Sermons

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Tomayto – Tomahto – June 26, 2016

OT: 2 Kings 2:6-14; Psalm 77:11-20 NT: Galatians 5:13-25 Gospel: Luke 9:51-62; Luke 6:1 Galatians 6:1-5 My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 4 All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. 5 For all must carry their own loads. Terms & Introduction –  Raise your hand if you say “Tomahto”. How about “Tomayto”? Who eats this notably popular food? Who grows or has grown them? Think about why you eat and/or grow this tasty treat. Is it to simply eat plain? Or, add it to a salad? Is it to dash some salt over? Or, simply to add between two slices of bread massaged with the delectable white concoction, mayonnaise? Whatever the reason, we can agree that tomatoes have a place on the table at any given time and a criterion is in place for how we partake in it. Today, we will glimpse at the general life of tomatoes as we seek to gain an understanding or reminder of our role in the garden of life. We will reflect on establishing the plot, maintaining the crop and results of the harvest. Here are the terms that will function as our tools to cultivate understanding of the passages read. Gentleness. Gentleness is important and...

Stewards of Grace – June 12, 2016

  OT Lesson: Psalm 24 NT Lesson: 1 Peter 4:1-11 Gospel Lesson: Matthew 25:14-30   One of the milestones of growing into Jesus –of having a relationship with the Savior that goes beyond the issue of being saved – toward the issue of becoming mature in your faith – is the epiphany that Jesus is more concerned with “who” you are than (with) “what” you do. This is a milepost of understanding – of revelation – because it evidences a growth of our spirit beyond the elementary coupling of the genuineness of faith to behavioral obedience, to the greater issue of Grace being the primary catalyst and our deepest motivation to change; to the place where we realize (that) only behavior motivated by the love of Jesus is Godly, and only Godly behavior is likely to withstand cultural pressures and human proclivities. I can appear to the world (to be) good and right and proper; but unless this good, right, and proper behavior results from Grace having changed who I am – I may appear socially and culturally to be a good person –but spiritually I remain dead; I remain vulnerable to external pressures to conform, to adapt, and to acquiesce to my own human tendencies and to cultural suggestion. Put another way: Grace is a gift of God – unmerited – offered at God’s own initiative – and absolutely free. And, apart from my willingness to trust this promise – to receive the gift – what I do is of secondary importance. Now – lest we frustrate the Grace of God – lest we fail to inculcate its...

Of Memorials and Remembrance and Faith – May 29, 2016

Memorial Day Sunday OT Lesson: Deuteronomy 11:1-21 (Psalm 137: 1-6; Psalm 143: 5-6; Psalm 105: 5-10) NT Lesson: Hebrews 11: 1-3 Gospel: Luke 1: 46-55   Memories crease our brain; its way of preserving moments from the full effect of time’s erosion. We remember snippets of events. Sometimes a fragrance or a smell will trigger memories. I love the aroma of Ligustrum. Ligustrum bushes were scattered all around our old homeplace in the Kanapaha area of Archer Road. They bloom in the heat of summer – and even now – their aroma always takes me for a brief moment back to those hot, steamy days of my youth in the country. The smell of a certain floor cleaner still used by a few stores in Gainesville carries me back to the hallways of J.J. Finley Elementary school. Sights and sounds also elicit memories. Florida Field during pre-game. A wonderful pageant little-changed from 50 years ago. The rosters come-and-go but pre-game remains a staple of the experience. Some day – when these kids are my age – they will walk into this sanctuary and be suddenly filled with a kaleidoscope of memories. But not all things memorable crease our brain. Some experiences glance-off and are at risk of being lost forever. Each day hundreds of thousands of snippets of human history are lost to culture and civilization and future generations as people die and take with them important nuances of their families and communities and experiences. My mother’s last surviving sibling (of 12) lived with us toward the end of her earthly life,  and I entertained intentions of holding a...

