This is a sermon about wholeness, and it begins with last week’s sermon about focus.
Jim Shiflett commented about last week’s sermon. That sermon was about focus, in which I suggested that disciples of Jesus ought to try to stay focused on Jesus. (Like a lot of Christian ideas, this is easier said than done.) At the men’s lunch the next afternoon, Jim agreed with the premise of my sermon but took it another step, and added that when we focus on Jesus we see the people Jesus saw. We see the red and yellow, black and white. The haves and the have-nots. Locals and come heres. And we try to love them like Jesus loved them. Our culture these days is less generous when it comes to loving neighbor. But love doesn’t come from culture; it comes from God, and the church is called to share it.
Remember the song Desperado made famous by the band the Eagles?
Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
You been out ridin' fences for so long now
Oh, you're a hard one
I know that you got your reasons
These things that are pleasin' you
Can hurt you somehow . . .
In the prayer book there is a line from an old funeral prayer that touches me every time. This is the line: “As we are able to receive them, teach us the lessons of life that can be learned in death.”
One lesson, of course, is that human life has limits. We don’t live forever. There is a limit to what we can do. Our time together on this earth is finite.
I always wanted to sit in on a game of Dominos with Priscilla and her friends at Rolling Green. They played often. They play without a lot of talking. They focused. They snapped dominos down and snatched them up. They sometimes played without breathing. And when the round was over, they’d let out a collective laugh, their cheeks would bloom again like springtime roses, and their eyes would shine with delight.
A sermon from the pulpit of St. Giles Presbyterian Church
January 29, 2017, Matt Matthews
Micah is a minor prophet with a big message.
We call him minor only because his book is seven short chapters long (compared to Isaiah’s 66, and the heft of Ezekiel and Jeremiah), but there’s nothing minor about his message. Like all the prophets, Micah—the name means ‘Who is like Yahweh?’—aches with compassion for the dispossessed and poor, and he bristles with anger at Judean leaders for abusing their wealth and power.
Eighty-year-old David Bartlett, Sr, had gotten into another spat, again, with his 46-year-old son David Bartlett, Jr., about driving at night. The Junior said the Senior ought to stay off the roads after dark. The Senior said it was a quiet Christmas Eve, there’d be very little traffic, and, besides, the church was right down the road. The Senior wanted to know, What could that possibly hurt?
“Plenty,” said David Bartlett the Junior, “if you broadside a minivan.”
On Tuesday we vote for a new president.
On Monday evening at St. Peters across the street I will join you and others in the Pelham Road corridor of churches to pray for our country on the eve of election. St. Peters initiated this service because it’s always a good idea to pray for God’s guidance in our national life, and, particularly, because this election cycle has been so divisive.
This sermon title is a question.
(A sermon [!] preached on August 14th 2016.)
I Corinthians 12: 4-11 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
The kick-off to summer when I was a kid was July Fourth: Mom’s ice cream cake, Sousa marches, singing American-made songs, fireworks . . .
July Fourth was a celebratory, gut-wrenching day. Gut-wrenching because from the corner of my eye I watched my dad brush away tears. He was a POW in WWII. He had fought for flag and country. On the Fourth of July, I watched Dad squirm.
Rev. Hassan Dehqani-Tafti, the former Episcopal Bishop of Tehran, Iran, wrote this prayer upon the murder of his son. I share it after the massacre in Orlando in hopes it may be a word that brings some modicum of healing. Lord, hear our prayer:
A Father’s Prayer Upon the Murder of His Son
O God we remember not only Baharam but also his murderers. Not because they killed him in the prime of his youth and made our hearts bleed and our tears flow, not because that with this savage act they have brought further disgrace on the name of our country among the civilized nations of the world, but because of their crime we now follow in thy footsteps more closely in the way of sacrifice.
The terrible fire of this calamity burns up all selfishness and possessiveness in us. Its flame reveals the depth of depravity and meanness and suspicion…the dimension of hatred and the measure of sinfulness in human nature. It makes obvious as never before our need to trust in God’s love as shown in the cross of Jesus and his resurrection.
Love which makes us free from hate towards our persecutors, love which brings patience, forbearance, courage, loyalty, humility, generosity, greatness of heart. Love which more than ever deepens our trust in God’s final victory and his eternal designs for the church and for the world. Love which teaches us how to prepare ourselves to face our own day of death.
O God, Baharam’s blood has multiplied the fruits of the spirit in the soil of our souls, so when the murderers stand before thee on the day of judgment, remember the fruit of the spirit by which they have enriched our lives and FORGIVE.
Mrs. Alberta Resnick’s crunchy peanut butter and banana sandwich is the perfect entrée into Deb Richardson-Moore’s delicious mystery The Cantaloupe Thief. Resnick is dead after only one bite, of course, and the case goes cold for ten years. But when our hero Branigan Powers sets out to write a news feature for the local paper on the anniversary of the sleepy Georgia town’s most famous murder, her questions jangle nerves in all quarters. While Mrs. Resnick’s children and grands reluctantly play along with Branigan’s interviews, they naturally don’t enjoy being reminded of that calamitous July 5th afternoon when their matriarch was felled by a steak knife. The only daughter wears a fishy façade; the youngest son keeps looking over his shoulder. But their stories match up with the yellowed police record and the collective memories of the likeable locals.
I was born and raised in the sight of water in Hampton, Virginia. I was baptized and nurtured in the Presbyterian church. There was never a time when weekly worship attendance, the giving of ...