God says, “I have heard the cries of my people, and I am sending you.”  Whoa!  That’s what we fear, isn’t it?  If we answer God’s call instead of ignoring the burning bush or the turn in the road, he is going to send us to Pharaoh.  Probably not.  Most likely, if we ask, “what’s next Lord?”  God will prompt us to make a phone call, or visit someone who is sick, or to join the relief funds for hurricane victims.  Only a few are sent to Pharaoh. 

But that was Moses’ fear.  I turned aside to the burning bush and God is going to send me.  But God, what if Pharaoh says no?  I will be with you.  But God, I’m slow of tongue.  I will give you the words.  (Later he would give him his big brother, Aaron, who speaks well.)  What if he still says no?  I will give you signs and wonders, throw your staff on the ground (It turns into a snake).  God, can’t you just send someone else.

Think of all Moses would have missed had God found another.  Here we are talking about him 3500 years later.  Think of all we miss when we fail to listen, fail to heed, or just say no.  We miss life itself.  We simply need to say, “What’s next Lord?”  Who, what, when, where?  You are asking the One who is responsible for your very existence.  That’s a good place to be.

So may it be with all of us.

Friday, October 4, 2019


Sermon Summary (9/22/19) “Life of Moses: The Hidden Heroes” (Exodus 1:8 to 2:7)

You may be wondering why a sermon series on Moses.  Last Sunday at the door, Forrest asked, “Do you hear about Moses?” Playing straight man I said, “No.”  Forrest said, “He was a basket case.”  So I wondered if the rest of you knew as much about Moses and Forrest.  Thus the series.

When Spielberg formed his knew production studio, Dreamworks, the very first movie was “Prince of Egypt.”  I thought, what an awesome way to teach a new generation about one of the most important characters in all of history.  For us, even how we look at the stories of Jesus is filtered through the life of Moses.  The Sermon on the Mount was the retelling of the Law.  Even the birth narrative relates: “Out of Egypt, I have called my son.”  Moses was with Jesus at the Transfiguration.  The Last Supper was a Passover Seder, given by God through Moses.  The story of the Exodus, of God’s presence with his people is our story too.

The backdrop of the story is that of Joseph, sold into slavery in Egypt by his brother, but through his integrity and God’s gifts and Providence, is elevated to Viceroy of Egypt and saves Egypt from famine through his wisdom.  His father, Jacob, and his brothers and their families come to Egypt and there become plentiful over four or five centuries.

One myth, the Israelites did not build the Pyramids, which were completed a 1000 years before the Israelites entered Egypt, but they did build Temples in the Valley of the Kings and cities in the Nile delta region, and there were oppressed.  Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. (Ex 1:8-9)  Thus the fear of the other began the oppression.

Fear of the other is part of the human condition.  We see it at the beginning of the biblical narrative and through history to our times.  We must ask ourselves what is about us that fears the other?  What is it about our culture that fears the other?  What can we do about it?

Enter the heroes.  Note that the story does not tell us the name of the Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world.  It does not tell us the name of the Princess, the daughter of the most powerful man in the world.  We won’t even find out the names of Moses’ mother and sister until much later.  But it does tell us the names of the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah.  They must be important.  They choose morality over safety.  They saved the lives of the Hebrew males infants.  In the face of death, they justified it (little white lie) to Pharaoh. 

We need to realize that rules don’t cover most of what is needed for life.  We need to develop character and wisdom, God based, to navigate the moral and ethical dilemmas we will face.  Shiphrah and Puah are our first models of that, he hidden heroes of the story.  So may it be with us.

Saturday, September 28, 2019


Sermon Summary (9/15/19) “Living Our Beliefs: Life Together” (Acts 2:41-42; 46-47)

I realized how far I had to go in my Christian walk when I opened a Maxie Dunnam workbook and it said our goal was to  become “Little Christs.”  It seemed like a road too far.  It would have been one of those things that Jesus would have said, “It is impossible for humankind, by nothing is impossible with God.”  Of course, he said too, “Enter by the narrow gate...for the gate is narrow and the road is hard that  leads to life, and there are few that take it.”  It seems that few in our society even find the gate!

Yet in centuries past, our Methodist forefathers “renewed the nations, particularly the church, and spread scriptural holiness across the land.  What was the “method in Methodism”? Scholars agree that it was small groups, “Societies, Classes, and bands,” groups that followed the General Rules of “First, do no harm; then Do good; and then Follow the ordinances of God.  The later were means of grace, Private devotions, prayers and fasting; Public worship and the sacraments; and People, ie. Community and service. 

It was community where  people learned, were mentored, and held themselves accountable, all essential elements of transformation.  Grace moves us from where we are to where God wants us to be.  It is God through grace that moves us toward becoming “Little Christs.”  What is impossible for us is possible with God.  Wesley found that without Societies, that all the preaching like apostles did little.  He chose never to strike a stroke without being able follow the blow with small groups. 

It is “Life together” that forms us.  Wesleyan small groups were mandatory in England and later in America.  Attending small groups in America gave participants a ticket to attend Sunday worship.  In 1850, the church chose to no longer make them mandatory.  The acceleration of church building slowed and then began a slow decline.  The blow was no longer being struck. 

Yet others will say that the most successful churches in America are employing Wesleyan small groups while Methodists have abandoned them.  Saddleback in California, Willow Creek in Chicago, North Point in Atlanta all emphasize Wesleyan small groups.  I sat with a pastor from Las Vegas this past week., a church that attends 7000 weekly.  He was responsible for training and sustaining 350 small groups of about 4500 participants.  Their “Life Groups” are the heart of the church, the families of the participants.  As their name implies, they give life to the church. 

When Rosemary and I moved to Connecticut, there was one historic  building, the Methodist Meeting House (1811), not a church, a meeting house.  It was meeting as a society, a community, that was the heart of the church.  If we want to once again spread scriptural holiness, the method will be Wesleyan small groups once again.  So may it be with us.