Wednesday, April 17, 2019


Sermon Summary 4/7/19, “Practices” (Mt 26:34-36; 2 Cor 9:6-7; Acts 20:32-35)

We’ve been in a series talking about those practices that we as a congregation and as individuals must perform in an exemplary manner or our ability to perform our mission will be diminished.  Why “practices,” why do we call them “practices”?  Practices are those exercises skilled artists from musicians to athletes do at every level of achievement or they will fail to perform.  Musicians do scales whether novices or concert level, baseball players take infield and batting practice whether T-ball or major league.  Christians practice Radical Hospitality whether day 1 or millennium 1. 

Radical Hospitality.  Last week, the District Superintendent, Rev. Mi Hyeon Lee, visited.  We went to lunch at G&D Steakhouse (I wanted to her Radical Hospitality).  I asked Elly to come to our table.  In short order, she asked Mi Hyeon where she was from?  South Korea.  “Oh, I have rentals, Mr. Kim and Mr. Sin.  You may want to invite them to church.”  In a few minutes, Elly was back with her phone and handed it to Mi Hyeon.  “Here is Mr. Sin.  Talk to him.”  We should be so anxious to make connections.  Elly practices.

Passionate Worship.  Something we do each week, but I’d like you to memorize Psalm 9:1-2, so that you can praise God in an instant at the realization of a sunrise or a baby’s smile: “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.  I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.  I will be glad and exult in You.  I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.”  If I continually give thanks, I cannot but believe and hope.  (Stay tuned for Easter: “Easter Changes Everything.”)

Intentional Faith Development.  We are better together.  We are better in circles than we are in rows.  After Margot’s gathering last Sunday night, I thought maybe we needed to form a Tractor Club.  A small group based on the Gospel of John….Deere.  We could all gather around and take turns spinning the fly-wheel.  We are better together.

Today, the last two practices.  First, Risk-taking Missions and Service.  Another verse we should have on our lips is the Great Compassion of Jesus, Matthew 25, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”

Here’s a question for us.  What is it that defines us as a church?  What service do we perform or can we perform that draws those around us to serve also?  We could be the “reading church,” or the “mentoring church,”  or the “Quality of Life” Church. What do you think we should be known for?

The last practice is Extravagant Generosity.  Jesus said, “It is better to give than receive.”  Simply watch this video:    So may we experience the same joy in giving.  Amen.


Sermon Summary 3/31/19, “Intentional Faith Development: Growing in Christ” (Galatians 5:22; Acts 2:42, 46-47)

The turning point in my spiritual journey took place first with promptings of grace and then within small groups, my first lay servant ministries class and then Disciple Bible Study.  The latter changed my life.   Life happened within the group.  I had never experienced sharing like that before.  I had never movement and prompting in my journey before.  It was in that small group that a friend said, “Rick, I see a little white church in your future.  It happens in small steps.  It took me 12 years before that little white church appeared and now another 15 years and I’m far from complete in my journey, only part way there. 

Where are you in your journey?  What if I asked you to be intentional?  What would it be?  Prayer group? Bible Study? Sunday School?  Thursday night small group?  A new group?  A coffee shop group?  What might it be?

What about listening?  What if we just listened for the Spirit?  Listened for the prompting of grace? 

Let me give you a goal: John Wesley described Christian maturity as being filled with the love of God and one another and walking as Jesus would have us walk.  What if that was our goal? 

If we looked to Jesus we would see that he did not send his disciples home to study alone.  He sent his disciples out two by two.  He said, “Wherever two or three are gathered.”  Following Jesus is best done in small groups.  We are better together.  We are better in circles than in rows.  We learn better.  We hear the promptings of grace better.  We better hold ourselves accountable.  We grow in the love of God with one another and walk better was Jesus would have us walk, together.

If we look at the early church, we see the disciples praying, learning, breaking bread together in the Temple and in their homes (Acts 2:42; 46-47)  And they accomplished their mission of making new disciples together.  They were much better together.

