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.