The Spiritually Empowered Church – May 15, 2016

OT: Nehemiah 8:1-3; Nehemiah 8-12 NT Lesson: Acts 2:1-21 Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28   This is Pentecost Sunday. On Pentecost Sunday we commemorate commencement of the Church of Jesus Christ; the Holy catholic – or universal – Church in which we confess our belief each week as we say the Apostles’ Creed. We take our place among the millions upon millions of believers who today – and in a continuum back to the day we read about in Acts when the Holy Spirit opened the ears of 3000 people to ‘hear’ the good news of the Gospel – for their lives – in their native language; we join with all the saints in thankful recognition of the founding of the Church. Sixteen languages. People from throughout the known-world the Bible says – were living in Jerusalem. The eleven plus Matthias who was chosen to replace Judas ‘were all together in one place, and the Holy Spirit came and dwelt upon them, giving ability to be understood in languages they did not speak. And the Bible teaches ‘For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call. So those who welcomed the message were baptized, and that day about 3000 persons were added.’   Recently we talked about having Entrepreneurial Spirituality; that quality of faith and action that engenders personal equity in our mission and ministries. We talked about becoming ‘Imagineers’; believers who can ‘see’ the conclusion of a dream and can ‘visualize’ a ministry or mission completely implemented. We talked about the Scriptural promise...

Traditions, Titanic Décor, and Hot Dogs – May 1, 2016

  Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 29:13-14 New Testament Lesson: James 1:17-27 Gospel Lesson: Mark 7:1-28   This is a letter Ben Haden received in 2006. He shared it with me and I used parts of it in a sermon illustration on September 2, 2006. The woman writes: ‘My husband of 25 years is abusive to me. He was abusive to our children. They are all grown and gone from home now so it is just the two of us. His abuse has never been physical, and not really psychological. I am sure he would never see himself as abusive. In fact, he would be appalled at such a suggestion and would have his feelings hurt. His abuse is religious. He is a very religious person. Having endured 25 years of it I am finally able to articulate how he has hurt me and the children. He is religious. But he has no compassion. He has no recognition that his exercise of religion is harsh and cold – almost mechanical, because he is so good at it. He would never miss church – never neglect to say the blessing at meals. But I have never known him to have been truly touched by a moment of new recognition of a spiritual truth. It’s as if he already knows all he wants or needs to know about God and the Christian Faith. He is an expert in his mind about this and has drawn a veil around his heart. He can quote the Bible fluently but he seems to use it as a weapon. He sees Church as necessary but I...

Entrepreneurial Spirituality…Can You Just Imagine? – April 24, 2016

Old Testament Lesson: Psalm 51:15-17; Isaiah 42:1-4 New Testament Lesson: Ephesians 3:14-21 Gospel Lesson: Mark 6:30-44   Note: Read Mark 6:12-13 and Ephesians 2:11-22 prior to the respective passages for context.)   Thomas Edison said of genius: it is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Sweating is part of the process. Reminds me of sweating out big tests at UF. 1% study. 99% sweating and praying. The speaker at Garage.com’s entrepreneurial conference in Austin commented on genius: “The real genius is not in the idea. Its in the execution. Hundreds – maybe thousands – of good ideas – some genius ideas – are lost to history every day because the person with the idea has no vision of nor pathway to its execution.” My father once said he worked so hard making a living he never had time to make any money. In recent Sunday’s we have talked about the distillation of disappointment and the refinement of renewal through claiming the promise of Romans 8:28 (All things work together for good to them who love God, to those who and are called according to His purpose); We then talked about being liberated (in our being called according to His purpose) through appropriate surrender to Grace, and movement toward Abundant Life through a willingness to learn new things about God through Jesus, the Word Incarnate. Last week we talked about the power and authority of God’s Word – and of our responsibility to ‘rightly interpret the Word of Truth’. Today we finish April with a Scriptural call to become a spiritually entrepreneurial congregation.   Perhaps an entrepreneur’s most effective attribute is...