We are better in circles that in rows.  What’s next for you?  Talk to me.  What would you like to do?  Where would you like to do it?  When would be best for you?  Who would you like to lead? 

We’re better together.  Small groups (called class meetings) were instrumental to the growth of Methodism (a church a day in the first half of the 19th century).  Class meetings were mandatory until 1850, and since then we’ve cooled off, plateaued, then declined.

Small groups, community, is essential to change.  The Upper Room tells us that knowledge, experience (mentoring, sponsorship) and community while necessary individually, by themselves are not sufficient to change and growth.  Maybe the best of communities is the 12 step program that teaches, provides sponsors, holds one another accountable in a loving community.  Knowledge, experience, community. We are better together. 


Sermon Summary 3/24/19, “Passionate Worship: A Living Halleluiah” (Psalm 9:1-2; Psalms 95, 96, 100)

During our Lenten journey we are going looking at practices for individuals and congregations that are essential to fulfill our mission of “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.”  This week, Passionate Worship. When was it that you had your most impactful worship?

First, a definition of worship: “The creature responding to the Creator”—Evelyn Hill.  She includes all of creation, seen and unseen.  “The heavens are telling the glory of God.” Psalm 19.  The rest of creation responds without thought.  We choose.  We choose to worship God, to respond to him.

Adoration and gratitude are our best responses: I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.  I will tell of all his wonderful deeds.  I will exult and be glad in him.”  Ps 9:1-2.   Psalm 100 adores the creator from the first to last word.  We should have it memorized to bring it often to our lips: “Make a joyful noise to Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness, come into his presence with singing.”

Our liturgy strives to lead you to respond.  We begin with a Call to Worship, today Ps 9:1-2.  We then lift our voices, “Holy, Holy, Holy.. Cherubim and Seraphim falling down before Him.”  He pray to the One that can hear our prayers.  We listen to Scripture read and exhorted and respond in song.  We offer our gifts.  (We do not expound much on offering, but it was the original form of worship: Cain and Abel gave an offering.  Noah responded with an offering.  The whole sacrificial and Temple system was formed around an offering.  When our offering in the plate, it is our response to the Creator.) We then go into the world as a response.

The Psalms were the hymn book of ancient Israel, the “gut” response of a people to a very personal God.  “The Lord is my shepherd.”  Also one who understood our pain: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And there were congregational songs.  Psalms 95 and 96 were calls to worship.  As we read the Psalms we can see how a people with deep belief worshiped their Creator.

We have a choice. We may worship.  We of all the creatures can respond with gratitude to the Creator. “I will give thanks to the Lord for he is good.  His steadfast love endures forever.” 

And we can gather to worship anywhere, homes, backyards, around the table.  There is a United Methodist church near Austin that calls itself “The Church with No Walls,” moving from place to place to where the people are.  What if we were to show up during the summer months with lawn chairs to worship in the backyard of shut-ins so that they could worship too, so that they could respond too?  What if?

Folks.  All of Creation was made for you.  Be grateful.  Let us respond as creatures to the Creator.  Let us worship him.  Amen.


Sermon Summary 3/17/19, “Radical Hospitality: Being a Radical Host AND an Awesome Guest” (John 4 (selected verses))

During our Lenten journey we are going to look at essential practices for individuals and congregations that are essential to fulfill our mission of “Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.”  How is it we make (new) disciples.  Do we do the same as we did in 1850 when we were established?  In 1950 when our service men came home from the war, started families?  Then, we opened our doors and people came.  In 1950 we had an “attractional” model.  Is that going to work today? In 2050? What about 2015 (just around the corner)?

Do you realize that Jesus almost never preached in Synagogues?  He spent time with people wherever he could find them: On the mountain, on the level plain, the seashore, in boats, in homes, in the upper room.

Jesus was both a Radical Host and an Awesome Guest.  In John 1, he invited Andrew to “Come and See.”  But in John 2, he went to the Wedding in Cana and was an Awesome Guest.  In John 3, he had made himself known (and third mode of evangelism) and Nicodemus came to Jesus by night..  In John 4, made a divine appointment at the well.  He was an Awesome Guest in Samaria.   The woman became an Awesome Guest in her market place when she invited the townspeople to “Come and See” Jesus.