Quoting Scripture. Missing the Point. – April 17, 2016

Old Testament Lesson: Psalm 23 New Testament Lesson: 2 Timothy 2:14-17; 2 Timothy 3:14-17 Gospel Lesson: John 10:22-30   Adelai Stevenson, Governor of Ohio and Democratic presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956 was a man of quick, dry wit; some might say droll. He was a Christian with a fluid command of Scripture. In an iconic photograph from the campaign trail the candidate is relaxing on a couch at the end of a whistle-stop day. His legs are crossed and the photo is taken from a sitting position wherein his shoes appear larger in context than they actually were. The caption read, “Governor Stevenson takes chats informally at the end of a busy day of campaigning. ‘My campaign platform has no holes’, he said. In the photo, the sole of his shoe showed a large hole. One of the newsmen present asked about a report that lies were being told about Governor Stevenson by the Eisenhower campaign, and asked Stevenson if he thought General Eisenhower was a liar. “Well”, he said, “You know what the Bible says. ‘A lie is an abomination unto the Lord…a very present help in trouble’.”   Gary was in my grade all through school. He was active in the 14th Street Church of Christ in Gainesville; grew up in their Sunday School and Youth Group. By high school we was perhaps advanced for his years with respect to knowing Scripture. I might have been also. At GHS we had several classes together and I remember on several occasions having ‘intense’ discussions with him about this, that, or the other issue du jour. Gary’s style...

The Liberation of Appropriate Surrender; The Willingness to Learn New Things – April 10, 2016

Old Testament Lesson: Psalm 90:1-2 New Testament Lesson: Acts 9:1-20 Gospel Lesson: John 21:1-19   We’ve all seen it on television. The person –almost always a man – is caught-out in some crime, scheme, affair, or other example of moral turpitude. Upon being exposed or convicted or imprisoned, he grants an interview wherein he says he has ‘found God’. How does hearing that affect you? Well, it affects me like this: The two boys were in 3rd grade. They were friends and frequently in trouble – or close to it. After frequent trips to the principal’s office for misbehavior, both the principal and the teacher were just over it. Yet again were these boys acting out in class. The teacher send them – yet again – to the principal’s office. Well, the principal was exasperated. He decided to take a different tact with the boys. Instead of lecturing them together, he decided to split them up. So, he called one of the boys into his office, making the other boy sit in the waiting room to ‘stew’. He launched into his oft-repeated lecture, but realized the futility of his effort. He had his back to the boy, but wheeled around, pointed his finger at the boy and abruptly said, “I’ve just got one question for you, little mister. Where is God?” There was a palpable silence for a prolonged moment. “I just want you to think about that. Now get out of here and go back to class and behave yourself.” Upon exiting the principal’s office, the second boy asked wide-eyed: “What happened in there?” “Well, it’s bad. It...

Disappointment Distilled. Renewal Refined. – April 3, 2016

Old Testament Lesson: Psalm 118:14-29 New Testament Lesson: Acts 5:27-32 Gospel Lesson: John 20:19-31   My maternal family – Robbins – settled in the Kanapaha region – about half way between Gainesville and Archer – in 1870. (My wife’s maternal family had already been in Gainesville for 20 years.) The Robbins Dairy Farm was a legitimate operation – but its legitimacy was primarily that of a cover for the real money-crop: Moonshine. Moonshine is made by distillation. Corn is allowed to sour into a nasty semi-liquid mess; is cooked in a closed-in apparatus called a still – with the vapors induced by the cooking being caught in a copper coil which discharges a distilled liquid – moonshine. The distillation process takes something really nasty and delivers something free of impurities.   The man wrote to Ben Haden: Ben, my earthly life is closer to over than to its beginning. Common sense certainly tells me more sand has run out than remains. I have been a believer most of my life. I have been reasonably active in church and my faith is meaningful and has informed my opinions and decisions. I write you to thank you for your recent message about God’s promise in Romans 8:28. About 20 years ago I was blindsided by cancer. Treatment left me infirm for several years. 18 years ago my wife just could not take it anymore. She divorced me. We had no children. I was 42, sick, divorced, childless. Depression would have been a welcome improvement to me. I was simply inert. I was paralyzed by my circumstances and could see absolutely nothing...

Where We Stand With God – March 27, 2016

Resurrection Sunday – Watch Live Where We Stand With God. The Illusion of Neutrality. Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 40:1-2; Isaiah 40:28-31 New Testament Lesson: Romans 5:18-20; Hebrews 9:26-10:14; I Corinthians 15:1-22 (Romans passage read in unison as a Call to Worship) Gospel Lesson: John 20:1-18   Years ago I told you of my experience as a young teenager of working watermelons each summer on my uncles’ farm at Kanapaha. I told you of the excessive and oppressive mid-summer heat of the open field, with row-upon-quarter-mile-row of ripening watermelons to be manually harvested, shimmering as if a mirage. As Neil Diamond sang, “You could almost hear yourself sweat.” I told you of nearly being ‘bear-caught’ – what city-folk would call heat exhaustion – and of the promise at the end of each row of a spate of rest, a drink of sugar-cane water, and of a few minutes spent in the shade provided by the wind-break treeline. One such time I was barely cognizant; only loosely tethered to the planet; close to dehydration; standing dazed at the end of the row in the blazing sun. My uncle said, “Son, the shade is free. But you have to go stand in it.” Well, indeed.   Britain was prostrate. Defeated in every regard save for formal surrender to the Nazi war machine which was poised on the coast of France, some few miles across the English Channel. The Maginot Line had been circumvented and trampled as if it were a tinker-toy model with match-stick structures – the French army in panicked retreat. The British Expeditionary Force – basically all Britain’s ground troops...

Choices, Choices…, November 8, 2015

Old Testament Lesson: Joshua 24:1-15 New Testament Lesson: II Peter 1: 3-11 Gospel Lesson: Luke 13: 22-30   The great Exodus was winding down.   Forty years of wilderness wanderings – tangible evidence of the forlorn landscape of disobedience – was about to become history as the Children of Israel prepared to de-camp from the Jordan River’s west bank and cross over into the Promised Land of Canaan.   Of the 600,000 Hebrews who were led out of Egyptian bondage – to salvation of God working through His servant Moses – only 2 (Joshua and Caleb) entered Canaan. All the others died during the 40 years ‘journey of disobedience’ in the Sinai Peninsula.   Recall the basics: God led the Hebrew people out of Egypt – through the Red Sea – which then enveloped and destroyed the world’s most mighty army which was in fierce pursuit of this amazing and chaotic migration.   Once safely across the Red Sea (and into the western-most reaches of Sinai), Israel’s salvation was procured and bondage to Egypt was no longer a threat.   But after being led directly across Sinai, free will ran amok, diminishing – as it always does – connection to God –; the Israelite’s failure to choose wisely by allowing their free will to be influenced by faith cost them 40 years of misery.   You recall the story.   The Hebrews were at the Jordan River, with the Promised Land just across the way. Moses selected 12 spies to reconnoiter the land of Canaan and report back.   Upon re-convening the group, the vote was 10-2 against proceeding...

Part 3 of 3, The Great Escape, November 1, 2015

OT Lesson: Psalm 139:1-12 NT Lesson: Ephesians 2 Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20   On March 24, 1944, 250 Allied soldiers escaped from the Nazi POW camp, Stalag Luft III. This was the largest single escape of POW’s during World War II. Of the 250 soldiers who escaped, only 3 made it to freedom. All the others were killed or re-captured. Successfully escaping from prison is no mean feat – and is fraught with risk. And, not all prisons have walls.   The great lie of Postmodern thought is its espousal of relativism. Postmodern philosophy holds that all reality is ‘apparent only’, as opposed to actual. Further it posits reality as only – and simply – social constructs; subject to change inherent to time and place. It also suggests that even this ‘apparent reality’ is plural and relative; dependent upon the interested party or parties and their agenda. Thus could we be seduced down the path of thought that whispers against the existence of eternal truth; that clucks at the notion of real evil, smirking with veiled suggestion that such unsophisticated thought must be product of a provincial intellect. In that landscape, concepts such as faith and hope and love and forgiveness are unfortunate evidences of cultural enslavement and of a barbaric slant on human nature. If we (dare) admit to human frailty or muster courage to seek redemption and renewal and release through something as vacuous as faith in a Sovereign yet loving and compassionate God – well, we must simply be unenlightened. The help we need is not forgiveness…says the Postmodernist – rather do we need a new world-view...