It seems that both “Come and See” (Radical Host) and “Go and Do” (Awesome Guest) are used by Jesus.  So too we need to display Radical Hospitality to our guests, but also, we need to be intentional in going into the world to make ourselves known, hospitable, and available to a society that does not know God.  Be and Awesome Guest.

Do you know that 50 percent who shop in the same stores as you would not know the name of pastor to call in time of crisis, of a death, a lost job, a broken relationship, a family crisis?  To fulfill our mission (the Jesus model is the missional model), we need to be willing to made ourselves know, not to preach, not to teach, but to be known.  We need to be hospitable even as Awesome Guests.  Hospitality is the key to human relationships.  Without making space for another, there can be no relationship.

We talked at our January church meeting about making it a practice to meet in coffee shops or restaurants at times when others gather.  What if somebody experiences a crisis and says, “Oh, I remember that guy I met at the diner.  Maybe somebody at Prairie Chapel can help me.”  Or at the table, someone might say, “I’ve been thinking of going to church for a long time.  But I’ve never had a pastor drink coffee with me before.”  To which I can say, “Now you have.  Won’t you join us this Sunday.” 

People need Jesus.   Jesus is the answer to the deepest longings of the human heart.  If we really, really believe that, we will be Radical Hosts and Awesome Guests.  We will make space both there and here so that they can experience the love of God in Jesus Christ.  Amen.


Sermon Summary 3/10/19, “The Essentials” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Responding to the General Conference in St. Louis two weeks ago, how do we minister together in times of division?  John Wesley was quoted: “In the essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.  We missed it!  We missed unity.  We missed liberty.  And did we ever miss charity! 

Yet we must minister together.  What we have to say is important!  The church of Jesus Christ has the answers to the world’s problems.  We have the answers to families, to fractures, to nations.  We must minister even in times of division.  And since the world needs us, ideally we do it best as a global church. 

To minister together, we need to return to the essentials, and the Center of our faith is Jesus Christ.  We are not a religion of laws, that’s Judaism.  We are not a religion of the book, that’s Islam.  We are the one religion with a person at the center of our faith, the incarnate Deity, Jesus Christ.

Yet we confuse dogma, doctrine, and yes, even opinion with Jesus.  And it is our arguing about opinions that tear at our very fabric. 

Methodists are not creedal creatures.  The only confession we make is at our baptism that “Jesus Christ is our serve him as your Lord.”  “Jesus is Lord,” the oldest Christian Creed, our only confession of faith.   Dogma, what all Christians believe, is best expressed in the Nicene Creed (google it and note that the opinions that divide us are not mentioned).  Doctrine, 30 to 50 statements of belief, from “Belief” to “Eternal life,” with some denominational differences.  Christians are divided here by our understanding of Scripture.  Methodists believe that Scripture is authoritative for all matters of salvation and we avoid issues of literal interpretation.  “Think and let think”—-Wesley.

That leaves opinions which are presently damaging our ability to minister to a world desperately in need.  In his sermon “Catholic Spirit” (meaning universal), Wesley pleaded for Christian unity.  “Though we cannot think alike, can we not love alike?”  Great question! Then he paraphrases 2 Kings 10:15, “If thine heart is as mine, if thou lovest God and all mankind [the Great Commandment], I ask no more, give me your hand.” 

Lent is a good time to get back to the essentials and return Jesus to the Center of our faith.  And asking, “can we not all love alike?”  Amen.


Sermon Summary (2/3/19) “Wrestling With the Culture Wars?”  Lev 18:22; 1 Timothy 1:8-10

The end of this month, United Methodists from all over the world will gather in St. Louis to consider one issue, human sexuality, how the church will handle the issues of gay ordination and same sex marriage.  Their decision may either unite the church or tear it apart.  I need to give this sermon. 

Remember Matthew Shepard?  Beaten, tortured, left to die, trussed to a fence near Laramie, WY. I never understood the hate that some harbor against gay people until Matthew Shephard. In fact, growing up in the 50s in South Dakota, I knew little about gay issues.  I guess the first time I ever had to talk about them was at an Annual Conference in NY when our working group voted down legislation that would have liberalized our rules about what we believe and about ordination of gays.  A young woman there said very sadly, “I guess I’ll never be able to fulfill my dreams in the United Methodist Church.

When I told Rosemary that I was going to talk about in this sermon, she said, “Why?  Why would you ever want to do that?”  I might have changed my mind except that at that time, a 350 member church in Wichita voted to exit the Methodist Church because of their uncertainty about where the church will come down on issues of human sexuality.  The church is beginning to be torn apart.

So where do we go?  The Book of discipline while calling us to extend grace says, “Homosexual conduct is incompatible with Christian practice.”  That’s what the church says today.

What do conservatives say? How do they interpret the Bible?  And how do progressives interpret it?  One would think the Bible would have a lot to say on such a hot topic, but there are only five passages and Jesus was silent on the issue, didn’t even allude to it.

I’ll let you read the passages listed at the top of the page.  Conservatives say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” 

Progressives say that passages must be read within the context of the cultures that they addressed, that Moses wrote into the abhorrent religious practices of the Canaanites, that Paul wrote into the extensive promiscuity of the Greek and Roman temple worship .  And neither have anything to do with our understanding of homosexuality today, and therefore don’t address today’s understanding which can be life-giving.  They argue the word itself only originated in the late 19th century as did psychiatry, our understanding of human behavior.

I’ve wrestled with this issue for 30 years and I’ve finally come to understand it’s complex, and that while we wrestle we are to “Do no harm.”  I cannot love my neighbor when I wish them or do them harm, intentionally or unintentionally.  My task as I wrestle with it is to be a follower of Jesus and “Love one another.” Amen.


Sermon Summary (1/6/19) “The Clash of Kingdoms” (Mt 2:1-16a)

I’ve always preferred the shepherds to the wise men.  I mean, “Peace on earth.”  I like that.  “Silent Night.”  I like that.  Matthew’s story sets up a clash of kingdoms from the very beginning: King Herod vs. the baby King; Rome vs. Jesus; the kingdom of this world versus the kingdom of God.

Matthew has arranged the Christmas stories of Jesus in two-fold way, to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture and second, to show the inevitable clash of kingdoms.  He begins with the genealogy; the story begins in Bethlehem rather than Nazareth; it moves to Egypt instead of Jerusalem; like Moses, he comes out of Egypt (remember the line “Out of Egypt I call my son.”  Jesus from the opening is the fulfillment of Scripture. 

Then the clash.  On the one hand, Augustus Caesar is known as king of kings, and lord of lords, even the son of god.  Then we have the baby Jesus, the true King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Son of God.  No wonder Herod was frightened and all of Jerusalem with him. 

The wise men, probably from Persia were learned priests of the Zoroaster religion, not Jews, never an indication that they converted to Christianity, yet this story is included to show that from the very outset, Jesus was king of all the earth!  Jesus, indeed King of Kings.  The clash of kingdoms existed then.  It exists now.

Today is Epiphany, Jesus’ revelation to the whole world through the Magi; it is also our first gathering of 2019.  How is it that we can reduce the clash of kingdoms in 2019?  One pastor I listen two suggests two disciplines for the new year: time and practicing the presence to God.

Time, God deserves a spot in our appointment book.  Everything else does, but we often neglect our time with  him.  Yet, if God in Christ really came to earth to be our Savior, he deserves a spot on our calendar.

The other is practicing the presence of God.  God is in the now.  The past is past, the future is but a dream.  The only reality we have is the now!  Being thankful to God for the past, brings gratitude into the now.  Making the most of the now, prepares us for the future.  The only reality is the now.  We practice the presence of God by doing everything, even the most menial of tasks for the love of God, conversing with him, asking him for guidance, asking him to make the most of our now.  So be it!  Amen.